To be 5 years old (with gusto) by Christina Rosalie

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2014-02-20 16.56.23 You turned 5 (last Thursday!) with gusto. For the week before your birthday you kept asking when you birthday would be and then counting down the days. At night you’d wrap your arms around my neck and hug me close, and whisper: “My birthday is in____days.” And I’d say, “It is” and rub your nose with my nose and stare down at him completely disbelieving.
Remember how the time between birthdays felt like an eternity? Remember that sweet feeling of anticipation that last nearly until you’d burst? Would that we could still feel that luxurious stretch of time, easy and slow with the salty sweet of anticipation like taffy being pulled. Now the days have a staccato feel: dominos tumbling one after the other in a rapid-action blur. They come they go in an instant. I keep thinking, wait, didn’t I just turn 34? How am I 36? How did two years possibly pass? Let alone 5. Let alone, my last, my baby is 5 and not a baby at all.
When the day finally arrived, you woke terribly early, and in turn woke Bean and you both came tumbling into our room. It was a school day, so there was less snuggling in our bed than might have been had it been the weekend, and when we all made our way out to the kitchen your cheeks were flushed and rosy.
On the table, crystals and shells around his plate, a fat rose in full bloom, a birthday card from Granny sent in the mail, and beneath the table, leaning against a table leg a present (the first of several) in rainbow striped paper.
“Oh my gosh!” you gasped grinning, your body practically vibrating with glee. Yet you sat down and slowly opened the letter, savoring every bit of the delight, the envelope, the card itself, the small packet of zinnia seeds she also sent like colored suns.
Even with all your gusto and volume, you have this remarkable capacity for delayed gratification, as though you really understand what the moment offers. How it’s here to delight you only for now, and then it’s gone for good.
When you unwrapped the stripes you found a a scooter, like Bean’s but smaller. You’d waited four whole days since Bean’s birthday, hoping. Next you were a whirl of speed; a streak of delight. Then waffles, then backpacks, then school, where your kindergarten teacher put on a puppet show in celebration of your arrival on this earth, and we sat there with you watching; watching you among your classmates, sort of reeling internally with wonder. Five feels old. It’s the last year of smallness.
Oh time, hold still, hold still.
In the evening you were beyond ecstatic to get the “pirate stuff” you’d asked for, and went around the house decked out in mardi gras beads and a Captain Hook arm, yelling at the top of your lungs. Fearsome with your eyepatch, and so darling I just wanted to keep hugging you even when you squirmed free, and when Nonna and Poppy gave you their gift, you literally pumped your fists in the air with delight: a long coveted lego set. Something about a museum break out. Good guys and gad guys of course. Escape vehicles. Fire hoses. You and Bean became so absorbed he had to be coaxed back to the table for the ice cream cake you’d begged for.
So many candles blown out to mark the start of a new year around the sun for you, sweet little one.
You are my teacher of gusto and joy.

You are not in control by Christina Rosalie

Gull Any time could be the last time. The last hello-goodbye. The last drink. The last caress. The last giggle, macaroni and cheese dinner, yelling match, email, orgasm, inspiration, idea, breath. Anytime could be your time. To leave. To arrive. To become. To cease becoming. Whatever way you think of it, whatever you believe.

 Any instant could be your last.

We’ve been talking about this often, since our lives brushed against the raw edges of this truth, and its tremendous, unavoidable evidence has given rise to both panic attacks and wonder.

“How can I have spent five months running through it, and not known I was that close?” He asks, wondering about the doctor’s matter of fact sentence:

“You had a week or two at most.”
We are all that close.
The world is cruel and beautiful; the gods are splendid and irreverent; the odds and science are what they are; and the truth, a secret dervish twirling just beyond.

“It’s in my control now, to do more,” he says, committing with renewed vigor to diet and exercise and all the other proactive things that indicate clear arteries and a long life. 
And there it is, the sly and foolish word control, which has come to mean some kind of power over outcomes. Assurance, even, that the outcome we intend is ours.
But watching the gulls on the lake, I am privy to a different truth.
They have gathered at the edges of the rocks. Some have hunkered down, their white feathered breasts against the rocks. Some stand on a single yellow leg, the other tucked beneath feathers for warmth. Others tilt and pitch gently in the steel blue waves.
When I arrive they turn their lidless eyes in my direction, watching for the unknown of what my intrusion might mean. When I move slowly, they turn back. They have no illusions of control. No ornate or predetermined accounting for the way their life unfolds. What they know innately is attuned attention and response. The waves come and they rise. The wind tosses their hollow bones aloft, and they soar in flight.

We too, have only this, as puny as it seems. As much as our desires and egos and legends paint a different, grander backdrop for the stage upon which our life unfolds. Of course we think we do. It is our myth, spiraling back to the epics at the beginnings of time, and to the sagas of god and man grappling over the outcome of fate on Mount Olympus. It is our human striving to tell a bolder narrative, with us at the helm. 
We wage wars, with ourselves with each other over control. Over achieving some unswerving, undeniable guarantee that we are the makers of our destiny. That control is ours.
We think, “If I just...”
Just whatever it is we bargain for in our heads. Whatever illusive thing we believe that if we do we’ll have control: exercise every day, lose weight, say I love you, get the job, live closer to town, live away from it all, be discovered, become rich, eat a paleo diet, get elected for office, eat local, buy organic, pass that law, get eight hours of sleep. Whatever.
But even if you did each thing, even if you did everything, your life is still a gift; slight and rare in a tremendous universe. In an instant, it could slip. A blockage, a tumor, a fluke accident, a brutality. There are a thousand ways your life could end this instant, in spite of our best efforts. You are not in control.
So what can you do then, with this truth?
You can show up with intention for this life. You can attune your attention. You can choose your response. Still, no outcome is assured. The raft of your life is buoyed up by some grater force.
For the gulls, every intruder, possible threat, devastation, predator, or darkening night is simply an offering of life. Just as the sparkling tides, the pale crabs, the twirling yellow leaves that scud across the skies, are also only life. What is theirs, are wings, and wind and days.
What is yours is the way you meet the turbulence as it arrives: with grace or terror, with gratitude or anger, with openness or clenched fists, with focus or distraction. Your life will find you, no matter what you plan. Be here then. Be of this wild, brilliant new day. Respond as truly as you can, and know this life is made both of your breath, and of the wind you breathe.
Of an instant the gulls take to the air in unison, and their harsh calls are carried upwards with the sudden wind.

Falling in love: to Jamaica and back by Christina Rosalie

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We leave before dawn, and watch the world grow light from above. A thin red line between the black of earth and the blue of heavens: dawn happens like this. And the moon, a waning crescent, a celestial hangnail bright and silvery against the softening sky.
By New York, the sun is a ball of the brightest red, and then the world turns gold and then finally blue with day and we lift off again to cross the continent southwards, and then across the ocean, the world from above taking my breath away.
When we land the air is thick with humidity and fragrance. Our pants stick to our legs and my hair blows into my face as we wait for our driver to show up to take us the hour drive to where we are staying in Ocho Rios.
"I've just had a nice Red Stripe, mon" our taxi driver says, after we've loaded our luggage in and are off on the highway. "They're refresh'n, mon. Have you had one yet?" He glances back in the rearview where we're fiddling with seat belts that have no place to buckle.
"Not yet," we laugh.
"That's how I start my day, mon. I smoke a splif and have a Red Stripe. That holds me through the day, ya know?"
So here we are, under the equatorial sun, driving on the left side of the road with a laid back cabbie who might be both high and buzzed. Somehow he drives as straight as everyone else is driving. Everyone swerves. They "overtake" drivers up ahead by encroaching until they're near enough to kiss bumpers and then just sort of sidle to the right, oncoming cars be dammed. At least though, they honk a warning. In fact, they honk for everything.
After a while our driver begins telling us about the way he's using his hand to signal if there are cops where he's just been, or if it's an all clear to other drivers. His hand floats out the open window into the warm, sweet air making upward and downward waving gestures. There is a code. There are lots of codes. Their patois is a code. A pidgin of English evolved by slaves to evade plantation owners. H get's dropped from words recklessly and added to others with precipitousness. Ocean becomes "hocean" and hotel, "otel."
The island is teaming with code, with secrets, with myths, with ways of being that emphasize things that are entirely different from whatever it is we're hell bent on here, in northern New England (with our rational predilections and our perpetual industriousness and productivity.)

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The stories he tells are about about the owners of various huge houses who are cursed, about the delicacy of Conch "that is a man food, and too strong for the lady," and about the ganga and where the best of it grows. What matters is "living a good life, mon, ya know?" Happiness derives from simple pleasures: fresh-picked sweetsaps, papayas, breadfruit roasted over the fire, saltfish, jerk pork, ganga, music.
At the edges, hunger shows itself. There are shacks everywhere, belonging to squatters who "capture the land" and sell fruit, or fish or conch or carwashes from roadside stands rigged out of whatever they can find. There is both an ease and a desperation here, on the North side of the island where the economy depends on the tourist hustle of cruise ships coming to port, and people like us arrive at the small wind-blown airport amongst a thousand bougainvilleas.
When we arrive at our hotel, we slip into another world entirely. A gem from the 1950s, a throwback to the jet-set life. It's a gorgeous, sprawling blue-walled affair that was once a coconut plantation on the sea. Marylyn Monroe came here; T.S. Eliot; Ian Flemming; Winston Churchill. Our room overlooks the beach, with an open verandah that we slip over sidesaddle onto the sugar sand, and, upon returning, step into a steel bowl of water to rinse sand from our feet. 2013-10-02 18.20.34

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It feels like a dream. I've never been on a vacation like this. Nothing close. We never took a honeymoon trip, and this, we decided would be ours. Except when the day came for our flight, which was also our anniversary, T and I were pacing cafes in NYC, waiting for referrals to go through so his insurance would cover his surgery. and feeling very much like the HMO was playing a game of roulette with his life. Trip insurance is worth it sometimes, and this time it's why we're here. Standing a little awe-struck on the verandah, watching gentle blue waves break beyond the palms that make gorgeous feathery silhouettes on the sand.

We spend the week relearning things. What it means to go slowly. What it means to go even slower than that. What it is like to make love whenever we want to, without children underfoot. What it feels like to watch a sunset from beginning to end, while lying on a raft in the warm ocean. What reading feels like: the slow kind, in books with paper pages and pens to mark the good lines. To dog-ear pages and sip mojitos made with the best Jamaican rum and the sweetest Jamaican sugar. And above all else, relearning what we feel like, just the two of us, together.
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It felt like falling in love for the first time: that crazy high of giddiness, that perpetual desire to be close. Yet better, with the easy laughter and easy quiet of knowing each other for 14 years. We went some places: up the Blue Mountains to see coffee farmers; into the farmers and crafts markets to hagle over prices; and into a shanty town/cafe that served the best fish, where everyone was high and hawking wears and dancing even though it was only mid afternoon. But mostly we swam and read and swam and made love and lay in hammocks and watched the stars.
It's strange, the way the past two weeks happened, back to back: the former, one of the worst I can remember and the latter, one of the best. Returning feels headlong. Reality arrives and we're still moving at a different velocity entirely. Let-down isn't quite the word, but it has stunned us both nearly to tears to realize that the mundaneness of life still makes us act like idiots and assholes, even after all that bliss. We still argue over stupid things like dinner, and how to encourage/enforce Bean's cello practice, or how to get out of the house as a family on time.
Still, the wonder from that trip is indelibly bright.

At the fair: where we all show up for something {More than one paragraph 18/30} by Christina Rosalie

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The fair always captures my imagination. I could sit for hours watching, making up stories for every person: gap-toothed, lonesome, tattooed, bulging, burly, burlesque, vapid, vagrant, lustful, lascivious, wholesome, homely, heartfelt, heartbroken, dejected, addicted, desperate, depressed, wondering, giggly, giddy, grave, ghostly, strung out, sunken in, over zealous, sensuous, sexy, confident, criminal, carefree, innocent. All kinds show up to the fair. Everyone hungry for something. Welcome to Dreamland.
There are so many girls with incredibly short shorts, pockets sticking out the bottom, wearing cowboy boots and too much eye shadow, following after boys still pimply and lanky armed. The boys have nothing to offer. But you know how it goes. Small town. Bright lights. Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone arrives, hopeful for something that will elude most of them. To be whirled off their feet. To be wonder-filled. To gorge on funnel cake and corn dogs. To win a blue ribbons for milker cows and tractor pulls. To fall in love. To make out. To make a buck. To get a quick fix. To get a rush. To free fall. To fight. To escape the every day.
The carny at the Landslide dances to the pulsing beat of the ride across the midway. He's got some not-so-terrible freestyle moves, his arms jerking about in synchronized symmetry, his eyes closed, his head his own world for now. The kids swoop down the slide towards him on their magic carpet squares screaming. One small girl slips at the bottom as she tries to stand. Hits her butt hard. Bursts into tears.
At another ride, two carnies wrangle over cigarettes, one not more than twenty, the other old enough to be my dad. So many of them are smoking, pack after pack, the only escape during the forever long days before they can turn to whisky or meth or whatever other vice it is that claims them with the night. So many of them have blackened patches on their hands and faces, cheekbones gaunt, missing teeth. Some smile and get into the whole thing, hi-fiving the kids, make a ruckus over their sound systems, "throw your hands in the air!" "Step right up, step right up, I can guarantee you a bouncy ball!" Others move like sleep walkers, numb to the repetition, to the pulsing sound, screaming kids, cotton candy, mud, lights, gluttony. One man at at the swaying entrance to the fun house stands unmoving as kids run past him. He wears shades, stares straight ahead. We circle past three times, he hasn't moved a muscle.

For the boys, it is pure delight. They're at just the right age for all of us to walk about unencumbered, grinning, our fingers sticky with maple syrup cotton candy and ribs. Sprout was just past the 42" mark and Bean, long-legged and tousle-headed well past the 48" mark. They wanted to ride everything, and Bean would have if he could. For him, no amount of spinning or speed put him off. But the sheer volume of music on some rides utterly overwhelmed him. For Sprout, who is all volume all the time, noise wasn't the issue, or speed, but heights.
On the dragon roller coaster, they rode together. Bean was all grins, and Sprout too, until it made it's first rushing descent. Then his face crumbled. We thought he would cry, but Bean put his arm around his brother. "It's okay buddy" we watched him say. My heart felt like it'd just been inflated with helium. (How I love these kids of mine--and how happy I am they have each other.)The entire time they were at each other's sides, running ahead and stand in line, pushing each other, then holding hands, sharing an ice cream cone, chasing each other through the maze of mirrors in the fun house, or standing side by side to watch the tractor pull.
We do the rides, and then we do this: walk about, looking at all the things that make county fairs great. Kids on stilts and arm wrestling contests; a barn with home made quilts and jams; roosters with fancy combs, rabbits with floppy ears, new calves, a mama pig and her piglets, horses with long eyelashes and silky manes. The ponies nuzzle our palms. Sprout watches cows get milked with a commercial milk machine for the first time. Both boys stand forever in front of the incubator, watching eggs about to hatch, asking a million questions. Sprout almost cries when the white tractor he loves doesn't win the tractor pull. Bean drives bumper cars until his hair stands up with static.
And when leave late, two hour past their bedtime, the moon is a sickle in the inky sky, and the Ferris wheel is whirling, it's lights bright. Bright enough to blur the edges. To leave marks on closed lids. To make the whole thing seem real enough to be a dream.

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.”

A glimpse of Oahu by Christina Rosalie

Pacificred crab sunbreak boat Hawaii IMG_2418 IMG_2426 IMG_2556 IMG_2653 IMG_2633 IMG_2404 IMG_2346

It's nearly impossible not to feel homesickness for this place; for the way the ocean made everything right, tousling hair, salt-slicking shoulders, lulling us to sleep at night. It's hard not to long for the way the trade winds blew, the way our became curly, and there was always the ocean to watch and fruit to cut, sweeter than from the mainland, with fingers to lick afterwards.

To love, to care for, and to dream by Christina Rosalie

Saturday morning the boys woke up early, their voices carrying down the hall before the sun was up. The sky was overcast and pale with the milky light of pre-dawn, and I nosed in next to T, smelling the fragrance of his skin where his clavicle meets his shoulder, and burrowed farther under the covers. But soon they were at our door, two eager faces, one with a jack-o-lantern grin of missing teeth, the other a pacifier still in his mouth, in spite of the fact that he is almost four.

“We’re going to the zoo today!” they announced, as if we might have forgotten.

We’d planned the trip for a week. A two hour drive north across the boarder to the Granby Zoo, and somehow, suddenly, it was Saturday, and they were ready to pounce, impatient, grinning, gregarious. T got up first, and while he showered, they tucked in under the covers with me—and we whispered about what we were looking forward to seeing the most. Me: the hippos. Sprout, was hoping for lions. Bean said, “possibly giraffes.”

tiger || Christina Rosalie

It’s not something I ever did as a child—curling up with my parents in bed. The closest thing to it was curling up with my dad on the wide arm of his big brown La-Z-Boy.

But it’s something that feels completely intuitive and animal, to nose in next to each other, all warm and soft and still only half-here and half in the fantastical blurry almost-nowhere place of dreams. And it’s something I love, maybe it’s the thing I love the most about being a mother: this dozy time with them under the covers next to me, when they’re still in their pajamas, their hair all mussed and sweet smelling.

Sprout always tucks his hand into the nook of my neck, and Bean often ends up, propped on an elbow, telling me about something or other with a still-dreamy, faraway look on his face.

The porcupines know what this is like: to doze together, and to dream. The hippos too, know how it matters to be near in rest, as they spend their time underwater breathing only occasionally, first one, and then the other; taking long slow breaths before drawing their heads back under the surface to doze, one upon the other’s haunches, lulled by the lapping blue water of dreams.  

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This is what being a mother teaches me again and again. That we are animal first, then human. with spirits bigger than our skin and breath and bones, this truth humbles me again and again.

flamingo || Christina Rosalie

As the shower thrums, we hear T start to sing, “Oh we’re going to the zooooo…” and we burst into simultaneous giggles, and then join in, singing all together a slapstick, made-up song. Then there were socks, and jeans, and cinnamon rolls bought from one of our favorite bakeries the night before, and coffee, and then more coffee in to-go mugs, and a box of snacks, and hats and rain gear and then we were off.

And if I can pass along anything about going to the zoo with young kids it would be this: go at the end of the summer season. Go in the autumn on a somewhat rainy day. Go with snacks, and warm clothes and zero expectations, except to be amazed.

elephant || Christina Rosalie

We had the zoo to ourselves, almost. We rode the monorail, and saw every single animal in the zoo, and had all the time in the world to feed the nectar drinking parrots, and pet the sting rays, and watch the tigers get fed, and stand in baffled delight as the elephant made a bee-line for us and then picked up a trunk full of dirt and hurled it directly at us, flapping her huge ears, before trundling off.

We had enough time to eat lunch, and let the boys run everywhere they wanted to run, and then ride, side by side in an extra-wide push-cart. And because it was the end of the season, the carnival rides were all closed, save for the bumper cars, which were free, and Sprout’s face was worth a million bucks when he figured out that he could press down the accelerator pedal and actually drive.

And the truth of it all is that I’m not sure about zoos. I’m not sure about the way it feels to stand there, watching on one side of the glass, while the small world that exists on the other is terribly finite. But I also know, that these creatures are the captive evidence of some far greater, wild—and also dwindling--proof: the world is rife with such extravagant, vital, irrational beauty.

hippo || Christina Rosalie

That there are hippos, big and unwieldy, with nearly waterproof hides, and self-sealing nostrils. That “jackalopes” exist at all. That porcupines sleep, despite their quills, one piled atop the next, breathing in synch, sharing porcupine dreams. That giraffes must stoop, legs spread like precarious A-frames to eat the tender grass. That the primates are so like us, eyebrows moving up and down in curiosity or disapproval as they watch us watch them from beyond the wire mesh or glass. And that intolerance is something that is exclusively and terribly human—borne of some feverish desire to draw lines, to exclude, to possess.

But before that, beyond that, we are animal first. And if going to the zoo can anything beyond simply standing in wonderment, I hope that it is this. A reminder of our place among the creates of this earth, and that our work, as brave and tender and terrible humans, is to love, to care for, and to dream.

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?


The things I carry: by Christina Rosalie

Today I carry the feeling that I’ve slipped right back to the cusp of more things not being known than things that are for certain. I am carrying the way the light looks over the pacific ocean in the morning at Bodega Head, and a homesick feeling for my fathers hands; for the way they were always warm and skilled with tools, knobby knuckled like mine, mottled with vitiligo.

I carry a secret awful wonder at what my DNA might hold for me, and a list of appointments including one at the dermatologist’s to investigate a small hard lump on my thigh that arrived without my notice sometime in the summer, and then persisted. My regular doctor shrugged. More than likely benign. Still, a referral was made, and then one appointment after another, cancelled to make room for other more urgent things.

I carry my wedding band of soft hammered gold; a hair band around my wrist, snarled with a few tangled strands of hair yanked free from a ponytail with impatience; and the memory of my tenth birthday.

I carry my father’s SANFORD LOGO II mechanical pencil; my soft-covered Moleskine reporter’s notebook; and an ache for what I know I will forget of the way Sprout is right now, small like this, speaking with a little lisp, repeating everything, begging for a convertible blue vintage VW like the one our neighbor drives. His hair is sandy gold in the sun. Potty training is a comedy of errors and stubbornness. He gives the sweetest kisses, one arm circling my neck. How will I hold all of this in the permeable container of time?

Today I carry the sight of geese cutting across the pale morning sky, one after the next; the first inklings of a second book; ideas for classes I’m planning. I carry the way comparisons always make me feel terribly small; the fact that my jeans are tighter than they were when the summer; and the muscle memory of running hard (today, 3 miles.)

Today I carry the memory of quiet; my cup of coffee; the rooster crowing; my laptop; kindling; honey crisp apples; and questions, always questions.

What do you carry?

Daily Art + Unabashed joy by Christina Rosalie

I watch my son sitting across the table from me in the golden afternoon light, drawing. He draws effortlessly, without thinking of it as a creative act. It is simply a means, a process, a discovery. Every morning before school he draws; every afternoon, he produces copiously, without caution, without expectation. He makes pictures because they are adventure: the representations of the story track running in his head. He draws in a way that is utterly his own. Complex lines: cogs, wheels, wires, motors. He draws pitched roofs and internal stairways, porch lights and door bells, cars with drive-shafts, oceanscapes with pirate ships, secret potion machines, fantastical creatures, and night skies filled with five pointed stars. These, he’s just mastered, and he draws them in everything now, along with words and letters, filling up secretive corners on every page where he practices invented spelling; summoning the magic of phonemes and consonants to make word sounds.

And he draws all of it, without even realizing the work, the effort, the certain shortcomings of his ability; he draws all of it joyfully, filling page after page with deep, wholehearted practice.

I’m in awe of this. Of him, now, at six and a half, before self doubt has any leverage at all; before there are any inklings of “perfect,” in his bright mind. Before this effortless creating slips away and the unwanted cacophony of standards, criticisms, expectations, and reviews fill its place.

Now there is simply the joy of drawing lines for the sake of it: Drawing without any critique at all, without any consideration for audience or perception. His art is the work of wholly self-absorbed wonder, and I am taking notes.

This week I have been asking: What do I need to do to allow myself to create as recklessly and easily?

What creative constraints do I need to put in place to quiet the analytical chatter at the back of my mind, ever full of commentary, critique, and doubt?

When I was finishing the illustrations for my book I discovered the immense power of creative constraints: Of having certain parameters that defined the scope of the work. I have found that for me, incredible creative force emerges under such circumstances, and in the context of daily practice, I’ve been experimenting with constraints as a way to short circuit my inner critic, and find my way back to the simple joyful state of art as play; of making as wonder; of creating as joy.

This week, I’ve been inviting myself to show up for 15 minutes to make a piece of art—and to be joyfully, gently, gratefully satisfied with whatever emerges from that process. As V-Grrrl commented in my last post, "I’m first and foremost a writer"... and I know this resonates with many of you as well. But there is something so profound about working with images. It’s good cross training, at the very least: to slip out of your comfort zone, and create with the pure raw material of image.

I’m going to keep doing this for the entire month of November, sharing my pieces every week in this set, and I am wondering:

What if you were to join me? What if you were to you accept this invitation, and explore your child-self; your creative, adventurer heart?


I’ve created DAILY ART flickr pool here

...if you’d like to join me on this adventure... I'll be posting more observations and discoveries about ways to get started this week...if this is something that you'd like me to share... I would SO LOVE to have you join me.

I'm also curious: When was the last time you remember being creative without worrying about meeting a deadline, or if you were "doing it right" or being "good enough"? When do you find yourself slipping into an un-judging creative groove?

An autumn glimpse + Do What You Love Shared Stories Feature: by Christina Rosalie

Just wanted to share these photos from a woodland walk with my sweet Sprout yesterday afternoon. It's such a different pace: To go with just him through the woods, noticing, looking, laughing. It was a good break between projects and potty training and school pick up and all the other "shoulds" and "musts" of a busy Monday.

Also, I wanted to let you know that a some of my words + images about creative process and finally doing the work that I love are up over at Do What You Love: Shared Story Series this week.

What work do you love? Does it make it to your daily to-do list?

Big Wonder by Christina Rosalie

We are at sitting at the butcher block kitchen island. There are jammy knives and the remnants of scrambled eggs on cream colored plates in between Ball jars of markers, snippets of paper, and an Elmer’s glue bottle without a cap. We are making things, or more accurately, he is. Specifically, he is making a chart for what he needs remember before heading out the door in the morning to first grade. (Did you catch that? FIRST. GRADE. !)

Now he looks up from coloring, and sees that I’m looking at a slideshow of photos from Hurricane Irene. The damage in the southern part of my gorgeous state is devastating. Roads entirely washed out, dairy barns under water, the corn stained with mud up to its silken ears, businesses destroyed. His eyes grow wide as he leans on his elbows across the table, looking at a picture of a road that looks like it is made of fondant icing instead of asphalt, rippling and soft where it isn’t under water.

“I wonder why God decided to do this,” he says, with the same thoughtful tone he uses to ask about why or how something is wired, or engineered; as though there has to be a perfectly rational reason behind this too. And then he says,

“I thought when God made the first rainbow it was a promise that he wouldn’t wash the whole world away again.”

I stop clicking through the images and look up, straight into his beautiful big-eyed face. His eyes are green and brown like the late summer fields. He has glue on his fingers. He wants answers.

Bible stories aren’t something that come up around our house much. While I am deeply spiritual, I find religion hard to share with my sons: the boxes of formal religion feel too narrow, the definitions too finite for the inexplicable, glorious forces that make this green earth, this miraculous universe, these complex human beings that we are with tendons and marrow and breath and the capacity to torture and make love, to hoard and meditate, to pray and kill and consume. How can there possibly be a single story that is big enough for this?

Still, in this moment I want to say something to him that makes sense. That reassures. That explains. That offers something tangible to this sweet boy of mine who has somehow heard the beautiful story of Noah’s arc and held it in his heart, lightly, gently, as truth. And maybe it is. Who am I to say? I have only been here on this earth a very brief while. Thirty three years doesn’t feel long enough to make any kind of claims.

I shrug slightly, and say, “I wonder too.”

I can’t explain global warming, or how we’re all directly a part of this picture. I don’t tell him how there are worse things than farms with roads torn out by floods. Lybia, Sudan, Somalia. What I know is this: That to love this greenly leafing earth matters. And this is how I know how to pray, outdoors, touching the ground, running barefoot down our newly graded road, which is what we do, eating wild grapes that stain our fingers, and gathering pinecones, each with its miraculous Fibonacci spiral. Yes. This is wonder. This is the only way I know to make any sense at all of anything: to be right here, touching the ground, finding quarts pebbles that sparkle like stars.

Breakfast + Boys by Christina Rosalie

This is the last week of my semester. Then a little more than a week to work on my book flat out before projects for the next semester already resume. Cannot believe summer is almost over. Bean has a loos tooth. Sprout has started talking in complex and lengthy sentences all of a sudden. My book is almost done. Time = flying.

What have you been up to?


Today is many things: by Christina Rosalie

Today is many things. It is my half birthday. It is the day my father died nine years ago. It is a day of lavender mountains at sunset, of queen annes lace in the fields fluttering like cut-out snowflakes, of crickets chirring their endless message: that summer is on the wane.

It is also the day that Cookie S. Fish died. This morning he was still swimming, barely. We don’t know why his brief life was so fleeting.

Maybe he was old from the start, when we carried him home in a plastic container at the beginning of the summer. Maybe the heat wave we just had was too much for him: indoor temperatures were in the low eighties for nearly a week. Or maybe inexplicably, it was simply the right time for this tiny collection of gills and bones and fins to die.

Whatever the reason, when T saw that he was dead, we were eating raspberry sorbet after dinner. The boys had rosy mustaches. Bean paused mid spoonful, and looked at the tank with wide eyes and said,

“Maybe can burry him and write a sign that says Cookie Sandwich Fish so that we know where he is.”

“Ok,” I said, “we can do that.”

“What, what happened?” Sprout asked. “What happened to Cookie Fish?”

He scooted off his stool and climbed up by the tank.

“What happened to Cookie Fish?” He repeated. “Why he not up der?” Why he not up a da top?”

“Because he died,” T told him, tousling his hair.

“Dat make me sad,” he said softly. Still looking at the tank.

How he could even know that it was sad, I’m not sure. It’s the first time anything has died in his small life. His brother was still scooping raspberry sorbet, the reality of what had happened hadn’t yet fully hit him, and T and I were both rather neutral. We didn't say that it was something to feel sad about.

Sprout just gets things like this. I’m not sure why. He been like this from the day he was born. I can’t explain what I mean, except to say he’s always been incredibly tender and loving. He's always been exceptionally dialed into our emotional states. He is soulful, and loving with every cell in his body.

After dinner I carried a small shovel up to the rocky bank at the back of the house and dug a small hole. Bean carried the tiny tank out, and suddenly he was in tears. I helped him pour the tank water and pebbles and the small blue fish into the hole, covering it with more pebbles, and then a smooth flat rock.

Bean began to sob, and if sensing his brother needed some space, Sprout backed off, and quietly occupied himself exploring along the rock wall while I held Bean. T and I both told Bean that he’d been a wonderful fish owner, and that we were proud of him.

“So it wasn’t because of me?” He asked.

“No, no honey. You did everything right.” I assured him. Because it’s true. He was awesome. He changed the tank water, and fed him the requisite number of pellets and not a single extra, and he watched him every day. When the fish was well, it would respond to Bean putting his finger on the tank. It would swim up, following the movement of his hand.

“I want to get that crystal rock there, and put it on his grave,” Bean said.

He’s been through this before. One of the amazing blessings of being in a Waldorf kindergarten for two years is that he’s gotten to work on a working farm every week. There, they celebrate and honor the lives and deaths of the animals. It’s a gift to have those experiences, I think. Because it gives them some tools to later turn to, when grief will find them as adults, and it will.

As he wrote on the crystal rock with a sharpie, sobs still coming, I felt my own hot tears on my cheeks.

We’re never ready to lose the things we love.

After T and Sprout had gone inside to brush teeth, Bean and I stayed on the back stoop.

“How come it took so long for him to die Mama?” he asked me, looking up at the sky above us.

“Because his spirit was taking a while to let go of his little body, I think.” I said.

“People are like that too,” he said. “Our spirits don’t want to let go either.”

“I think your right,” I said.

“But I think for fish and for every animal, and for people too, there is a time that’s the right time to let go and then your spirit knows.“

He looked at my face earnestly.He’d heard me talking about my dad while T and I were making dinner.

“Do you still miss your daddy?” He asked.

“Yes, I still do.” I told him.

But it’s different now. Nine years is a span of time that has transformed me. I wish that I could talk to him now because I see bits of him in who I am becoming. He’d be so fascinated by the program I’m in. We’d have the best conversations about it. And he’d be proud, I think, that I’m finding my voice as a writer + artist. That this is my calling now. That my book and art and stories are coming to fruition.

I carry Bean inside.

His legs are suddenly so long. They wrap around my hips, wiry and muscular.

This is time passing. These boys. This love. These moments.

Sleep deprivation + inspiration + some springtime glimpes by Christina Rosalie

Everything has turned green suddenly, and on a brief walk around the house last night this is what I saw.


I’m still humming with wonder at the work that I do now: that I have this chance to write, create, share, make. That this is my job, finally, truly. And that this book is emerging slowly from drafts and chapter outlines pinned across the wall in front of me.

Today though I’ve accumulated some serious sleep deprivation, and combined with conflicting deadlines for class, I pretty much just want to do this.

Instead, I think I’ll be trying this for a week or two. Are you reader’s of Patry’s blog? I just found her, and am soaking up her words with immense gratitude.

I’m also still thinking about this podcast by Jamie about supporting the artists and bloggers and creatives who inspire you.

She’s new to me, and I’m grateful for the discovery—especially since I’m working on making my own podcast this week to send out to backers. Alessandra, the goddess who created Gypsy Girl’s Guide did an interview with Jamie at the end of the podcast and shared the link on Twitter. The interview is truly inspiring for anyone with a wanderlust heart such as mine. (Also I adored hearing her accent! It’s something I miss when reading words: how much emotion and passion and story is contained in the tone and cadence of the spoken word.)


Who are few creatives who are inspiring you right now? What do you love about their work?

+++ Also, if you're a twitter type, follow along. The inspiration I find there is plentiful every single day.

making it so by Christina Rosalie

All weekend I’ve thought about your answers; pondered them, and wondered at their incredible honesty and longing.

There is such enormous power in putting into words the things you long for. I believe this with every single cell in my being. Things become, align, respond. Even when what we ask for is far grater than what we’re capable of manifesting ourselves: the universe moves too.

The thing that is hard, of course, is feeling it move.

We spend our whole life on an earth that spins.

Does that ever startle you? I used to be able to lie on a grassy hillside and feel the earth spin if I closed my eyes. Then I grew up and convinced myself I couldn’t any longer, and that is just exactly what we often do: we tell ourselves all the ways we can’t and won’t and shouldn’t.

It takes guts and nerve and passion and some kind of enormous trust to lean towards your longing. But mostly, it takes imagination.

We’re much more comfortable with considering what we believe is the impossible, than with actively dreaming it possible.

Two + all the love in the universe by Christina Rosalie

You were the beginning of the rest of my life, little one. You arrived, wide eyed, with a certain calm that has stayed with you. You came with smiles already fluttering; who, and at two months old you veritably beamed. You came to this world loving. It’s your thing, it’s what makes you, you. It’s awesome.

This morning you came to our bed in our still dark bedroom while Daddy was in the shower, and you snuggled with me; your soft hand gently stroking my face. No one taught you this. You just knew it: how to be tender; how to make someone feel the warmth of your big heart.

I adore you. I haven’t spent nearly as many sentences describing our lives with you as I did with your brother because of many things: life is fuller, busier, and there are four of us now. But also because I simply love to be with you, and whenever I can, that’s where I am.

You make us all laugh. You get humor like no other kid I’ve met, in a way that is beyond your years. You’ve got timing, sound effects, gestures. It’s hilarious to watch you string us all on, grinning. We’re all game, always.

You are an athlete already. You love to throw and catch balls; you love to sled; you love to run. You’re at home in your little study body: coordinated, agile, content. And maybe it’s because of this that you go to sleep easily, effortlessly, just a kiss and then you lie down and close your eyes. Today when you woke up from your nap you somehow managed to reach through your crib bars to the book shelf. You occupied yourself this way for almost an hour, quietly, looking at books.

You make things easy. Except for mittens. And potty training.

You are talking a lot now: not long articulated sentences yet; but short phrases: naming everything, saying “thank you” every single time you receive something, saying “I love you” often. You can count to ten, in your sweet little voice, each word sounding like something uttered with marbles in your mouth: soft on the consonants. You sing at the top of your longs.

With you little one, I want the present to last forever. I want you to be the way you are for as long as long. I want this sweetness to last. The way you give drooly kisses; the way you put your own boots on; the way you drink out of a glass all by yourself, casually with one hand. I want all of it to be indelible in my mind, but even as I write you grow, and I know that one day I’ll push back the hair from my face, look up from what I’ve been writing and you’ll be 10.

Happy birthday, my little Sprout. I love you. I love you.

What You are like at 6: by Christina Rosalie

All legs and knobby knees, always outgrowing your jeans. Mood swings: sweeter than sugar, to darker than a storm filled sky and back in the span of an hour. Messes: a thousand snippets of paper strewn like snow; marbles always rolling off beneath the couches; legos wherever I step; erector set nuts and bolts never put back. Collections: old padlocks; post it notes in rainbow colors; the mailing inserts from magazines; stamps torn off of envelops.

You have a sweet tooth, and a soft spot for stories about gnomes and fairies and and anything magical. Your eyes get large and lost in the land of faraway. You listen with everything, drinking up stories. You fidget. You are stubborn. You take the easy way out except when it's framed as a competition or a teacher tells you to keep at it (then you always do.)

You snuggle. You wrestle. You like pizza and dumplings and requested them together with carrot cake for your birthday. You like looking at picture books and listening to stories read aloud for hours. You are teaching yourself to read and write. "I know how to write LOVE!" you proudly tell me. And you do. You write us all love notes, every day. We find them everywhere: stuck in things and to things; poked into pockets; folded into books.

Numbers are your thing. You just get them, almost without thinking. You put yourself up to new number challenges every day: doubles facts and multiples; adding and subtracting from small groups of things. "If we had three more," you say eyeing the egg box, "We'd have twelve," and if we had one more we'd have ten."

This winter we've started snowboarding and last week after we picked you up from your lesson, we did a few more runs, us following you down the mountain. And wouldn't you know? You went straight for the terrain: the jumps, the trail through the glades, the bumps. I followed after in awe, taking more risk than I would have done on my own.

And that's how it has always been, little one: you make me braver. You make me bolder. You make me want to take risks and dream big dreams. You continue to teach me daily how to be a mama; and also how to be my best self. You fill my world with light. I love you my sweet 6 year old.

Flirting with chance:: it's your turn by Christina Rosalie

Hello lovelies, I had no idea so many of you would play along on my little game of chance. It was an amazing day, and a challenge to try to fulfill at least suggestion from almost everyone who commented and to document it in some way. But it was also so much fun.. It was an adventure filled with many moments of resistance and joy and delight. Here is my the interactive piece I did for the class project.

I want you know know that the best thing I rediscovered through this project was just how amazing YOU are.

You are generous, sensuous, playful, romantic, and thoughtful.(Yes, you.)

You nudged me stop and take care of myself and pause; drink warm tea, luxuriate in a foot bath (the first I've ever given myself), throw myself in the snow; dance, twirl. Mostly the whole thing pushed me outside of my comfort zone and made me contemplate when I started taking things so seriously.

I was struck by how infrequently I really allow myself luxuriate in the moment. My life has gotten so busy that I'm uber focused on tasks and projects most of the time. If I stop to linger, it is to browse through my favorite photography blogs, to read something, or to stare out the window. Text and images have become the only way I fill up this hunger for beauty that lives in my soul.

My fingertips and taste buds, tendons and feet were grateful to be remembered; to be used, engaged, made to move, revel, relax, reach beyond.

How often do you flirt with chance? When do you allow yourself to step outside of your ordinary? Do you allow yourself the chance of random conversations with strangers? Moments lingering over tea? What senses do you nourish throughout your day? Which do you neglect?

To thank you, I am sending you on your very own chance encounter mission this week. It felt so taken care of by you in this unexpected way. I am so grateful for the opportunities you offered me to dig into ordinary moments of my day, and to find in them so much beauty. I hope you feel the same.


In the comments share a link to your blog with photos (and words) documenting your discoveries. One person chosen at random will receive an original tiny art piece in the mail, and I'll feature some of my favorite of your photos/posts later this week here.

YOUR MISSION: This os permission to allow yourself to play; to follow whimsy and to explore who you are in this moment.

1. Make yourself your favorite breakfast. Use extra butter. Cream. Real maple syrup. Bacon. Whatever it is that you love . 2. Buy yourself tulips. 3. Take 10 minutes and pin, tape, or post some images that you love to a wall in your workspace. 4. Go outside, set a timer for 4'33 seconds and just breathe and listen. 6. Buy a pint of raspberries. Stick them on your fingers like you did when you were a kid. Eat them one by one. Don't share. 7. Do something for a stranger: buy the person in line behind you coffee, pay a toll, fill a parking meter, give them a flower.... 8. Clear a space, get down on the floor and stretch for five minutes. 9. Dance to this song. 10. Take a self portrait, of your face, in good light. Revel in your beauty.

Document in some way. Ready. Set. Go!

At the window:: a morning poem by Christina Rosalie

I am at the window eating oranges sent from a friend of my mother-in-law’s from Florida: the only place now in our country without some fringe of snow,

and they are sweet fire.

I suck the juice off my fingers, sticky and grateful as fat white snowflakes fall again toward the earth beyond the glass.

I am still not tired of watching.

Still not tired of the way the world is now, like a line drawing in graphite, all gesture, all movement, all white on gray on white;

and so I watch until I feel things settle within like snow, softly

I watch, till the blue jays arrive in the lilac bush for the oily seeds I put out at the feeder and my soul drinks up their color: blue on gray on blue,

and the sweet round fire of the orange,

and I am sated.