The way I operate

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.


Like magic by Christina Rosalie

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Guster | Christina Rosalie

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End of day

Big bean reading

Little Sprout

Leaving work | Christina Rosalie

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Today I found myself standing in various rooms, having walked there from other rooms without knowing why, on auto pilot. I opened the bathroom cabinet, then shut it again, forgetting to take out the hair dryer. I opened too many browser tabs and crashed Chrome. I forgot obvious words in the middle of sentences. Basically I ran out of words. Every single word squeezed out into sentences for presentations in which every word must be the exact right word. It's been a doozy of a week.
On Monday I gave away my cat. Bean is allergic, terribly. I stayed up with the friend I gave the cat to, drinking wine until nearly midnight. When I left the cat followed me to the door. We had her since our first apartment together, T and I. We had before 9/11. We had her from the advent of Web 2.0. Remember when email was a novelty? Remember when we had Hotmail accounts? Remember Ask Jeeves? My friend who took the cat is gorgeous and smart and loves brass figurines. Together with her husband I think they may love the cat more than we collectively did, seeing as T never really loved the cat, only grew accustomed to her. Still, to look back and remember getting her from the shelter together, baby faced, just out of college, and then to see our lives now? Time flies like magic.
On Tuesday I stayed up till nearly midnight, at a Guster show. I remember how much a friend in college adored their band, though I never listened to them much. Turns out, one of my sweetest writer friends in VT is married to the lead singer, and our families became friends. It was a kind of surreal to watch him perform. He was so exactly himself, and yet so much larger than himself, and then after the show, hugging him, he was just regular again. Like Magic.
On Wednesday I stayed up until midnight, working on a presentation for work. As a strategist, I basically start with the broadest and most complex challenges, or ambiguous data sets, and then distill them gradually. Often pages upon pages end up being a single page, so obvious that it doesn't look like it's anything at all. This, in fact is the mark of good strategy: to distill to the point where something is self evident. Where it's so straightforward and intuitive, there can be no mistaking. The work to get there is often arduous, but invisible once the answer becomes evident. Strategy is all about process. Thinking about that this week, I thought of the Tibetan monks I once watched making sand mandalas. They bent over their work for an entire week with intention and focus, creating something splendid, and then sat back to let the wind blow it away. Magic.
On Thursday before I collapsed into bed the minute the kids were in bed, which is late these days because of spring vacation. My mother in law is to watch the boys for the two weeks they have off which is a boon. She makes soup and takes the boys on adventures, and her love, unconditional and abundant, is a gift. Yesterday they did tie dye. So far all I have seen as an outcome is that my ten year old's hands are somewhat permanently dyed blue. His grin when he announced he was a Smurf was perfect.
Today I missed two coffee dates with two different sets of people because of the work. I said goodbye to one of my favorite designer friends who's moving on to a rad new show. He is one of the zen travelers I know. I had the fortune of taking a trip with him to Chicago for a conference last year. He forever changed how I think about travel. Worry less. Just show up. That's basically his approach. Its good for life too.
Now, looking ahead to Saturday, there will be Easter egg dying and coffee drinking and bike riding and writing.
I write every saturday, slowly but surely on my next book, or more realistically, on a single story that will be in my next book eventually. Each weekend I wrestle the piece back from a feral state. I write sentences. I delete them. I grapple with the way everything seems to come back to my mother, even though the story isn't about my mother at all. I sit in a cafe a few blocks from my house and I write, and in between I watch people come in. One couple comes every weekend. They spend the entire time taking selfies, and photos of their coffees. She wears incredible stilettos. He wears one of those baseball caps with a flattened bill. Another is a guy who is also writing. He takes smoke breaks out in front and fiddles with his wait length dreads. So far we haven't said hello. It seems like a matter of time.
Tomorrow, the weekend. How grateful I am every week for the interlude. It's like code switching. Right brain left brain. On the weekend I exhale. Sometimes I fall apart. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we fall harder in love. Whatever happens there always magically seem to be enough moments to reconstitute me for another week. Magic.
Happy weekend, friends!

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?

What I remember + what I know by Christina Rosalie

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I didn’t mean to stop, only, there it is. Life has a way of finding you, amidst your best intentions. I love what this small challenge inspired. A rash of brilliant posts by my friend Amanda; photos to take your breath away my other dear friend Hilary, who always needs to be nudged to document; and a handful of other daily glimpses from friends and readers I don’t know, but feel like I know just the same.
I intended to keep on, but then the weekend came. Weekends have a way of filling up to the gills lately, and after the weekend, a work trip to Texas, planned to be short, but made longer by a cancelled flight and extra night on the way home in Phoenix, Arizona. So there it is, back to back days without a single chance to gather the moments here. To upload the images, or record the observations as they happened, though there are many notes scrawled in my notebook or jotted in the notes app on my phone. A chronology of circumstance. A record of the small things, and the big. Sentences that happened only in fits and starts, but never here.
What I remember is the heat in Texas and the rain that turned the sky to black. The century plants and cactuses that reminded me of my earliest years in Los Angeles. The heat of a blue sky filling with thunderheads, while down below we ate ate eggplant fries, and truffle oil reveled eggs, and catfish tacos.
Then non-time of the airport, reading Inc. cover to cover, and Elle, and also Fast Company, and feeling the ways something shifts in my brain when I have long stretches just to read and think. Ideas have a way of magnetizing then, like finding like; fragments converging.
What I remember is coming back so tired in the morning that after a cup of hot tea and checking email I took a nap, wakening hours later and not knowing immediately where the edges of dream ended and reality began. There, in bed with the dog curled by my hip, I let myself float in a way I rarely get to: between sleep and dreaming where thoughts are buoyant and things have wings.
There, and also in every waking instant, I’ve been thinking now about my new book. There are two actually. The ideas bookend each other. The narratives make a dialog, an equation, an equilibrium. I'm curious if I can pull it off.
What I remember is the sweetness of my boy’s when they came home from camp. Their hailstorm of yells and shouts finding me there at the doorway at the end of the day. Their arms around my neck, their kisses on my sounders, cheeks. Their fingers in my hair, and even still with them under foot, a different kind of kiss. Stirring, sweeter, finding T’s heat mirroring my own.
Then the weekend, dawning with rain. Making a raspberry crumble to share at dinner with friends. The biggest rainbow we’ve seen. The boys shouts. The first firecrackers for the Fourth echoing down the street. Twilight. Then Sunday morning bacon and good coffee. Painting the guest bedroom a fresh white. Baked chicken and mashed potatoes on the new walnut outdoor table T made by hand. White wine in handblown glasses. Watching the walnut leaves blow in the wind.
What I remember is this: to show up and to try is all it takes. To show up with the intention always is the start. I begin. I keep going. I go until I find my way. That, in the end, is all I know.
Now there is a reckless, rag tag folder now of drafts in Scrivner. It’s raw and new, but no matter. The beginning is here.
This is how it happens, friends. A book, or anything else. Any body of work, any essay, or dream, or plan begins with showing up; with training the mind to bow at the simple task of arrival, noticing the world.   #the5x5xchallenge

I am always a fiction, a mosaic, a memory. We all are. by Christina Rosalie

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I've been thinking about the ways that we see ourselves and the ways that we do not; and also about the ways other people see us ---only in fragments.
We are continually like Marcel's nude: version of ourselves, always in construction in whatever instant we are in.
We never arrive in each new moment. We are never the same. There is no end point, no certainty. We are, simply, always becoming.
Today I am a bitten lip, a ruckus laugh, a tilt of shoulder. I am the clutch of fingers, the clench of jaw. I am whatever geometry of flesh and wonder, breath and instinct, fervor and blood you see me as.
I am that instant standing in the street, stirring a smile in reaction, skirt twirling in the wind; and also collected seconds crossing the street at a run. Just as I am the one they rush to at the door, small arms encircling my neck, and the one that fits against his heart, our breath finding its own syncopation.
I am always a fiction, a mosaic, a memory. We all are.
"Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember." Joan Didion said that in Blue Nights," and though its true long term memories, it's also true of yesterday.
We invent ourselves based on what we know. What we know conforms to who we know and where we are. We're shaped both by some bright irrevocable spark of spirit, and by the world as we inhabit it each day. We make ourselves, make our wonderment, make our delight, our grief; just as in turn the world makes us.

Day 11: #the5x5challenge

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.

Reflections by Christina Rosalie

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Flower Strewn

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I noticed reflections all day, not on purpose exactly, but it matched the way I felt: a reflection of my usual self. More tired than usual, and also, I had the kind of headache that used to haunt me daily last year. I haven't had one in a while; the kind I can't shake no matter how much coffee or dark chocolate or tea I consume. The kind that comes, probably, from not moving enough. From sitting for 9 hours a day, and not doing yoga or running.
Of course I know better. We all know better, don't we?
The problem with knowing is that it's theoretical; it exists in our heads rather than in our bones. And it's listening to that slower wisdom that gets tricky when things go fast. When days speed up, when one day after the next becomes like the crows that abrupt and sudden lifting into the air.

The place where things happen by Christina Rosalie

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Sweetness

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset All morning I work at the kitchen table. The boys have off (first day of summer vacation!) and I do not.
Eventually when they've settled into a project, I head out to the backyard to my little studio. I always push through the door with a certain relief; glad for the fact that though it is small, it is just mine. (Virgina Woolf had it right.) The walls, bare on purpose, ready for for whatever I want to tack up. A place to spread out and make things, which I do, though not today.
Today I bring a summer peach with me, and later espresso to keep me fueled through the afternoon. Then I sit, contorting at ridiculous angles in my chair. One knee up. Then both, perching. Then I'm spread out on the floor. I love the work I'm doing, but my body isn't made for sitting still. No one's is, but mine, with my spring-loaded legs feels particularly ill equipped for sitting still, and I'm hankering for the run I hope to get on the beach, Sunday morning.
Today, five minutes of attention happens as I am lying on the floor waiting for my colleague to send me edits. I simply breathe. Feel the way my shoulders are holding on to the stress of a tight deadline. Look up at the way the room is framed anew with my upside down perspective.
Outside the window, day turns to dusk, and dusk to night.
Day 8: #the5x5challenge

Small noticings by Christina Rosalie

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Today this practice is about really sinking into the moments as they come, with full sensory awareness. Riding my bike to work and arriving early to pour a cup of hot coffee and pull together disparate notes into cohesive sentences. Yes, my desk is strewn with paper.
Today it is about noticing small. It's about the sun on my neck at 11 a.m. slanting sideways through the window above my head, and about walking out for lunch at 2, just in time to smell the scent of rain on dry earth as it begins to fall; ozone torn from the sky. Petrichor. How I love that word.
Today it's about noticing the markings of this city: half worn away billboards, unexpected stencils, the tattooed arm bands on the guy that holds the door for me, the sweet tangle of wild roses along a walk and stopping to plunge my face in. Breathing, until the sweetness is inside my lungs.

At day's end by Christina Rosalie

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It's the end of the day, and for a while I feel as though I'm barely here, barely within my skin. It is the feeling that results from a day of intent focus, and of conversations I have in my head with the people I dream about at night.
Does that ever happen to you?
You dream, and upon waking whomever it was about feels close all day, so close you could nearly touch them. Breath, laughter, exquisite tenderness all plays itself out out within the strange, improbable landscape of the dream, and when you waken and try to reclaim it, only the feeling of it remains. A certain almost indescribable intimacy, more real than real life.
Tonight I've climbed into the hammock in the back yard under the pear tree and the apple, with a glass of wine. Immediately, the rope webbing hugs my weight, and I feel my body give, gratefully into its keeping.
Above the sky is blue and cloud-spun and the evening light is milky. Crows, three of them tussle on a telephone pole. Each one claiming their space, each one claiming some piece of the other. "Mine!" they squawk. But in the end, just like us, each one will fly away alone.
I sip wine and watch the light shift and deepen, and try to feel my own heart's tempo between the yelling of the boys, the piecemeal conversation with T, the crows, the neighbors, the greening trees, the bluing sky. On days like this one the world feels hyper-saturated in hue and tone, and I am at the edges, thin skinned in spite of myself, absorbing everything.

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.

These are the moments that make things real by Christina Rosalie

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"The former secretary of state."
"What this means for you...."
"Do you have an espresso preference?"
"Do you have the resources you need?"
"In two or three days...."
"Coffee for here."
"I hope. Things are pretty interesting right now."
"What can I get for ya?"
Each line a story.
I'm sitting at the end of a wide planked table at a coffee place I rather like a couple blocks from where I work. It's morning, though not early. Just the right time for a chocolate croissant to eat slowly, and a cappuccino, dry.
A man comes in wearing a blue checked shirt, Vans, dark jeans. He stands by the water cooler, checking his phone. A tattoo peaks out at the cuff of his shirt. Behind the counter, one girl wears a beanie, a nose ring, earrings, and a tattoo collar and sleeves. She has a bright, unguarded smile when someone familiar comes up to order. A family comes in: a girl and boy and their mom and dad. They're clearly traveling from some place or to some place. The dad had olive skin and shaggy hair; the mom's a freckled brunette. The little girl won't come to sit at the communal table until the whole family does, and so she stands, hopping from one foot to the other at the counter.
Beside me is a Japanese man with a goatee, a purple belt, tattoo sleeves of waves, and a MacBook Air that matches mine. A girl walks in, a brunette with dark bangs and big hoop earrings. She beams at him. I offer to move, but they say no, they'll find a different spot, and then they do, opposite each other at the end of a tall table made out of an old drill press.
When my friend comes what he notices first are the acoustics, having spent much of his life in a band. The high concrete ceilings and bamboo planks on the walls that please my eye for their geometry and lines, are terrible for sound apparently. Whenever I spend time with musicians, I'm always struck by how differently attuned they are; always listening to a different rhythm and echo and tone.
Listening to the conversations rise and fall around me I'm suddenly reminded of a film I watched in the early 90s, by myself in a movie theater in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I was 16. It was the first film I'd ever watched without a date, and far too indie and emotionally complex for me to like it at the time, but the images inexplicably stayed with me: Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. I love the memory I have of it: like a a few dozen nearly picture perfect snapshots, and one is of Gould composing in a cafe, finding notes and harmonies in of what other people hear as noise. The lilt of voice and then another, the clack of cup, the clink of spoon.
These are the moments that make things real.

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.

The entire point is this by Christina Rosalie

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"CAN SOMEONE RUN MY BATH?" He yells from the open bathroom window. I'm outside, under the walnut tree, reluctant. When I come in, he's already naked, surrounded by a small army of his favorite Lego trucks and matchbox cars. A rescue boat, a semi truck, an "old-fashioned car."
"HELP!" he yells, even though I'm sitting right next to him, watching now as he squats down on the bathmat. Something seems to be wrong with the semi truck. Clearly, he isn't calling to me.
"HELP, BEAN" He yells again, then mutters, "I really, really need it." Behind him, the old Standard tub fills. It's one of properly deep tubs that you can stretch out in and submerge.
His voice rises above the water, "I wish I could play with that. But it's broken." In another second, the semi truck has been cast off to the side. His brother hasn't come to the rescue, off somewhere instead playing the ukelele (a new obsession) or trying to kiss his elbow as he did at dinner when he announced, "I read in a book that 99% of people cannot kiss their elbow, but that 99% will try."
Sprout climbs into the tub, easing into the hot water slowly, then begins to splash and make the strange car motor noises all boys seem to know how to make. I can't recall a single instance as a kid when I made such sounds, though I was every bit a tom boy and could climb a tree or ride my bike faster and more recklessly than any of the boys. What is it about vrrrrooom, vrrooom?
I sit for longer than five minutes, watching, though I only remember to scribble notes into my moleskin every so often, so my collective time still adds up to 5. Sort of. I so rarely sit with him while he takes a bath now, so rarely just sit and watch his antics. This is, of course, the entire point of this exercise.
I tell him that soon it will be time to get out.
"I'M GONNA DO SEVEN, TEN, NO FIRTEEN MINUTES MORE" he says defiantly, his voice at full volume. "NO! I'M GONNA DO SEVENTEEN MINUTES," he adds, as if that is an enormously long time. Then immediately he sing-song whines, "I hate this car. It's broken. I want a different car."
There's been a lot of this thin-skinned, fragile whining lately, and when I'm at my wisest, I know that that is exactly what it is. Last night, after royally falling apart and whining all through dinner, after cajoling and firmness and tears, when he finally was tucked into bed and I lay next to him in the soft nearly dark of his room he told me about the things he was afraid of: how people die, poison, prison, bad guys, robbers. His eyes growing wide.
So small still, this little one of mine, and yet so big. Wiggly toothed. Loud voiced. Bright eyed.
I'm glad I spent a handful of moments noticing so that I'll remember the ordinary sweetness of these moments long after they're gone.     The 5/5 Challenge: Day 2

Here we are by Christina Rosalie

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5 minutes:

After gnocchi, after meeting a new baby sitter and the boys nearly tilting each other out of the hammock while she explored the back yard with them, after waving goodbye to her and clearing the table, we go out front and let the day unwind. T and I with wine and a pale blue bowl of wasabi peas and some dark chocolate. We tell each other the small things. What happened in the moments we were a part.
Sprout carries out an armload of lego trucks. Bean comes with green bamboo, that he's busy snapping into sections. Every minute or so, he brings me another piece, insisting that I blow on it, coaxing a reedy note to lilt from its hollow core.
In grade school I played the silver flute. Though I hated private lessons, I was naturally good at coaxing a clear notes from that slender instrument and years later, my lips remember. With the bamboo, each note is new and soft, and when I play it, Bean's face lights up with a grin.I think of Pan, and of my favorite book in high school: Jitterbug Perfume.
In the rock garden, Sprout sets up roads. There is a miniature accident. A rescue. A bad guy. A cop.
The light softens. Down the street someone is playing basketball. The air smells sweet like peonies and lavender and roses. T and I are sitting close. I can feel the heat of his skin through my shirt. Crows land on the wires. Here we are.

    {The 5/5 Challenge: Day 1}

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 Day 5: Cheyenne to Ogden by Christina Rosalie

In the morning Interstate 80, the only road west out of Cheyenne, was closed at the pass. Inclement weather and nothing to do but wait it out.
First we went for breakfast at a place that seemed afraid we'd miss the fact that its all about eggs. Every surface, wall, and menu emblazoned with sunny yolks and ovals. (Of note: the eggs were terrible.) Then we snatched a glimpse at Wyoming history at the museum, learning that eons ago Wyoming was a tropical wetland with magnolias and palms and swampy places. When the climate shifted, the slow magic of geology turned the swamps to coal, and the rest is history, as they say. Hello oil fields and coal mines.
I could have looked for hours at the beadwork moccasins and headdresses of the Shoshone and Bannock peoples, but the boys were more impressed with the enormous head of a bison and other artifacts from the time of the early settlers. Each one revealing both recklessness and bravery. Rifles, spurs, tin pitchers, whisky bottles, washboards, sheep wagons, pistols, chaps.
I keep wondering what the boys will remember, if anything at all. We took a photograph of them out front standing in the stirring wind, their backs to an enormous cowboy boot statue painted with every Wyoming emblem you can think of. The have those quirky big-kid grins on their faces, the kind that happen when you tell them to smile. What isn't captured is the way Bean kept poking Sprout in the ribs to make him giggle. What isn't ever pictured in any of the pictures we take, are all the snippets of conversations, the eye-spy games, the arguments, the annoying repetitive noises that one or the other of them makes to drive everyone nuts, or the way they say "I love you" to each other out of the blue. What's never in the picture is the sweet scent of the wide open space; of raw snow, of sage brush of stirring wind. After a moment of jostling in front of the boot we ran for the car, checking the road reports.
The Interstate was open, and loaded with snacks from one of those health food stores that smelled exactly the way every health food store of my childhood, we were off, the landscape changing before our eyes.
Up, up, into the thin air and blue sky of the pass. Tears came for me. I couldn't help them. The West feels like home in an inexplicable way. I was born in the bowl of the Rocky Mountains, and it's as if that high-altitude air and jagged geography indelibly stamped my soul.
In Laramie we found the best coffee of the trip; an unexpected win. At the counter, the pretty barista with a feather at the end of her braid, and a guy on the other side of the bar were discussing reincarnation. Outside, the wind never let up and the trains of the Union Pacific kept barreling past. Laramie. I kept thinking of the book I read as a kid: My Friend Flicka. One of the best books. It took place outside Laramie, I think, and in my minds eye I can see the herds of horses. The big thunderhead clouds in summer. The way things were.
Soon we were crossing the Continental Divide, marking the place where the rivers no longer run towards the Atlantic, and instead slip and slid towards the wild, untamed Pacific. We saw antelope run, and a lone coyote with its shaggy salt colored coat blur into the sage brush and sun.
Everywhere the hills were traced with the terraced zig-zags of cattle paths. Small ponds, dried in the sun, left salt-slicked circles in the planes. Birds swooped, bright among the purple blooms and blowing grasses. Snow fences hunched weathered in the sun, and at their backs the last of winter's white stuff, greying in the shadows. And then we were among the red-rocked land of Utah where the mountains suddenly towered above us, the heavens gathering close is the sun slowly set.

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BTV to PDX Day 4: Omaha to Cheyenne by Christina Rosalie

We woke to a violent storm. The sky the color of slate. Thunder rumbling low, and breakfast in one of those enormous mid-western diners where everything is super sized: the people, the waffles, the ice-cream scoop sized dollops of frosting on every cinnamon bun. I can't quite capture the disappointment on the boy's faces realizing that, "maple syrup" in the middle of the country means something made corn syrup and flavoring. Crestfallen, they both disdainfully opted for jelly on their waffles instead.
We looked for better coffee for the road, and found it at a little Blue Star Cafe, and good chai too, then merged onto the highway, winding out of the Omaha sprawl. Mega churches, and strip malls. Fast food franchises. Gas stations with signs so high you can see them for miles, and then wheat fields. As the morning wore on, the rain stopped. The sun showed up somewhere above the prairie, flirting with clouds forever huge. The kind of clouds you can't help falling into with your eyes. The kind that keep you awed at the window, as the world rushes past.
75 mph speed limits. 3-container big rigs. Field after field, widening and warming till the air wind-whipped and sweet. At a rest stop by a small pond we ran loops laughing. The boys, all three of them perched on the top of a metal gate at the edge of a field, so I could snap a polaroid picture (one of just a few we took along the trip, tucked into the glove box for safe keeping.)
My bangs like Farrah Fawcett's, in the unending wind. Crucifixes at gas stations. Cowboy hats at tourist traps. Every conflicted feeling about Buffalo Bill's fort, with it's 20-foot tall statue of some Native American chief. Oh this big country and the history that made it. The buffalo that were lost to greed almost as soon as we arrived; the first people soon after; their way of life forever obsolete. You don't believe it quite from a text book, at least not the way it's real suddenly, crossing the way the first settlers did through the wide belly of the country. Seeing the landmarks that kept them on course, and imagining the people who lived in this big country before them, walking with silent feet and eyes that could read the language of the clouds.
Now there are statues and arrowheads at gift shops and an ache in my throat I can't explain.
Later, when it's my turn to drive, the sky darkened again, and a cold, whirling dust storm barreled down upon us. The sky became violet then snow-gray. The car rocked back and forth as we passed semi trucks, both hands on the wheel, Wilco's drummer Glenn Kotche playing a wild set on Radio Lab. The temperature kept dropping until along with dust, there was sleet. Wyoming up ahead, and at the next rest stop word that past Cheyenne the interstate was closed because of weather.
Onwards. Arriving in Cheyenne around dinner time and wondering at the emptiness of it. The presence of Oil. The predominance of pick up trucks and freight trains. Mexican for dinner, the first authentic tacos in ages, and a Corona; then smuggling the dog into a non-dog friendly hotel in a quilt. Giggling. Jumping on the beds. Doing laundry. Dreaming.

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BTV to PDX Day 3: Chicago to Omaha by Christina Rosalie

It took a half a day to leave Chicago, and after that it took even longer to find ourselves at the edge of the Great Planes, crossing into the wide expanse of prairie that is Nebraska. It wasn't what any of us expected. We'd been warned about boredom; about the endless flat expanse of field and sky, but none of us were bored. Even in the back seat, the boys seemed lulled by the wideness of sky and grass: Reading books and drawing pictures and watching the world go by. Lunch on the banks of the fast-moving Mississippi
Outside, the landscape was a soft and rippling quilt of grass and cottonwoods and creeks and farms with circular irrigation systems. The kind that from above make great round crop circles. Wheat fields, and also, genetically modified corn. Miles of it. Newly planted. The earth raw, the day ending slowly. Violet and vermillion for hours as we chased the sun west.
Omaha after dark, later than we'd planned. Carrying the boys in from the car. Falling into bed heavy-lidded and grateful to all be there together, and then waking early to hard-falling rain.

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