A Sense of Place

Yes & yes by Christina Rosalie

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California Wilds
California Wilds
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Photo: Erika Senft Miller
Photo: Erika Senft Miller

There aren't words really, not yet. Except that I went, and found myself a part of a tribe of the most creative people among the familiar landscape of my childhood for a handful of days. I can back brimming. I came back on the 100th day of my circle project. I came back filled. Heart-felt. Held. Discovered. Seen. Inspired.

Since then I've been nonstop making. A notebook already full. The next book taking shape now fast, and certainly. Big canvases edging into sight... and I'm taking every moment I can to create.


Summer is here by Christina Rosalie

The longest day of the year.
Last night, driving back from the coast, the light lasted and lasted. A thin red-gold ribbon on the western horizon. After hours spent leaping from rocks and roasting dinner over an open fire, our hair smelling of woodsmoke, the golden light slanting long across the waves, the sand, the driftwood piled high in forts, we returned; but not before we ate cherries, drank wine, made s'mores, and watched families leave and teenagers arrive. Finally we went, reluctant, lingering. The light trailing us. The light, the light.

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We moved in June.
We moved to a house on a historic treelined street where bikers ride by in droves, and kids rule the sidewalks. It took all month to put our lives back together. Paint rooms. Unpack. Find the mixer and my favorite collection of short stories.
I have a fifth grader now and a first. Two boys, in full-on elementary school. Sprout still feels at the edge of little, but barely. Bean, in between in his own way. Gangly limbed and sensitive. He still comes to our bed on the weekend demanding snuggles and acts betrayed if we've gotten up before him.
I hold my breath. Time is flying.
We play at the park, evenings. Or walk the dog under 100-year old trees, sometimes carrying wine, other times espresso or a handful of cherries. The boys zoom out ahead on wheeled things, yelling. They spend their days with the nanny: at the pool, making lemonade stands, reading, swim lessons. Finally, both of them are becoming real swimmers. Coordinated arm movements. Coordinated breath. In ten years, Bean will be out of the house. So much else to learn by then. He's currently on the cusp, dipping in and out of maturity, flickering between the kid he's becoming and the younger kid he his.
For my part I'm trying to find new routines. Leaning into summer and the long, long light. Waking earlier. Writing more. Adventuring more.
What does summer look like at your house?

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The world moves, and moves on. One minute, then the next. by Christina Rosalie

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One minute everything is flaming up grandly, and the next, it seems desperate and desolate in the small fire pit at our feet that we've fashioned out of smooth beach stones. Every visible flame has licked itself to ash. Coals glowing on the blackened undersides of logs, but nothing more. Then the wind shifts direction, and up the flames lift. Flames bright and filled with sudden roaring heat. Sparks skid off into the dwindling light as the sun sinks down.
Beyond us, at the shoreline the waves lip at the rocks like a pony at a handful of sugar. Then fresh waves ride in slantwise, full of vim, and crash headlong into the rocks causing spray to skid off into the dusk.
Steadily, the earth turns. Each day, we arrive and are made new.
In the car, driving to the beach we hit the 1.5 hour mark and all of us have had enough. We're sick of each other, sick of the sound of our own chatter. In a no-service zone, even satellite radio plays only the crappiest songs. Everything feels suddenly feels claustrophobic and close, and the coast seems like a horribly stupid idea. But then, out the window passing wetlands, a hundred birds lift into the golden winter air. They twirl and lift in a sudden exquisite ballet, and all of us see them, and as we drive on, we're different. We pass around cheese sandwiches. We start the alphabet game: Antennas on the hill. A red barn across the way. Cars. A dog in a truck. Electrical wires. Fences.
So the world moves, and moves on. One minute, then the next.
Sitting watching the fire I realize how intensely I live into each moment. How easily I'm fooled into believing it's a forever state, a constant. How my default is often still to power through or run when things feel dire or off kilter. Clam up, or tirade. Fight or flight.
Yet after the fire nearly dies three times, and I throw everything into it's rekindling: smoke in my face, armloads of small driftwood sticks, sparks in my hair, I give up. Let go; try just sitting back observing. And the fire dwindles. And rekindles. On its own. The day becomes night. We sip wine. The boys dig holes. One minute they laugh. The next they yell. Water seeks its own level, and holes fill; every ember flares up to live its promise as a flame.

A wonder-filled new year by Christina Rosalie

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We went, just before the New Year to the high dessert. To a place of cold air and saturated hues, big skies bigger quiet. The kind of quiet that reminds you what you are, and also, what you hope to be.
Among the topography of the dessert you feel time differently. Where the landscape looks Mars and bears the memory of Paleolithic beasts, you understand what you are, and realize that becoming means more than this day or even this life.
Time here tells not of daily things: hurry up, finish up, let's go, come on, make it happen. But rather, galactic evidence. You are here. Part of everything. Breathing and alive. A speck on this spinning planet. A spark, a fleck, some inkling of the beyond.
I did what I haven't done in years: lay down in the snow with my face towards the sky and let the quiet take hold of me until my heart began to thrum in tune with the painted hills. Thrum with the truth of their the vibrations; of the pebbles red and ocher and green; of distant tectonic shifts; of volcanic ash; of other landscapes, submerged, fiery, then cooling; of the, the earth spinning, spinning around the spirit sun. The sun that painted the landscape indescribable hues of gold and lavender in the long light of afternoon. The sun that flirted with the moon all day. The sun, the moon, the spinning desert that held me. And then my word for 2015 found me.
A word born of the blue, blue sky, and the gibbous moon, the golden dessert, and the silence.

Wonderful.

Yes.
Happy New Year, friends. May it be truly wonder-filled.

Say yes to life and embrace it wherever it is found by Christina Rosalie

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One must say Yes to life and embrace it wherever it is found — and it is found in terrible places. ...For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock.  — James Baldwin


Out the window, the Japanese maple has become a cloud of golden stars, quivering in the late November air. Inside, during the day I watch the sky pass. I look up from where I sit and watch the clouds. I like to think their passing is evidence of a world more real than mine at the screen and on the page. A world we all improbably share. A moon that follows us in orbit. Seasons, in spite of injustice, ebola, homicide, unrest.
How is it possible for any human's heart not to ache at what's happened? What keeps happening?
How is it possible for any of us to go on living at all, nodding to strangers as we pass, holding loved ones hands, offering beggars what we have, planning for Thanksgiving. There is so much hunger, need, anguish, guilt, loss. Each of us lives it in some way, and then beyond us, the world mirrors it back ten fold. One thousand fold.


At the table my boys are looking at a Lego catalog. They're talking about which figures are the bad guys and which are the good ones, and most importantly, which ones have guns.
"Stop," I say. I can't help it. "Guns are awful."
"But mommy," Sprout says, "The good guys need them so they can shoot the crooks."
It's a new word he's been using. Crooks. I have no idea where it came from. We don't watch TV, and they don't play video games.
"What makes a crook?" I want to know.
"They're the bad guys, Mommy, obviously." He says.
"Even bad guys have mommies," I say then. I don't know where I'm going with this, only that I want him to understand that every life matters, even in play.
I know we all seek ways to live out epic battles of archetype and wonderment, and kids do this in their play, regardless of the toys they have at their disposal. Good versus evil. Life and death. Tragedy and comedy. Still, there is a way that entertainment both glorifies and objectifies the things that terrify us in real life: brutality, horror, human fallibility. We become convinced that guns are necessary for fighting the "bad guys." We claim we need them for our freedom.
Nothing makes me more devastated than this stupid, erroneous claim.
I know there are many things at play in each instant, in each case of brutality or heroism (the Taxi Driver incredibly portrays how fine a line it is between them.) But with guns, every instant ends with a certain absolute failure.
Guns are the weakest excuse. The failure of bravery; the bluntest accomplice of aggression, our greatest fears and shortcomings masquerading as our strength. With guns, every mistake is fatal, and every victory is fatal too.
How is this the way we choose to live?


The world offers up its beauty and its terror, never equally. And each day we arrive in the morning of our lives anew. It's up to us to choose to courageous, to be honest, to be true .


Happiest Thanksgiving to you, dear friends. I'm so grateful you find your way here.

The way that stories seem to hover in the air by Christina Rosalie

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetIn the middle of the summer the light would last and last, but now it fades fast at end of day. The crows fly west, nightly passing over our house, cawing after the fleeting sun. The sky turns to rose, to melon, to yellow, to indigo, and then to night. Stars, faint here among the pole lamps and the traffic lights, and the thousand lit rectangles of windows that reveal the our private worlds, wink into the sky one by one. There, Cassiopeia, her unmistakable shape, a chair overturned, glistening through the walnut leaves.
We've come out to the back yard after dinner, drinking rosé in glasses without stems. We exhale. Twilight finds us.
Sprout climbs the bay tree by the neighbor's yard and is immediately swallowed in the dark. He and the little girl next door are exchanging good night chatter. Every day they call to each other across the fence, play on the weekends, their laughter and yells and chatter filling both our yards. "Goodnight!" They call. "See you tomorrow!"
After the boys are in bed I take a walk with the dog, the neighborhood becoming gradually familiar. Here, the last of the trumpet flowers blooming yellow and wild over a low rock wall. There a girl standing in the light of her second-story apartment window, hair cropped short on half her head, long on the other, tattoos running the length of her arm. She sips wine and tilts her head back to laugh. Around her, friends, all backlit, are laughing too.
The sidewalk holds the day's heat still, and I feel it through my soles. The air is sweet and soft with jasmine which blooms on nearly every street. Each flower a fragrant star, small and white among a foliage of midnight green. The dog pauses to greet a cat. Her tail wagging hard, then harder against my leg. The cat pretends to be the sidewalk. Flattens. Flattens farther. Becomes a shadow. Becomes the dark.
In the house beside us a man in a white t-shirt paces in his living room, talking on the phone. Behind him a wall-to-wall bookshelf. The kind you want to linger by. The kind I wonder if people will have any more when Bean and Sprout are big. The kind fat with volumes, each one signifying something more than the story or information it holds: the moment it was gifted or bought or loaned. The college course it was for. The girlfriend who dog-eared the pages. The grandmother who wrote, "Margaret," inside the dust jacket. The best friend who gave the volumes of poetry as a birthday gift. The novel by John Williams, it's spine unbroken, given by someone without a signature or remark. The underlined copy of Munro's newest stories, loved so much.
Walking, alone under yellow streetlight along bushy cedar hedges, past sunflowers taller than my head, past tomato plants that dangle their voluptuous fruit into the street, past the garden beds of swiss chard and fennel, past cats on stoops, I am walking among other people's stories.
A man stands combing his hair in the reflection his window mirrors back.
An elderly woman in a lazyboy, her face alternately blue and pale with the flicker of TV. In the still air behind her, a dozen rianbow colored mylar balloons.
At his table, a silver-haired man sits smoking, shirtless. Behind him, a lamp glows, it's base a woman.
Beyond the waxy leaves of a magnolia, a blue bottle of Dawn dish soap in the yellow frame of a window, stands idle by the sink. Behind it, the wall is tiled red.
On my way back the air smells patchouli. On the corner, a man sits in front of an open warehouse door on an old folding lawn chair playing chords on an electric guitar.
This will be what I'll remember about this first summer here. The softening light, the gradual end to summer, and the way these stories seem to hover in the air. With day drawing to a close people don't draw their curtains the way they do back East where there is already the cold promise of first frost. Instead they go about their lives, windows wide open. Unadorned,and vulnerable: each one imperfect and beautiful among their particular and curious collection of things.

Where good things happen by Christina Rosalie

All things happen here, where the world ends and the sky begins. Where the sea licks the land, where the gulls lilt and lift into the sky. All things, new, forever, ancient, always originate from this wild state; and there is nothing quite like rock hopping with wild-haired boys. Together we tilted over salt-slick pools. Leaning in. Looking. Cupped our hands full with tiny agates. Watching the surf. Drumming with sea-pummeld sticks against the rocks. Leaping with sure feet. Following, running ahead, stumbling, grinning.
We went to the shore two weekends ago and I brought my big camera and tried to capture what boyhood looks like now. What they are like, strong-muscled, loud, tender, forever tousle-headed, curious.
Nothing, says freedom to me the way the Pacific does as it comes to find the edge of the land, raw, rugged, crashing against cliffs made of lava and granite. Nothing makes my heart lift like a kite, makes me want to turn cartwheels on the beach, makes me run, arms akimbo, laughing.
Here's a glimpse from that weekend. One I want to remember.

The hours become like a dream, the days like liquid one swelling towards the next by Christina Rosalie

The hours become like a dream, the days like liquid one swelling towards the next. The entire summer a standing wave of hours rushing past, riding the blue arc of sun-filled skies from morning until dusk.
Most days, the minute I lie down to sleep the words come. Only then, after I've shut my computer, put my notebook aside, folded sheets, picked up countless legos, library books, paper scraps. Only then, after I've waited for the heat to leave the house and the cool air to find us through the screens and the flung-wide door that opens to the street night passing by. Only then, the stories flutter up like moths.


Only yesterday walking among the roses on my lunch break at work, I realized I completely forgot the anniversary of my father's death this year--remembering only that it was my half birthday, and welcoming the waxy petaled rust colored roses, lush and full of sweetness that T brought.
Still, I've been feeling his presence here in this Pacific Northwest landscape: at the shore where the gulls lilt and lift; among the tall Doug Firs in the woods.
Stories come to mind driving down unfamiliar roads: the way sitting casually in the bucket seat of his old white Ford, sipping coffee from a thermos, he was always compelled to turn down side roads. Or that one time we found the relics and remnants of squatters living in an old mining shaft along some creek in Colorado. Or the time at the beach where the wind pulled at our parkas and we sat, nearly solitary on the wide, wide shore.
We came to Oregon as kids in the summer, and my memory of that time is sun-dappled and inaccurate. I don't remember where we caught the smelt with our bare hands, seals nearly eye to eye with us--only that we did. Nor can I recall the name of the place where the ferns filled the canyon, where moisture hung in the air, only that we stood around in grossed-out awe at the sheer size of the banana slugs. That we ate cheese sandwiches. That we camped--my parents in their camper, and us kids in an adjacent tent--along the coast.
Most days happen now in a rush of hours, and the stories only happen after: between sleep and waking. They happen in that slender gap between now and unconscious; in that groove where memory opens up wide, and the past hurries out dancing as it does.
I haven't found the rhythm yet, for writing these stories, and for so many others.
The first time I was hypothermic. The first time I kissed a red head rodeo rider. The first time I never went to Coney Island, but almost did with a man who worked for Spike Lee. The first time I held my newborn son's head in my palms. The first time I drank mulled wine in Germany, on the street, in the middle of a raw February day in celebration. The first time I had sex, which came long after the first time I felt a certain animal attraction to the opposite sex. The first time I had blisters on my hand from paddling a canoe for ten days in the wild. The first time I left home. The last time I returned.
These are the stories that ride in on the edges of the hours, like leaves caught in the forever whirl and flume of the river we spent time on this weekend.


I'm working full time at a place I love, and the work I do is deeply fulfilling but also entirely consuming. I come home spent, sometimes riding my bike up the hills from where I work to here; other times driving as the sun hits the windows along Hawthorne Street and every single human is lit up with gold.
I come home spent and sink into the present of simply fixing dinner and hearing stories about the day from our summer nanny and the boys. I'm grateful for her in ways I can't even begin to explain. Grateful for the apple bread I find on the counter and the cardboard robot constructions. The trips to the playground and the zoo and the woods. She's leaving soon for Spain, and like everything else, I cannot reconcile the way the time has passed.
The way the summer's ending.
The way the stories fill the edges.
That I'll have a fourth grader. And a kindergartener.
How days the hours rush past filled with an intensity and gratitude. Filled with late summer plums falling to the ground. Filled with bees. Filled with the last of summer's fading roses. Filled with August sunsets, chocolate melting, rose wine chilled and sipped with dinner at the table out back. Filled with sticky-fingered boys who have grown tan from days I didn't ever see them swim in the pool, and hikes I never went on. Filled with the endless library books they both consume, the tantrums, the arguments, the fierce brotherly love, the neighbor's inviting Sprout over to play.
And now, suddenly school's starting next week. The shopping for school supplies. The trying on of clothes, new sneakers, rain gear for autumn, fleece for winter.
Now, here, this.


Summer's over. Summer with it's adventures to a cabin, to waterfalls, to the ocean, to the woods.
This first summer here has been good to us. Filled our bones with sunshine. Kissed our heads. Granted our wishes. All except for more golden hours. More days like these. More time, more time, always more time. For the stories. For the late summer kisses. For hammock time. For work projects. For drinks with friends. For bike rides. For all of this.
This, then was August.
The bird paintings are unfinished--put off in favor of chasing the kids barefoot across the lawn, or reading novels, or obsessing, rather endlessly, though in a good way about about work.
Maybe the rhythm will return with September. Cooler days. Earlier mornings. The inevitable routine of things. Homework. Backpacks. Lunch boxes. But oh, I've loved this rambling, rushing summer.


Tell me about yours friends. Where have you been? What are you reading? What have you loved? W

What summer looks like around here by Christina Rosalie

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Lots of shirtless boys. Reading fiction. Sipping tea in the morning, still in bed and writing notes for my new book, still a shamble in my head. The arrival of the nanny who's made our summer mornings so much easier. Paper-mache on remnants on the back porch. Picnics on the front steps in the breeze. Time bookended between the beginning and the ending of each work day. Compression + expansion. Deep focus and then a slow unwind as the golden evening light finds us.
How has your summer been, friends? What are some highlights? Some things you're doing to revel in these golden days?

The things that waken me by Christina Rosalie

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What I like about this place where I now live is that the lines are never familiar, and because they are never familiar, I'm always in a state of wonder, always stoping with my camera, recording glimpses, taking note.
Wherever I look there is texture. Stubbled grass. Lawns rife with clover. Murals. Graffiti. Billboards. Tattoos that flirt. Laughter that lifts off cement walls. The almost unbearable beauty of blossoms. A harsh geometry of windows. Ice cream spilled on the sidewalk, and the dog that licks it up. The lengthening shadows of the blue hour. The sky after dusk, indigo and saffron. The scent of lavender and roses. Cherries dimpling the sidewalks. The next door neighbor's lilting Spanish. The staccato of a basketball being dribbled. The grapes along the gate. The green walnuts dropping to the back deck. The people at the bus stop, yelling. The boys on skateboards. The guy with the fresh haircut. The lovers sitting, knees touching at the cafe.
All of it.
I can't explain quite, the effect it has on me to be living in a city as beautiful as this one, other than to say it wakens me. It whets my senses. It calls me to attention, each small moment going any place is an opportunity for close noticing.

Happening in between by Christina Rosalie

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In between the time we come in through the front door and I drop my bag and the little one's backpack on the couch, settle the heft of a grocery sack on the counter, and drink a glass of water, the tempo of story is sounding out a quiet staccato in my head.
In between the time I cut up the purple onion and sauté it with thyme, adding the other vegetables, sweet Italian sausage and hot pepper flakes; and the time I slip out the front door away from the sound of the vacuum and the banter of the boys (Sprout constructing Lego structures, Bean making origami ninja throwing stars) words begin to scatter like raindrops at the beginning of a storm. No plot line, no finished sentences, just the ideas arrowing down in quick succession.
In between the time I sit down on the front stoop, noticing the way the light filters through the big-leafed tree above me, and turning my lens to find its flirtation with shadow, the orchestra is tuning at the back of my mind. Discordant, but persistent. The timpani, the saxophone, the violins striking out, querying, querulous. Nothing makes sense yet but this much I know: a book is in the offing, as inevitable now as the predicted rain. Here it is, happening in between, even as the ordinary moments continue.
The challenge, of course, is to pin the ideas down. The challenge is finding the steadfastness to listen hard, and then to show up at the page.

A sense of place by Christina Rosalie

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It's the small things this morning that have begun to feel familiar the way things do when a place becomes home. A certain sense of place comes with repetition, and this morning's five minutes of noticing are stitched together in the leaving and arriving of the morning routine we've made here.
The boys eat cereal in the breakfast nook as we whirl about, T preparing to commute by bike, me in strappy sandals. They sit at the butcher block island we've had forever (since we lived in the house at the end of the dirt road in VT) and they swing their legs sleepily, alternately giggling and whining about this or that, dragging their spoons around their bowls. Sipping milk, or forgetting to eat as a book distracts them. I check lunch boxes, make tea, fry an egg, blow-dry my still-wet bangs, and kiss T at the door. The boys straggle out ahead carrying the things they do: a lunch basket for Sprout, a backpack for Bean, sandals, a rain jacket, whatever the day demands.
In the car I cut along side streets through the same five blocks every day; past bungalows with yards crowded with roses, and under dogwoods just starting to bloom. How I love their four-petaled geometry and fragrance, each blossom waxy white and scrawled with rosy capillaries, each leaf fluttering beneath in green contrast, caught in the soft wind of the new day.
We go past coffee shops and the place we bike to for donuts; past the haberdashery where everyone tried on dozens of hats, and then across the drawbridge where every time we look up to the little windowed room above us on the bridge. There operator sit. We've only seen him once, in a neon vest. White haired, looking down at us looking up. And when I ask my friend, he tells me that the drawbridges in this city were built before people understood that the river was tugged by the ocean's changing tides. Newer bridges are built in smooth arches, suspended by cables, and boats pass beneath when the tide is low. But there is something about the older ones, rugged with metalwork and rigged with sections that gape wide for passing ships that I admire. An older utility, flawed though it may be.
three little girls all perched behind on a saddle board over her back wheel zip as if it is a daily occurrence.
Then we've arrived. Bean's class starts in the park, jump-roping, and Sprout and I wander about under big trees or I talk with other parents as a handful of dogs run circles about us.
Today it is field day. That inevitable end of year event of water balloon tosses and gunny sack races, and as I'm walking back to my car, the children are gathering in a long line in the park. The sun filters through the leaves of the ancient cedars and tulip maples to find their faces, and eager upturned cheeks.
I watch for a moment, then carry my tea back to my car and find my way back across a different bridge. Leaving leaving and arriving; the different parts of me collide. Theirs and mine. The day as was for a fleeting instant before it becomes what it will be.

To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing by Christina Rosalie

“It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing…. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time of being alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”— Tom Stoppard (from Arcadia)

It's taken me a while to write because every street, every ritual, every instance of who I am, and who we are as a family has been made new with this move. We arrived one month ago, chasing the sun across this wide country, and settled gradually into a wee bungalow with an arched doorway that's just up the street from the original Stumptown .

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First impressions:
There are flowers everywhere. Bamboo grows like a weed, but I like it so. Whenever I go running, I find new paths and neighborhoods past enormous, ancient trees, bigger than any I've ever seen except for the Sequoias growing up. I run uphill, up an old volcano cone until I have a view of the city from above. On one side, Mount Hood lifts above the blue like a dream. On the other, bridges, so many of them, and a skyline I'm falling in love with.
It's taken days, many of them, for my internal sense of direction to kick in strongly. I've oriented now, and there are more days than not (finally) that I can find my way around without help from my iPhone. Thankfully, someone thought to plan most of the city in a grid, with numbered streets running one way and named streets the other.
Our little home is the littlest yet, but I love it harder every day. The angled archway going into the breakfast nook. The gorgeous morning light in the bedroom, and the evening light that floods the living room when we come home. Upstairs, the boys have the "master bedroom": a long rectangular room that was once the attic, refinished with lovely cabinets for all their things, and plenty of space to play. It's made so much sense for them to be up there, where they can sprawl out and leave legos and shells and dress-up things about. And in turn, our bedroom downstairs is dreamy. I've always wanted a room just like this--with windows across two walls, and white floaty curtains that lift and flutter in the breeze.
In the backyard the boys spend a great deal of time in the hammock strung between a plum tree and apple tree. They tilt each other out and scream; they have tickle fights; they drag up quilts and snacks; the read books; they argue. They've both adjusted to their new school and routine with grace and resilience, but there are still there moments when so much change adds up. When things feel scary and big to them. When they fall apart. When they ball their fists. When they cry.
Bean, especially is growing into himself in new ways, and new moods and wonderments overtake him. Sometimes he is the sweetest, and other times morose. His long legs, coltish as ever, his eyes flashing with a new defiant light. Sprout, full of eagerness, tender-hearted, hot-headed. Last night, when things didn't go his way, he stomped his feet and wailed, "I wish the world hadn't been made this way at all." Oh, to be small.
We live near the ocean now. Near food trucks and book stores and swanky restaurants and cafes. My creative mind is drinking it up, like someone thirsty after a long drought. How I love to be at the edges of things watching; or at the center, unnoticed, curious, smitten with beauty. I love the thousand faces I pass every day. The bikes, the blooming roses, the bumble bees, the baristas. I love the jumping rope that happens every morning, rain or shine outdoors at the boy's school. I love the tiny studio T built for me, with just enough space for creating, floors made for spilling paint, and walls for thumb tacks.


And... I am still finding the tempo of life here. When writing happens; when work does; and also running, and painting, and kissing and friends and dinner too. One of the things I've missed the most, that this blog has always been for me, is a daily record. A few moments pause. A handful of moments of intentional observation. Sometimes the most effective way of reclaiming creative habits is to start with exactly where you are, and with the smallest actions, which build to their own momentum and greatness in time.

I've been thinking a lot about what that might look like, and I've settled on this simple routine for June: 5 photos + 5 minutes. 5 photos documenting moments throughout the day, and a 5 minute writing exercise: simply recording the immediate, the present, the now.

I'd love for you to join, if you'd like! (I'll be posting more about this little challenge. Keep an eye out.)

BTV to PDX Road Trip: Day 1 by Christina Rosalie

The trip is a thing happening between the parenthesis of ordinary life, and when I try to remember, all there is are a hundred snapshots. Moments like sunspots. Brief, fleeting glimpses. The scenery and weather changing before our very eyes. Memories happening in 15-minute intervals between the constant motion of the car, the hum of tires, the music playing, chasing the sun West.
Before we left, we spend one final day packing. It was a day that felt like forever. It was a day of saying goodbye for the last time. Hugs among half-filled boxes and packing paper. Returning borrowed dishes, pawning off plants, and arranging boxes into the space-saving geometry of things stacked 12 feet high inside the U-Pack container that will move across the country with us, but on its own alternate route. It was a day that lasted until midnight., till the point of sore feet and stupid-humor, as we filled the final boxes and tossed the remnants of things that live in the secret, shoved places of a house. The contents of junk drawers. The objects stuffed into the cabinet above the refrigerator where no one ever goes. Two dozen candle stubs. A large plastic tupperware full of gin and bourbon and tequila we inherited with our second ever rental and have carted from house to house without ever using it, for god knows why. The box of two thousand wooden popsicle sticks. On and on.
The next morning we left from the in-laws over muddy roads, waving goodbye, tears fresh on our cheeks. The rest is happening. Now. In a blur. This is some kind of record. Coffee from Vergennes Laundry

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Day 1: Burlington VT to Buffalo NY

A stop at the Vergennes Laundry for chocolate croissants and espresso, the owners pressing a bag of gingerbread cookies and torrone into our hands as we left. Crossing the bridge across Lake Champlain. A goodbye of sorts, gulls circling overhead, and from the backseat the thrilled narration: “We’re on a bridge! We’re crossing a bridge.” All trip, Sprout has been in love with the bridges, of which there have been many.
In the Adirondacks the trees shifted from maples to birches and poplars. More pines. Clear streams filled with snowmelt. Trailers, with yards filled with the stuff that other people have garages for. Towns made of almost nothing: five blocks. A library in a low-slung cement building painted blue.
Because we packed late, we left without the lunch supplies we’d intended to bring and stopped too near the point of hunger at the first place in the next hole-in-the-wall no where town. In we trooped, the four of us. Exactly the kind of place you'd expect: paraphernalia on the wall from just about everything. Old bar jokes. Postcards. T-shirts. Newspaper clippings. Three other tables were occupied. Almost no one talked. There was no music. We placed our orders, pulled out coloring books and waited. And waited. And waited. The waitress came and went. Serving people around us until finally I asked, and she said, "Really, we've been slammed. Five tables came in at the same time." We waited. Finally, more than an hour later, we walked out. Bean burst into tears. Sprout fell asleep. We got greasy pizza. Bean walked around in circles devouring it on a grassy lawn. Later, everyone laughed.
We charted a route to Niagra Falls. We passed outlet malls and road signs for Albany and then for Buffalo, and finally for Niagra. We crossed the river, our eyes drawn to the place where, even from a distance against the city of Toronto on the other side, the spray of the thundering falls rises hundreds of feet into the air. The falls were what they are. Pale green and white. Water moving with unimaginable force, tumbling, hammering the rock below. Across the river, a ferris wheel and docked riverboats. Around us, people taking pictures. People smoking. People pointing. Walking back we passed a large family with all the women wearing burkas. Sprout duked away, scared until I described as gently as I could the way faith and geography and story all make up the reasons we are different, and then he was glad and turned and stared and stared.
Then the worst part. The part that seems so unimaginable I almost didn't want to write about it, but it's simultaneous hilarity saved us. Bean got a severe electric shock at an Indian buffet. There. That's the worst of it. It's true. It happened just like that. We circled around the tourist center of Niagra Falls, which was oddly vacant on a Thursday afternoon--before the beginning of tourist season. The Seneca Casino loomed large. India restaurants dotted every corner. We like curry and nan. We picked one where we could see the car from the window (we're sporting a big roof pod) and went in. Naturally, it was deserted. The kind of place with shiny clear plastic table clothes. Some kind of burgundy carpet. Floral patterns. And a buffet. A lone server greeted us, r's rolling, hands waving. "Where would you like to sit? You can have your pick."
The boys were hungry. Bean wanted to be in charge of his own plate, and somehow, serving himself a scoop of lentil dahl he touched one thing and something else at the same time: one metal buffet counter and another other one, maybe. We aren't exactly sure. Then he yelled. And flailed. And couldn't let go. T reacted faster than I, pulling him off the table, but not fast enough to prevent the indelible image of his convulsing face. I scooped him up. Held him closer than close.
His heart was like a humming bird. The owner rushed over when he heard our outcry. His alarm set off a ruckus of others all emerging from the back rooms, all talking at once. Someone offered to give us food "for free, of course" to go, but we were already pulling on our coats. All I wanted was to leave, faster than fast, my heart close to Bean's little fluttering heart.
He was fine, thank god. Fine, but terribly shocked and shaken. We ate at TGI Fridays, and after a strawberry milkshake and mozzarella sticks he revived to the point that he looked up at the TV's above us and said, "I don't get it Mommy, why would they show a Wendy's commercial in a TGI Fridays?" Apparently what I do for a living is rubbing off. Within an hour he was telling us about Silver Bullet Trains and Space Shuttles, talking a mile a minute as per his usual. It was late, and by the time we were at our hotel, we collapsed into bed only to find that Clover ate the shoelaces out of Sprout's Converse shoes and then threw them up in the night. (Something she has never done before, and never since. In fact, the rest of the trip she's been the perfect travel dog.)
Somehow though, in spite of the pitfalls, what we all were inclined to remember of our first day of this road trip are the moments of laughing and sweetness: Running at rest stops, hearing the thunder of the falls, watching Clover chase squirrels, taking family selfies, playing Big Country in the car, and watching as the landscape changed outside our windows.
Next up: Day 2. Buffalo to Chicago.

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.

You answered, I listened by Christina Rosalie

Looking Up from below Selfie--Tree Climbing

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I love how clearly the poll's little grey lines spell a message. How straightforward your ask, your wondering. The process of zeroing in. Of mapping the constellation that makes your one thing? Of going from macro to micro, from everything to just your thing. This is something I understand deeply in my gut. It is the process of ideastorming and pattern detection, synthesizing details and honing in; listening hard and hungrily for the clues. This is the art of creating your own compass. It's one part alchemy and one part science. It's analysis meets curiosity meets making things real. It's untangling narratives and discovering where your story catches you up (and also where it sets you free.) It's something I do with clients when we build a Brand Compass, and it's something that I'd love to do with you, in service of the singular thing that calls you (even if you don't yet know how to hear it's song.)
I'm making an e-course. It will be playful and fun and adventurous, and you'll arrive at the end with a tangible map for doing; an action plan for arriving; a lens through which to focus. It will likely be ready just in time for the New Year, and I'll be keeping it small, so that I can bring a true-to-my-heart hands-on approach (with some one-on-one coaching), and so you can also feel like you really belong to a community of kindreds.
If you're interested (and I so hope you are!) sign up for my vary occasional newsletter to snag a first-dibs spot.
(Also, I feel a studio pay-what-you can sale coming on. That will happen in late November, likely, just in time for holiday gifting. Just saying.)


The light is golden now, and the shadows lengthen. Sprout and I look for colored leaves. In the woodlands behind our house we rock-hop and discover trees that fill our arms. We look up, and up and the canopy is a lacework of leaves. When we get back to the yard, I climb the ginkgo until I am above the roof tops, until I can feel the trunk swaying gently with my weight, the fan-shaped leaves brushing my face. Below me the boys watch, grinning, a little awe-struck. When I come down Bean goes up, holding close to the trunk as I've taught him, his feet curling round the branches, prehensile, agile. We have a whole new hour now, ripe with promise when they come home from school, and we've been using it to just go slowly. We rig up a swing with rope and a round log. We play badminton. We linger till the sun slants low.
How are you spending your time at the end of these early autumn days?

Nearly beginning {More than Just One Paragraph 24/30} by Christina Rosalie

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There is mist when we wake up. We lie in bed, close, breathing, watching the soft world through the wooden slats of the blinds. Three days left.
I think about the ways we cannot know. The ways before and after are utterly discrete, the barrier between them absolute. It was the same, waiting for the arrival of my sons. Or waking up the day after college. Or the moment after I said "Yes." It is always this way.
We move with measured intention or whirling chaos towards the unknown, and then we are there at the brink. We can't know, and yet we leap. Wings made of faith, of certainty, of calculable odds, of foolishness, of hope, of daring.
I walk out into the meadow with bare feet, just to feel the dew. To pay homage to the way the grass has always been there, lush, tangled, season after season to harbor field mice and Queen Anne's lace and milkweed and monarchs. I go, because for so long this field has claimed me, and claims me still. Not just this field really, but all fields. The wild, my home.
We'll see where new begins; what shape beginning makes.


Beginning

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field. The dark wheat listens. Be still. Now. There they are, the moon's young, trying Their wings. Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone Wholly, into the air. I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe Or move. I listen. The wheat leans back toward its own darkness, And I lean toward mine.
BY JAMES WRIGHT

We're ready to make a new little nest for a time...{More than Just One Paragraph, 14/30) by Christina Rosalie

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We started packing today, for real, taping together boxes bigger than the boys. We started with the closets and the kid's room: places where things have been stored haphazardly or squirreled away with the irregular logic of eight-year-old Bean, who would keep everything for some later possible use or invention if given the chance. I should really document some of his collections. Keys, in particular. Keys and locks. He has dozens of them, old and new. Combination and padlock. They represent a certain kind of tangible magic to him I think. They are a secret that can only be unlocked if you are the keeper of the key or code. He likes the power of having keys. Of knowing the code. Of unlocking the secret truths that make things as they are. We put them into his metal tool box, the one he inherited from my dad, who was so like Bean with an inventor's mind and chaotic organization of an artist.
Then we worked on making decisions: keep, donate, sell, give away. The keep pile was the smallest, and that feels right and easy. It feels good to shed old things. To cut back. Diminish duplicates. And get rid of singular gloves, old shoes, ugly hats, cars with three wheels, dog-chewed blocks, jeans that won't ever fit. (I highly recommend this process, even if you're not moving. Particularly the latter. Donate them. It feels so nice. Even if you have only half a wardrobe left!)
The home we're moving to has a smaller footprint than this house, I'm excited about that. All around, we'll be living with a smaller footprint on this earth: a less driving, less heating, just less. It makes it easy to let go, to lighten the load, to look towards the future with not so much, and an open heart.
Still, We'll all miss the wide expanse of here.
T and I stayed up late last night, but this morning I woke with the sun and kissed him out of his dream and we went outside together: him with espresso, me with tea, to watch the sun come up. From where we were sitting the whole world unfolded below us, soft blue then lush green with the bright of day. T just sat watching the sky, but I wrote, my hand moving eagerly across my molskine pages with a fast pen. (That fiction story and the book Dan and I are writing, they're connected! That's what dawned on me as the world woke up, there at the table, under a bluing sky.)
Then the boys came, still in pajamas, their toes green with newly cut grass. Bean brought a blanket with him and curled beside me, but Sprout climbed recklessly and delightedly into my lap, and promptly began his soliloquy that never ceases as long as he's awake. He's just so ebullient and glad to be alive. I love it.
T and I grinned at each other across the table, and agreed: we'll miss this something fierce. This wide sky of morning. This view from above.
But we're ready, even though it's bittersweet. We're truly ready for less distance and more connection; for having friends to dinner often and riding our bikes for bagels as the sun comes up. It will 2 miles to my office, 1 mile to T's. That makes me giddy (as does the thought of a pretty new commuter bike.) And school is only a ten-minute drive instead of forty-five. Oh, how we'll all love that.
So yes, we're ready to make a new little nest for a time, and then inevitably, we'll want to lift off again and fly.

A glimpse of Oahu by Christina Rosalie

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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.