Hello, 2018. I'm coming in with all this white hair, and wrinkles around my face.
You guys, I'm kind of ... happy.
(Add overwhelmed, exhausted, nervous, determined, busy, activated, curious, learning, unlearning, teaching [?], sharing, self-preserving, taking-care-of, buzzing, zoned out.)
I got to write about my second lady maker last week (say hi to Paper Puffin), and I'm currently working on a plan to effectively reach out to more of the 40 that I have saved to a growing spreadsheet (of course a ... always a ... forever a spreadsheet).
And another thing I did was send off my January prints. I'm currently eagerly awaiting them. (Will they even be good? Ha, this is a question I have even after spending a month with them, and being somewhat [highly] intentional with the choices I made. It seems like it's a question I'll have to grow accustomed to living with, and eventually ignoring.)
I've posted them in my little shop. I haven't even written descriptions for them (cotton paper! recycled materials!). I haven't even established how this little shop should look. What I *have* even, is decided to go forth regardless. Because those are mutable, and I'd prefer to spend my time honing my determination into something immutable. So much more valuable. Invaluable.
Look at that cat. Look at its eyes and its soft round body. The spots, and how it's perched, just watching.
I walked into Courier Coffee in December and saw the walls covered in these cats. Some of their eyes were painted gold; and in every case it was the eyes and posture of the cat that made me want to spend time with them.
Kayla Carlson makes these cats. She is Paper Puffin, and she has her own Puffin cat. (Look at this handsome cat, on Instagram.) And like a lot of the artists I know, she carries an air of humility about her. So it was a great honor when she took the time to answer some of the questions I had for her, so I could share her with you.
A Q&A with Kayla Carlson
Eyes like saucers. I think it's the eyes that first drew me to your work. Can you tell me more about them?
Cats are very so expressive, and I try to capture their hypnotic stare, especially when curious or interested in something. I frequently make the cat's eyes gold. Depending on the medium I use, this creates a reflective surface on top of the pen or ink on paper, and will look different depending on how it catches the light. It's impossible to draw a perfect circle, so I like that challenge too.
I grew up for a time in Japan, so have been influenced by aesthetics from there—like the Daruma dolls and woodblock printing.
Your real-life Puffin. Has this kitty ruined any of your art? And do you even care? Because that cat is the picture of a handsome (endlessly forgivable) cat.
The moment I lay a piece of paper out on the table, he is on it. Over the years, Puffin has knocked over ink, smudged paint and crinkled many papers. For large scale works, I've learned to preemptively put him outside, but when I draw in "his sunlight" on the kitchen table I will section off a space for him to lay and observe.
The life of someone who makes art: how much of this feels like a choice, and how much feels like you have no other choice?
Never stop making, at any pace. I try to keep in mind time always keeps going, and moments come in waves. I've been interested and involved and have drawn cats since grade school, but had never considered those sketches as apart of my art practice. After I graduated art school, there was an inclination to only try making work for "the art world" and gallery shows. A few years ago, I realized it just really made me happy. I started putting prints out and a tote bag, and the positive response has kept me going since.
Then there is the moment you decided that the thing you made was ready to be shared with the world. Did that moment in your life come naturally?
I applied and had a gallery show at Powell's City of Books in 2015—I printed a few tote bags with my "Adventure Cat," which sold out. They inquired about selling them "in-store" so I got started! I'm in love with paper products like stationary, packaging and containers and enjoy doing production work and material sourcing ... The in-person response when people enjoy my work has been my main motivation to put the art "out there."
A woman maker / business owner that you admire (up close or from afar): is there one that comes immediately to mind?
Kinoko Evans is a Portland-based artist who I admire for her beautiful work and contributions to a better world. She illustrates comics and characters into magical worlds and stories, but also has a sharp focus on education and social issues. She is an instructor and regularly contributes to local publications and causes. Personally, she is just a bad-ass lady, full of humor and conviction. We both joined a studio space called Magnetic North Studios here in Portland (which was started by BT Livermore and is currently run by Walker Cahill and Reid Psaltis).
Mel Townsend is a local business woman and owner of Mel's Frame Shop. I was the first employee of Mel's Frame Shop, located in downtown Portland. Mel took a worthwhile risk opening her own shop after Blick Arts bought out local Art Media, where she was in charge of the framing department. She ran her full-service shop and gallery single-highhandedly for two years, and is now coming up on five. Her commitment to providing professional framing, and incredible work ethic has been an asset to so many. Mel is also an artist, and focuses her front gallery space on supporting and exhibiting work of other local artists.
This was a good week for me to overhear as my husband watched a short film about Michaela Kiersch, a 21-year-old woman who was the first lady to "send" The Golden Ticket, a rock-climbing route in Kentucky established by a man in 2009, and that had since been considered the domain of men climbers.
It's not so much that she did The Thing. It's the way she talked about climbing in general.
If you're not failing in climbing, I don't think you're pushing yourself to your full capacity. You just have to accept the failure that comes with trying something that hard.
Accepting [it] is hard. I just set this mental standard that yes, it's hard. It's hard for me. It's gonna be hard and I'm gonna fall. But one of these times I won't. And I have to be patient.
She did't say blanketly "I like when things are hard. It makes me feel good." She talked about being drawn to challenge, and accepting that it comes with failure and difficulty.
That up there is my third sketch for January; the last one before I start making final touches, colorizing, producing prints. And then I'll start working a print for February and then March and so on.
That print up there. I ... don't love it. I mean, it's my baby. It's the first one I conceptualized for this project, and the one that I keep redrawing to find the best version. I've still got the sketch pad in front of me (under my elbow as I'm writing, right now, in case I think of a thing to do to it).
Also, I'm not ready to write a story about Woman Two, for my fifty-two woman makers/business owners. I have a list a half-year long, and messages going back and forth with several ladies. And it's just that the timing didn't line up for me to be ready to write about one of them.
And the larger part of my brain this week—as things continued to not really come together in various ways—was saying "well, that Fifty-two Twelve thing was a nice idea. Too bad." THIS EARLY. Two weeks in. Because I didn't meet an arbitrary deadline I had set for myself, which was by-and-large invisible to the greater world.
And then I heard Michaela talking (I didn't even see the video until the next day), and she inspired me to build out a little space in my own self for these tiny failures that are bound to happen. The lines that won't lay straight, the timing that's just a little off (because—did you know?—woman who get shit done are busy getting shit done).
So a challenge for myself, while I sit on this particular perch of my Fifty-two Twelve project: live with the feeling of failure, take notes, think of the next move. Try it, miss; new move, try again. Miss. Miss. Miss.
Watch Michaela Kiersch do something people said only men could do
This video is worth your 16 minutes. The soundtrack, the views, the falls, the woman.
In 2011, as we were packing up boxes to move from Virginia to Winston-Salem, N.C., I poked around the internet to see if that cozy town might need a bakery. A few years earlier when we lived in Knoxville, Tenn., I'd started a baking business—making goods mostly for a local coffee shop and farmers market. It was something I loved doing, but I left it behind when we shipped to Virginia (which ended up being an interesting yearlong detour).
This new move to North Carolina seemed like a good chance to dive back into something I could get passionate about.
But when I poked, the internet told me about Camino Bakery, and Cary—a self-taught baker who'd been making goods for a local coffee shop, and farmers market. The very year we moved to Winston, she'd grown her business big enough to spread into her own space in the heart of downtown.
I read her story. I saw the photos. The bread and scones and pastries looked good. Winston-Salem did not need me. But by magnificent and stupid luck, I got to work at Camino, and I got to know Cary.
Baking was something she'd found a knack for, but the thing she seems truly passionate about is bringing quality to her corner of the world, and building community as deeply and broadly around that space as she can. If you lurk on the Camino Bakery Instagram, you'll read that she "walked across Spain on the [Camino de Santiago] almost 20 years ago. She was inspired to bring the community, culture, and camaraderie of the Camino back home with her."
When I was working at the bakery, it had become big enough for her to step out of the kitchen and into so many other parts of the business that needed her. She built the tables where customers sit; the shelves and displays; she made deliveries and manned the farmers markets (plural); she helped start a music series/block party that runs from May through October, and which has helped change the texture of downtown Winston-Salem. And along the way she drew into Camino some of the most interesting and thoughtful people I've worked with.
It's been three years since I was behind the counter there (which I can hardly believe), and two years since we lived in North Carolina. But when I visit, Camino still feels like the home I left (even if so many faces are new), and Cary is still gliding through the center of it.
What I bought
I'm too far away to buy up cinnamon rolls or croissants (thank you, Gus and team, for your mighty lamination skills; you can swoon over Camino pastries on their Instagram). But in our home, coffee and tea are on a fairly regular rotation, so this beauty is on its way. I will sip from it. And I will think of the many years I spent glancing at that Camino shell as I served up cheesecakes, and learned how to pull espresso, and met some of the best people in Winston.
If you're in town or passing through, visit Camino Bakery and eat a croissant for me! (Flagship location: 310B W 4th Street, Winston-Salem, N.C.) If you're far away, you may find a few things you like in the bakery's shop online.
Part of the Fifty-two Twelve Project.
If there were a year to choose to be unafraid of my own voice, this is it. And a year to amplify to the voices of others, this year, too.
The Fifty-two Twelve Project will be this for me:
Every month, I'll create and publish a new print. I'll use color, even. And words. Things a little more dangerous than the black-and-white patterns I've made in the past (that I will continue to make because my brain still works this way). But color and words? You'll see straight into my head, unabstracted and without so much room for interpretation.
Every week, I'll buy from and tell you about a woman who makes a thing (art, soap, stationery, jewelry, furniture ... ). Sending my money to these women is important. Telling you about them is important. Each of those things can serve a purpose on its own, but doing them together carries a particular weight, in this moment. This moment may last a year. This moment may splay into many years.
I welcome anyone else who wants to, to join. Tell about the women you support; show the work you do. [Lord. I'm creating a hashtag: #fiftytwotwelve]
I actually couldn't stop at a single print for January. There are two more in my stack of loose graph paper. And this one—I'm still shaping it. I think. But this is the gist.
And the gist of the year ahead, maybe.
Eventually (soon) this will find its final shape and I'll let you know what that is, and give you a peep at the two others. And get them printed on large pieces of paper and notebooks; and ship them to you, if you want.
And then I'll come back and do this again. And again. Until all the words are out of this head and on paper, to be consumed and repeated by anyone who finds resonance with them.
[Woman One will be reserved for later in the week, to stand alone.]
We started the new year on Cannon Beach, and fish sandwiches for lunch (photo by Patrick, who shot this during a second beach walk with King while I sat in a coffee shop and wrote lists in a brand new notebook. Good lard).
I had the strongest sense of a reset with this new year. As deeply as the obligatory renewal you might have felt as a kid, because that's what you understood the New Year to be. But add something genuine and intentional.
We're in a new house, in a new city. There's that.
Our baby is turning into a kid. There's that.
So on the one hand I have an opportunity to settle into something―a routine, a small space that I can configure into a clean slate. And on the other, continual change has rooted itself―King is learning things all the time, getting bigger, doing new feats.
Clean the slate. Make room for growth.
I piled up resolutions for the coming year. Intentions? Change-makings? Whatever they might be called, they're an attempt to uncover the single line that runs through all the things I do. There is one of those, right? Aren't we all motivated by a simple principle, or set of principles? And I don't mean any of those rules that we can pick and choose from to live "good" lives. I mean the actual thing that actually motivates most of our actions. The thing that is probably double-edged. (Money, for example. Does being motivated by money represent greed, or a sense of security? Charity: does it contribute to community, or a sense of ego? Health: a sense of wellness, or a fear of death?)
(Both! They are all both!)
What I'm coming back to for myself is: I want to know that what I'm doing ... is doing something.
My Letters East cards: are helping people stay in touch with each other.
My design work: is contributing to a community that I want to help nurture.
My yoga practice: is helping me see deeper into myself, and helping create an environment at home that might inspire King.
God, is this dead simple? Am I just saying that I want to make sure I live life like a human? Maybe this is a good time in the world to be intentionally seeking a human life, though.
Here are some other things this "doing something" year means for me:
A year of no sugar. Holy hell. And Patrick's on board, too. We'll keep honey and bittersweet chocolate in the house. Otherwise, desserts, donuts, pancakes with syrup: no. Except maybe birthdays. And next Christmas. A year of no sugar, because sugar is doing ... nothing (except all those magical happy-making things, but I think they might be a trap).
Stepping away from Facebook and Instagram. Not probably for the whole year, but at least to start. And there's nothing wrong with those things. I just want to see what I make of my time when I have more of it. So far: reading books, playing solitaire, getting into board games with Patrick. More time with King in my lap. Also, there are plenty of people I will miss not seeing every single day (on my phone). So I'll reach out to them other ways. Right? That's the idea.
Me and King, out. She's getting bigger and more intent on spending time with friends (she's started using their names! She recounts things she did on play dates!). So, me and she leaving the house every morning for a weekly routine: story time at the library, bus trips to the science museum, play dates, play cafes (where she runs around with kids while a shop full of parents drink coffee and do their own things; on our first visit last week, I worked on spreadsheets. Heaven).
I have about a billion more things in my head that I want to get into this space. So that, too. More of this. I like this. I even have more ideas for this (like, who would like a paper letter?).
But another thing for this year: slow, steady. There's time.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
e.e. cummings (full poem)
I found out Saturday that there is a small part of myself that I carry with myself. It's wrapped in bamboo floors; gentle, intentional voices; a mat.
Inside it is every moment of yoga I've practiced since my first yoga practice, two months after King was born (look at that photo above, tiny little King with her friend, Miss Lindsey). Also inside it is every sliver of my life that I'd carried to the yoga studio, onto the mat, into the poses.
I found it out Saturday because, somehow (after nine months in our new city), I attended my first Portland yoga class.
When I unrolled my mat, I was unrolling my mat in Winston-Salem. When I started settling into position before this class, I was settling in before class at Paz Studios. I was a little overwhelmed by all of it. I warmed myself up with a child's pose and, with my head down, let my face contort in something like anguish.
It went on like this throughout class. The instructor led us through a three-part breath, and I saw a flash of Lindsey doing the precise same thing during one of my early classes. As I got into a warrior pose Saturday, I heard Elliot's voice reminding me to check my heel alignment.
The experience unpacked an entire part of myself that I hadn't met since we left North Carolina. I rewound all the way to that first private session with Lindsey. I'd brought King, wrapped her in a scarf, and set her on a blanket to watch mama. I wasn't very strong yet, but Lindsey made it so clear that what I could do was what I could do and I should keep doing it. She played with King, was delighted by her. My whole life was in that room in that moment, and that's how it felt every yoga practice thereafter.
Is this how yoga feels for you? Do you slowly unwind the entirety of your life, see it, record it, reserve space for it? (Maybe this is why hip-openers make me want to cry, like a knot that I haven't figured out how to undo.)
How do I finish this without collapsing into sentimentality? Talk about how excited it makes me? Yes.
The whole experience made it easy to commit to more yoga. Morning and evening, hot, restorative. I want to read books, too. I have a copy of the Tao Te Ching (am I going too far?).
And I've finally started sketching again, because I want to figure out a way to see what this all looks like.
I'm sitting here not sure if this will be a long or short ode. I just know I need to write it.
My friend Lara—I first met her when we both lived in Knoxville, Tenn., almost six years ago, and now we live just two miles apart in Portland, and our kids are two months apart in age, and they play like friends.
Anyway, she cuts hair. And she cut my hair when I was tired of watching it grow out, itching for something drastic, wanting to give approximately zero-point-two f*cks about this contraption on my head (was I growing it out because I wanted to have long hair, or because I thought I should want it, or because it was some next logical step to some thing that was happening in my life? These were the dumb questions bouncing around my head about some stupid hair).
And so she was like, "what about a mullet?"
And I was, like, "yes."
(Some folks say it's not a mullet. But if I shake my head, the back of my hair swings, the top of my hair stays right in place. I'd say that's the measure.)
And so this mullet. Almost as soon as it was cut into my hair—and I saw all my other dead (more dead than dead) hair on the floor—it hit me all at once what it is to wear a mullet. It's to say "Society, I see these beauty standards you have. And all I've gotta say is 'fuck 'em, and look how goddamn fucking beautiful I am.' "
And basically who needs asterisks to replace the Us in your FUs when you know what the fuck you want to say?
I'm almost positive I've told you this before: that within about five minutes of King being born, I realized I wanted to do E V E R Y T H I N G.
It was an acute awareness of the potential energy stored up in all my mechanisms. I knew I wanted to make things, help people make things, create spaces for people to make things.
It hasn't let up. If anything, it's somehow become more intense. With every new idea I have, or project I say yes to, I become more convinced that life is great, things are moving in the right direction, and also that I'm crazy.
There is no larger mission set by any of the projects I'm doing. They're loosely tied together by the fact that they call on creativity and problem-solving, and that I am moved by them. Website redesign; book design; illustration; collaborations with film lovers, the highly literate, the environmentally minded; I'm learning to write code (front-end and back-end, please); and I'm finding myself impassioned to create a space (virtual? real) for other mamas who want to do this everything-thing. ... This is only about half the list.
I think in a different time, or under different circumstances, I might consider myself a Renaissance man. Polymath.
And why not now? Why not let myself be that thing?
Maybe it's the sense of, or the lack of sense of, accomplishment. Save a few items here and there, nothing is ever done, and one thought is so often interrupted by another. This might be the particular nature of mamahood. I don't have to go into detail about that whole set of facts (endless dirty diapers, toys that need to be picked up, explaining how to put on a shoe for the twenty-third time, blah blah blah).
Don't you think of Renaissance men as being folks of accomplishment? People notable for how much they did? Or is that me misunderstanding the process? Is that me looking back on history, once a life is done and you can catalog eighty years of learning, practice, experimentation?
Maybe those people we call Renaissance men would never, ever have felt done. Would have been driven mad by all the things in their head that there doesn't seem to be room for; that the entire earth could not possibly provide enough room for.
And now it's time to wonder why it would even matter for me to label the things I do or suss out the direction it's all headed. So what if my moments are crammed with ten things; so what if I'm not sure what it's all leading to.
What's really incredible is that this is all making me very happy. I'm frustrated and overwhelmed and sometimes staying up until midnight but I am V E R Y H A P P Y.
It's been nearly two months since I wrote that I wanted my eyeballs back ... time to sit with moments and not be distracted by other moments.
In that time, we've moved into our tiny house. We bought the tiny fridge (and we never have had a problem fitting everything we need into it, not even after our biggest grocery shoppings). I have reconsidered the size of my wardrobe and am currently experimenting with a single, small drawer's worth of clothes (it's working so far!).
We've walked and ridden our bikes all over town. I visited with an East Coast friend last week! I've rearrange my work space no fewer than three times. I've picked up new design projects and even started a conversation with a local craft consignment shop about hosting my cards (I AM EXCITED).
We've gotten serious about budgeting. We staycationed for a week (which, I realized the night before that week began ... meant we were still vacationing in Portland, Ore. Which is, like, our no. 1 favorite vacation spot).
I've walked and walked this neighborhood of ours. Old trucks. Dinosaurs. Look at those bears.
We've hiked and hiked. (Rainbow filter provided by nature.)
I'm still working on getting my eyeballs back. Right about now in life—nearly two months after we moved into our house—I'm feeling like I can see the horizon, instead of seeing weeds. I cleared the weeds. That was a lot of work. Now I'm standing looking over that horizon thinking about how I might travel it.
Hey, I even wrote a letter. When I signed it, I threw my arms in the air. A completely involuntary celebration. The horizon is wide, and it's all right there!
Things are looking VERY GOOD for us to be moving into a new home in Portland in little less than a week. This is the kind of news I wanted to sit on until it felt precisely certain. It's taken too much energy to get here; I didn't want to spend even more energy to explain it, if things had fallen apart.
This new home is tucked in the corner of a sweet neighborhood five miles from the center of the city; and it's small. It's so small that we are thinking about getting a very, very small fridge (10 cubic feet). There's a breakfast nook—it's 4 feet wide by 5 feet deep. There are exactly two, tiny bedrooms. And one bathroom that's just big enough for a tub and toilet and pedestal sink.
It's the kind of space that has me truly rethinking my wardrobe and kitchen tools and books and stuff and time. The allocation and importance of each.
In the past many weeks, we've looked for and found this house; I've had several incredible design projects on my plate; and our baby has turned into a real-life toddler (as of this week, she can climb/fall out of her crib ... just in time to move into her new house and maybe a growed-up bed).
And, I don't know, something about this storm of events keeps me returning to this notion that—allocation of time and stuff—I want to put down my phone. That I want to step away from screens at every chance I can take.
I want my eyeballs back.
I want to pull them back from this space where they've been floating, six inches in front of my face, in a stew of words and backlight and twitching, two-dimensional images. I want to plant them firmly back in my skull and let them rest. And then open them and look out through them to see the light fall onto things. Onto and into a little (baby)toddler face. Onto a street. Onto and through trees.
I want to feel that power again to choose where I lay my gaze, to hold a gaze, to try very hard not to avert my gaze when challenged. Feel the roundness of those eyeballs as they shift to take in information.
I've started leaving my phone at home when I take Saazie and King on walks. I don't bring technology into the bedroom. I try to read a book or listen to the radio during breakfast—no digital anything until an hour after I wake up. And to be more clear, I read a book OR listen to the radio. If I'm reading, I want to read. If I'm listening, I want to listen. And if I'm looking, I want to look. There is so much to see. King eating breakfast or climbing over the couch or playing in the tub. People walking down the street, firefighters washing their truck, bats collecting in the air just above the street.
I have a little plan to take this a step further after we settle into our new home. Unpacking done, office set up, clothes folded and put away ... and that's when I'll turn off everything for a week. Just one week. I don't know exactly why, or what will come of it. But doesn't it sound delicious? Doesn't it sound like impromptu dance parties in the kitchen, and digging in the yard, and conversations with the neighbors?
We're here, we're here!
Life CONTINUES to be wonderfully busy. We're deep in house-hunt mode, I've picked up several really satisfying and challenging design projects, and this kid is crawling on absolutely everything (that is her, up there, standing on the window sill behind the couch, where she spends approximately thirty-four percent of her day).
I mean, that makes it sound like butterflies are shooting out of my ass. This is all as difficult as it is rewarding. There are days that I'm overwhelmed, and miss the sanctity of that home we left in North Carolina a whole lot.
But this machine is moving in the right direction; I can feel it. And that is supremely satisfying.
I earned my first genuine ripped jean. I saw this coming for a couple of weeks—a spot in the fabric was thinning, and then a thread busted, and then many threads, and now it's a honest-to-god hole. I am ... proud? That's weird. I'm weird. I love my holy jeans.
Hahaha she's not telling me what to do. I caught her mid dance. She can be very serious about her dancing.
I took this picture because TALL BABY. Do you see that she is to my hip??????????????
I am just going to end this on some more ????????????????????????? and !
This is what it looks like when I find my center again. Rows of freezer sandwiches. Homemade whipped cream, plain yogurt, berries reduced in sugar. No fancy, scratch-made version of graham crackers. Just those familiar sheets from Honey Maid, sealed in the same brown plastic I remember from childhood.
We started looking to buy a house in Portland, and man did that do a number on my brain.
One week ago, I was happy in my tiny apartment, sitting at my perfectly appointed work desk, doing and thinking all number of things.
Six days ago, after having casually looked into homes here and there, we found one we thought might be great. It was a little more money than we were hoping to spend, but it would have been worth it.
Five days ago we put in an offer.
Four days ago our offer was passed up for something better.
Somewhere along the way my brain got rearranged. This house, I thought it might have been The One, moving us out of our cramped little space and into ... King's childhood, into a home big enough to host friends and family who visited, onto a tree-lined street, nestled in hills.
I think my brain got trapped in that space. But now a void of space (what is that even?), because the house wasn't going to be ours. So my brain was a vacuum, and I became desperate to fill it with a home any home that we could possibly get but my god this housing market is tight and expensive and there are so many options but only so many of them that we can afford but what if we just spend a little more money or maybe we don't need to live so close to the city what if we live in some next-town-over because, by god, we need a home.
Somehow this weekend we also did really wonderful things. We picked five pounds of blueberries on Sauvie Island (we've already eaten most of those by the fistful). We went on a four-hour hike. We had donuts and coffee. Twice! We ate dinners with friends. We watched that gawh-ram season finale of that gawh-ram show.
It was truly and deeply good.
So when I started to feel desperate again come Sunday evening and into Monday, I had to ask, "Why am I feeling like this? Why when there were so many good things?"
Luckily all that goodness did its job and gave me perspective. Made me shake my head and doubt how seriously I should take myself feeling so desperate.
"Why, when this apartment was wonderful a week ago am I trying so hard to escape it?"
So I scrubbed off that crud. Did the grocery shopping. Stocked our home with vegetables and fruit (persimmons!) and a half-gallon of heavy whipping cream. Made freezer sandwich cookies. Things were starting to look like something again.
And then I cleared off my desk. This is my perfect, tidy, modest space that feels complete.
I scrapped my to-do list, too, and put just one lonely item onto it. Do you see that little piece of yellow tape on the window up there? Email Justin. Look at that. Look how simple it is to get back.
Just do this one little thing and you'll get back.
One thing this kid is definitely doing, is asking me to trust her. Early and often.
It's been a long time since I've been around little tinies, so I can't quite remember how independent they are, and how soon. But I do know this King baby sure does seem to conquer and own her space. And climb it and try to escape it and run acrost it.
I was working at my desk a couple of weeks ago when I turned around to this:
"This box was here. So I was supposed to climb onto it, right?"
Well, yeah, actually. Life is full of boxes, and you either climb them or you walk on by because you don't think you can climb them.
No surprise that the next day she'd not only climbed onto the box, but had first dragged it to that door so she could fiddle with the handle.
And then the other day, I turn around to this:
"Oh, just hanging out on my couch, ma. I'm gonna shuffle down in just about one minute so you can continue to take my picture. Like I like."
I was washing dishes recently, with a view of that there couch. I popped my head up from scrubbing a plate to see King not only on it, but elbows perched on the back so she could get a good view through the window to the street below. Then she walked the length of the couch, back and forth. I couldn't see her feet, but my mama brain was pretty sure they were teetering along the edge. Trust, mama, trust! Anyway, I'm good at falling.
I'm more of a gray-leggings-and-onesie mama. Gray sneakers, even, with little blue shoestrings. But this doll has started reaching for headbands and hats and pink and dresses.
In fact, she absolutely cannot get enough of hats, and herself in them. She perches them on her head and then runs over to her little toy mirror and laaaauuuughs.
And it doesn't have to be a hat, necessarily. Just as long as it can sit on her head.
So it's, like, "Trust me ma. I like these things, see? And can we start talking about my plans to climb INTO Mount St. Helens in a sequined gown? Because I've been thinking about it ..."
Man, this girl. I like her. I like my little heart attacks every day, and slowly and silently running up behind her because she—oh, I don't know—is perched on her belly, on the edge of a table, three feet off the ground because she finally figured out how to do it.
She's a tough little piece of bread. I'll regret the day I ever put in writing that I'm grateful she hasn't gotten herself into too much trouble. But until that awful day that will never actually come, I'm learning how to stay a little further away, for just sweet extra moments, watching her explore.
This idea was another collaboration with my brilliant sister-in-law, Liz, who can't stop having good ideas.
Letters Never Sent: I'm thinking of it as a home for wayward letters, all those notes or thoughts or wishes that simply can't be delivered to their proper place. I'm going to write them from time to time and share them here.
And I'd like you to write them, too.
A letter to someone who made you laugh while you were waiting in line at the grocery store. Or to your best friend from elementary school who lit up your life when you were eight ... but you can't remember his last name! Or maybe to your late grandma who was the best, best lady and there are things in your life—happening now!—that you want to write to her about.
I have a PO Box here in Portland, Oregon, waiting for you letters. Send your letter!
My first letter. To—whom else?—a barista ...
To the Barista—
Thank you. And I'm sorry. I rushed away from this nice conversation you started with me while I got my refill. I know it seemed like I was brushing you off ... lots of "uhuhs" and "for sures" while I walked back to my seat outside.
But really I rushed out because I'd left all my things—ALL of them—on the table, on the sidewalk, in my new town. There was a letter, my purse, my freaking camera.
The greater part of me is a champion of the good in people, and their trustworthiness. It's that part that pulled me out of my chair in the first place, and walked me away from all my valuable things. It's also the part that wanted to stand at that counter and chat with you about tattoos until whenever-who-knows.
But a worried fragment of my brain started to tug almost as soon as I stepped back into the shop. And so you started talking and I started speeding things along until I found myself back outside, everything in its place; and me wishing, of course, that I'd stayed to talk.
It's such a small moment! Maybe you didn't think anything of it. But I have one of those minds that carries around little memories of regret; and when I find them again, they're always so fresh. It's a quality that seems to have almost no merit. Except that I do tend to catalogue—along with the memory—a new facet of empathy.
So the next time someone seems to be brushing me off, I'll maybe allow that some other thing is pulling them away.
And you ... I'll be back. I was the chatty barista when I worked in a shop. It endeared your little space to me even more to think I could enjoy those conversations with strangers again.
The Lady Who Rushed