“The fruition of the year had come and the night should have been fine with a moon in the sky and the crisp sharp promise of frost in the air, but it wasn't that way. It rained and little puddles of water shone under the street lamps on Main Street. In the woods in the darkness beyond the Fair Ground water dripped from the black trees.”
Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Family Link, In Verse

Happy Poetry Friday! Its the weekend y'all and we made it all the way across the line. Having a little Flashback Friday moment tonight, not enough inspiration or time tonight to pen a poem of my own and so, I'm sharing a great one by Jacqueline Woodson about family.
My parents and I and my first baby sister Jen, sometime in 1984.
I feel increasingly connected to mine as I age, as my boys grow bigger and form their own connections, as I research my family tree, consider my genetic testing I got for Christmas this year and soak into my new life so very far across the country. I'm lucky, I have a wonky, bumpy, lovely family full of grit and jokes, woodsmoke, doubt and other delicious things. They are wonderful people all of them and I am working on sorting out who I am in relation to them and who I am not in relation to them, but no matter who I turn out to be, I know I will belong. I am part of these crazy people and they are part of me. Its a strong thing to feel that internal wire, stringing you all together irreversibly. May the cable never sever.
My parents and I, December 2015.

Here's my contribution to Poetry Friday this week. Enjoy.


My mother has a gap between
her two front teeth. So does Daddy Gunnar.
Each child in this family has the same space
connecting us.

Our baby brother, Roman, was born pale as dust.
His soft brown curls and eyelashes stop
people on the street.
Whose angel child is this? they want to know.
When I say, My brother, the people
wear doubt
thick as a cape
until we smile
and the cape falls.

Catch the rest of the submissions this week at The Miss Rhumphius Effect, click over and have a marinade.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Chinatown Link-Fest

The small city we live in now is hugely Chinese in demographic. There are four giant, full service Chinese grocery stores here, for instance. I have a feeling that Chinese New Year might be a big deal here. We had a little foray into San Francisco this past weekend and fooled around in Chinatown, watching people buying lanterns and food for the festivities and loading up the bottom of the stroller with rambutans and longan. I am not very Chinese in style. I like my Latin culture and my "island time" but I have a hard time with cultures that are particular or rigid or invasively harsh.  I admire their stringency but I am kind of unsettled by their culture of wily, particularity. I look like I'm sick if I wear the orange-red color they are so fond of, I'm terribly fond of being golden tan from outdoor play and I really don't like bean paste desserts. I'd make a lousy Beijing expat. I do love the Chinese medicine culture with their emphasis on observing the body for symptom decoding and clues and their use of herbs and other natural remedies. I also love the lower sugar baked good in their shops. I think the flowers are amazing....the big, lush chrysanthemums and tuberose in fragrant bundles. I have some gigantic white lilies on my dining room table that we brought home with us. Each lily could be a full-sized lady's hat and the whole room is spiraled through by the drifting eddies of fragrance. I like that very much. I'm a little biased. China is a whole universe away and feels philosophically alien to me but I want to appreciate and understand my neighbors and connect to them. China is encroaching in my life. I did a little reading to inspire me. Wanna see what I found? 

Here are my favorites: 

  • A photographer, making fashion role models out of Chinatown's elders. (We accidentally wandered past her studio and I peeked in the window and wondered what the exhibit was about as it was closed at the time and I hadn't yet read this article.)
  • How Walmart didn't make it in Chinatown. The Chinese are frugal, but protests reigned and it didn't fly. 
  • Chinatowns in rural Connecticut. How the World Trade Center attack caused a migration and brought the Chinese out of NYC.
  • The largest Chinatown in Mexico is in Mexicali. It includes a large population, and a warren of secret tunnels. Who knew!?!
  • One man, eats his way through every restaurant in Chinatown, L.A. He gives you the serious lowdown on where the astounding stuff is and what it was like to do it all.
  • Chinatown and public art are intermingled. The Chinese have embraced identity discussion in public spaces and expression of feeling and tradition emblazoned across walls and courtyards.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ladybug Mosh Pit

 We took a hike with our new homeschool friends recently to see the winter ladybug clusters. Our new pals are hardcore, just the way we like our friends so, we all hiked through a redwood forest in the rain with minimal gear and cover and maximal mud and toddlers to see the spectacle of the jewel insects gathered in bright clusters and crowds on the sides of the trail.

 The hike was stunning with or without ladybugs, the redwoods and the rainy season forest world of California blows my mind. Its like some jurassic Fern Gully world that is 15 minutes from my house. Wild. Utterly. It was so exciting to hop right out of the car and see that basically as soon as we left the parking lot we were lost in a forest paradise.

 After our hike I did some reading about these gorgeous insects. It was such a consuming thing to see a branch turned glossy red with their crowded wing covers that the boys were pretty obsessed. It was much much harder to convince them to return hike because they were so interested in watching them. They each tried to carry one home on their hand, Pom cried some bitter tears when his "own bug" spread wings and rejoined kith and kin.

 Ladybugs are famous for being a gardener's friend because they eat aphid which are a major plant pest in the garden bed. Turns out that the earlier understanding of ladybug diet was a little unclear and after further observation and research scientists have decided that they are definitely not carnivores but omnivores. They do eat a lot of aphids and other soft bodied pests but they also eat nectar, sap, pollen and even fungi.

Someone on the hike told us that they number of spots denote age which turns out to be a commonly repeated myth. The spots show their species, there are a lot of different kinds of ladybugs....both native to our shores and imported and they can vary in appearance but the number of spots is the best differentiator.

I've noticed before that when you hold a ladybug you often start to sniff a peculiar stink. Turns out that's a back-up plan for their scarlet wing covers which are already a warning sign to birds to let them know that they taste terrible. If they are hassled or stressed they will start "reflex bleeding" a substance from their knees that smells bad and tastes worse than their natural flavor. Crazy! Right?

There are also some species of ladybugs which lady fertile eggs and then lay a bunch of infertile eggs in among them to be food for the forthcoming children. What a strange but clever system. Motherhood is pretty vast and wild.

If you ever need a break from winter and come visit we'll take you to see the ladybugs where they cluster in the redwood groves. Its astounding and gorgeous....California is amazing.