Tuesday, September 29, 2009

back in the garden

We usually go pick apples to celebrate the autumn equinox but this year the kids were sick so we picked out some plants for the garden- kale, mesclun mix, beets and three mums. Eva and I planted the veggies yesterday finally and while I was out there I noticed that the seeds I had planted several weeks ago are also doing really well. Let's hear it for a bumper crop of kale. There are also quite a few carrots and a few types of lettuces. The beets I planted wow last spring are doing so well and ready for the juicer. How many beets can one person eat? We shall soon find out. I still can't get over how many carrots there are out there.

My dad is visiting right now and I am hoping if the weather allows it that we will go pick apples tomorrow. We took him to see the swifts {a second time for us} on Sunday night and out to play miniature golf yesterday. This has become quite a tradition and the kids look forward to it every time he comes out to visit. This time I thought we might try out a new miniature golf place but we ended up at our same old place. It is definitely a little run down and a tad over priced for the lack of upkeep but we like it. I would say one of the perks is that we are usually the only people there and the kids can go through as quickly as they want. This time Eva went through very quickly on her own and then came back to walk through again with us. This year also marked a milestone in that it was the first year that we actually kept score all the way through with Samuel.

Eva on her own course.

Samuel in the mini-golf flow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another great quote, this one about authenticity-

"It's not about being good. It's about being in Alignment with your Godself, and that is a very big difference. Being good goes by rules. Alignment with your Godself is felt directly from within and may not make others happy or follow those rules!" ~Lola Jones

(I would personally not use the term Godself and believe you can substitute any term you like for Godself- spiritual Self, Buddha Nature, etc...)

I also recently finished reading the book Loving Frank by Nancy Horan which is a fictional account of the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney and is as much about their relationship as it is about living an authentic life. There is also quite a bit about the women's movement during the time of the suffragists. It reflects quite a bit on the role of women, particularly during that time in history.

mini sunflowers

One of two sunflowers that made it this year. I am confused not only because so many of my sunflowers didn't make it this year but also because the two who did turned out to be mini sunflowers- both of them standing tall at about 18 inches high. Sunflowers are one of my favorites and I was excited when these two decided to bloom after all!

zen and fountains and swifts oh my

This is a great quote from a new book about Zen and surfing I am reading, Saltwater Buddha by Jaimal Yogis.

Here he is learning how to surf. This quote is so much about finding our way into flow-

"And that's when it all kind of clicked. There was a way, a method that worked. The walls were not impenetrable. I realized in that moment that all the initial poundings had scarred me, in a way. I had known intellectually that if I did this duckdiving thing right, it was possible to get through even very big waves. But I'd started believing I couldn't do it. And so I couldn't.

And now I had experienced it.

And I knew."

The kids and I went over to check out the swifts the other night after spending a few hours at Jameson Square Fountain with friends. I am imagining that will probably have been our last trip to the fountain this year (with the water on) and I am glad to have gotten Eva over there one last time. It is hard to believe that out of the whole summer we only made it there twice (three times if you count the time we were caught in a downpour there last spring. While that was a fun time, it was not necessarily a fountain time.) The swifts are possibly one of my favorite things to do around Portland and I am hoping to take my dad while he is visiting some time this week as well.

Eva and Orion making a beach. There were penguins and squirrels who will soon be using the slides and swimming in the water...

And there are the penguins, enjoying the beach fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

berry goodness

I dragged myself over to the upick today after feeling down and in a funk for several days now. It was so worth it to take myself to one of my favorite places and take in the views, the air, the calm, the way-of-being of the country upick. Rows and rows of berries and trees and sky and raptors overhead. It was cool enough that the kids didn't start complaining immediately and there were just enough fall raspberries for me and the yellow jackets to fill up a pint. Nearly. More than I had hoped for. And that is the difference. Going in, my thoughts were all not-enough-this and no-good that. Coming out, I saw plenty and lots and goodness-for-all.

I had a moment while picking tomatoes when I noticed the contrast- so stark and unmistakable I had to pause and shake my head. I thought something like- wow I am feeling much better- still feeling a little mud stuck, a little sludge here and there, but better, definitely better. I had just started picking tomatoes and was looking around at some of the ones with black moldy bottoms, considering if I wanted more slicers or sauce tomatoes when another woman came over and asked how I was faring. She was extremely disappointed and bitter about the state of the tomatoes and had wanted much easier pickings. When I talked to her I realized I was feeling pretty positive about them. I was confident I would find how many I wanted and I felt relaxed and happy to be picking tomatoes at the upick. It was an undeniable shift for me and it felt great.

It also got me thinking about taking action to feel better. Frequently, I am able to turn my thinking around, shift my perspective enough to find some relief to feeling better, get back on track to enjoying myself and flowing with life and my kids. Sometimes, however, I find that my mind can take me so far down the road to despair that trying to climb back up to feeling better can take a long time- too long- if I rely on changing my thinking and perspective alone and the despair grows and feeds on itself and round and round I go. At some point on the road downhill all of the tried and true methods quit working- talking to friends, writing, positive thinking, shifting perspectives...and drastic put-me-in-the-car-and-go-somewhere-good action needs to be taken.

It's like this I think. At a certain point, the mind gets us wrapped up in itself and cannot find a way out of it's own misery. Happiness is found from within and all that. Yes. But what happens when within becomes so twisted and separate it cannot see beyond itself? Those are the times when evidence of connection from without can really help. Hence the upick. All is clearly well at the upick. The berries. The clarity. The expansion. I can literally feel the despair being wrung from my body as I stand among the berries, looking out at the trees, listening to the sparrows and hawks. I can feel my own expansion being nourished by all of the goodness around me. And this- this!- is what helped tip me in the direction of feeling better today.

I came away from the upick feeling more positive and hopeful than I had in days. A little connection, a little taking care and suddenly all of the other ways to shift start working again as well. What I realized after my trip to the upick is that my problem arose from two ideas- one helpful, one not. The first idea, that I am able to feel good regardless of external conditions, is a common spiritual theme and comes from the idea that our mind creates our suffering. If we can shift our thinking, our perspective, our suffering ends and we find peace within ourselves.

The second idea, that I should be able to feel good, regardless of external conditions, and if I can't, I must be doing something wrong, is clearly loaded. It is a set-up for failure and I have noticed that the worse I feel, the stronger and more righteous that second idea becomes. It is the type of erroneous thinking that if believed can send me spiraling further downward.

And so it happened that I believed that second thought and continued to not only feel upset, I continued to resist feeling upset as well- because I should. And the first thought? The helpful one? To me it is almost as if some thoughts are not accessible to us during certain states of mind and feeling. We need to take it one step at a time when at the bottom of that spiral. Oftentimes that first step needs to be some sort of outward movement (upward) toward ourselves, toward something we love, toward our hearts. Taking care is after all following our hearts. A movement toward something that we know will help us feel better, a sure thing so to speak. Even if our mind continues to resist. Even if it kicks and screams all the way to the upick, grumbling its reservations about there not being anything to pick this time of year anyway...

It is magical. Almost a miracle. As soon as I started feeling better, it was as if the whole world opened up- a world of hope and possibility. It was then that I knew for certain that the first idea was true- that I could feel good regardless of what was going on around me. It just took a little step in the right direction to get me there. A willingness to act in my own best interest and the courage to ignore another ill-thought out story- that if I can feel good regardless of my external conditions, I should not need to indulge my preferences and change my external situation to help me feel good. Good grief. When written out, these beliefs we carry around seem ludicrous at best. I have fallen into this trap before and am hoping that after today, after such a clear change following a step in the right direction, I will remember to reach for joy in whatever way I am inspired to do so. Movement of the mind, body or spirit, anyway you look at it, can bring joy.

OK. Here is the game plan I was presented with while picking fall raspberries with the yellow jackets today-

Be present with whatever comes up.
Trust in myself.
Reach for joy.
And always trust in love.

Monday, September 21, 2009

what comes up

I've had the words of my kids' clay instructor floating around in my head the last couple of days. She was talking about how sometimes in clay you lose your piece because it might blow up unexpectedly in the kiln. She said, "No one likes to lose something you have spent a lot of time on, but you should know it is a possibility when you are working with clay." I loved her honesty. I have been thinking about it and how it relates to life in general because it seems so true. We don't usually like to lose something we have spent a lot of time on.

In fact, I was remembering an article I read a while back about decision making. One of the points the article made was that it was hard for people to change- jobs, homes, degrees, etc- because they falsely assume that if they have invested a certain amount of time into something and then change their minds or simply change to something else, they will have wasted the time and effort spent on the original project. But of course, life is a process and all that you have done in the past and all that you will do in the future contributes to who you are.

From here my thoughts moved on to knitting. One of the reasons I love knitting so much is that if I finish a project and it isn't the way I had envisioned it or- let's face it- it just doesn't fit, I can rip out the yarn and start over or rip out the yarn and use it for a new project or rip out the yarn and fix it. I admit this isn't always a exciting prospect. Sometimes- usually all the time- when I finish a project, I just want it to be done. I have a sock, for instance, sitting in my knitting bag right now that is too small. I know that I can rip it out. It will take a few hours to rip out what I need to do and re-knit the toe to the size I want. No biggie. Oh- but I am resisting. So much resistance over that sock. Why didn't it turn out? Why did I ignore my thoughts that it was too small before I sewed up the toe? Why...?

And then it struck me that knitting and clay could be great creative counterparts. Clay can give you an opportunity to make something permanent. You can mold and remold clay over and over again and then once clay is fired, then glazed, then fired again, it is a permanent structure. You practice by making more permanent structures, working on the process in that way. And as the instructor said, there is a possibility that it will blow up or crack or break in some other way, on the way to becoming permanent. You can lose something when you work with clay.

With knitting, there is a possibility of losing something as well but for me it is more about losing possibility. It can be very challenging for me to commit to a project with a particular yarn. The skeins can sit for months, years even, lovely in their potential. I have even been known to knit something with a particularly lovely yarn and rip it out only to roll it back up to sit on the shelf, unformed again. And sometimes again. There can definitely be a lack of commitment for me when it comes to yarn. Perfectionism steps in and asks that if I make something with that yarn, it better be the perfect thing. And on and on with the possibilities of the unformed...

{Of course I understand that nothing- not even clay- can ever really be permanent and that every decision in one direction, cuts off a possibility in another. Even unformed yarn is not formed. That theory can go where form ultimately cannot is also not lost on me. What I do enjoy is working through these processes in different ways- through writing, through thoughts, through knitting, through parenting, through meditating, through whatever life brings up, whatever life offers, whatever I choose...}

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We have hundreds of pictures of Albert at this point. Avert your gaze and scroll past if you wish to miss this cuteness. As Eva says, guinea pigs are born after they have been cute-ner-ized inside their momma's bellies. We all agree that Albert has definitely been cute-ner-ized!

Eva's self portrait with guinea pig.

Portrait of a wild guinea pig. Albert helping to uncover a carrot. He definitely smelled the carrot and came right over.

I took the kids to a clay class at a nearby homeschool resource center today and am so happy to say I was extremely pleased with the instructor. She was open and flexible and at the same time very grounded. Supportive, enthusiastic, knowledgeable. She had form and freedom. It is rare that we find a teacher who can maintain flexibility and stay open to kids' enthusiasm and still maintain her own center. If they are unable to stay centered, the looseness can turn into chaos. If they are too rigid, the inflexibility can be stifling. A mixture of both can create an amazing environment for creativity and learning. We'll see how the second class shapes up. Eva wants to continue regardless, I think, because she loves working with clay. Samuel has said he will keep going, albeit begrudgingly- still, I have never known him to take a class he didn't like. I have no doubt he will let me know if it isn't working out for him.

Last week we drove out to the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery and stopped at Multnomah Falls on the way back. This trip was part of my hey-the-weather-is-great-for-now-let's-check-everything-out-that-we-can-while-we-can kick. I am not on that kick so much right now because the former kick totally wore me out- that and the trip to Great Wolf Lodge- and now I am gearing up to take Eva in to the hospital tomorrow to have her teeth fixed under general anesthesia.

Samuel and I at the fish hatchery. The really big fish Herman- he is a 70 year old sturgeon who is 10 feet long! We have several photos and lots of video footage of this guy. He was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Eva wanted to document this very large ice cream cone!

And finally, one of the amazing garden spiders living in our front yard and honey bees in the baby cardoon that just started blooming!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eva having a smiling moment at Great Wolf Lodge (a blog moment, if you will- the camera was mostly silent otherwise...)

Two of our favorite wolves from Wolf Haven. The white wolf didn't want us to come near his enclosure. You can see his posture is very persuasive. He eventually started barking and howling at us until the tour moved on. The grey wolf is LadyHawk.

wolfing it

I am feeling fairly dry and overdone after the last couple of days. The kids and I took a trip with a few friends to Great Wolf Lodge up in Washington yesterday and today. We went up with others in a larger homeschool group to take advantage of a group discount. I am sure this would be a lovely place to hang out for some kids and their families. We, unfortunately (or fortunately?), are not those people- at least not now. It was actually one of the more stressful trips I have been on with the kids. It reminded me of how things were a couple of years ago. Honestly if I had known, I never would have taken them. Ah, contrast, sweet guide that she is, always helping us to refine our preferences...

That said, we did have some fun at different points and of course it was great fun as usual! hanging out with friends. Today Eva really enjoyed- and Samuel also- the wave pool. Once they decided to get rid of the rafts and just enjoy the waves and the pool, they had a lot more fun. The hot tub was also a hit, both last night and today. There was a "secret" passageway from inside to outside through the wall in the hot tub and Eva had a LOT of fun going back and forth through that passageway, hopping on one foot the whole way.

The kids also enjoyed a type of scavenger hunt game the lodge had set up called MagiQuest. It saved us last night, to be honest, and they had a lot of fun this morning as well going through several of the quests. When they weren't solving the quests, they could walk around waving their wands at various stuffed animals and fairy houses and the like found around the lodge. There is nothing like stuffed ferrets yelling at you from a cage and fairies laughing it up overhead in a fairy house to lighten up a tense lodge experience. Did I mention two stuffed chipmunks on a teeter-totter who actually teetered and tottered when you waved the wand at them? You get the idea.

Before heading over to Great Wolf Lodge, the kids and I took a tour of Wolf Haven, a nearby wolf sanctuary. I was glad we were finally able to see the sanctuary. We had tried on a couple of different occasions and had never been able to fit it in. It turned out to be perfect timing for Samuel. He really enjoyed himself and walked a little ahead of us so that he could hear the tour guide better and get up close to the enclosures. After the tour Samuel was very interested in becoming a member and "adopting" one of the wolves- his favorite was named Blackhawk.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

flow of being

spontaneity - surrender
preference - unconditional
acting - allowing
asking - receiving
movement - presence
vulnerability - trust
creating - being
yang - yin
happy - yes

Seeing the freedom to go one way or the other and finding happiness in the balance, mixing, melding, acting, allowing. Two sides. Both sides. Always both sides. If you try and argue for one side or the other, the mind spins around on itself, arguing, frantic for meaning, always a meaning it cannot explain, looking from one side to the other and forgetting again and again that it must be both sides. One and the other. Wholeness comes from one side and the other, embracing the two as one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

on lists

I have this desire lately to just post lists- lists of bugs seen, lists of fruit picked, lists of errands run, lists of games played by my kids, lists of music heard, books read, outings outed, fun had, being here and what that entails- as though the lists would speak for themselves and would need no explanation for understanding.

What would a list of bugs-seen really give you though? An idea of bugs in our backyard, the idea that we look at bugs, how we spend time down at bug level checking them out. How most days are filled at some point with some bug's life purpose and wondering about that. How Eva says "boo" to spiders in their webs and how the other day in traffic she said "boo" to the traffic to make it go away. (She said, if I can scare a spider in her web, I can certainly scare the traffic.) How it is spider season and the big ladies are out in full form right now and how I unfortunately have no camera {again}. Lost and bereft without my camera I am reduced to posting links to big ladies to give you an idea of their qualities- both their bigness and their ladyness. And here she is, our most famous big lady, the Cross Spider. We took flashlights out last night to check out some of the bigger spiders and the Cross Spiders are quite grand. There is one on the patio near the drying clothes and another one-even larger!- out front near the road with a third somewhat smaller but still impressive one behind her. Ah, to be outside on a September night with a flashlight and lots of spiders for viewing...

I look forward to it all year. That and the tomatoes. There isn't a much better time of year than this one right now.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just jump right in.

OK- moving backward through the week, trying to remember as best as I can from this nearly-bed-time point of view, I will try and recap how the kids and I have been spending our time during these last days of summer-moving-toward-fall. I love this time in Portland. Fall here lasts forever and there is plenty of time and space to take in the leaves slowly changing, the cooler nights and warmer-than-you-think-they-will-be days. It is technically still fountain weather, though I wear a fleece in the mornings sometimes, at least to start meditating, but not necessarily to finish. Some would say it is too hot in the early afternoon to upick- I am not one of those people, but my children- at least today- were. The sun can be hot and is angling lower in the sky, making for unexpected heat.

We upicked late summer raspberries today. I would like to go back tomorrow or the next day to check on the blackberries again. We keep going to pick blackberries and I for one am surprised by the hordes of unripened berries. I am particularly frustrated by the girl who sits in the farm store, who, without batting an eye, assures me the berries are ripe and ready to be picked. Surely, I have picked blackberries earlier than this in past years? The tomatoes are starting to call out to be picked and I am gearing myself up to can them, as my freezer is filled to bursting.

There has been a lot to do with our guinea pig Albert as he dove out of Eva's hands a few days ago, looking toward the compost pile, hoping for the piles of chopped vegetable skins and half eaten fruit found there. He broke off his top two front teeth and has been receiving antibiotics (to save one tooth in particular) and special pea-carrot flavored acidophilus (to protect his delicate guinea pig gut). I am happy to say his teeth are already growing back and he is eating better and better each day. They seem to be long enough today for him to eat his timothy hay in near normal portions- the most he has eaten since his accident.

Let's see- there was a birthday party today for our good friend Orion, complete with fountain-time, cake, a pinata, time with friends, meeting new people...There was a park day yesterday with good friends, talking, playing, spending what feels like last minute time outside (of course we were going to the park well into November last year, but the slant of the sun makes it seem imperative to get our fill of sunshine this time of year...), making it all count before the change of season begins in earnest...There was walking in the woods on Sauvie Island to save me from the closed-in suburban feeling that sometimes takes me by surprise and presses in on me from all directions with the fences and pruning and lawn care. It is because of this squashed in feeling that I sometimes miss the Midwest with it's flatness in all directions, a spaciousness that you can stretch out in, a place where you can see forever in all directions, a space that beckons to you to expand.

All of this out and about time has, of course, been balanced by time at home, time reading Finn Family Moomintroll and James and the Giant Peach (both again), time thinking about Ninja lessons (for Samuel) and looking ahead to clay classes (for Eva), time talking about big numbers and scientific notation, moving from addition to multiplication and back again, watching spiders grow, flowers bloom, hummingbirds fly, hovering about the hyssop and scarlet runner beans...Calculators. Bionicles. Photography. Nasturtiums growing fresh from Eva's harvested seeds. Trying on winter clothes. Dreaming of snow and sledding and syrup-covered-ice, all while wearing a swimsuit, walking barefoot, watering plants, holding guinea pigs, eating watermelon and peaches and tomatoes. A magical time, this end of summer, so much to come, so much to remember. So much now.