Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Birthday!

...so actually, my birthday has come and gone, and naturally I had better things to do than blog, such as gardening, big breakfast, hanging out with buds, karaoke, beach combing, or knitting my new obsession- a leftover yarn scarf (and actually, I just couldn't get it together), but I suppose this is just as good a time as any to muse a little on age.
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I'm definitely not one of those folks who require a big party to celebrate each year they've lived. I'd so much rather just reflect on its passing and all the awesome experiences and lessons learned and then, you know, go read a book, or knit.  One year C. and I actually kind of forgot that it was my birthday. It was the best birthday I've ever had.
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It seems so long ago now, that I was once 29, at my mother's little cabin with my future husband, blissfully unaware that it was my birthday. At the same time it seems like it happened no more than a year ago that we married and changed our lives forever.
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It's amazing to me that I'm as old as I am, that I'm well into my thirties. I don't know what I expected, if anything, but I certainly didn't expect to still be struggling with some of the things I am, or having so easily let go of old hang-ups.

I guess what no one tells you is that you feel pretty much the same with each passing year, only more so, more like yourself. In my twenties I spent a lot of time worrying about my future, about who I might become, how I looked, whether I would ever meet my own dreams, expectations, or life partner.

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My 30s? Not so much. These days I mostly worry about enjoy all the little things that make up this present moment; shoveling shit, collecting shells for a project, letters to write, books to read, that mixed-yarn scarf...

As you get older, the number of realistic options you have for an alternate future seem to get somewhat narrower, something that can be a harrowing thought. There are certainly things that I will definitely not be experiencing ever, or ever again at thirty-four. There are others that are unlikely to happen still. But I find this more like a focusing on what I am experiencing rather than limitation of my options in life.

When I was younger, I remember resonating very strongly with this passage from The Bell Jar:

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.  From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.  One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.  I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.  I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.  ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7"

Now, I feel like I have my wonderful future, as malleable as it may still be. I don't know when or where exactly it happened, but somehow I made some of those choices, not always for something, but sometimes against something, gave up something, only to arrive, quite unexpectedly, here in the future. It's pretty bright. Even if the weather is a little gloomy sometimes.
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Birthdays, parties, twenties, thirties, forties? Yay, nay, yippee?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Just is.

Allow me to just reiterate that birthday month or not, I'll be totally happy when January ends. It's been a pretty weird month, with lots of unexpected, sometimes stressful events. At the same time, many joyous occasions too; five babies born (all boys!), surprises, wedding plans, plane tickets.

Thinking about this makes me realize that the joy and heartache and constant flux of the lives of others around me, simply means that I'm lucky enough to be connected to all these amazing people and through them, the ever-shifting nature of...well, life. Even if my own life seems relatively steady and uneventful at any given moment, these connections seem to ensure that I don't ever forget that change is the only constant. It may sound trite, but rings true to me. Or to quote a favorite film "It ain't good, it ain't bad, just is."
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Then today, sunshine, trickling creek, bathing fowls. New favorite skirt, cashmere cardigan, tights. Promises of spring and summer.
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Warm enough, if just for a moment to traipse around in just a shirt and sweater...and double tights. It's not spring yet.
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                               Top-free from The Dump
                            Tights-best we not talk about it
                              Sweater and skirt- Thrifted
                    Necklace- amazing gift from amazing Nicole

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Someone built the year's first sandcastle and the water almost looked tropical.
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Happy Weekend everyone! And if January is kinda kicking your butt, fret not, we've only got one more week to go.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sheltered

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There are so many things I love about going to the city, the cities; the adventure, the unexpectedness,  the endless kitchens and bars and murals and people we don't know, all waiting to be discovered.

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After four years in the country, the idea of going to the city can be exhilarating. Used bookstores, record shops, galleries and museums, french bakeries, all these things make cities places I miss sometimes...bridges and lights and old buildings...churches and cathedrals and secret temples. There's promise in the cities. It's the "Zoo of the new", an exotic place where anything can happen.
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Yet each time, I return home with more mixed feelings than the last.
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This time we went down to celebrate our birthdays by seeing Elephant Revival at the Tractor Tavern and what fun we had! (Seattle girls, it was a kind of a two-of-us day-trip which is why I didn't try to set up a meeting with ya' all. Next time.) We got to have dinner with the band, drink way too many hot toddies with friends and dance it up with total strangers.
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Ratty clubs and bars are another thing about cities that never disappoints me.
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The openers were our old favorites The Shook Twins. Laurie and Katelyn rock! Giant rhythm eggs, beat boxing, moshing with their magical blond hair, I can't wait for these girls to return to our little Island once more.
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The show was packed and the Elephants played lots of awesome new songs. It was such a good time.
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The next day, we left our car behind and walked our way from coffee shop to coffee shop, all the way to downtown.
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On the way we stopped at a Native art gallery too see C.'s cousin Lena's seal helmet. Her art is amazing, original yet (as I understand it) draws deeply from Alutiiq art tradition. It was really fun to see this piece in a gallery setting, something I hope know will someday happen for C as well.
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There were some other amazing pieces there as well, in the Northwest Coast style, but I was too timid to ask for permission to take more pictures.
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All day, Seattle was wrapped in a thick, Bay Area magnitude fog, cold and eerie. Fog muffles all the sounds around it, making the city seem a little desolate, in spite it being a busy holiday monday.
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The things we like to do in town are pretty simple. Like tourists, we like going to Pike Place Market to look at stuff. We like to eat out, drink coffee out and I like to eat as many macaroons and eclairs as possible.
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We enjoy listening to street musicians and people-watching.
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A while back C's sister clued us onto a great Mexican restaurant in the stairwell between Pike Place and the Aquarium. Homemade everything, real food, simple.  
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While wandering around, we came upon the Martin Luther King day march and hopped on for a bit. It was a little sad to see how few people were marching, compared to how many people were shopping and how many cop cars and other assorted authority vehicles it "took" to police a march of old hippies, community activists and little kids.
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As much fun as we had, always have, visiting the city makes me realize that I have a very sheltered adulthood. So many of the problems, negative messages and painful situations that people who live in cities face daily, are not really part of our life here.
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Our single day in the city was the perfect illustration of this. It seems that in the city, one spends a lot of time "tolerating" other people in their space. Other people (as in people you don't know) are loud, clumsy, rude, in your way.  Sometimes they seem or are dangerous. Their energy and problems are right there with them, they carry them through the city, into buildings and busses and shops and it's impossible not to let that affect you.

When I first moved to a big city, I was deeply disturbed by how many homeless, destitute people I encountered each day. Being supersensitive, I had little emotional resources to deal with the suffering I saw each day and now that I'm not used to seeing acutely needy people all the time, I feel the same way I did then. Back then I would give all my spare money away, feeling so urgently powerless. Even now I just want sit down with each of them, ask them if they need anything, if I can do anything.
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Outside a grocery store, an old guy held a sign stating that he was a veteran of one of our many wars, most likely Vietnam. I asked him if he wanted anything from the store, a sandwich, some fruit. "Lunchables." He smiled broadly with his few teeth. "The things with little crackers and meat and cheese?" He nodded. I went in and bought two boxes, one with turkey and one with ham. It set me back about five bucks. He was old and crazy and weather-beaten and I wasn't about to argue with him about the nutritional value of lunchables. By the time I got back with them, he had forgotten all about me. The little plastic trays made him beam. "Lunchables! For me? I've never had the turkey one!"
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Outside a different store, C. sat  on the curb waiting for me next to a different homeless man. He gave the guy all the money we had left, 85 cents. The guy thanked him. It's an affluent neighborhood, stylishly dressed people going in and out for olive hummus and cheeses. No one looked at either of them.

When we got back, we ordered in pizza, watched the inauguration festivities. The President mentioned climate change, gay and lesbian rights and immigrant rights. A historic occasion. I wanted to, still badly want to believe him.  In a different speech he stated his and the nation's gratitude to the men and women that serve in "our" military. He said we'd take care of them. My heart felt about to break. I thought about the homeless man and his lunchables. I thought of all the little frivolous things I'd spent money all day. I thought about all the frivolous things everyone in the city had spent things on all night. I thought about the cost of the inauguration. The local news channel came on with a story about a murder, followed by a story about a fatal car accident.
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Even in a liberal bubble like Seattle, it's harder to believe that the good guys are winning. A landmark record store is forced out of business by one of the banks we all helped bail out. The owner of the bookstore across the street sighs "These are the times." We buy a few books, hoping that she'll still be there next time we come around.

Everywhere condos are being built and young yuppies push their toddlers in thousand dollar strollers. A friend tells us that just a few blocks away where she lives, there's a continuous influx of newly homeless folks who can't afford to live here anymore. Near the shipyard where Mali's dad works, the city enacts a parking zone to remove the tens of 70s campers that people have been living in.

Even folks with a roof over their heads and a steady job are subject to all kinds of abuses by default. The distances one travels for supplies, work and fun are as vast as the choices available. There is a lack of time and money. Even simple things like feeling poor because you can't afford to have your hair styled, or go to a spa seem to be hazards of city life. Or feeling like there's something always happening just outside your grasp; a better party, a better apartment, or job.

Living in a city seems so much harder to me now, both emotionally and physically. I don't know if I could hack it anymore.

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At home I am shielded from the constant stream of bad news, want and self-loathing peddled by TV and billboards, magazine covers, expensive stores. I don't feel poor even when we have no money. No one else has much more than me and even if they did, there's nothing to buy.

I feel rich. I can go to the beach whenever I want to, eat good food, work a little.

"I just felt so lucky just to be able to plan my day, my future." C. says about sitting next to the homeless guy outside the store. And so we are. For what it's worth, the city is a very good reminder of that.

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Country mouse? City mouse?  Am I right? Or Wrong? What's your experience?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Iron Ring and Other Stories

There are times when having cats really sucks. Like, for instance when your cat develops a taste for birds, small, yellow, red, and beautiful; kinglets, robins and winter wrens. In the last two days Kettu has killed a gorgeous pine siskin and tried to kill a winter wren.

As upset as I am when she kills any bird, a have special place in my heart for winter wrens, so when I saw her with one, I went after her like fury.
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After throwing Kettu out in a violent, growling fit, I picked up the little bird and carefully examined it. Its wing bones extended perfectly, not broken, and though one of its legs was limp it did not seem broken either. Both eyes were in place, there was no visible blood. I could feel its tiny heart beat furiously against my palm and worried that the shock it was already in, compounded with being held by  a giant might be enough to kill it. It kept closing its eyes for long periods of time, like it was hoping that the next time it opened them I'd be gone. Poor little person. 
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After examining her chances, I took her to the woods behind the house, set her on a bed of moss and hoped for the best. Today I went back to check and sure enough she was gone, leaving behind just a little pile bird droppings. 
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The pine siskin had a sadder end. I hesitated taking her wings and tail feathers, but in the end felt okay about it. It'd have rather she hadn't died, but since she did, I don't think she needed them anymore.
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For days now, I've been wearing my grandmother's rings, instead of my own wedding band which has gone missing. While I hope I find it soon, I've rather enjoyed wearing my grandma's rings. The bottom one is the wedding ring she wore when I knew her, thin from years of wear. It's a replacement, not her original wedding ring. During the war our government asked women to donate their jewelry to support the war effort. In return they were given iron bands as a recognition of their sacrifice, which of course extended much further than merely giving up jewels. The iron band was a mark of honor.
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Which is what the top band is. It means a lot more to me than my grandma's original wedding ring ever could.
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The moon is building up to her full glory. The skies have been filled with sunlight and stars lately.
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It's amazing what the clouds parting does for our mental state. Everything seems so much brighter in the midwinter sun.
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Witches butter, the fool's gold of mushrooms.
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Happy Weekend Everyone!