Friday, June 12, 2015

Found Things

The title isn't a reference to a Tinkerbell movies, so if you were getting excited, I just wanted to get that out of the way.

On Saturday past, Charlie and Abe drew my attention to some beautiful butterflies I hadn't photographed before which were very excited about the soil in the pots that I had recently watered with fish poop fertilizer solution. These were "Mourning Cloak" butterflies, and we found out that their caterpillars are stinging caterpillars--a little alarming when you have little boys who must pick up every critter that isn't too fast too catch. Still, the butterflies are elegant, somber fellows that I enjoyed having around.
Mourning Cloak

Also, incidentally, peeing outdoors attracts Zebra Swallowtails...
This past Sunday evening, Abe found what I called "the grub from hell" crawling along the road where Abe was riding his bike. This thing was 3 or 4 inches long and very prickly looking, black head and torso, gray tail-ish part with lots of spikes sticking out the sides. Joe said it was a Stone Fly Grub, but I like my name for it better.

And over the last several days, I've found many tiny toads, small enough to sit on a dime. I showed one of them to Abe who loves to hold every tiny thing, but let the rest go on their toady ways, figuring it's hard enough being a toad the size of a bug without a giant 6 year old putting you in his pockets.

When we were in town yesterday, Tuesday, the boys took their bikes and road around the walkways at the athletic fields. They found a football which became ours because it was far enough lost that I was pretty sure no one was coming back for it. The boys spent last night tossing the old pigskin around, except no one but Daddy can throw worth a pound of bacon, so that was pretty comical. When the boys had given up on that, they ran around the yard and found Mourning Dove fledgelings in the hedge, and a tiny nest in the lilac with four eggs in it-all pale bluish green, splotched with brown. According to my 1944 copy of Birds of America, I guessed this to be either a Yellow Warbler or Chestnut-sided Warbler nest. Not having anything to go on but descriptions of the nests (in the book) and the appearance of the egg, I couldn't decide. The nest better fit the description of the Chestnut-sided Warbler's nest, but the eggs looked like Yellow Warbler eggs. Still, I'm not sure I can record this one in my birder's journal.

This morning, I found baby barn swallows that had fallen from the nest, either dead before they fell, or dead from lying on the concrete all night. Knowing birds as I do, I knew this was so that the strong one, whose head reaches the highest whenever his mother comes swooping in with a bug would survive to swoop himself one day. Bittersweet bird-ness.

So these are our found things that made me smile. And you know what? I can't keep any of them or take them with me, except a football. I find more peace and self-awareness looking outward at the world finding things than I ever do contemplating myself. I hope everyone has found things like that--things that come with freedom and joy without the thought of possession or the burden of cost. Even if they're not related to Tinkerbell...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Tale of Elephantine Proportions

Hi, Mom and Dad.
I had a dream that was so vivid, I had to tell someone. Who better than the three people (Hi, Mom and Dad) who read this blog!? 

In the way of dreams, this one began in a completely unrelated space and time. I think I was in college, though it didn't look anything like the one I actually went to. Maybe it was a cross between Miami U and Denver U. Lots of brick, no straight line paths, a river, lots of copses of trees. Anyway, I was wandering around this place when I cam upon three skinny dogs who all appeared to be chained to the same tree. There was a Dalmatian, a German Shepherd, and some mutt dog, though the dogs are of little consequence to the dream. I saw them, and I wanted to feed them, when I heard the noise of a predatory large cat off in the wood. All the dogs turned to fight the coming large cat, and that was when  I saw the baby elephant. 

Everything up to this point, I can probably pinpoint in my subconscious. University = frustration with the day's lessons. Feral cats are from the book I was reading before sleep. The dogs probably came from my subconscious awareness that I needed to get up and let the dog out for a bathroom break and feed her. I get lost about the time the elephant shows up.

Anyway, the baby elephant was hidden from sight by the huge tree the dogs were chained to in my dream. At the sound of the feral cat's scream, baby elephant took off running, and he ran straight to me. Now, baby elephants, in real life, are still big as VW Beetles, but this one only came up to my knee. So, of course, I picked it up and took off running. And again, as things are in dreams, I was rather suddenly in a remote area where two houses stood side by side. One was about three stories tall plus a walk out basement, and this was the one I went into with B.E. in my arms. I really wanted to keep B.E., but was absolutely overcome with the awareness that it would inevitably grow up into an elephantine... well... elephant, and I wouldn't be able to afford to feed it. 

The rest of the dream, though it seemed to take time to play out, was mostly me hiding the elephant from various people, like my dad and my husband, getting all coo-ey about how cute it was that B.E. kept swishing his ears, and trying to find the phone number for a zoo who would hopefully adopt a baby elephant. Two more significant events happened before I woke. I taught the baby elephant to hug me around the neck, and I fed it a magnificent meal involving carrots, lettuce, bananas, left-over nachos, and Pepsi. Even in my dream, I felt guilty about the soda. By the end of the dream, the baby elephant had actually shrunk down to the size of a cat. I think it wanted me to keep it. 

This reminded me a a picture book where this kid gets a dragon, and it keeps growing until its limbs all stick out of the windows and doors of the house. There's No Such Thing As A Dragon is the title of that book, and I think, in the end, the dragon shrank back down to a tiny dragon as soon as everyone admitted that he was, in fact, a dragon. If I were to put great stock in dream communication, I would have to ask myself what is the proverbial elephant in my proverbial room that I am ignoring? I leave you to ponder that thought. I have to go find enough food for a baby elephant...

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Mommy Wars

Disclaimer: the pictures in this blog do not necessarily possess thematic relevance.

I think the gerbil in my brain that runs the wheel that makes words goes into hibernation mode periodically. I haven't posted since August? Maybe the gerbil died. I don't know. I think last year at this time I was determined to blog once a week. And that, folks, is why New Years Resolutions are stupid.

Anyway, as I was clicking around "teh internets" today, and I ran across this blog written about how some Similac commercial is pretending to end the "Mommy Wars" but is really perpetuating the "Mommy Wars." The gerbil spontaneously reanimated and I thought... What the redacted are "Mommy Wars?" Apparently there is a whole cross section of hip, youngish moms who feel like every choice they make as mothers is in some kind of competition with the mothering world at large. Like breast feeding versus bottle feeding is a question for the history books or something. "I regret that I have but two boobs to give for my country!" Seriously, though... Is this really a thing?

So the gerbil took off running, and I was able to ponder these concepts a little. The conclusion I came to, if it can even be called a conclusion, is that we all spend too much redacted time on the Internet. Used to be, you had a baby and your parents and in-laws and maybe your neighbors all brought over casseroles and cooed a bit. Maybe offered advice that, in your sleep addled new mother state, you either forgot or ignored. And you went about muddling through to the best of your ability just like every other mother. Now, evidently, "good" mothers read mommy blogs and mommy books and buy all the best mommy products. Now motherhood is a competition, I guess. You know what? I'm glad I didn't know this. Only think how stressed I would've been had I known.

I suppose, as a writer of what could, at times, look like a "mommy blog" I might seem insincere with the above sentiments, but the truth is, I started writing this blog because I hate talking on the telephone. I thought, nine years ago, If I write down all the semi-interesting stuff in a blog, then I can tell my extended family and friends to read it and I won't actually have to talk to anyone! Awesome! It just so happens that a lot of my personal semi-interesting stuff has to do with my kids. So... accidental mommy blog! The good news for anyone reading this is that you don't have to include anything I say in your Mommy War strategies. I'd hate to perpetuate the chaos. 

Having said all that, I'd like to relate a story. The best place to wrestle is on Mommy's bed. This is a proven fact. I'm sure there are scientific studies and stuff. Anyway, after wrestling and tickling a while one day, my boys and I were laying around in a heap. The six year old says to me, "Mommy, your belly is soft." I'll admit, for a moment, I straight up panicked. YIKES! I have truly entered middle age! I have a soft belly, and wrinkles, and gray hairs and I will never be pretty and alluring again! But then I thought, Hey, wait: he means that as a compliment. He's small and snuggley and he likes to lay his head on mommy's pillow belly because it is warm and soft like a mommy should be. So, besides the fact that loving my soft belly allows me to eat more Snickerdoodles and put cream in my tea, I decided that I would be happy to have a soft belly because that's what being a mommy is kind of about for me. I'm pretty sure that guarantees I won't be winning any Mommy Wars. Good thing I didn't realize I was in one! 

Monday, August 04, 2014

A Letter to Myself (and Anyone Else Who Needs to Hear This)

Dear You,
You're in your thirties. Your life is pretty much nothing like you expected it to be when you were in your twenties or especially your teens. That's really okay. Great even. Because in your twenties, you were what is not commonly called (but should be) delusional. And when you were a teenager, you were just a dumb ass. You knew only a tiny little bit about yourself, and not a very useful bit at that. Like your BMI and your GPA. Not even your SSN. You're really much better informed now. Trust me.

So you're not where you thought you'd be or doing what you thought you'd be doing. And you're actually pretty happy about that. You have frequently thought that you'd never have met many parts of yourself if not for the life you live now. Like the part that loves dusting. Just kidding. You know you're not disappointed not to be a high profile insert career here in insert city here. You're glad to have discovered a love you never knew about of insert interest here. So what is the problem?

The problem is that the one delusional and dumbed ideal of your younger self that you never let go is the idea that in your thirties, you'll have your physical and metaphysical act together. Somewhere, somewhen you got the idea that in your thirties, wherever you were, whatever you were doing, it would be organized. It would be orderly. It would be sensible and fully fiscally responsible. In short, you thought you'd be on the level. Welcome, Frustration. Won't you come and take up residence in my life?

See, I'm not sure where you got the idea that this was the time of your life when you would be fully in control. Honestly, all those years ago when you were young enough to think Erma Bombeck was hopelessly gauche, there were still warning signs. Remember that comic strip where one character told another, "I feel like I'm losing control!"
"Don't worry," was the reply. "It's all an illusion."
"That I'm losing control?"
"No, that you ever had any to begin with."

Really, what is it that you want? And where did you get the idea to want it? Do you expect to have perfectly behaved children? An obsessively organized house? Laundry that actually gets put away? A paragraph not entirely composed of question fragments? What is it that you really think you should be doing that you're not? And whose idea was it, really, that you should? Haven't you long prided yourself on being absolutely outside the reach of peer pressure and oblivious to the caprice of external opinion?

See, that's the thing. You're smart enough to know that entropy is not just a concept in physics. That the world, deviated as it is from its original blueprint, is irresistibly drawn towards chaos whether it be the State of the Union or the state of the kitchen sink. You're also wise enough to know that nobody with a capital NO in your circle of acquaintance has their act together behind closed doors. If their finances are tidy, their house isn't. If their house is immaculate, their marriage isn't. If their marriage is serene, their kids are rowdy. Or whatever. Nobody's got it sorted. But I won't tell you any of those things, because that's not really helpful, is it? That's not where the stress comes from.

The stress comes from the idea that you were ever supposed to be perfect in any of your parts to begin with. You've always known that you were not blessed with perfect looks. You've accepted that. But you got the mistaken notion that, because you believe you're smart, you should be able to achieve perfection. If you don't manage time, money, family, and/or career with ludicrous aplomb, then you're suddenly worth nothing. Not just less, but nothing.

Let go of that notion. You were not created for perfection, because the broken world can't compass it. Instead, you were created for all the flawed brilliance you can imagine. You were created to make occasional wise observations. You were created to do something, anything, passionately. So what if it doesn't make dollars-and-sense to the world. That poem you are writing? That's what you're here for. That blanket you knitted for your friend's child? That is the beauty of you. That precious, witty thing your child just said? That didn't happen without your influence. That person whom you encouraged? Put that on as ballast to balance your Atlas act. You were made for the moments of blinding brilliance that shine out of your life.

Have you noticed that a spotless mirrored surface doesn't reflect nearly as many rays of light as a pile of broken glass? Doesn't glitter like a yard full of asymmetrical snowflakes? Doesn't dazzle like the breeze-rippled surface of water? Life isn't ever going to be polished, unbroken, symmetrical, or  calm. Those things aren’t consistent with life. You need to keep an eye out for the joys in the midst of the jumble.

Like tonight, if you're me. The kitchen isn't clean. The laundry is half folded and not likely to get put away. The bank balance is laughable. But you went outside with the kids and their dad. For a glorious half hour, you all played Frisbee while absolutely nothing else mattered. And, BAM, you know that for once, you've nailed it. Everything is where it belongs in your world.

Love and Frisbee to you.
Now and always,


Sunday, July 06, 2014

As American as Fireworks, the 1812 Overture, and Of Course Irony

On Friday, my men and I took a walk by the Licking River, where we made ourselves ridiculously proud of silly accomplishments by walking over a swampy inlet on a fallen log. In the evening, we inflicted major damage on a cardboard box with my bow and arrows. Abe wanted me to shoot two arrows at a time, but I had to remind him that I am not Legolas, nor Merida, nor Katniss, nor Hawkeye, nor Robinhood. The next day, we took a hike at Quiet Trails where no one and nothing was around for miles to know we existed. We took pictures of mushrooms and frogs, collected leaves for crayon rubbings, and the boys made excavations in the river. I collected some shells, though I’m probably not supposed to there. We also picked up garbage and carried it out, so that’s good. And I admit to having a small cook out. The weather was fair and mild and we were all vastly contented and more peaceful than recent memory. And we finished it off by going into town to watch firemen blow $#!% up. I sort of wonder what the Founding Fathers would think if they could see us now.

He looks kind of cranky, doesn't he? 

Because I am feeling magnanimous, I will not name all of the following for you.





This was my favorite mushroom..
I did, in fact, spend a little time pondering what this weekend was meant to celebrate. We’re free. We depend on no king or overseas parliament. Men and women have given their lives to keep us so. They continue to. It’s important. I’m not sure any of us are living up to it. I shudder to think what answers I might receive if I asked a random smattering of people what ideals this nation came from, let alone what we stand for now. I sometimes think we’re the land of the ridiculous and the home of the over privileged. Because, really, is exploding ordinance to a soundtrack of Queen and country music the right way to commemorate our declaration that we stood separate and self-reliant from tyranny-over-the-sea? Have we traded the proverbial tyrant one thousand miles away for a thousand tyrants one mile away? There’s something sticky about legislating freedom and celebrating independence. Isn’t freedom, after all, about having choice and independence about taking responsibility. 

But I didn’t start out here to pontificate. I loved this weekend--have always loved Independence Day above other holidays, actually. I’m just not sure it makes much sense, is all. As we sat watching our townsfolk blow up an impressive array of Chinese-made sparkly things, I just had to giggle a bit. Especially when the speakers started to belt out the 1812 Overture, and Joe turned to me and said, “A Russian revolutionary anthem? Really!?” That was after they had already run over the end of the National Anthem with Chinese explosives and also after British band Queen’s rendition of We Will Rock You

I cherish my freedom and appreciate the idealistic life this country has afforded. I am grateful I do not currently have to worry about being set on fire in the street because my ankle accidentally showed outside of my burka. I am in awe of the tranquil splendor of a Kentucky riverside. I’m just not sure I’m always exactly “proud” to be an American. I think, maybe, we’re a little too goofy for pride, a little too undignified to stand on our dignity. Maybe it would be better to just be thankful and leave it at that. After all:

America, America. God shed His Grace on thee.

And that’s all His. We had nothing to do with it but be blessed.  

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Fair Folk

Artsy pond photo, for starters.
Before I bore you with Odonata classifications, allow me to bore you with unabashed bragging. My son is really smart. Always, even as a young child, he always possessed a literal mind. While that has at times been a nightmare for whimsical me, it is also often a joy to behold. At the age of nine, one of his favorite movies is Titanic. He knows more about Titanic than most people three times his age. But I got tired of fast forwarding past the boob parts of that movie, so I decided he should find some other nautical disaster movie to obsess over. He also likes tornadoes and hurricanes, so I introduced him to The Perfect Storm. And he loved it. How I relish these little parenting moments. But here is the bragging part: once he got done watching the movie, he decided that the world simply needed a Lego Andrea Gail. So he invented it.
Charlie's super cool Lego Andrea Gail.
You can trust this face.
That said, I figured my last post had gone on far too long about the names of bugs and the superiority of my commonwealth over your state (neaner neaner boo boo) so I wrapped up without sharing with you the damselfly half of the Odonata world. You thought you were safe. WRONG! Much like the way I annoy my dear husband by endlessly bringing home buckets of shells from the river, I intend to annoy you by pontificating upon the names of the flying insects I photograph at the river. And if you choose to stop reading, you better think again because catastrophic universal consequences will result bringing about an inevitable world collapse. Oh yeah!

I doubt that my sons are as thrilled with river swimming as I am most days. For them, one part of the fun of swimming is the actual swimming, but the greater part is that at swimming pools, one finds other kids. Not so much, the river. At the river there are, of course, huge-ish fish, and also pointy faced fish, and also zippy crayfish. There are rocks, shells, and Water Willow flowers in a veritable sea. There are Cliff Swallows in a colony under the bridge, occasional snakes, turtles, and mice. I realize all of that is probably enough to convince most of my readers never to visit, but it's a great place for me. The kids like it too, but they just think there should be more kids there. Or maybe just Daddy. The river is even better with a Daddy in it, because he makes us all braver.

Shooting the rapids!  (Do not try this at home.
Besides your home's lack of a river, this photo
was totally staged.)
American Rubyspot, probably male, not that
I asked him or anything
The thing about the river that makes it for me, though, is that it is the easiest place to believe in fairies. At the shady edge of the stony shoal where the Water Willow grows thickest, there the fair folk dance. Their wings move so fast it seems like they hover on the power of magic alone, dressed in colors as vivid as any flower. The move so nimbly around each other that it seems there must be steps to their dance. Watching them, it isn't hard to imagine where the idea of tiny fey spirits might have come from.

Vivid Blue Dancers, not dancing at all, just
sitting around on coffee break
Of course, the fey of legend are not pretty Tinkerbells. Come to think of it, even Tinkerbell was not the innocent that Disney made her. She and they were ephemeral, enigmatic, and often capricious creatures just as likely to do harm as good and see nothing wrong with doing it. The insect world of the Odonata fills out that part of the myth as well. They might come to rest on your shoulder to awe or to startle. They might perch on a branch to observe you or to issue challenge. Of course, to mosquitoes, they are flying death. Some are as vain as Tinkerbell ever had it in her tiny heart to be, and others as elusive (to the photographer, at least) as any shy naiad of stories. It is this that I see at the river, where I breathe free.

Violet Tail Damselfly who seriously needs
a more imaginative name
Damselfly Love

Damselfly Love 2
Bizarre love child of Butterfly and
Dragonfly is Owlfly. Shouldn't it be
a Butterdragon or something?
While I hope that the naturalist adventures to which I am prone provide something unmatched in my sons' childhood, I am also grateful for the kindness of family and neighbors. In my last post, I wrote about camping at Hueston Woods. That trip was made possible by the letter "S", as in Grandpa Stanley and Grandma Shelley Crum. The week following that, Nana and G-pa Pearson put up with the considerable discomfort of sleeping on our couches so that they could take us bowling, swimming, and to the zoo. Grandparents, if it weren't for you, my boys would probably think that there was no civilization in this world.
Lucy thinks we're totally square!

And peacocks are just
fancy dress roosters.
They will totally
attack you if you're
getting all paparazzi
on their feathered
expletive deleted.

The week after all the grandparental adventures, we received a surprise invitation from Steve, Angie, Easton, and Best Case Farms for the boys to go on a special fishing trip. The boys were thrilled, and I discovered that right here on my own home road is a hidden paradise the likes of which I could not have imagined. The boys had a great time fishing, and I had fun rowing (and not crashing!) a boat. Big thanks to Steve, Angie, Easton, and Best Case. You're Fair Folk too!

No one happier than a boy and his fish!