Monthly Archives: August 2011

Day two of fifth grade rocks our world. Or was it an earthquake!

On Monday my daughter had her first day back to school and Tuesday was her second.  My partner was going to pick her up on Tuesday at dismissal time– a new weird time for dismissal– 3:21 p.m.

We live many miles from the epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake, but close enough.  Our small four-story almost 100-year-old apartment building shook and shook– yes I mean the building shook as I sat at the computer at the very same dining room table at which I am seated as I write now.  A beautiful potted plant and the plate it rests on slid to the floor and shattered, and other things shook– but mostly it was that sensation of the building itself shaking that I will never forget.  And the sound– the low rumbling sound of the earth moving far beneath the ground.

It was over in under a minute, a matter of seconds.  Seconds that felt very long.  As soon as it was over I quickly gathered my things and set out for my daughter’s school.  I gathered a folder I needed for a later meeting and I brought my computer– which I certainly didn’t need but I seemed to want to take one thing in case of later, unfolding disaster.  I took it for some reason that I can only explain by saying that it contains parts of my writing, parts of my communication with friends and family and some of my photos all gathered into one place.

I thought of my good friend Lauren who has lived in San Francisco more than 30 years and who is experienced at living through earthquakes and I thought about my Midwest upbringing; I know what you’re supposed to do in case of tornado, but not in the event of an earthquake.  Lauren was the first person I called after reaching my partner and as I drove to school to get my daughter.  I didn’t reach her, but later she said, with experience at this, “so tell me your story”  and asked exactly what I did and about the duration of it and, she put it this way, “first the ground and building shakes and then it stops. And then just you shake.”

Minutes after it was over, and after turning on the news but only long enough to hear them say it was an earthquake (the news reporters sounded as baffled as I was)– I drove to my daughter’s school without waiting for text message, robo-call or any of the rest of it.  I just wanted to get there.  The older young people were out front on the plaza and the younger (of which my daughter is one) were out on the field.  I was so glad to see my daughter’s good face in the far corner of the field as I walked out onto the edge of the field.  They were being dismissed one by one as parents made their way through terrible traffic snarls to school.  N and I hung around and I let many children use my cell phone and texted a few parents of children I know well to assure their parents that I had laid eyes on their kids who were fine.  I was terribly glad that I live walking distance to her school and that I am home right now.

We had no school yesterday but all are back to the regular schedule at our school today.  We met with her lead English teacher for this year– on Tuesday at about 3:45 we had a meeting we had planned on the first day of school– less than two hours after the earthquake which now seems both utterly reasonable and terribly funny/odd– to have gone ahead with that meeting.  But it was a very good meeting and I hopeful about her year.  And after all these years, I am learning some things about being a strong ally and advocate for her.

Sometime in the next several posts I should sit down and write about the earthquake that is happening this week inside of me– which I would rate as just above 6 on the Richter scale (6 and above is a moderate quake)– as today marks one year since I walked out the door of my last job.  I am truly at loose ends– about the plan for the months ahead.  And since we’re all about measuring and documenting seismic events, at the moment I’ll say for the record that as of today I’m more on the sad/scared side of loose ends than on the excited/optimistic end of the scale.

Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin. She becomes a bike rider.

I love to ride my bike.  I always have.  I learned when I was five and have never stopped riding.  Many words to write about how much I love to ride and where. And many words to write about what has been challenging for my daughter about learning to ride a bike– mostly words about confidence and resistance to being pushed in certain ways.  Not to mention living in the heart of a city where there are few places to just easily hop on and safely try to ride and ride in a wide open environment without much auto, bike or pedestrian traffic.  But I’ll save those words for later.  Or never.  Because she’s a bike rider now.  This vacation sealed the deal.  Two and half miles yesterday and more like three and a half today and it would have been eight or ten had it not clouded over with thunder and lightning.  She takes on the hills with the best of us.  I’m one proud mama.

Finishing the ride on the Sunset Bike Trail. August 19, 2011.

Leaving Nova Scotia; the romance of the sea

There was a kind of magic in the Nova Scotia trip– which was my idea, my invention.  Nova Scotia is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.  And being with my cousins after so many years was so good for many reasons.

We went to Nova Scotia without the kind of research people now do about things to do in places they travel to.  We went knowing it would be beautiful and without many set expectations about what we wanted to do.  The weather was cool and overcast, drizzling intermittently and just plain raining a lot of the time.  My cousins were not enjoying the rain and cool weather and said often that this had been one of the worst springs/summers in memory.  To me it was beautiful–absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful, every day, foggy or clear, cool or when the sun shone through.  There was that wonderful walk/ hike on Micou’s Island, and a second great walk, just my honey and me setting out from a great little place called Bike and Bean— on the beautifully groomed bike trail one day when we had set out to bike for a couple of hours, just the two of us, but all the bikes were rented.  And there were other drives and adventures, and just the view of St. Margaret’s  Bay from the dining room table of my cousins’ home.  This isn’t actually the view from their house, but another view– nonetheless, it was something like this, though from high on a hill which is where their house is situated.

Just one beautiful view of clouds, sky, air, water; St. Margaret's Bay, Nova Scotia, August, 2011

But the one thing my dear girlfriend had wanted to do for sure was to go on a whale watch.

What seems like a long time ago, we used to go to Provincetown on Cape Cod for many vacations.  It’s gorgeous there and very, very gay, lesbian, queer.  Later I went to many writer’s workshops and fell in love with the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown which brought me back time after time in a different way.

Together in Provincetown, my honey and I have gone on many beautiful, inspiring and moving whale watches  sponsored by the Center for Coastal Studies which is truly a research and education center– not a commercial enterprise.  We set out many times with interesting naturalists teaching us and had the remarkable good fortune to see whales which are nothing less than awe-inspiring and other marine life close up.  Although there must have been a time or two when the weather wasn’t great, it never mattered.

In Nova Scotia we deliberated between a whale watch which appeared to be a fairly commercial endeavor– leaving from Halifax which is about an hour’s drive east of where my cousins live and a smaller whale watch leaving from a smaller town about an hour west of where we were staying.  The day before we flew back to the U.S. for part two of our vacation, we chose the westward drive to Lunenburg for the less commercial whale watch and now looking back I must admit there was a kind of tourist’s greed in operation– the Lunenburg trip said we might see humpbacks, while the Halifax trip only advertised “smaller” whales.

As we boarded the ship– well, boat, really– I realized just how uncommercial this was going to be– there were a total of 18 people on board, including an infant. And two crew members.  There was no naturalist and as turned out to be important, there was no enclosed area and only one small bathroom which I think is called the bulkhead on a boat.  I had worried some about my mother, soon to be 80– on this trip, but she said she was up for it.  It was hazy and overcast as we drove to Lunenburg.  Once on the boat we sped out to sea.   I love to be on the ocean, the look of the water, the feel of the water moving, the sun on the water or the expanse of dark clouds.  I am not a good swimmer and my feeling about being on the water is surely terror mixed with excitement, but somehow the effect of the mix is that I am someone who loves to be on water.  From a boat I am reverent and very aware of the beauty of the world, the natural world and the people in the world.

As we sped further and further into the sea, the sky was dark, gray and covered in thick, dark clouds off to one side of the boat and the water in that direction was almost black.  Looking out in the other direction, the sky was light, blue, clear, hot and sunny.  And the sea shone blue and sparkly as the light bounced off each ripple.  But the sea was choppy, rough and the boat began rocking side to side, like a wildly enthusiastic toddler on a rocking chair.  Harder and harder with no end to the rocking in sight.

Then it began.  We had both a very young man there with either his girlfriend or very new wife sitting across from us and an older man traveling from Germany with his wife sitting just two people over.  Both had large cameras with big telescopic lenses and were poised to take beautiful close-ups of the whales we would see.  They both became the vomiters of the trip.  We watched helplessly as one then the other lurched toward the bathroom– either making it or grabbing a bucket on the way in.  This went on for what became a very long time and there was nowhere to go to get a little break from these two bodily dramas.  It was— well–awful.  And comical.  Sort of.

I have had motion sickness only once or twice in my life.  It is hard for me to tell whether it was all that vomiting or the rocky sea– but after not too long a time I began to sweat and I felt sick and grew weak in the knees– literally. I was having trouble standing up.  It was going to take all my concentration to hold it together. Also if I had needed a bathroom I’d have needed to take a number.    I am not sure if my daughter was frightened by the violent tossing of the open boat on the sea or the two grown men who were so sick, but after a while she, who had been thrilled to get on the boat, came over to me, sat down and hid her head in my chest– started to shake and cried and pleaded to go home.  She wept that she missed Oliver–the big, sweet, loud barking dog at my cousins’ house.  My mother on the other hand, who often complains that some set of activities is too much for her, walked around looking out to sea from every angle, smiling, sniffing the sea air, feeling great and invigorated.

The ride went on and on and the small crew grew desperate to find whales for us to watch.  Cutting the engines, sitting still in the choppy sea and watching, then spotting something and lurching and speeding off in another direction.  We did finally catch the dorsal fins and arc of the backs of two whales, far off in the distance but by then I don’t think anyone cared too much.

When we returned to my cousins’ house they reported back to me what my daughter, in the door ahead of me, reported to them and I overheard the same simple and accurate report to my sister and family:  that both a young man and an old man couldn’t stop throwing up.  I was reminded that every once in a great while  a little bigger and more organized could be better– and that my greed to see the biggest whales was just that, greed.   In some sense it was a completely miserable and overpriced experience.  Still, a day out on the water on vacation in Canada with my family is preferable to so many other ways I sometimes spend three hours.

Monday and Tuesday, Nova Scotia

Yesterday.  On the way to an historic farm museum in Chester, Nova Scotia, CA– we stopped at Bike and Bean– a coffee shop, bakery, bike shop– all in an old train depot. I loved it there.  We ate our little panini’s and drank our cappucinos and walked back and forth between the three miniature-sized rooms of the train depot turned coffee shop.  I do love being out of the US and out of the heat too.  I don’t care if it is raining.  I didn’t care yesterday as it rained quite a bit.  We drove.  And drove.  And the roads are narrow and you can’t get places very fast.  All ok too, better than ok.

My daughter is a trooper even though there are no other young people around and no one really gets in there and plays with her– other than my partner and me, and we run out of rope too fast.  And I do take note that in these northern places we have chosen for vacations recently, she is often the only person of color around, which I know isn’t easy.

Today, Micou Island.  A small island– a tiny island, 15 minutes drive from here.  Micou is like a floating park, just off the shoreline.  It can be walked to at low tide when a sand bar juts up just enough to walk across.  On the small island there is a house and a trail– which runs roughly the perimeter of the island and which we all walked today in about 45 minutes.  My mother with a walking stick Karen had loaned her.   Then pictures were taken, then home and lunch, then a ride to Peggy’s Cove– the tiny commercial strip with tourist things gifty, things coffee, ice creamy things.  Two galleries, one of which displays the work of Karen, our host here– and at the end of the walk, a lighthouse perched out on huge spectacular rock formation.  I left the camera behind for the Peggy’s Cove part today and forgot to take pictures at Bike and Bean yesterday.  So you have here the Ross Farm adventure from yesterday and Micou’s Island today.

Daughter and her grandmother at the Ross Farm.

Nova Scotia Barn, circa 1875.

My daughter walking across the sand bar to Micou’s Island today, 8/9/11.

My mother, looking out as she hikes some steep terrain. Micou's Island.

The view from the sandbar to Micou's Island.

My mom and me.

Nova Scotia, Sunday August 7

We flew Saturday to Nova Scotia where my mother’s first cousin-my cousin too–and his wife have lived for almost ten years.  Because of the far-flung-ness of modern life, children born, a father ill and then died and all the many things of a life, but no bad feeling at all– we haven’t seen this part of our family in 25 years.  I arranged this reunion– and got my family here– happy to leave our hot east coast city to be with family, near the water, in Canada, on the water and on vacation.  I wanted to see this part of my family, wanted them to meet my daughter and her to meet them, and wanted to see Nova Scotia.  I wanted my mother to get to see her cousin again.  My mother arrived Saturday night at midnight.  Yesterday was our first day in this gorgeous place.  My daughter’s and partner’s first time meeting my cousins here.

Glad to have arranged my mother’s reunion with her cousin.  L and K have a big home, a huge garden, a little guest house, a big dog and a barn building that is a studio.  I will post pictures even without time to write much.

My mother, with daughter, K and partner M in the background. Touring the vegetable garden this morning.


Vacation ahead

These are the hot, hot, hazy days at the end of summer. Camp is over for my daughter, we are cramming in needed doctor appointments, car repairs, undone paperwork on a number of projects and other errands. No camp or childcare this week so my daughter and I along with a mom of a close friend of my daughter’s (and a favorite friend/ mom-friend of mine) are doing D & Laura camp as we patch together care and activities for our three young girls. But we are Nova Scotia-bound for an adventure involving another country, new terrain and my mother joining us to visit family we’ve not seen in many, many, many years.  We head out Saturday.  After a week in Nova Scotia we head off to Door County, Wisconsin for a week on Lake Michigan with my sister, nephews and brother-in-law– along with my two girls.

Keep your fingers crossed that necessary errands, job applications, laundry, unaddressed emails, return phone calls, bills and all the rest are in order so that all that I’ll do for our two weeks away in the way of business– is to upload photos and write what I hope will be interesting thoughts, here on the blog.

bugs gone, photos up.