Christina Rosalie

At day’s end

Posted on June 12, 2014

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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

Posted on June 11, 2014

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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

Posted on June 10, 2014

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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

Posted on June 9, 2014

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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

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

Here we are

Posted on June 4, 2014

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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}


The 5×5 Creative Challenge

Posted on June 4, 2014

I’ve decided to do a simple creative challenge for June—to get back in the habit of noticing closely and taking note of what I see.

If you’d like to join, I’d love to see what you take note of daily! Share your name in the comments here, and then come back daily + share a link to what you’ve posted in the comments each and I’ll be sure to stop by and take a peak.

The Rules:

Point your lens. Pull out your iPhone. Notice the little things. The way the light slants. The way their faces look. Whatever moments stand out: The small ones, the important ones, the ones that are fleeting. Quick snaps are good. Careful focus is good too. Pick your favorite 5 + post daily.
Take a break from whatever it is you’re doing, sometime each day this month. Set a timer and take notice of the world around you. Then write. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, know? Who is around you, where are you? Create a 5-minute snapshot with words daily.

How about trying this for 25 days in a row? 5×5.

Try it rest of June. Ready, set, go!

{The official hashtag for Twitter + Instagram is: #the5x5challenge }

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.)