Christina Rosalie

Posts from the “Local & Global” Category

Say yes to life and embrace it wherever it is found

Posted on November 27, 2014

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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?


Still we do. Morning finds us softly with new light. New bread in the kitchen fills the air with sweetness. We make plans with friends to gather and hold each other close. We sip wine. We light candles. We say whatever kinds of prayers we say, whispered, wonder-filled, pleading.


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 things that waken me

Posted on June 19, 2014

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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.

To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing

Posted on June 3, 2014

“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 Days 6 & 7: Utah to Oregon

Posted on May 26, 2014

By the end certain routines became habit, an inevitable part of of being on the road for days on end.

We carried things into each hotel in a rag-tag orderly manner, then proceed to tooth brushing and story-reading, puppy-piling on the hotel bed as though it was all we’d ever done. A life in motion. A night of rest, and anywhere will do.

In the morning in Ogden, Utah, the grass was covered in frost but the air was sweet, and the mountains lavender in the new light of day. Whatever the future would hold, hadn’t reached us yet. We were just there, gathering up our things, making circles around the city for a breakfast place, then moving on.

Road travel. Everyone warned us that the boys would become unbearable. They said we’d need to keep them plugged in to an endless supply of movies and games, screen time to the max. But we didn’t. In fact, though we brought the iPads for that purpose, we never pulled them out.

Boredom is it’s own precious device.

Creativity exalts when the mind is left to wander about aimlessly, watching the hills change. New games happen. Ideas connect. Characters come to life.

Things we did do: lots of stops to run helter-skelter down hills, the wind in our hair. Snack breaks. The long hours spent listening to the Moth radio hour and Radio Lab podcasts. The license plate game (only 9 states eluded us.) Good tunes. Sketchbooks filled with pictures. Picture books. Chapter books. Stickers. Candy. Chewing gum. Running circles with the dog.

Yes, there were intolerable parts where everyone was hungry or sick of being in the car, but for the most of it, we were content to be together, moving across the wide country towards our collective future.

The last two days, from Ogden into Oregon, and then from some small place in Eastern Oregon were a blur of anticipation. We drove long miles through the wide expanse of irrigated fields, past canyons and waterfalls, windmills and fruit trees. We followed the river, west, west chasing the sun and finally below Mt. Hood’s white-capped auspices, we could feel the future colliding with our now.

Past trees and water-falling cliffs, past big dams and bigger dams and wide-spanning bridges, and then finally, finally into Portland where we all yelled out “HOME!” and then looked immediately for sandwiches.

Since then we’ve been gradually unfurling, finding new routines in this new place. I can’t wait to share some new stories, adventures + inspiration.


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BTV to PDX Day 5: Cheyenne to Ogden

Posted on May 20, 2014

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

Posted on May 12, 2014

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

Posted on May 11, 2014

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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BTV to PDX Road Trip: Day 2

Posted on May 2, 2014

After the first day of ill-fated adventures and leaving the state we’d called home for nearly a decade everything became a kind of blur. The kind that happens around the edges of a photograph when you snap the shutter too quickly and the subject twirls in motion. That is what we were: in the motion of moving West. Each day we spent following after the sun, following until the sky turned to violet and then gathered up her skirts filled with stars, and then finding some small hotel to tuck into, our movements of unpacking for the night and packing again in the morning becoming more routine and efficient as the day wore on.

After the first day of leaving, a shift happened. We stopped being in the abrupt present tense of logistics that had held us so sturdily for months, and slipped instead into a more fluid state. I kept scattered notes in my molskeine, but never had time to sit with them, recording details in paragraphs the way I thought I might. Instead, I found myself simply becoming the journey.

I spent hours just watching out the window–or attentive at the wheel, and at night fell into whatever bed we’d claimed as ours for the night with fresh gratitude.

Here then, are the glimpses I remember.

Buffalo to Chicago

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Bruce Springsteen singing Erie Canal. Crossing the uppermost corner of of Pennsylvania along the wide flat Lake Erie; so wide it looked like some gentle sea. The boys, rolling like puppies down the grassy hill at the rest stop. The sweet scent of petrichor, after rain began to fall. Bushes of singing birds at the rest stop in Ohio. Indiana slipping in and out of focus. Finding our way into Chicago after dusk and realizing immediately everything anyone has ever said about the city is true. It’s intensity and grit reared right up to meet us: Drivers hurtling past in their cars, merging without warning, road markings and traffic signals taken more as suggestion than regulation. Humans hurtling across the intersections without warning, strung out, running recklessly. Pitbulls. Boom boxes. Bright lights. Dark allies. Sweet music. Fierce beats. All of it. And still, the city begged to be loved.

At night from the 19th floor downtown, the city put on all her finery for us. Lights glittering in the constellations of loneliness and companionship all up and down the glass-windowed high-rises, and in the morning, while T went for coffee and to walk the dog, the boys jumped in giddy glee on the soft beds and the morning sun flirted with the rooftops, and blushed, finding herself reflected in every window-glass.

For the boys everything was thrilling from that vantage point in the sky, but seeing Daddy walking the dog two blocks away–and then having him turn and wave up at them at just that very moment, that felt like magic. And then the parks and the waterfront and the Little Goat Dine with it’s menu of brilliant collisions. It’s above ground subways with trains clattering overhead to delight the boys. The smell of chocolate brioche in the air. The confused circles we made looking for just the right coffee shop. The biggest Whole Food’s EVER. The overwhelm of it. The best fish tacos. Restocking on coloring books and sticker books and chapter books and mazes at Barnes & Noble, and then off, later than we’d planned to cross the width of Iowa.