Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Simple Things


Fall brings with it such a hustling and bustling that the simple things in life can slip right through our fingers. Why should we stop to smell the newly rain-scrubbed air or savor the warming of our hands wrapped around a cup of tea when there are football games, little leagues, school projects and the impending doom of holiday shopping, decorating and entertaining to attend to? 

This week, I reject both hustle and bustle, regardless of deadlines and obligations. Instead, I choose to whittle out space to savor the season, the changing of the leaves, the sound of rain against the roof, and early night fall. Most of this time is carved from the earliest parts of mornings. Some simple morning gratitudes:

Piano practice.
Soggy mushroom hunts.
Pumpkins roasting in the oven.
Leaf prints, stained into the sidewalk.
The filling of the root cellar.
Coffee by the fire.
Garden beds, neatly turned for winter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Someone's Got to Dig it.


Last year the deer ate every flower and hopeful bud in the garden. This year, I scoured books and garden centers for every deer resistant flower I could find and planted them, as bulbs, in hopeful anticipation of the spring bloom. Yesterday, I came home to find that the squirrels, eager for a lightening of their fall work load, had emptied every hole, cast aside my precious bulbs, and replaced them with hazelnuts. I suppose someone has to dig the hole.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Am Not A Mother,


I am not a mother but,

I am a teacher, mentor, caretaker and friend.

I am the babysitter, nanny, and perpetual auntie.

I am a helper to mothers. 

I have walked the floor with them until you get home, helped them with their homework, gone to their soccer games, and put them to bed when they were young.

When they grew up, I took them to coffee, reminded them to have dinner with you, and help them put you into context.

I am not a mother, but,

I have dedicated a life to the raising of other peoples children.

I am not a mother, but,

I am one of the first believers in your child.

I will be among the first to challenge them; a person for whom they will rise to any bar they set.

I will help them to shine on their own.

I am not a mother but,

before you speak,


There is a role in this world for the helper of mothers, the caretakers of children, 

and forces beyond our control. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Geology Confidential I


You can tell a lot about a person, or a geologist anyway, by the rocks they keep. You can find them, usually cluttering shelves and porches, collecting dust and spider webs, or used as book ends, garden bed borders and paperweights throughout the house. There is, no doubt, more of them in boxes, drawers and closets, tucked away, and carried from house to house. They serve as true a record of the person, the ground that they have walked over, their work and passions, as they do of orogenies, ancient sea floors and catastrophic eruptions. A sample:

Thousands of bags of pumice, weighed, wrapped in wax, labeled in green permanent marker.

A volcanic bomb, fourteen pounds, hiked out of the Arizona volcanic field cradled in my arms.

Iron-rich basalt, encased in calcite and weathered to a bright pink. Hauled home from Costa Rica by a friend.

Sandwich bag, filled with black primordial ooze, gifted from a friend visiting the tar pits.

Small bottle of ash from the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

Geodes, 22, gifted from a student's grandfather's collection after he passed away.

Salt block, hounded in Nevada, evaporated to less than half it's original size in the Oregon humidity.

Obsidian, with flow lines, from the Newberry flows.

Fossiliferous limestone, collected in Montana, that has graced the front porch of every house I've lived in since 2001.

Hardened clay, formed into a cube during a long day of drilling.

Dust, from a thousand day hikes and field areas, caked into the seams of a too-old day pack. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where Does She Find The Time?


One of the things I am most frequently asked is how do you find the time? The trick, I think, is to find what you love and go after it, without roadblocking or discouraging yourself. Some things I do to help myself along my path.

I make lists.
I keep a clean house.
I group tasks and errands.
I ignore the phone and the internet.
I set limits on how much time I will give to a task.
I triage.
I do things that I love and work most days.
I don't work at all some days.
I make choices.
I have a clear vision of my goals and obligations.
I allow my vision to shift with necessity.
I break tasks into component parts.
I start early.
I plan ahead.
I expect the unexpected.
I hustle.

How do you find the time? Share your answers in the comments.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Last Tomato


Fall has descended seemingly all at once. The air is cold and thick with early rains, the trees are drawing straws to see who will change color first, and the nuthatches have eaten half a feeder of seed in the last three days. But the last of the tomatoes are still clinging to the vine, and managing to ripen, without the aid of sun or extra watering. I have not abandoned them, just left them to their their task. I enjoy the fortitude of the late tomato, the pressing forward of goals, desires, and obligations. The fall is the time for the completion of tasks, a period of preparation for coming hardships. In fall, we have to face the put-off things of life or surely suffer consequences in the dark days of winter. And so I strive to be an end of season tomato, focused, sure, and proceeding, making one last stand in my pot with what is left of my resources.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sun City


I never grow tired of the desert, even though I am a daughter of the rain. I do not crave the heat, or love to lay out in the sun, but there is something about the desert calls out to me. Perhaps it is the contrast, that no trees obscure the view, no sinking into mud with every step, no dense clutches of vegetation or low-hanging clouds. Instead, there are coyote, saguaro, and scrappy stands of tiny trees that though smaller in stature are no less impressively old than even the tallest of Northwest Douglas firs. I enjoy the resilience of desert life, the necessary lengthening of timescales. In the desert, water will not come to you daily, or even by the month, best to savor thirst, celebrate it, and turn your mind from longing. The desert reminds me to accept the life I have been given, to make do. It illuminates the struggle of ordinary things and the value of simple things. There is great joy and beauty in the procurement of the necessities of life. It is, after all, a wonder. Try not to take it for granted.