on march in the valley, the things I miss


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sunday supper
Spring does come to California. The leaves are unfurling, our skin is beginning to brown, and everywhere you walk are patches of impossibly fragrant air, like Hot Steams from some hidden flowers.

March has always been a favorite season of mine, partly because it is my birthday month, partly because it is a little bit disagreeable, at least in Wisconsin. Truth be told, I miss that March. Spring always seems so impossible, so impossibly good, at the end of a Wisconsin winter. It is short and erratic and impossible. But it is deeply felt.

These are things I miss about Wisconsin:

  • spring
  • melting-snow smell
  • weather that changes twenty degrees within a week
  • the bread and the cheese, and knowing just which I like, and where to buy them, and the people selling them to me and the people who make them
  • its smallness
  • the less awesome, but more everyday natural beauty- like walks on the river

on non-essentials

laundry day

There have been house guests and birthdays. Day trips, naps, tennis lessons, bubble teas, early morning writing, afternoon backyard yoga, Thursday laundry, Thursday cleaning, Saturday date nights in.

And in the evenings and for solid slice of the weekend, it is school.

As a whole, I have enjoyed school, liked having time set aside as my own to think about things I might not otherwise think about (practical things, mathematical things). But this semester, I am over it. There are six beautiful meyer lemons sitting in a bowl on the table waiting to be turned into lemon curd, but I haven’t gotten around to it. There is time in our day for cooking good meals, and I am grateful for that, but what about the lemon curd?

I want to spend my evenings with a scotch in the kitchen replicating those little Persian rice flour rosewater cookies. I want to put plants in pots or learn to dance or any other number of lively and completely unessential things that don’t involve sitting down and staring at a screen.

Adam said the other day that I only sweat the small stuff, and for the most part that is true. I want to stir a pot of lemon curd at night, and see the golden jar in my refrigerator in the morning. That’s what I want my days to be like. That’s what I am looking forward to.

not pictured


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Beach girl

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Not pictured is the vomit we cleaned up when Margot got carsick as we drove through the mountains. Or Helen running stark naked across the beach to me or mundane trouble of finding parking.

Not pictured is how annoying it is to put sandy clothes on wet bodies or the higgledy-piggledy state of our kids when we went in to get coffee on the drive home.

Not pictured is the sound of the rides on the boardwalk. The sound of Reed and Helen playing when I woke up this morning. The smell of the fire that Adam built when we got home.

It’s never all there in the pictures. But I am glad we have them, anyway. And I am glad we have these weekends and this time when were are all young, and the sun is shining, and we can drive down to Santa Cruz. Vomit and all.

this week


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kitchen window

This week I flew across the country. I walked to the market, drove to the mountains, ate an orange off a tree. This week I slept on the floor, slept on my bed, slept on my yoga mat outside in the sun.

This week I figured out where to buy fruit and where to buy rice. I peered into Halal markets and wondered about countless restaurants with intriguing names and foreign lettering.

my shadow

I lived out of a suitcase, fielded calls from a moving truck, unpacked boxes (not all of them). I contemplated curtain fabric, watched Reed play his first game of chess, I drank good coffee.

I drank wine. I met neighbors. I bought a rug.

This week I went barefoot and barelegged as much as possible. I drank bubble tea and went to the mall and sat by our fireplace.

That was this week. It was a good one.

on the colder days


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morning snow

I had been dreading the snow since Adam left. And then it came. On Saturday, we woke to snow. We bundled up, picked up the long-dormant snow-shovels, and cleared the walk.

It was wonderful.

snow angels

We walked to the library and had snowball fights and smiles on our faces. And Sunday the cold came in, the bitter cold I had been dreading since Adam left. This morning I bundled the kids, really bundled them, for the one-block walk to Reed’s school. I was in a sour mood, trying to get everything set, everyone fed and everyone’s bodies well-covered while they had other things in mind.

But when we stepped out into that bitter cold I had been dreading, the sky was still pink and was fresh and bright. And the trees looked cold and good and the air was not unfriendly. We were wool-wrapped and warm enough for the short walk there and back, despite the frigid weather.

It’s cold outside, and we’re doing just fine.

a day out after a day in


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Winter marsh

Christmas Eve- my favorite day- I came down with a 12-hour stomach flu.

Things don’t always go the way you want.

But the day after Christmas, we got out for a hike. Adam was home, the air was unseasonably warm, and we could walk and walk and walk as far as little legs and sleepy bodies could carry.

Boxing day hike

In Norway, or the part I know of it, the day after Christmas is spent cross-country skiing. I always wanted to take that for my own. I am an outdoor girl at heart, and a day out after a day in is always a welcome thing.

Most years something else has come up. But not this year.

Sometimes things work out just the way you wanted. Your love comes home. The weather is fine. You get a day out after a day in and perfume in your stocking and order a pizza.

The cold is coming. I was so dreading the cold coming, but now it’s nearly here and I don’t mind.

warm winter


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before the snow

It’s not cold (thank God it’s not cold), but the kettle is always boiling. I walk into the kitchen, fill the kettle, turn the knob, tip tea leaves in the pot. Whether my cup is full or not.

Winter has a constancy that is appealing and also confining as hell. For now, I enjoy it. The endless tea. The mild weather.  The long nights.

In it all, there is tea, there is movement, writing books and reading them.  I am reading Thomas Pynchon for the first time, and my days are stained with the smell of that banana breakfast.  In the oven, another chicken roasts, marked red with wine.  I check again to see if there are any new rental listings.  I listen to music, not the news.

arrival, roast chicken, good spirits


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winter stovetop

Roast squash. Bake pie.  Repeat.  And Adam had pumpkin pie for breakfast every day this week, and my hands stayed busy.

I thought that tonight I would be in the mood for something else.  Because today we drove to the airport.  For a month, he will be there, we will be here.  And that is something different.

That in mind, I roasted a chicken with lots of butter and wine.  Slow, until its legs bones were brown and barely holding on.  I thought I would eat it from the pan, painfully hot, with a salad of dark bitter greens (if I could find them) and vinegar, lots of vinegar.

I did eat the chicken from the pan, painfully hot.  With Margot on my hip, asking for all the best pieces (the oysters, tender bits of leg, the dark bits that cling to the back).  But, anyway, I didn’t eat it with bitter greens, missing my mate.  I ate it with sweet winter spinach and good spirits.

Because Adam arrived at his destination and gave me a call while eating the trail mix they left in his temporary kitchen.  And suddenly it didn’t feel like we were apart.  It felt like we were beginning something, making something.

And that is a good feeling.

hunting pennies


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When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find…

It is a dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny  But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.
-Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


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