Christina Rosalie

Posts from the “Musings” Category

Around here, lately

Posted on December 11, 2014

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In this hemisphere the earth tilts farther from the sun. The days grow dark and short, but no matter. Inside there is light. In the evenings I’ve been making art. On the weekends, writing. Slowly a new short story, one in the collection for my new book is taking place. Three hours on the weekend isn’t much time to write, but it’s been just enough to stitch the story into being. I slip off to cafes, evesdrop next to people, let my mind wander, and catch the sentences as they arrive. It’s a ritual I cherish.

This week, I cracked open a new notebook. I’ve been a Molksine girl forever, but Leurchtturm has captured my curiosity. Something about the possibility of blank, yet numbered pages….

Here are a few other things I’ve been up to lately:

Listening :: The Paper Kites “Woodland” album.

Reading :: Dear Life, by Alice Munro + Bark, by Lorrie Moore.

Walking :: Around the neighborhood in the evening with my silly blonde dog the sidewalk wet and reflecting circles of light.

Sipping :: Rooibos Tea (my new favorite).

Smelling :: The fragrance of pine + juniper in the wreath on the table, and the candles we burn at dinner.

Working :: Long hours

Sleeping :: In on the weekend + then snuggling with boys in bed for longer still.

Watching :: Briefly

Reveling :: In the fact that I live on the same coast as my dearest friends.

Looking forward :: Two two weeks of vacation, coming soon.

*

Tell me, friends. What are you up to lately?

Synchopate

Posted on November 6, 2014

syn·co·pate
ˈsiNGkəˌpāt/
verb –
to displace the beats or accents in (music or a rhythm) so that strong beats become weak and vice versa.


Summer went, as it does. The long golden days becoming shorter. Arrows of light aiming sooner toward evening.

School started, and with it all the trappings of routine. Tea sipped in the car on the way to dropping off the boys. Homework folders. The hauling of a 3/4 sized cello back and forth three days a week. Late pick-ups at the end of long days. Traffic on the way home, and in that in-between time in the car, en route, we tell each little things or watch people in other cars tell each other things, their hands pantomiming stories we cannot hear.

With daylight savings, we cross over the bridge after the blue hour has been swallowed by darkness and the lights from boats below us look like stars on the river. In every tall building, we see signs of life. The evidence of days spent at desks, or wistfully at windows, or waiting for busses, or texting lovers, or having quarrels, or picking pumpkins. All of us, alive, and going about our days. All of us doing.

When the leaves began to turn, it was not all at once, but gradually. A blush of color among the green. And then, under certain trees with leaves shaped like small fishes, the streets began to fill with falling yellow and gold. At the same time everywhere, on every wall and tree and corner, the moss began to roll its velvet carpet out, green, greener with each softly falling autumn rain.

This was the way that summer summer went; punctuated by the particular certain geometry of being new to a place. A kind of slanting rush to acquire a sense of direction, far beyond whatever landmarks mean East or West. A circling around what shared purpose means now, here, with us moving through new routines and days, our familiar aims sent loose and spinning like a compass needle brought too close to the pull of other closer force fields. There were days that felt like we’d lost our North. Temporarily, or longer, even as we found ourselves, each of us, in the focus and drive and purpose of the work we love.

This was how summer went. With this prioritized over that, with wanderlust seeping in at the edges, with satisfaction sometimes fraying without a birds-eye view. With delight, sudden and intense. With hikes. With the coast never too far.

It isn’t just moving here. It’s that moving here has somehow illuminated in sharp contrast how my boys have grown.

How they no longer need me the way they did. How I am still at the center of their lives, but not their everything. How their orbit has grown wide, drawn by the forcefields of their own lives and consumed by the turbulence of their own tides.

Their days are filled without me. In school, in after-school, with books and friends. Days spent with with sandwiches and goofing off on the swings, with secrets, with small hurts, with stories I’ll never hear, with facts about the solar system, with art, with wonder.

Suddenly time with them feels at once intense and rarified. And somehow more than ever I am unaccustomed now of it all; to whatever it means to be in the middle of this life, in middle age, with a career and responsibilities and all the hours of every day accounted for in new and different ways than when they were small and their hair smelled like vanilla cookies after naps.

The way that stories seem to hover in the air

Posted on September 18, 2014

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In 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.

Creative rhythm + some time at the coast

Posted on June 16, 2014

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The past two weekends, though I’ve committed to the #5x5challenge, I’ve been off the grid. Though I’ve taken many photos, and shared some on Instagram, I’ve had no chances to slip away, get some internet connectivity and post.

There’s something that feels right about letting there be a rhythm to these posts. I like the regularity, and the commitment during the week, and also the exhale on the weekends.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about rhythm lately, and how we’ve created a culture that doesn’t allow us to exhale much. Since dealing with adrenal fatigue last fall and winter, I’ve forced myself to do that more: to step back, let go, forget whatever definitions I have of perfect.

I’m curious about how you experience rhythm in your creative lives, and in your work lives. When do you give yourself permission to leave gaps, let things go unfinished, fall to pieces, give way to entropy–and when do you persist?


Here are a few of my favorite glimpse from the weekend, getting some soul medicine on the beach with messy hair and sandy feet and the people I love.


Back to the #5x5challenge tomorrow. In the meantime here are a few of my favorites from #5x5challenge contributors this past week:

Food as art

Birthday Party

Expiration Dates

Coffee with cream

Late Afternoon

Seemingly Perfect

The entire point is this

Posted on June 6, 2014

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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

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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