Christina Rosalie


Posted on November 6, 2014

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.

Where good things happen

Posted on August 30, 2014

All things happen here, where the world ends and the sky begins. Where the sea licks the land, where the gulls lilt and lift into the sky. All things, new, forever, ancient, always originate from this wild state; and there is nothing quite like rock hopping with wild-haired boys. Together we tilted over salt-slick pools. Leaning in. Looking. Cupped our hands full with tiny agates. Watching the surf. Drumming with sea-pummeld sticks against the rocks. Leaping with sure feet. Following, running ahead, stumbling, grinning.

We went to the shore two weekends ago and I brought my big camera and tried to capture what boyhood looks like now. What they are like, strong-muscled, loud, tender, forever tousle-headed, curious.

Nothing, says freedom to me the way the Pacific does as it comes to find the edge of the land, raw, rugged, crashing against cliffs made of lava and granite. Nothing makes my heart lift like a kite, makes me want to turn cartwheels on the beach, makes me run, arms akimbo, laughing.

Here’s a glimpse from that weekend. One I want to remember.

The hours become like a dream, the days like liquid one swelling towards the next

Posted on August 27, 2014

The hours become like a dream, the days like liquid one swelling towards the next. The entire summer a standing wave of hours rushing past, riding the blue arc of sun-filled skies from morning until dusk.

Most days, the minute I lie down to sleep the words come. Only then, after I’ve shut my computer, put my notebook aside, folded sheets, picked up countless legos, library books, paper scraps. Only then, after I’ve waited for the heat to leave the house and the cool air to find us through the screens and the flung-wide door that opens to the street night passing by. Only then, the stories flutter up like moths.

Only yesterday walking among the roses on my lunch break at work, I realized I completely forgot the anniversary of my father’s death this year–remembering only that it was my half birthday, and welcoming the waxy petaled rust colored roses, lush and full of sweetness that T brought.

Still, I’ve been feeling his presence here in this Pacific Northwest landscape: at the shore where the gulls lilt and lift; among the tall Doug Firs in the woods.

Stories come to mind driving down unfamiliar roads: the way sitting casually in the bucket seat of his old white Ford, sipping coffee from a thermos, he was always compelled to turn down side roads. Or that one time we found the relics and remnants of squatters living in an old mining shaft along some creek in Colorado. Or the time at the beach where the wind pulled at our parkas and we sat, nearly solitary on the wide, wide shore.

We came to Oregon as kids in the summer, and my memory of that time is sun-dappled and inaccurate. I don’t remember where we caught the smelt with our bare hands, seals nearly eye to eye with us–only that we did. Nor can I recall the name of the place where the ferns filled the canyon, where moisture hung in the air, only that we stood around in grossed-out awe at the sheer size of the banana slugs. That we ate cheese sandwiches. That we camped–my parents in their camper, and us kids in an adjacent tent–along the coast.

Most days happen now in a rush of hours, and the stories only happen after: between sleep and waking. They happen in that slender gap between now and unconscious; in that groove where memory opens up wide, and the past hurries out dancing as it does.

I haven’t found the rhythm yet, for writing these stories, and for so many others.

The first time I was hypothermic. The first time I kissed a red head rodeo rider. The first time I never went to Coney Island, but almost did with a man who worked for Spike Lee. The first time I held my newborn son’s head in my palms. The first time I drank mulled wine in Germany, on the street, in the middle of a raw February day in celebration. The first time I had sex, which came long after the first time I felt a certain animal attraction to the opposite sex. The first time I had blisters on my hand from paddling a canoe for ten days in the wild. The first time I left home. The last time I returned.

These are the stories that ride in on the edges of the hours, like leaves caught in the forever whirl and flume of the river we spent time on this weekend.

I’m working full time at a place I love, and the work I do is deeply fulfilling but also entirely consuming. I come home spent, sometimes riding my bike up the hills from where I work to here; other times driving as the sun hits the windows along Hawthorne Street and every single human is lit up with gold.

I come home spent and sink into the present of simply fixing dinner and hearing stories about the day from our summer nanny and the boys. I’m grateful for her in ways I can’t even begin to explain. Grateful for the apple bread I find on the counter and the cardboard robot constructions. The trips to the playground and the zoo and the woods. She’s leaving soon for Spain, and like everything else, I cannot reconcile the way the time has passed.

The way the summer’s ending.

The way the stories fill the edges.

That I’ll have a fourth grader. And a kindergartener.

How days the hours rush past filled with an intensity and gratitude. Filled with late summer plums falling to the ground. Filled with bees. Filled with the last of summer’s fading roses. Filled with August sunsets, chocolate melting, rose wine chilled and sipped with dinner at the table out back. Filled with sticky-fingered boys who have grown tan from days I didn’t ever see them swim in the pool, and hikes I never went on. Filled with the endless library books they both consume, the tantrums, the arguments, the fierce brotherly love, the neighbor’s inviting Sprout over to play.

And now, suddenly school’s starting next week. The shopping for school supplies. The trying on of clothes, new sneakers, rain gear for autumn, fleece for winter.

Now, here, this.

Summer’s over. Summer with it’s adventures to a cabin, to waterfalls, to the ocean, to the woods.

This first summer here has been good to us. Filled our bones with sunshine. Kissed our heads. Granted our wishes. All except for more golden hours. More days like these. More time, more time, always more time. For the stories. For the late summer kisses. For hammock time. For work projects. For drinks with friends. For bike rides. For all of this.

This, then was August.

The bird paintings are unfinished–put off in favor of chasing the kids barefoot across the lawn, or reading novels, or obsessing, rather endlessly, though in a good way about about work.

Maybe the rhythm will return with September. Cooler days. Earlier mornings. The inevitable routine of things. Homework. Backpacks. Lunch boxes. But oh, I’ve loved this rambling, rushing summer.

Tell me about yours friends. Where have you been? What are you reading? What have you loved? W

Happy August!

Posted on August 2, 2014

How is August? How? How do I have a nearly fourth grader who wakes up every morning and sits cross-legged on the couch, shirtless, tan, his hair a bed-head tousle, and reads. How is my baby an almost kindergartener, his body suddenly that of a little boy’s, lean-muscled and strong. How is it possible that I live here in this glorious city, in this snug little bungalow. How are these streets that I’ve begun to love dearly the place I now call home?

Yes, summer is a time of incredulity for me. Almost every year it catches me by surprise. The wonder of summer. Its extroversion. The way the days blur into evenings. The way we disregard bedtimes, and loll about on Saturday mornings kissing. The golden afternoons that find us one after the next like a dream. The air-conditioned days indoors spent working on projects with some of the smartest, coolest people I know. The blue skies. The muddy knees of my boys at the end of the day. The late nights on the back porch with wine as the walnut leaves rustle. All of it happens in such a full-saturation blur, that each day I wake wide-eyed and feel more in love with my life than the day before.
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I know I’ve been quiet here. Summer seems to make this so. We’re so busy being out in the sun-drenched world that there’s less time for retrospection and recording. I’m enjoying every minute of it, and also looking forward to the simple routines and rhythms of fall.

Heads up: I’ll be doing a summer songbird studio sale at the end of August–featuring the newest set of hand-painted + collaged postcards I’m working on–in response to your demand from the last sale! Do sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t, to get first dibs when the sale goes live. I’ll be doing this one a little differently than the last one, so stay tuned.

Finally: Some of you still seem to subscribe to my blog via my old My Topography url, which I made the terrible mistake of forgetting to renew. It’s now been taken over by spammers and some of you have emailed me that you’re getting unexpected content in your feed readers. Please update your RSS feed to!

Happy August friends!

What summer looks like around here

Posted on July 20, 2014

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Lots of shirtless boys. Reading fiction. Sipping tea in the morning, still in bed and writing notes for my new book, still a shamble in my head. The arrival of the nanny who’s made our summer mornings so much easier. Paper-mache on remnants on the back porch. Picnics on the front steps in the breeze. Time bookended between the beginning and the ending of each work day. Compression + expansion. Deep focus and then a slow unwind as the golden evening light finds us.

How has your summer been, friends? What are some highlights? Some things you’re doing to revel in these golden days?

What I remember + what I know

Posted on July 1, 2014

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I didn’t mean to stop, only, there it is. Life has a way of finding you, amidst your best intentions. I love what this small challenge inspired. A rash of brilliant posts by my friend Amanda; photos to take your breath away my other dear friend Hilary, who always needs to be nudged to document; and a handful of other daily glimpses from friends and readers I don’t know, but feel like I know just the same.

I intended to keep on, but then the weekend came. Weekends have a way of filling up to the gills lately, and after the weekend, a work trip to Texas, planned to be short, but made longer by a cancelled flight and extra night on the way home in Phoenix, Arizona. So there it is, back to back days without a single chance to gather the moments here. To upload the images, or record the observations as they happened, though there are many notes scrawled in my notebook or jotted in the notes app on my phone. A chronology of circumstance. A record of the small things, and the big. Sentences that happened only in fits and starts, but never here.

What I remember is the heat in Texas and the rain that turned the sky to black. The century plants and cactuses that reminded me of my earliest years in Los Angeles. The heat of a blue sky filling with thunderheads, while down below we ate ate eggplant fries, and truffle oil reveled eggs, and catfish tacos.

Then non-time of the airport, reading Inc. cover to cover, and Elle, and also Fast Company, and feeling the ways something shifts in my brain when I have long stretches just to read and think. Ideas have a way of magnetizing then, like finding like; fragments converging.

What I remember is coming back so tired in the morning that after a cup of hot tea and checking email I took a nap, wakening hours later and not knowing immediately where the edges of dream ended and reality began. There, in bed with the dog curled by my hip, I let myself float in a way I rarely get to: between sleep and dreaming where thoughts are buoyant and things have wings.

There, and also in every waking instant, I’ve been thinking now about my new book. There are two actually. The ideas bookend each other. The narratives make a dialog, an equation, an equilibrium. I’m curious if I can pull it off.

What I remember is the sweetness of my boy’s when they came home from camp. Their hailstorm of yells and shouts finding me there at the doorway at the end of the day. Their arms around my neck, their kisses on my sounders, cheeks. Their fingers in my hair, and even still with them under foot, a different kind of kiss. Stirring, sweeter, finding T’s heat mirroring my own.

Then the weekend, dawning with rain. Making a raspberry crumble to share at dinner with friends. The biggest rainbow we’ve seen. The boys shouts. The first firecrackers for the Fourth echoing down the street. Twilight. Then Sunday morning bacon and good coffee. Painting the guest bedroom a fresh white. Baked chicken and mashed potatoes on the new walnut outdoor table T made by hand. White wine in handblown glasses. Watching the walnut leaves blow in the wind.

What I remember is this: to show up and to try is all it takes. To show up with the intention always is the start. I begin. I keep going. I go until I find my way. That, in the end, is all I know.

Now there is a reckless, rag tag folder now of drafts in Scrivner. It’s raw and new, but no matter. The beginning is here.

This is how it happens, friends. A book, or anything else. Any body of work, any essay, or dream, or plan begins with showing up; with training the mind to bow at the simple task of arrival, noticing the world.

I am always a fiction, a mosaic, a memory. We all are.

Posted on June 21, 2014

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I’ve been thinking about the ways that we see ourselves and the ways that we do not; and also about the ways other people see us —only in fragments.

We are continually like Marcel’s nude: version of ourselves, always in construction in whatever instant we are in.

We never arrive in each new moment. We are never the same. There is no end point, no certainty. We are, simply, always becoming.

Today I am a bitten lip, a ruckus laugh, a tilt of shoulder. I am the clutch of fingers, the clench of jaw. I am whatever geometry of flesh and wonder, breath and instinct, fervor and blood you see me as.

I am that instant standing in the street, stirring a smile in reaction, skirt twirling in the wind; and also collected seconds crossing the street at a run. Just as I am the one they rush to at the door, small arms encircling my neck, and the one that fits against his heart, our breath finding its own syncopation.

I am always a fiction, a mosaic, a memory. We all are.

“Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.” Joan Didion said that in Blue Nights,” and though its true long term memories, it’s also true of yesterday.

We invent ourselves based on what we know. What we know conforms to who we know and where we are. We’re shaped both by some bright irrevocable spark of spirit, and by the world as we inhabit it each day. We make ourselves, make our wonderment, make our delight, our grief; just as in turn the world makes us.

Day 11: #the5x5challenge