Thursday, November 28, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The first snow

The last two days we've woken up to snow flurries -- big fat ones -- falling like frozen tears from baby cherubs, dainty sendings of heavenly sorrow crystallized while passing through rarefied atmospheres. Tiny beautiful fairies, perfect and unique, that melt slowly into nothingness and oblivion on the deck. Or just snow flurries. We'll just leave it at that.

But there really is something both beautiful and haunting about early morning snow, and the way clouds hang heavy over the mountains. The lightness of the flurries and the weight of those enveloping vapors contrast in interesting ways that get me thinking as I stare out the window. I almost run to wake my daughter.

When she finally does wake up, I tell her to go look out the window, and she does, trailing her curiosity behind her like her old ratty bunny. And then I hear her scampering feet, rushing back to shout,
 "It's snowing! It's snowing!" 
She dances around, a pint-sized but enthusiastic manifestation of my own introverted feelings. There's nothing like watching a kid celebrate snow that brings you back to your own childhood, before shoveling, before scraping car windshields, before trying to drive to work or the supermarket.

The snow melted everywhere but on the upper elevations. I wonder how long it will last there. It's beautiful, but I almost look forward to its passing so that the next snow can be a surprise gift, just like this one.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nature called. It wants you to come out and play.

We don't currently own a ball for Addison to kick, so it was fortuitous that this tumbleweed decided to come and visit. What, you don't get tumbleweeds where you live? Maybe you would if you lived in the kind of town that doesn't bother to remove trees when paving its streets.

All of these are within a quarter-mile of our home.

And this kid, she knows a good thing when she sees it. She really does.

A girl and her tumbleweed

Saturday, November 16, 2013


We've been in our new place for about two months now, and the process of re-establishing ourselves, our habits and our goals, has me thinking a lot about what makes a house a home. There's some kind of magic in the way that a bunch of wood and drywall and glass arranged at right angles on a slab of concrete can become something more than a mere assemblage of construction materials.

I've lived places that had no soul. Places that seemed little more than shells, uninspiring storage containers for living bodies. These are often in-between places, places in which you don't want to invest too much because you may not be around for long. Places that accumulate clutter like flies. And then once you've cleared it all up, it doesn't feel tidy; it just feels empty.

But now we're in a house that we hope we might have for the long haul. I love the pine trees outside, the fireplace, the high ceilings, and the view from our front door.

Addison took this photo while wandering in the back yard

All of these things, and more besides, add up to make a wonderful place to nest. It's not perfect; a lot of people might be turned off by living in less than 1000 square feet of home with little-to-no insulation and decor and appliances straight out of the 1970s. A place where there's no trash pick-up, the postal service only delivers to a P.O. Box, and where half the population doesn't get cell phone reception.

Despite its utility, there's something rather clinical about comparing all of those pluses and minuses in coming up with an abode to call "home." Such lists are stoichiometric -- more "scientific method" than "poetry." They're about cancelling things out to see what's left over. They're about neutralizing and off-setting instead of celebrating. And if you've got such a list in your head, it's hard to ever enjoy something without qualification.

Watching Addison shows me that there is another way.

Kissing her "nicest, most favoritest" rock she's ever found

It took Addison a little while to adjust to our mountain cabin, but it's a special thing to watch the way she finds magical moments here, moments that never made it onto our pros and cons list. Kids don't cross things off of some master list as they decide whether to commit to a place. I came across Addison, the other day, reading a book in her room in a ray of light.

It reminded me of my own childhood in a house in Northern Virginia, and the bay windows under which I'd cast myself, basking in a glowing patch of sunlight warmed from a hundred million miles away.

Me (with the wide eyes), my siblings, and dad all sitting in front of those windows.

I have many fond memories living in that house, but the sunlit patch and those accumulated cozy afternoon moments of Zen reside at the forefront of my recollection.

It's impossible to predict which experiences, which memories will mean the most, at least when we're right in the thick of them. It might be decades before the teasing presence of a certain memory or routine finally coalesces into something we can articulate. And whatever item Addison loves in one moment is so often cast aside a day later (with the exception of her Bunny); the activity that she craves so constantly for a few weeks or months is largely replaced by another as she matures and her interests evolve.

But I hope this one lasts.

I hope that anytime she comes across a spear of sunlight illuminating an otherwise ordinary space that she perceives the miracle in it. That she can see in that gentle glow that crosses an impossibly large, impossibly empty and dark expanse, an analogy for finding warmth, comfort, and hope in unlikely places.

It strikes me that while I want my daughter to love and miss the home of her childhood, to yearn for it (and us) and seek to return to it (and us), the most wonderful thing about a patch of sunlight is that she'll be able to find it in most any place she ever finds herself. That sense of "home" never needs to be too far away.

These sunlit memories may or may not inhabit my daughter's subconscious as they do mine; I suppose she'll have the rest of her life to explore and define her own psychological safe-havens. But watching her settle in has, for me at least, conjured the magic to make this house a home. Thanks for that, Addison.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The most beautiful dream . . .

That dream is still alive, but it's like a dagger in me every November. Now, both springing forward and falling back offer a lose-lose situation. Ah, well, only like another decade of this, right?