Ekphrastic Mama

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I am the mother of three daughters, each born in a different decade, and three sons in a somewhat closer clump. One "hub" hold us together. This is not what passes for wise family planning in American culture, but as the beat poet Alice Notley wrote, “I didn’t plan my pregnancies. I’m an experimentalist.” When I was writing Ekphrastic Mama for Mothers Creating/Writing Lives: Motherhood Memoir, I took stock of our family span: with one child married, one in college, one in high school, one in junior high, an elementary schooler, a toddler, and now a grandbaby, I realized that I was experiencing all phases of motherhood simultaneously. And so far I've lived to tell about it.

Are You My Mother?

The Unexpected Cheese-white cheddar laced with parmesan- is the sample offering at Trader Joe’s as I run in to get a few groceries before heading back for my daughter at ice skating. I take one, happy to see it’s finger food. All their samples can be finger food, even the slaws and salads, eaten in a few bites without the plastic-wrapped-plastic-fork, but then you need a napkin. I add the cheese to my cart, then turn back for the coffee sample, wishing I had my double-wall espresso cup in my bag, but I’ve gotten careless. A slender lady in a tailored gray wool coat is taking her time getting coffee, adding cream, stirring, tasting. Her cart is pulled across the sampling space and people are starting to line up. I move to one side of her, slip around to nab a tiny cup. She looks at me, then steps back…

A Novel Memoir

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay is a stunning novel that reads like an amazing memoir, illustrating how we carry our mothers with us. Shalini, the narrator can’t seem to shake, or outdrink, or out think her dead mother. The mother, whose death is a mystery until near the end, shapes the narrative in many evocative ways as it carries the reader through the steep mountain sides of the Kashmiri region of India on an unforgettable, and possibly unredeemable, journey. I find myself taking notes, marking passages, returning and rereading to see how such a young author pulled off this feat in her first book. This is the type of book writers study. It is the kind of novel I will read again, as much for the story as the writing. Actually the story feels deeply sad and very real, as if I’m experiencing it as it unfolds; it is…

Between Birth and Death, a 40th Anniversary

Only our 1st anniversary was ours alone. By our 2nd anniversary, our first baby was due–the next day, and anniversaries transformed into multi-tasking events. Now, our 40th becomes an occasion to fly up to Canada and get ice skates for our youngest daughter. November has long been my favorite month, beginning with All Saint’s Day- my birthday, also called Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The middle of the month, Nov. 17, is our anniversary, 40 years today. It falls exactly between my parent’ anniversary on Nov. 7, and my husband’s parent’s anniversary, Nov. 27, a line-up of marriages that lasted over 50 and 60 years, such as they were. My father-in-law died the day after their 60th anniversary, on Nov. 28, Thanksgiving, 2002. As if he’d made it to the finish line, he ate his last piece of pumpkin pie, the only thing he ate that…

Retreat: Girl in a book on a bike at the beach

The Trees to Sea highway over to the Oregon is a dream of a drive for a writing retreat, criss-crossing streams until it delivers me in Oceanside, Oregon, my mountain bike on the back of my car, my trusty tent inside. Rooms on the coast are expensive, but camping is a boon. south of Oceanside is Cape Lookout State Park where I pitched my REI tent in the trees just beyond the sand dunes. At night, I listened to the ocean purr, cozy and content like a kid on an adventure, sunny and glorious for three whole days. In between writing spurts, I rode my mountain bike down the Netarts Spit, the only bike in the sand. My tires are wide but not super fat, so sometimes they bog down, and I turn to where the sand is wetter or drier and pedal harder. Riding and writing have a lot…

My Second Swarm

My friend, Stephanie, just texted me- another swarm! This time it’s in the bait hive I put near her house, up in a tree. Stephanie is the same friend who called me last time, where we got our first swarm : https://lorilyngreenstone.com/first-bee-swarm/. This time, there is no one around to help… Can I go collect this swarm alone? activity in the bee bait hive! I decide I can. I put on my bee suit, leftover from our days in Bend, OR, when Lily, our then teen was into beekeeeping (busy “adulting” now in nearby Portland, but still a bee enthusiast). The swarm, if it is one, is in my “bait hive.” I made the bait hive at Bee Club in April, then hung it in my backyard/forest, but never got any action until I took it over to Stephanie’s. She owns http://oneearthbotanical.com/, a nursery with some bee hives. We met…

First Bee Swarm

Today we collected a swarm of bees, our little family of three. A friend said bees swarmed up into a tree on her property, maybe 25′ up. Did we want to come get them? We have never collected a swarm of bees, but Arielle and I have been going to Preservation Beekeeping Council meetings here in Camas, learning natural ways we can help the bees. https://preservationbeekeeping.com/ When we lived in Bend, Lily got bees from Glory Bee in Eugene, so we have a bit of bee-ing experience, but mostly a lot of studying or doing the wrong things (our Bend bees froze in winter- see Mothering Bees post on how to convert those hives to insulated, happy ones). https://lorilyngreenstone.com/mothering-bees-quilt-boxes-convert-langstroth-hives/ How to keep your bees from freezing in winter, or boiling in summer… We got our hives ready back in April- one double Langstroth conversion and one hollowed out log hive…

In-laws, Steps, & Halfs

We need some new terms for family relationships… I accidentally referred to my half-brother as my step-brother in a post, and he was quick to text me about it. I was writing about my stepfather who begat my half-brother, so you might understand the confusion. The slip-up highlights the problem with these terms– these are my real family. My “step”-father was a step up from my real, or biological, father; my “half-brother” is more whole to me than my real, DNA-equal brothers. And I once had a son-in-law that felt every bit like a soul son. Putting an X in front of that term didn’t cross out any of my familial feelings when he and our daughter divorced. I have a sister-in-law who is more of a sister to me, and more of an aunt to my daughter than my real sister, and that’s okay. I’m okay with all of…

Mother’s Only Brother

A Memorial Day reflection on the trickle down effects of war deaths He went off to the Korean War and never came back My mother was a high school girl when her older brother went off to the Korean War. Not until her recent death have I thought deeply on how this event affected her young life. She only talked about her brother in brief outbursts, then tears overtook her, as if she were experiencing his death all over again. This mystified me. It was so long ago, why wasn’t she over it already? As a child of 10, I remember awakening one night to the cacophony of her playing both the piano and the organ at the same time. They sat at right angles to each other in our open dining room. I peeked out from the sliding pocket door that separated the hallway to my bedroom from the…

The Baby I had at 47 1/2

My youngest daughter is 12 today. I am 59 1/2 exactly. I know this because today is May 1, exactly 6 months until my next birthday, November 1, when I will turn 60. It still does not fail to amaze me that I have a 12 year-old, but especially this 12 year-old, this child I was sure I didn’t want. At the time I found out I was pregnant I was applying to grad school, literally filling out applications in the physician’s office, just getting a yearly check-up, but feeling a bit tired. We already had five kids. The oldest daughter was 25, trying to get pregnant. The oldest son was in college. One son was high school age, and another junior high. Our youngest daughter, a surprise when I was almost 40, was a third grader. It was finally my time to go back and get the graduate degree…

Mothering Bees- quilt boxes convert traditional hives

Our bees housed in Langstroth hives died in winter when we lived in Central Oregon where it gets cold and snowy. But now we live in the Columbia Gorge near Portland and I’m making quilt boxes for bees- me who does not quilt–luckily, no quilting involved. Converting Langstroth boxes to bee-cozy habitats We live in Camas, Washington- soon to be designated a “Bee City, USA”, the 3rd in the state, after Seattle and Puyallup. What a great place we’ve dropped into- https://www.beecityusa.org/current-bee-cities.html But bee survival is still challenged here by wet weather and other factors. Our interest in bees was piqued by our middle daughter a few years ago when she asked for bees for her 16th birthday. We attended Glory Bee’s beekeeping weekend event in Eugene. $1000 later we returned with bee boxes, bee suits, 16,000 bees, and a myriad of beekeeping paraphernalia. It turns out most of this…

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