Saturday, January 21, 2012

No, I am not going to start blogging my dreams but...

... just this once, I want to.

I had this dream last night that I visited a township in South Africa.   It was a shanty-town and there were many homes side-by-side.  Somehow I ended up in the studio of an artist I have admired for a long while.   The studio was all disorganized and casual.   I was really impressed - seeing the artworks that had been displayed in Roq La Rue gallery only weeks before, now hung and stacked on the walls of a shack! 

The best thing was the painter said I could have any one.  I picked one and bought one and all the time in the dream I was thinking "can this really be happening?"  Is this for-real?

The artist had milky-blind eyes.

Actually, the paintings were awful - strange smudges like bird-squirt under a rookery,   charcoal blurs where a child might have rubbed a dirty hand,  geometric lines in exactly that pale blue from old paintings and contemporary fabrics.

So, I think my subconscious is saying "if a blind man in poverty can paint (badly), so can a mother have a life of the mind."

We just have to lower our standards.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Can a mother have a life of the mind?

As I sat down to write this post both boys burst into the office drowning out the hum of the heater and the quietly brutal cries of Josh's Star Wars computer game.

"Can we have bars for desert?"  they asked, carrying the tin of energy bars and protein boosting nut bars I keep for lunches and emergency hungers.

"No" said Joshua. "Those are for snacks."

"Awwwww..." they both sighed, crestfallen.

"What can we have then?"

"You can have a Pepperidge Farm cookie." said Josh.

"Er, I think we ate them all this afternoon." I admitted.

"What, the whole bag?  That's... impressive."

"You can have a biscotti, or hot chocolate."  I suggested and Frost goes off to boil the kettle.

A great deal of hot chocolate is consumed during snow-cations even if one is not cold, there is some kind of subliminal association in the US between hot chocolate and snow.  Some days the entire top rack of the dishwasher is filled with mugs of kids and friends who have drunken themselves silly on hot chocolate.  Oddly, most of the little kids don't even drink more than a few sips plus the cream and marshmallows on the top.  This evening, they make them with the last broken candy canes that made if off the Christmas tree and have been hidden with the fancy cutlery for just this kind of emergency.

The question I have been asking, in the intervals between laundry and hot-chocolating, is this: can a mother - an in-the-trenches NW type of mother not one with a housekeeper and a babysitter and an agent or one with a spouse who makes everyone else doubt their marriages - can this mother have a life of the mind?

I guess I need to explain myself.

Josh and I were watching this movie - Another Earth - and the whole thing builds to the moment that the protagonist literally meets another version of herself.  My thought on viewing it was "Oh no!"   I would not want to meet myself.

Much of my life I have done creative things.  I have done interesting things and had a kind of freedom.  Since having children this has largely ceased.  Of course, I have my annual mushroom mania and draw fungi but its descriptive art.   I am not spending any time reflecting on my life (beyond who to consult for plans for the back deck and when to watch the next episode of Downtown Abbey).  I do not have anything to say as an artist (or writer, or potter or whatever).

My theory is that art comes from self-awareness and a bit of separation, separation that allows you to objectify whatever it is you think or see and self-awareness that lets you know you are feeling it.  But when kids are in your life all the time with only short blocks of time 'off' to work or cook or shop or clean or read a book to escape from doing these things, its hard to find either of these things.

When I was a kid I think my mother was in the grips of just this realization.  She made it clear to me that it was important to have a fulfilling life rather than marrying and having children.  I remember thinking how futile it was to make your life's work making kids when the kids would go on and make their life's work making their kids.  I mean, somewhere along the line someone has to have fun?  Right?

So, I had kids late to make sure I got some life of the mind in and now I want some back.

Anyway, I haven't figured out the answer yet but tomorrow I am heading out for a 4 day meditation retreat with a Vipassana teacher.  I used to sit daily but I haven't for years so I predict that I will get to see my mind up close and personal over the next few days.  I will report back if I find any answers.

I will not tell you if the answer is to stop seeking a life of the mind, because that would be depressing for all of you who didn't get to go on the retreat.

Meanwhile, in move guaranteed to lead to fun (if not self-awareness and creative expression) Tara and I have decided to buy cross-country skis and go cross-country skiing.

We may even take the kids.

My mind walking to the corner store to buy candy

Slush, snow, freezing rain

I need to enhance my vocabulary for snow.   SNOW doesn't really do justice to the nuances of white stuff that we've enjoyed in Seattle over the past 4 days.   Seattle doesn't do well with snow.  I mean, sure, we love it but normal routines stop:  schools close, many people don't make it in to office jobs and my bank declared "rolling closure due to unseasonal weather conditions."    In Seattle's defence, our city IS hilly and we don't get snow much so things are designed for it.  I followed a snow plow along a major arterial yesterday and it was the first plowed road I had seen!

Following a snowplowed route at Northgate!
 This morning, I woke to the sound of snow falling like 'pic, pic, pic' sounds and thought it might be hail.  It wasn't.  It was tiny pellets of slushy rain that made my fleece wet immediately and, according to the NWSwe are in an ice storm.

I noticed it last night when I woke.  Snow makes the night quite  brilliant, especially if you have a moon or city lights.    From the gray snow-lighted uncurtained windows, I didn't need lights to walk around the house but when I looked at the trees the branches were all shiny, covered with ice.

Our street yesterday

The boys walk home after sledding.

 Although we were scheduled for a thaw today, the conditions are still the same.  Snow is falling and as I look out the window all the cars in our street are covered in 3-4 inches of snow.  Nobody is driving past but a family - a father and two tiny children - just slid by in an ungainly practice on cross-country skis.

The weather does bring out it's share of crazies.  Although the sidewalks are fine to walk, I have seen people snowshoeing to the coffee shop.  Yesterday afternoon we had some guys on quad bikes roaring around the snowy hills and we had to pull Wren off the sled to let them pass. 

Ice rain is very cold

Wren hated walking in the snow because it got in his
face and his hood was missing.  He had to sit backwards
in the sled

Frost loved sledding and had a sleepover at
a friend's house. He is hoping to sled Gasworks Park
this morning.

In the late afternoon, Wren and I made a snow fort
which he used "as a weapons' stand" for a
snowball fight.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snowmageddon, Slushmageddon?

There has been another day of light snow chez nous. We enjoyed the cold - the icicles that formed on our rain chain as the melting snow refroze overnight - and managed to get outside a few times at least.  The nicest thing about snow is the feeling of being on vacation when you're at home.  We can look out any window and it feels as if we are in another country, a strange and special place where we could ski, drink hot chocolate all day and read books wrapped in a blanket.  It really slows things down!

On the remains of a giant snowman at Greenlake Field

Beezle did not want to sit on this snowball

The boys liked this spike-haired snowman (we didn't make it)
According to our local weather celebrity, it is "a major snow event" and we face either Slushmageddon or Snowmageddon over the next few days.  We could see 2-15 inches of snow by the end of Wednesday and variable like the location of the trough and speed of warming (rain vs snow) will be deciding factors over the next 48 hours.

This is not usual in Seattle.  Its the kind of thing that really tests local utilities and administration.  Many credit the last Mayor with losing re-election due to his botched response to our last "major snow event" which shut the city down for days.

At our place, the kids are begging, hoping and praying for a few days off school for snow.   Not coping the the tension or unknowing Wren has begged me to:

Just say it RIGHT NOW that I don't go to school tomorrow.  Just say it anyway!

I am less cantankerous than usual at the prospect because Joshua cleaned the dump zone in the hutch so I feel a great burden has been removed from my shoulders and that, along with the clean kitchen, makes anything possible - even doing some work while the kids are off school.

Or building a snow-titan if the snow really falls.  Or sledding!

Its sounding better all the time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Boy Vs Nature

I was playing with iMovie and made this up.  Sorry for the abrupt ending.  I ran out of time :)

Big Snow (for Seattle)

Japanese Maple in our front yard

My family in the sub-tropics thinks of Seattle as a zone of evergreens and snowy vistas.  My family in the mid-west think we are all about rain.  The truth is that Seattle has some clear but non-traditional seasons known only to those who live here.  They are:

Blazing heat and Drought Season:  August
Thank god its started raining / Oh god I am so depressed the summer ended Season (Fall):  Sept-Nov
Its dark and cold but its never going to snow Season:  December -February
The one day of snow season:  One day in December or January
Lets-go-Someplace-Sunny Season (when everyone leaves town):  Feb-April
Sort-of-Spring-maybe:  May-June
Sort-of-Summer-maybe:  July

Today is Seattle's "Annual Day of Snow" season.   Everyone is happy that it is on a weekend and they don't have to go to work and even happier that it will continue to snow tomorrow and be a public holiday as well.   The kids are thrilled its going to continue for a few more days.  They are all hoping that we will get more than the inch now on the ground so they can go sledding.

The arsenal of snowballs to hit Fred
Frost and Alex

This evening the boys made 150 snowballs in hope of hitting Fred.  Fred has a reputation for being a formidable target but this evening was ill-prepared with only a cashmere sweater to mark the hits.

Alexander has a frighteningly good throw which is more dangerous when the snowballs have solidified into ice-rocks.

Wren said "Do not throw any snowballs at me!"  then threw them at everyone.

Beezle went for a snow walk but since that time has hidden from me.  I suspect he is eating raw meat in my bed.  The thing with the raw food for dogs theory is that dogs take their kills to the den and the den is often something plush that should not have raw meat on it.

But that is a story for another day. 

Wren on the Snow Beezle we made in the yard

Hiking Little Si

Frost walks with funny hands because his gloves are too tight.
On Friday I took the boys to hike the Little Si Trail near North Bend.   Mt Si is an eye-catching peak as you approach the final climb to Snoqualmie Pass.  It looms over the valley at North Bend as a wall of green in early winter or a wall of snow hung pines later in the year.  Snow was forecast for the next day but trail reports suggested it was still clear.    The hike is about 2.3 miles and 1500 feet climb to the summit and it wasn't something to attempt with the kids in snow.

At the start of the trail we checked the information board.  As is usual in this part of North America, there were warnings about bears and avalanche as well as a concern about trees falling on you.  Wren was particularly taken with the prohibition on collecting wood.  He read this as "You are not allowed to pick up sticks".

The trail begins with a steady climb over a scree-covered path which leads up through the trees beside huge boulders.   After a few minutes I let Beezle off his leash and he ran to catch up with Frost who was running ahead.

Wren said he was tired and asked how far it was.  I told him we had gone about .3 of a mile so we had a bit more to go.

After half a mile the Little Si Trail meets with a 1.5 mile loop through the Valley of boulders.  Wren wanted to detour through the boulders while Frost wanted to head straight for the summit.   I told Wren that we didn't have time to do both and he said he would avoid the boulders because:

"Boulders are scary, they are God Eggs waiting to hatch!"

By half a mile we had found our rhythm with Frost doing trailside parkour and Wren running to keep up and complaining when Frost got out of range.  Whenever a hiker passed us by Wren called out "Do you know its illegal to pick up sticks?"   This didn't bother anyone, even the woman who had sticks she was using as walking poles.

One guy turned around and told Wren "These poles are actually not sticks, I bought them in a store."

Wren said "I know," and conversation then stalled.

I was impressed by how much energy both boys had, even when the trail gained elevation fairly rapidly.  

Frost's parkour move on the path.

After an hour and a bit of walking Frost showed the first signs of doubt and wondered when we should turn back.  I said we should try to continue for another 45 minutes or until we reached the top.  Wren was not sure he could make it, but was so absorbed by catching up to Frost who was driven to the summit by an optimistic hiker who, half an hour from the summit, told us "Its only 10 minutes more... you're almost there!"

Bless him!  We would never have made it if he told us the truth.

The boys and Beezle at the summit

Wren up top!

Looking over the edge

Frost creeps up to the edge.  Incredible views!

Beezle at the summit

Beezle was a very good hiking dog.  He was very quick and bold in climbing rocks.  He stayed well to heel except when rushing to catch up to Frost and was polite meeting other dogs on the trail (on and off leash).  His only wickedness was barking at a hiker when he came around a bend unexpectedly while we were stopped for a snack.  While the hiker was still in earshot and I was scolding Beezle, Wren said loudly:

"Beezle, don't bark at people especially OLD MENS"

The guy was about 50.

On the walk down Frost said "On this one Spongebob episode they learn finger exercises where you move your fingers to exercise them and I am so tired I can't even do the finger exercises.  My fingers don't work."

"I think your hands are half frozen" I said, "you can't move them because they are too cold."

"Oh yeah!" said Frost.  "They are all red, I think I have half hypothermia."

He didn't but it was cold as the sun lowered at 3pm.   We stopped for chocolate and coffee later and I bought Frost and entire toffee apple because I was so happy and, as he said, "We needed to replace those calories."

Frost and Wren looking for their lost calories on Mt Little Si