In The Moment

Learning to exist at the edge of the unknown by Christina Rosalie

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DSC_9935 I wake up wanting wildness; wanting the long view; wanting to be somewhere at the edge of what I know. I can't explain it. It's feels exactly like hunger, and even after breakfast it is still there, gnawing in the pit of my belly, and so we go, all four of us.
We take chocolate and walnuts, and chai marsala tea. We wear boots, and layers and our warmest gloves. We drive North, to the Champlain islands, to where lake meets sky, the water frozen into a smooth wide sheet till it blurs, yellow and milky at the edge.
The boys have the right approach. They pile into the car ready for adventure, and climb out when we park, curious, wide-eyed, already running towards whatever they will fine. The unknown is an invitation, a lure, a wild promise.
For T and I it's harder. It requires effort to shake off expectations and preoccupations, and the ground is icy and uncertain beneath us.
My breath catches where my breastbones join.
The boys run ahead, propelled by innate curiosity and instinctive balance. They run out onto the ice following sled tracks, unafraid, reckless in their abandon to know whatever this is, this ice, this world at the edge, this day, this newness of now.
For them, sliding is play. Falling too is it's own wonder: a flirtation with gravity. A chance to be airborne and to come down again, hard and certain, but without the pain of height and the thud of inflexibility. I watch them as they fall, over and over on purpose. Running, they hurl themselves knees first toward the ice, then slide out ahead in a graceful uncontrolled arc, yelling with glee.
I yell warnings after them unheeded, and feel afraid I am of this. Of what I can't control.
Without planning, I've arrived exactly at the wild edge of the unknown that stirred me from sleep like a hunger, though when we left the house I didn’t for a moment picture it like this: ice as far as the eye can see, with fishermen dotting the horizon. We slip-slide past the holes they've left, drilled drilled down into the quiet dark, where Lake Perch swim slowly through still water without sun.
The boys want to poke their booted toes in; I imagine hypothermia. My voice snaps fiercely in the cold air. They look surprised. And when we come close to the shore, they walk along the lake’s broken lip where the cattails rattle, and as the ice cracks and bows under their weight, they laugh with glee and stamp harder. I bark warnings, imagining them sinking under.
So here I am, learning to exist at the edge of the unknown, where my fears rise up again and again. I am afraid what I can't control, of the things I do not know, of outcomes that aren't certain, of edges I don’t know how to trust.
It takes a long time for me to realize why I am here, skating on dark ice; how these these moments are exactly the metaphor I need.
My breath catches. I release it.
Out there, on the wide open of the icy lake the fishermen silently sit on over-turnned buckets, not moving at all.
Their stillness is a kind of knowing I must learn. Their patience quiet and long.
Wearing thick parkas with fur close to their cheeks, they watch the small hole at their feet for signs of life. Sometimes there is a flicker. Once, twice, they pull in a fish. But the point isn’t that quick action; that flick of wrist and tug of line. Waiting is. Waiting, until even that ceases to be the point, and they simply are. Being. Hearts beating a steady thunder under layers; breath gathering in the stillness above them, signaling a silent gracious prayer: to be alive. To be alive.

The things we cannot know by Christina Rosalie

CalmBeforeTheStorm After the flood

"What’s your book about?" he asks, standing awkwardly at my side at a party full of writers. I’ve never met him before. It’s always the hardest thing for me to say what it’s about. How can a handful of sentences ever really convey the way everything I care about is there on the page. How to summarize something, when everything in my life went into its making?
Later I am standing with my back against the farm sink in the kitchen with a glass of rose in my hand, and I am listening to a friend talk about about her fear of dying. It occurs to me then that somewhere along the way I’ve stopped talking about dying; about what it means to me and how it's shaped me, although I don’t remember when I stopped. Now, suddenly, I know that the time is finally right to begin writing story of my dad the real way, in a book. Not only him, but everything. The way all of my life began with the convergence of theirs, and even what came before them. The way faith and timing, love and wanderlust all can be traced with a fingertip along the blue, slightly raised veins in my wrists, like rivers moving from the source. An inheritance of story. A torn roadmap of loving and believing.
I’m talking with a friend who has the most perfect bangs in the world. Straight across her forehead like Amelie, and I watch as she almost winces when she says, “How can it just be it? How can our whole life be a timeline, and then just nothing?” Then she says, "I'm terrified of dying because of that. Because of not knowing."
I nod.
The bigness of what happens after this is something we all must face. We become something or nothing. We feel the truth, or the absence of it. We know, or cannot know.
Our mortality hangs in the air. 

We’re fleeting. We're scraps, star dust, uncertain particles. That’s one way of seeing. Another is how my father saw it from his deathbed, hunched among the covers, pale, morphine patches on his belly as he said, “I’ll keep doing my work from the other side.” S glimmer of a smile, like sudden flight of birds moving across his face.
“I know,” I said without hesitation.
A lifetime of conversations with that man left me feeling held in the weft of spirit worlds. Still, I was too heartbroken to write more than the raw edges of story down. Too lost in the spinning of my own world without a North to know really where to begin, or that I would begin at all, some day, after a rainstorm as I am now. 

Things are uncertain always in a world where physics apply. But what of spirit?
I’d love to hear what you think.

It rained all day in fits and starts; the clouds gathering in a rush, the sky suddenly dark. At the party people read brilliant prose that was raw and hilarious and heartbreaking all at once, and someone sang “Imagine” and someone else played the piano and I sat against the wall with my dying cell phone skimming through texts from T and wishing I be only right there without distraction. Then it became clear: our road was flooded out.
My cell battery was dead leaving the party, and the night was black without stars. Every dirt road’s neck seemed to be broken at the lowest point. Sudden flash floods had swallowed every stream bed; every culvert washed away.
You never really can imagine the future until you’re there. Until you’re standing at the torn edge of macadam where the road used to continue and now it doesn’t and instead there is a ten foot drop and a raging river in its path. I bite my lip. I’m freezing, still wearing flip flops from when I left the house in the morning under humid skies and temperatures in the seventies. Now the mercury is falling fast.

Two old men join me, shoulders hunched under slickers. They are neighbors familiar enough that we know each other’s silhouettes though we’ve never said hello; living as they do, a good two miles down the dirt road from where our house sits perched high and dry among dandelion fields and maple woods. Now they shine big flashlights at the raging river, share their iPhones, offer their houses to me for shelter, shake their heads.

I can’t get ahold of T. He’s already trying to meet me, likely at the place in the road where the service dips. I leave a message. There’s no way to cross. Nothing to do but retrace my path. Back to Burlington, the clocks closing in on a new day. Nearly every road I take becomes a back track; every low point is overwhelmed. The water rages like something hungry and wild. It devours the bedrock, tears away at the pavement, tosses logs and branches and old farm machinery in its wake.

Eventually I make my way back. Call a friend, show up at her doorstep after midnight. She puts clean sheets on the air mattress, hugs me, goes back to bed, and I spend the night fitfully, rain still falling.

The next day, I leave town in the afternoon. I buy groceries, and hope for lucky breaks. Bacon for the weekend, fruit, eggs, milk. At the place where the road was a river, the water is low now, and there are two huge excavators pushing gravel bigger than my fists into the wound. Truck after truck comes, backs in with precision, dumps another load, leaves. The men smoke cigarettes and wear steel toed boots and cotton sweatshirts. They use a sign langue specific to their trade: back her up, lower her down, all set, stop, go. Watching them work with little words and absolute efficiency I am beyond grateful. I want to cry. I want hug them and offer hot coffees and donuts. Instead, T meets me on a mountain bike, carrying the backpacks we used for hiking in college. He crosses in between the excavators, wraps his arm around my shoulder.
We fill the backpacks the groceries and my work bag. Cross back over, and in another handful of minutes I’m there, the fire bright, the kids hugging me, the dog licking my hands, and everything feels certain with the familiarity of home. I am exhausted beyond reason, as though the tenuousness of everything---us, and this, and life, and the gashed and then repaird roadway---is heavy with a weight I can’t perceive.

“Mama, what’s something no one can picture?” Bean asked me on the way to school earlier in the day when the sky was still soft, and the air was warm and damp and smelled of lilacs.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What?”
“Nothing,” he said, seriously, softly. “Nothing. You can’t picture that. It’s the opposite of anything. And every time we try to picture something--we’re picturing something. But nothing... we just can’t picture that.”

Faces that I love: by Christina Rosalie

Big grin -- Christina Rosalie Rascal -- Christina Rosalie

Pouty Face -- Christina Rosalie

My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie

My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie

My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie

Puppy Portrait - Christina Rosalie

I've been using my DSLR again lately, and I have to admit, I almost forgot the depth and texture that it captures. I use my iPhone so much--simply because it's always on hand. But I so love slowing down, and really looking through the lens. I think these shots totally capture the boys right now. Who they are, and what they're like--mud streaked, pen marked, dirt under their finger nails. They've been on vacation this week, and finally the weather has started to turn warm--inviting long hours of outdoor play in little aluvial streams, climbing apple trees, and building forts, Clover always nearby chasing sticks.

Through the lens on a walk today by Christina Rosalie

Empty nest - Christina Rosalie Springtime In Vermont - Christina Rosalie

Reflection - Christina Rosalie

Rings on water - Christina Rosalie

At the pond's edge - Christina Rosalie

Before the green - Springtime in VT - Christina Rosalie

Moss in spring - Christina Rosalie

Dog sipping water  - Christina Rosalie

Moss on log - Christina Rosalie

Spring runoff - Christina Rosalie

Feather - Christina Rosalie

At the surface - Christina Rosalie

Wild crocuses  - Christina Rosalie

Rural VT farmhouse - Christina Rosalie

Rural Vermont - Rosalie

Pussy willow catkins - Christina Rosalie

Pussy willow catkins - Christina Rosalie

T and I went on a walk this morning with the pup, looking for signs of spring here in Northern Vermont where the winter still has been particularly reluctant to leave. We saw an owl take off above the pond with the widest wing span either of us have ever seen, and flickers with their gorgeous, almost-neon red heads and spotted plumage pecking in the newly greening grass.
What does the world look like where you are?

Five minutes seen + heard, and a prayer: by Christina Rosalie

I am in Rite Aid buying C batteries and a 3-pack of scotch tape, and I pause in the isle of match box cars, considering a pair of matching red and yellow ones to stick in the boy’s advent calendar for tomorrow, and there he is. Towheaded, not quite waist high, in a blue action hero polyester jacket and jeans with holes in the knees. His mother is rushing past, yelling in a hoarse distracted voice for him not to stop. But he does, and she doesn’t, and soon she’s out of sight around the corner at the pharmacy. “Hello,” I say, as the boy looks up at me. “Do you like matchbox cars too?” He nods. “Yeah,” he says, fingers running lightly over a blue and white race car.

I sort of hesitate there until I hear his mother. She’s walking backwards, still talking with the pharmacy clerk, but at least she’s moving towards her son like a reluctant magnet, and so I go on my way in search of the batteries I’ve come for.

I can’t help but hear her say,

“But Gage always fills four, and lets the prescription roll over to the next month.” “Well I’m not Gage,” says the pharmacy clerk.

The woman is wearing dirty pink sweatpants. Her hair is pulled back into a disheveled ponytail that matches my own on many too-busy days. Her face is ashy. She has a bronchial cough. She’s holding cigarettes in one hand, her cell phone in the other.

I walk on, ask a boy with barley enough facial hair to warrant his attempt at a beard where the batteries are, and then make my way to the register.

And then I see her.

“Noah Jeffery!” She is yelling in a tone that sounds more angry than anxious though I know what she must feel.

She moves down the isle quickly, and then reappears soon after, biting her nails, quiet now, looking. She walks up and down the front of the isles past the displays of stocking sized bottles of wine, and Russell Stover chocolates, and fake poinsettia plants. Then she goes out of the store and I hear her calling into the night. “Noah! Noah!”

I wait. A new register opens up. It’s the boy with the barely beard. I say, “There is a woman who has just lost her child in your store, is there anything you can do to help?”

He looks at me and says “Oh.” And then, “Debit or credit?”

As I run my card I say, “I’m a mom, I get it. Can you make sure no little boy walks out of your store. I just saw him in the toy isle.”

He gives me the vaguest of smiles, the slightest of nods as though I might be asking him to feed his cat bonbons. Like nothing I am saying computes even remotely with the gravity of the situation. The woman dashes back in even more frantically, still empty handed.

I linger as long as I can.

I do a sweep of the store. But with my paid-for merchandize in a sack it feels like contraband walking back through the isles. I do not see him. I do not see her.

Maybe they’ve found each other, I tell myself hopefully.

Still I plead: “Really, there is a little boy who got lost in your store. Please watch the door.”

And then reluctantly I go, looking up and down the street, and into the parking lot, where what must be her car stands with all it’s doors wide open, left abruptly when she didn’t find him there. It’s an old Chevy, the dents in the hood glint in the lamplight.

And this is what I pray will happen, despite the seemingly obvious odds: That when she finds him she will wrap him in her arms, that there will be soft voices and tender kisses and hands held and cheeks pressed close to cheeks.

Field notes: A small collection of beautiful things by Christina Rosalie

The quality of light just here, on the plate where the yolk from the egg has spilled into a small river of gold against white enamel; light falling through the big south facing window before noon, while at the feeder chickadees scatter the sparks of millet hulls onto the grass beneath.

In the woods, the leaves are decomposing, the moss still verdant green, and punky wood good for kicking, or digging at with eager puppy paws. We walk the boundaries now, daily taking inventory of every bit of quartz, each trampled path, each wild raspberry bramble, and listen as the piliated woodpecker makes waves in the air with its drumming.

With their saws buzzing like angry bees, the men arrive from the power company, to fell trees for wires to pass through unhindered when the storms come, and though I’m sad about the spruce they take, leaving only the shorn trunk marked with scars of sticky sap, I’m grateful too, for the light that I turn on.

After dinner, the night is still soft and new and we go out, all five of us now; the dog at my side on a slack lead, picking up scents among the wet leaves while the big colored lights twinkle around the tallest pine and we start singing every carol we know, one after the next our voices lifting into the gathering night.

The morning begins like this: by Christina Rosalie

The morning begins when I am less awake than dreaming, and with shut eyes I shift my body, truing towards the warmth of my husband beside me; pressing my nose against the warmth of his bare shoulder. I pat the edge of the bed when I hear my littlest come in, carrying his bear, a pacifier in his mouth. He climbs up and burrows in next to me like a puppy, finding the curve between my neck and shoulder where little head fits just exactly so. Then we all doze, until his brother starts to call from their room down the hall; ever the bright eyed one in the morning, Bean wakes up curious, eager, effervescent, loud. Sprout props himself up on an arm, then sits off, shoving the warm covers back. “I’m coming,” he calls, then trundles off. The morning begins like this: I am between sleep and waking, sitting at the edge of a mossy dock. Below me the water is warm, and when I slip into it I discover amethysts sparkling below the surface. Then I am here, with the cat purring at my hip, and I roll over so that I can run my hand along her apricot fur, her purr vibrating up through my finger tips, into my palm, my pulse. In the kitchen below me, the boys sound like herd animals. They make the wood floor thunder. They shriek and laugh and yell. The house smells like woodsmoke and bacon (two of my favorite things) and soon I push back the covers and stumble toward the shower, my vision blurring suddenly to stars. Head rush. I hold the door frame and pause.

The morning begins with all four of us around the butcher block island in the kitchen on stools. There are white bowls of oatmeal with butter and maple syrup, seedy toasted baguettes with butter and raspberry preserves, fried eggs, bacon, flat whites. There are greasy little boy fingers. There is a scuffle over the last slice of bacon. Both boys ask for milk, then water. T and I look at each other over the table and smile.

The morning begins with this: I am sitting beside the wood stove, this mix is playing and the sun is out. It makes shadows fall in bright contrast across the un-vacuumed floor. I sit with my new notebook (I’ve filled the last one up) and a pencil with soft lead, and find my pulse. I watch wild turkeys run across the far meadow, and settle into the steadiness of my hand moving across the page, scrawling careless, messy script. “What chu doin mama?” Sprout asks within minutes, his face right at table height, his cheeks rosy, his bangs in his eyes.

The morning begins like this.

A creative loophole: by Christina Rosalie

That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? Me with my arms outstretched, feet in first position. The chromosome half of us don’t have. Second to last in the alphabet: almost there. Coupled with an L, let’s make an adverb. A modest X, legs closed. Y or N? Yes, of course. Peas sign reversed. Mercedes Benz without the O.

Y, a Greek letter, joined the Latin alphabet after the Romans conquered Greece in the first century—a double agent: consonant and vowel. No one used adverbs before then, and no one was happy.

~ From Y, by Marjorie Celona, originally from the Indiana Review, republished in Best American Non-Required Reading 2008.

How can you not be inspired, like I was, reading this, to pose and consider everything remarkable about a letter? Maybe your first initial, or your last. I'm on the lookout every day for opportunities like this: to slip through an open doorway, an imaginative loophole, a slight tear in the fabric of all that right now insists. Because everything is happening at once, as it always is. Everything converging. Projects, deadlines, discoveries, presentations. It’s easy for me to just put my head down and run hard without stopping, without looking, without pausing for a handful of moments to practice doing what I love the most. And I found this to be the perfect thing to do today, mid week, now, on the seventeenth of November, with the world blue and brown and quiet with the promise of snow, amid everything else.

At the back door there are leaves that the wind’s tossed up in heaps, brown and crackling under our feet as we make a bonfire with friends, roast marshmallows and press them between crumbly graham crackers with chocolate; drink cappuccinos, and watch the children play. They take rakes with bamboo tines and heap the leaves until one or all of them are buried, laughter rising up with the sparks toward the night sky that is full of ink and diamonds; such a mess of grandeur, are the heavens above us.

The children turn on the porch lights; four boys in hats, leaves eddying up in the dark. Their shadows are eerie and huge across the grass, and then up in the sky, the waning gibbous moon, a pregnant C up there with the spilled milk of the universe, the faintest shadow of its darker side also there, barely illuminated: a C in reverse.

C: The letter that is at once the contents and the container, the balance of negative and positive space, the curve of palms, cupped, holding a bowl, and also the shape of the bowl. It is curiosity, and the top bit of a question mark in reverse. The final slight line in a pair of parenthesis, the pause of a comma, the arc of a story, a a smile turned on it’s side. It is the consonant that invokes creativity, the third letter of the alphabet, the symbol for chemical concentration, the speed of light in a vacuum, the abbreviation for carat, century, constant, cubic. It is the first note in C major, and the way my name begins.

It's your turn!


Take 5 minutes. See what you can write about a letter. Or share a link an image or post and I’ll be sure to take a peak.

An inventory of things found on my studio floor: by Christina Rosalie

Things found on the floor of my studio: A blue letter O; two puzzle pieces; a small rocket ship; a cardboard tile with the word COMETS on it; a very small sticker stuck to the floorboards that says "Road Closed" in black against orange; another sticker, artfully pressed into a knot in the floorboards that says "YES" in all caps; a small black wheel; a spool of turquoise thread; a solitary striped sock; a red matchbox car; 1 pacifiers; 7 hair ties; countless snippets. I can only trace the origins of the final two from that inventory. This is what happens when I work in my studio with children underfoot.

It's such good practice though, to slow down enough to take an inventory of the details around you. Try it: Can you notice five unusual things within an arms reach? What are they?

This is true: by Christina Rosalie

Listen. What you hold with your hands is everything.




What you hold are hold the fragile wings of something that arrives in the night and then slips away, leaving only its slight carbon footprint on your sill; or the small body of a sparrow that’s just hit the window. Or maybe you hold the runaway tug of your dog’s leash; or the runaway tug of your heart.

You might hold the hand of the one you love; or your face in your hands; the heft of your child’s body, his head thrown back with laughter; or the weight of emptiness in your palms pressed together in prayer.

What you need to know is that what you hold can be a anything. What counts is intention. What counts is reaching out. Taking hold. Accepting. Offering.


Spend today taking note of your hands: of the artful way they pick up a pencil, wipe tears from a cheek, flip eggs, type, caress, create. Of how they translate the world for you; the way they’re the bridge between what’s inside your heart, and what you make of it. Of the way they feel held in another’s hand, or pressed into dough, or submerged in water. Imagine the joy you can hold; the possibility you can ask for and accept, like a boomerang tossed and received.

Start with this.

Today I hold the last of autumn’s leaves; papery now, and wind tossed; my coffee frothy and warm; scissors for cutting Sprout’s long bangs; the excitement of new possibilities; a brush dripping with aqua ink; the soft cotton of shirts, ready for folding.

What do your hands hold today?


// Things I want to remember by Christina Rosalie

So busy this week, back to school, back to being in a hundred places at once. Still, it's summer and I'm trying to be in it. At the dinner table watching our boys run out across the grass holding hands to look for sticks for roasting marshmallows, T says: "Oh love, I want this to last forever."

I nod, knowing exactly what he means. Them, as they are with shaggy summer hair, scraped knees, berry stains on their fingers. And us. Our lives full to the brim right now, but in good way.

Things I want to remember:

// Dinner tonight: flatbread baked on a stone on the grill along with summer peaches + a hint of vanilla, chicken with olive oil + thyme, and a salad of summer's brightest: new plump blueberries, arugula from the garden, baby lettuces in a mustard maple balsamic vinaigrette.

// The way morning gallops in, with my boy's on it's back. They're wearing capes and wielding swords. It's before 7am. They are whirring with elbows and energy and laughter.

// The laundry whirring in a quiet house while the babysitter takes the boys on a bug-catching walk. They bring back crickets in a plastic egg box with holes poked in the top. It stays on my counter over night: some wells filled with water, others with grass. In the morning the insects are all alive still, and I make a plea for their release.

// Impending angst about my book deadline. So much to make a book. So many words. Picking the right ones seems feels daunting some days.

// Returning from an afternoon run just as thunder breaks the sky open. Then sitting in a circle of pages, blue post it notes scattered about like the petals of some sacred offering to the writing gods while the thunder rolls about like a bowling ball above me in the sky. Rain falls through the open windows onto the sills bringing the scent of earth and green.

Circling by Christina Rosalie

I stand by the heat of the wood stove, circling the present moment in my head like a dog preparing for sleep. It’s snowing again, although dawn was bright and clear: the truest pinks and the most pale persimmon clouds. Now everything is back to white on white, and the bird feeder needs filling. Today I am torn by what I want to be doing and what I ought to do. All morning T and I attempt conversation, fail, and attempt again. At the root of it: we miss each other desperately. We both want to fold into each other’s arms and have an afternoon just us in a café somewhere, but instead there are boys, and homework, and book work, a party tonight, and so the day ends up mostly being about adjacent circles rather than concentric ones, and in our longing we miss our mark, push each other away, and feel the distance more acutely.

If only I could stitch all the moments together today, I’d have a quilt of him to wrap around my shoulders now as I write. Him, in Sorrels in the driveway pushing the snow blower into knee-deep snow; him on the couch, buried under the lot of us this morning, all trying to tickle him and make him laugh; him cleaning the downstairs bathroom toilet, shirtless and muscular after a workout.

Now he’s taken the boys and gone on errands in spite of the snow falling harder, and I wish I could have gone with him, but reason and responsibility and the off kilter awkwardness of our morning convince me to stay instead.

I’ve been interested in exploring this thread interaction lately, since I wrote this post. I'm fascinated with the way people navigate the in-betweens and daily happenings. Neither hilltop nor valley, but the places where things even out and we’re just in it, doing our lives, side by side. There isn’t always grace in these moments, or courage. Often tiredness paints the whole picture a bleaker hue than it would otherwise be (and today this is most certainly the case.) Living with someone and loving them never ceases to be startling to me; unexpected, delightful, or painful to the point of wincing.

So this is my life. I always grin when I say this in my head, encountering myself in present tense, inside this moment (now: at my desk with cords strewn everywhere in the silence of a house now empty of the boys that fill my world. So this is my life: and I am so grateful I get to share it here, and show up, and find the threads of your stories too in the comments.

I am so interested in all your responses to my last post about blogging (thank you!)

I’d love to know: what are a few of your current (new) favorite blogs? Where do you creep, peruse, become inspired?

Today, I am loving this beautiful piece by Pixie. This is awesome. These images caught my eye.

And this.