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Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

It finally cooled down here in Ghost Ranch. The temperature hit at least 100 a couple of days ago (that’s what the thermometer in my car said, although someone today told me that a meteorologist here told her it hit 106). At this altitude (around 6,000 feet) the air is thin and the sun deadly. Rain came from thunderclouds that appeared in the late afternoon, and now a pattern is starting to form. Cool mornings, the day’s high reaching somewhere in the low 80s, then thunderheads in the late afternoon and light showers before dinner.

Last night’s talent show was one of the highlights of the week. I was telling someone it can start to feel homogenous here at Ghost Ranch. People of a certain age, many Presbyterians, many married couples. But the Coffee House, which is what the talent show is called, is where everyone else shows up. Transgendered, gay, single, Latino, young. Creative people of every stripe and age. I’ll post the poetry of one writer in the coming days.

Today I took time off from painting to visit with my in-laws, who came for the day, and to take Em swimming. We also went to watch Dee do the high ropes course. I’m afraid of heights, so it was awesome watching Dee walk a high wire that looked at least three stories and maybe four high, scramble up the climbing wall, and as a finale climb up a 50-foot telephone pole for something called the “Leap of Faith.” She didn’t jump once she got to the top; she ended up looking down and then had to talk herself in to continuing on. She sat on the very top and then finally grabbed her rope and half slid-half jumped off. But man, I couldn’t even imagine giving it a try. I’m so proud of her!

Most days I’m painting all day long. I can hardly pull myself away from the work I’m doing. Painting with other artists, too, is powerful. We mostly sit without talking, although every now and then quiet conversations take place among different people in the class. Several folks spend all their free time painting in the workshop space, even though they could be out hiking or taking side trips or even resting. It’s a dedicated group. In fact, I bet they’re up at the studio painting right now, which I’d be doing, too, except I have three girls asleep in the room (one for a “sleepover”) and I figure I’d better get to bed myself.


-Related to post A Taste Of Ghost Ranch, NM

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Poster of Actors World, painting by Dee, ybonesy 2007, all rights reservedThe girls are off for the summer. This morning I head out the door for work. “Whaaat?,” they cry, “Whereyagoin??” I tell them I have to go to work. “Wer-erk?, but it’s summer!!”

This happens every time they don’t have school. Presidents Day, Fall Break, snow days, teachers’ in-service. In their minds, all the world revolves around school.

I wish it did. I wish when I woke up today all I had to look forward to was figuring out whether I should ride my bike to the library or stay at home and organize my room. I’d love to live by the school calendar. I did once. Sort of.

About three years ago I got a sabbatical from work. Two months paid time off in addition to my regular vacation. I piled it all together and took the summer off with Dee. (Em wasn’t in school yet.) That’s the summer I taught Dee how to do writing practice. We sat together on a squishy blue sofa in a cafe near our house and wrote on topics like, The Rio Grande for 10, GO!

Purple and green, painting by Dee, ybonesy 2007, all rights reservedThat’s also the summer I realized how good Dee was, how good we all are when we don’t have a monkey in our heads telling us otherwise. Dee showed me what beginner’s mind was.

Now she writes all the time. And paints, too. Writing and painting journals fill her shelves. She leaves homemade books lying around the house with illustrated stories about horses and girls and fairies. Em is starting to write, too. I’ve just realized she’s probably at the age where I can teach her writing practice as well.

Now that the days are lighter later, we can pull out our paints or pens after work and practice together. Just the girls. Not as great as having the entire summer off, but pretty darned good.

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Birth is a natural wonder. Those words refer to Dee and to this earth. How can I describe what it’s like having an eleven-year-old daughter? To the Natural History Museum today she wears a skin-toned tank top with black lace coverlet, blue jeans, and a pale pink tie in her hair. Her bangs fall around her China-doll face.

“Look, Mom,” she tells me as she debuts for the day, “I’m Violet Baudelaire.” Dee and Violet (from Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events) are pretty yet clever. (Always remember clever. Dee will never go for just pretty.)

A year ago–six months ago, in fact–Dee would be no one other than Dee. Play unencumbered by fashion. Digging a giant hole in the front yard–so what if high-water pants? Then suddenly this year, a subtle shift. This certain tank top from The Gap in Denver. We bought it on sale. Dee loves to wear it, although tank tops are taboo at her school. So she slips it into certain outings. Natural History Museum on a Sunday afternoon.

I birthed Dee in early fall of 1995. A roller coaster–that’s how I described pregnancy-to-birth. Being on the world’s highest roller coaster (which I’ve been on–The Viper in Six Flags Southern California), me screaming as the contraption click-clicked toward its pinnacle overlooking the entire amusement park. Are those specks the cars? I couldn’t even see people. You can scream your head off (I did) yet it won’t do a whit of good. The emaciated man with corn-cob teeth manning the controls on the ground can’t hear screams. They evaporate like steam into atmosphere.

When I used the roller-coaster analogy I didn’t realize I was talking about raising a child. I thought I was referring to the act of bringing another human into the world. Yet, the ride persists. I read today that it took six hundred million years after its birth for Earth to contain all the elements of modern life. Ocean, rivers, mountains, atmosphere, continents. After eleven years I wonder if I’ve delivered the most basic qualities: love, respect, self-confidence, compassion.

In the context of Earth’s six hundred million years, this particular day is not even a grain of sand. Not the cuticle on the left thumb of the person–what I presume to be a person–standing in the vicinity of the Ferris Wheel. Quartz, the most common mineral on earth, is more ancient and durable than me and my concerns. But I am a woman of today, aware that every moment I spend in my daughter’s presence is an opportunity. To be volcanic, gaseous, a tectonic plate pushing sea into land, land into mountains. Or a phantom–the invisible parent. (These are words from nature’s terminology. Phantom to quartz is the black vein-like formation inside the crystal, like tree rings symbolizing time on earth. In a human, phantom is the residue of childhood, what you take with you through years of therapy. Your true story.)

Dee and I walk from Earth’s Origins to Triassic Period, walk across the super-continent Pangaea, and I wonder as she peers at Coeleophysis, New Mexico’s state fossil, whether she will remember me as an erudite mother wandering museums on a holiday Sunday or as a guilty, preoccupied parent touting an occasional mother-daughter to-do. Do the museum visits override the time I slapped Dee in the car when she was two and wouldn’t stop crying?

I read the exhibit labels aloud but she doesn’t hear me. New Mexico two hundred million years ago was hot and humid. The year I birthed Dee was dry. We grew sunflowers taller than the top of the window. They bloomed bright yellow-orange and beckoned my pregnant belly to give forth its contents. Scream your head off, it doesn’t matter.

Both our favorite is Jurassic Period, the age of super giants. New Mexico was covered with conifers, cycads, and ferns–not juniper or sage. When Pangaea split apart, we were sea or were we coast along the sea? It doesn’t matter. Either way, I like this version of life. Ultimately we are everything. Placenta and child and blood and beating heart. Happiness and frustration.

Dee runs from the whip-tailed dinosaur (whose name I forget) to a young man with a ponytail, little more than a teenager himself, standing at a small table showing his dino-wares. He holds up a fossilized dinosaur thigh bone with quartz growing where the marrow used to be. He describes the process of crystallization, water sitting in the channel of the bone over many, many years. The crystals glimmer and I notice Dee is mesmerized.

“What’s this,” he asks, and he’s on to a smallish oval-shaped thing that looks like rusted metal. Dee is thinking. I watch her instead of generating answers myself. This is how it is with Dee these days. I’m consumed with her process of growing up. Fossilized dinosaur poop, or coprolite, as he prefers to call it. Dee and I look at one another. I raise my eyebrows, in awe of nature. What nature does she see in me?

“T-Rex had 150 teeth,” the young man says as he holds up a giant white fang the length of his hand. “T-Rex’s brain wasn’t as big as this one tooth,” the boy-man says dramatically. He looks at Dee expectant but she says nothing. She doesn’t even make eye contact. She knows not what to do with sex or sexuality, and I am only now aware of this small seed growing inside her.

“…so, you could say T-Rex definitely had more brawn than brain,” the boy-man says. I laugh at the punch line while Dee skitters off to Cretaceous Period. For a moment I think I’ve imagined it all. She’s a girl, not a pre-teen.

In the Cretaceous Period shallow seas covered New Mexico. They say a type of plant-eating, five-horned dinosaur–Pentaceratops–was found only in this area. I like the idea that we have our very own species. This one ranged in size, they say, from no bigger than a dog to up to five tons. Flowering plants arose during this time. Up to then there were only evergreens.

There are different theories for why dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. A great meteor, Chicxulub Crater, hit the earth and ended the reign of these creatures. Or mammals ate the eggs. I go for the crater explanation. I can’t imagine anything worldly preventing mothers–even dinosaur mothers–from having children. So many methods for not having kids today, yet so many babies born. Wanted or not.

On the drive home from the museum, Dee reminds me of our new joke. “What’s a man eating dinosaur?” We both saw the riddle on a wall near the exhibit describing the evolution of dinosaurs into birds. You lift up a little plastic tab and underneath is a picture of a man carving into a Thanksgiving turkey. “I don’t get it,” I first told her. She had to walk me through the dinosaur-to-bird section and explain that turkeys were ancestors of dinosaurs. A-MAN-EATING-DINOSAUR…GET-IT?, she asked. I did. Finally.

I notice something about Dee. When it’s all of us–me, her, her sister, my husband–Dee is distant. She snaps her answer whenever I ask a question. Yells from the bedroom, WHAT??? Yet when Dee and I are alone together in this fast-disappearing eleventh year (do we only have one more before she officially becomes a teen?) she settles into me. Me into her. We are earth settling into a new period. Shallow seas covering land. Flowering plants for the first time.

Eleven years I’ve had to be a mother. Eleven years of impatience and love. I’ve tried to make memories. Natural History Museum (age eleven and times before). Disney World (age three), Santa Monica Pier (age four). Six Flags too many times now to count. San Francisco, the same. Somehow, though, I know it’s the day-to-day that counts. I worry that I’ve been distant. That she emulates what she sees.

Some day it will be Dee’s own life. Her own eccentricities and values and actions that override everything I’ve stamped onto her. You can scream all you want but you still can’t get off.

I learned today that New Mexico had camels and elephants five to 18 million years ago. Nature–she has her own plan.

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