Friday, October 28, 2011


As is usual in these parts, this week fall abruptly turned off the lights and left, slamming the door on its way out. Where Tuesday morning dawned sunny and pleasant, the streets lined with red and green and gold, Tuesday night it rained and Wednesday it snowed. Our beleaguered walnut tree began Tuesday as an ethereally golden harbinger of doom and by Wednesday evening it was a stick with a sodden pile of brown muck at its base. All done. Next!

Luckily for my mood I like this time of year, with its frost-on-the-grass mornings and its bleak, unpretentious prospects. Where some people get melancholy and weepy as the days shorten up and night falls faster, I feel a little tingling of anticipation (books fire holidays birthday Food pies stuffing PRESENTS), which Helen, as a fellow late-fall birthday-er, totally gets. We started reading The Long Winter during the uniformly beautiful days of August and had to put it up because "it makes me want it to be wiiiiinter." Well, okay, Muffin, although I wouldn't really call this one a paean to the glories of snow. I get it. You're my daughter, through and through.

The other one in my house, though. If I hadn't been present and accounted for at his birth I might be starting to wonder right about now whether he truly belonged to me. This week, for example, he came home with a stack of math problems and set about doing them cheerfully and even, I would say, with relish and zeal. And zest. He talks about them, kind of smacking his lips with the deliciousness of it. Meanwhile, I vaguely looked over the packet in the interest of parental involvement and immediately felt a build up of static cling in my head. I don't remember all my dreams this week but I sense that one involved panicky toil over just such a stack of problems.

In contrast but related, Wednesday he got the chance to go see Obama speak in downtown Denver. After a little convincing related to the okayness of missing Bear Club and the once-in-a-lifetime-ness and the crowds-will-be-fine, he agreed to go. "How was it?" I asked when he got back, excited for him. "Good," he said in that slightly accented monotone which means he did enjoy himself, however little he may effuse. "What surprised you the most?" This is a little conversational gambit I use sometimes to get around the "how-was-it-great" problem. He was silent for a while. Sack of potatoes silent. He might have been thinking, or he might just have been absenting himself from a difficult line of questioning.

"Well? Anything? What was most surprising?"

More silence. Then: "The snow."

Well. Okay then. The snow. You'll be able to tell your grandkids you saw Obama and it was great, it snowed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


It took them four hours, but this entire pile and more made it to the back yard.

So we're rushing toward Halloween, costumes ready, pumpkins grown and picked, pumpkin lights up. Ordinarily this is one of my favorite months. Warm days, cool nights, perfect conditions for training the children in quasi-agricultural labor, which as everyone from Agricola on knows is the best possible thing for their little characters (now if we could also encourage them to engage in that labor outside the home, i.e., on someone else's payroll, we'd be gold. As it is I'm out $30 bucks after a particularly vigorous bout of weekend Helping.) The kids are doing well--it's kind of a golden year for both of them, possibly the last one ever (at least that will occur in tandem). After all, Si starts Middle School next year. Life as a nuclear family will only go down from here.

It was our anniversary last week (fifteen years!). We spent it as couples at a certain life stage do, which is to say wedged into tiny plastic chairs at a school function:

M, at least, got to stretch his legs a bit.
It was also the anniversary of this:

That tree is really one of the best aspects of the neighborhood.
See? Still looks good, with 100% less noxious drywall dust.
Life is good, and yet Life, she is kicking my rear end to the curb. I am spending these idyllic fall days either weighed to the ground with trepidation and sadness or gliding along in a haze of denial: my mother is sick. This is as much as I want to say, because this thing that is happening is her private event and I have a feeling if I say anything it will flop awkwardly over into the realm of saying too much. So to summarize: the color of this fall is grief. I am alternately prostrate and hopeful, as are we all. Well, except the kids. They are still, and hopefully will get to remain, delightfully oblivious that anything bad could happen to the people they love.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


One of my Facebook friends posted this last week:

40 miles of trails, all dirt. Two wheels, no engine (except my legs). Huge vistas. Gold autumn leaves. Blue sky. Home to green chili stew, a Myrcenary microbrew, my dawgs and cats and the love of my life. A perfect day. So grateful.

I left this comment: "This sounds like pretttty much my perfect day."

Then I thought: uh, I think. That would be enjoyable, right? Or is that just something I used to like and now I like something else? What do I like?

Yup, it's official: I don't even know what a perfect day is anymore. I count a weekend good if I:

  1. Clean all the things;
  2. Get a good long run in and sling some dirt and branches around in the back;
  3. Spend some quality one-on-one time with the kids; and/or
  4. Do something. Like: take the kids to a new park, go for a hike, go camping/skiing, etc.

For example, this past weekend we did this. Enjoyable? Yes. Life-affirming? Hmm.
I mean, these aren't bad. Family time, tending the home hearth, exploring the great world around--in a rather small-scale and time-limited way, but still: out! about! breathing the open air etc.! These are the things of which a good life is made. So what if a good weekend falls into two categories: good because it helps me get rested and caught up to face another week, or good because for at least a few hours I get to step off the endless merry-go-round of routine. So what if while I'd call a weekend like this good, I'd hardly reach for the superlative "perfect." Good is good. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, a day spent tinkering in the yard and playing educational games with the kids isn't necessarily a good day, but a life spent doing such things is a good life.
I used to dream about having a place to garden. Now I have it. It's nice.
Then why does this life feel so limited? Why do I read my (childless, freelance writer) friend's post and sigh deeply, wistfully, as though I am sitting in my cell at San Quentin and watching a little biplane fly by, perhaps with the occupants inside laughing and clinking champagne glasses?

(Grass is greener. Duh.)

Well, fine. There probably is a grass-is-greener element. Maybe if I were living a life in which I could see a beautiful fall day and decide to hit the trails for a 40-mile bike ride, I would be thinking wistfully of Life with a Family or Life with Affordable Health Insurance/ 401k/ steady paycheck that didn't require hustle. Or maybe I would be living my dream life. I really don't know. (I'm pretty sure I would miss having the kids, despite all their whining and meMEme-ness and preferred habitat: suburban big city-ness. The steady paycheck, though. Hmm. If I could have "paycheck," hold the "steady"--well.)
I really would miss this guy. Most of the time.
I'm going to have to file this post under "things to think about later," though, because wistfulness aside, I'm not planning to jettison any part of my life right now. The 40-mile bike ride, and the life that can easily expand to accommodate it, will have to wait. Is this selling out? I suppose so. Jack Kerouac would not approve, or Katherine Mansfield, or Percy Bysshe Shelly. But I'm not living in a Beat novel. My life is more like Trollope. And even though the romantic Beat poet living in my psychic attic may wail and rage, I can't really hear her right now, because the kids are making too much noise. What I want most of all at this particular (fifteen-year) moment in my life is to provide a steady stable for them to bed down in. Prudence and moderation: these are actually my desires right now (can you believe I'm saying this?)

He appreciates it, though. You can really tell.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Corn and other signs of fall

Well, for those of you who haven't noticed it, fall is definitely here:

Although you might be forgiven for not noticing, what with it being so dang hot. I'm only sort of complaining, though, since as of the itty bitty mini cold snap we had a week or so ago,  the garden had only yielded two (2) ripe tomatoes. The cold snap didn't manage to frost, at least not in our yard, so the tomatoes pulled through and now are turning out all sorts of ripe fruit. Yay tomatoes, etc.

Only slightly snaggletoothed.
We used the weekend to do some seasonal things, like visit the corn maze. I'm actually not sure how I feel about corn mazes. They're seasonal! And smell like hay! And are harvest-related! I like harvest things! Buuuut...they're also kinda. Well. You know. You kinda don't do anything except wander aimlessly through tunnels of corn. Maybe if I were alone I could get into the whole maze/puzzle/ brain growth aspect, but as it is I spend most of my time running after disappearing kids calling out, "Don't get too far ahead! Wait up! Don't turn until you make sure we're all there!"

This is the first time we've done the corn maze during daylight hours.

It's definitely in daylight. Still vaguely ominous, though.

Also kind of fret-inducing.

Especially when big brother's in charge.

We did make it all the way through, though, which was a first.
Anyhow. There are a lot of fret-inducing things going on chez Melospiza these days, so maybe wandering half-distracted through a maze of living organism was just the thing for a hot Sunday in October.