Now finally the boys had earned their stripes and rope burn on those beloved meadows whereupon one can climb above the trees to catch a breath and gaze over the stunning blue expanse of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and so as a special treat we introduced them to soft-serve skiing in the Cascades on a sunny Sunday in the mountains above Seattle where currently there’s enough snow for the North and South Poles which was of particular consolation to poor sneezy Adam with-glasses-falling-to-the-end-of-his-nose who enjoyed the respite from upstart powdery pollen down on the springy Whulge. The pass across the Cascade Mountains here is unusually low elevation and such as it is characterized by a relatively mild maritime climate and being that carbon levels have passed the dreaded oh shit tipping point, by the time the boys are my age it’s quite possible rangy polar bears will be terrorizing those exceedingly well-dressed hikers who flock here in the summertime to blab on their cell phones and sad to say there probably won’t be any skiing left to speak of and the chairlifts will be trucked to the scrapyard where they fully belong if you ask me and the hillside will stop getting brushed out and slowly grow back up (the scenery is still pretty purty if you block out the clanking, vibrating equipment and buzzing interstate highway and concentrate on the majestic view north to triangle and blob-shaped mountains).
Up until now, as I was earlier alluding to, the boys have been schussing, swooshing or whatever vernacular you wanna invoke, exclusively in the northern range of the Olympics where it’s quieter so the carnival atmosphere on the citified mountainside yesterday was an eye-opener initially but as they carry the more personable personhood gene from their mother, the two of them seamlessly embraced the humanity with smiles on their faces while I preferred to stick myself upside down in a snowbank for lower-priced, family-friendlier entertainment. Seventeen runs they did down the intermediate hills with names like Dodge Ridge and Big Bill, maybe Bill is the guy who cut all the trees down? Adam, my oldest, is the careful technician who carves meticulous, controlled turns just the way he plays piano (unless he’s goofing around with the metronome) and while doing all this beautiful slowing-down mastery he’s looking around a lot, floating across the mountain meanwhile watching Oliver is not soothing to the nerves as he is the no-nonsense commuter who prefers the bullet train with nary a look up from his newspaper, thank you very much.
The last time they went skiing at the less fancy place where tough guys throw their skis in the back of pickups next to toolboxes, sawdusted oil rags and wear dirty gardening gloves for the rope tow, I waved see ya later to the boys and disappeared into the woods for hours by my lonesome and had a splendid time shooting and that’s where the image of this mile-high hemlock comes from. No clanking chairlifts here and what’s more frequent gale force wintertime winds mean lotta those other people blow away. The color exposure was arguably better owing to the striking contrast between green of the lichen and deep blue sky and that’s probably what caught my initial fancy but the form spoke something about the way to go as the breeze gently lifted that lichen at the end of the short snag, an alien pincer (though I was the stranger) pointing the way and it was the right way or maybe it was getting rid of me, I dunno.
On the way home last night the boys were famished from too much fun so we stopped in a little foothills town which rests startlingly at the base of the most towering mountain you ever saw that thrusts skyward from the valley floor like a geyser of rock and green and at the corner by the popular restaurant featured in a popular television program of yore I commenced a lawful right hand turn in my automobile and as I performed this maneuver the tiniest mouse nervously skittered in the crosswalk, over to the curb. Luckily for her the town is ADA-compliant and she safely completed the journey around Rodent Cape Horn. I’m not a big mouse guy but the boys anthropomorphize the heck out of everything and so she was more than a furry speck to me and besides a few years ago, horrors because a chipmunk loitering in the road got pancaked. At any rate, the little mouse crossed the street to safety and the boys devoured cheeseburgers and French fries from Scott’s Dairy Freeze. Since it was a school night and the evening was getting on we had to zoom back down to Puget Sound City for bedtime. The boys hungrily gobbled their food in the car with their wind-burned faces stuck in their chapter books and they got greasy fries all over the floor. You know what? A long time ago, a band of mice overwintered in the car and those little things made themselves at home, chewed up a bunch of wires for their personal entertainment, causing all sorts of problems with blinking lights and serious messages on the dashboard saying stuff like pull over buddy you got major issues!
postscript: Wrote 99.99% of this on Monday. Felt rather conflicted about the bourgeoisie soundingness of the ski-thing but thought about grizzled Frank in Port Angeles, mom and dad on Medicaid, my duct-taped boots and probable arteriosclerosis from all the government cheese and Price Saver Cornflakes when I was the boys’ age and decided to hell with unhelpful class consciousness.
Wild-haired Oliver Fern devoured nine slices of cinnamon toast this morning, before school. It could be a growth spurt and since we’re talking about that rare six year old trucks-and-airplanes boy with dirty fingernails who loves broccoli like chocolate chip cookies I shrugged my shoulders and patted schmoodles of extra butter on ’em. Ordinarily, I might’ve protested such a bodaciously bready breakfast but he hasn’t seen his mother all week so I’ve been bending over backward with unusual pliability and sweetness (he even got to wear dirty underwear to school). I’ll start making eggs for the boys every single morning a thousand different ways.
Last week Wednesday, Adam had six stubborn baby teeth removed, after school. Well, not exactly right after school. For starters, he rode the bus home and walked those final steep blocks up our hill sans coat in the freezing cold for the umpteenth time notwithstanding my persistent pleading about pneumonia, him philosophizing in return with a victorious air on the proliferation of adult ninnies driving around the city in convertibles tops down, oft seen sunny wintertime Seattle afternoons. Then he had a humongous snack to hedge against that evening’s crazy mouth numbness, he eats bagels like mini-pretzels, piles ’em high with Himalayas of condiments. No wonder he was starving, he barely ever eats lunch because school doesn’t give kids enough time to eat plus the latter spend most of it engaged in chatter. He walked back down into the shadowy valley for piano, crunching little piles of leftover snow on the way, gleefully making the horrible sound which you may or may not agree is slightly less worse than fingernails-on-a-chalkboard and it was after that we headed up the street for the tooth stuff. Later in the evening, per his usual household responsibilities, he dutifully insisted upon setting out to the curb, not only our garbage and recycling for pickup the following morning, but that of elderly Wilbur across the street. No doubt the dollar signs were cha-ching-ringing because that’s six teeth for the tooth fairy along with his allowance and I was glad he seems to be inheriting his mother’s indefatigable work ethic because none of the rest of us wanted any part in the transfer of Wilbur’s sanitation as the half-empty barrel lately has bore an uncanny olfactory resemblance to that of rotted Cream of Lutefisk hence suspicions some shivering rat possibly crawled through the hole in the bottom during the last snow day and drifted pleasantly off to sleep forever.
Adam and I gingerly trudged (my arches doth continually protest mightily having walked many deep-snowy miles last weekend in ridiculous duct-taped rubber boots in the search for icicle pictures the meantime my young lad skied a million feet out of the clouds in competition with little brother for coldest nose) our way down to the school bus this morning and observed a profusion of crocuses and I couldn’t help thinking to myself it’s more or less pretty green year-round in Seattle but right now there’s a little extra green, tuftkins all over pushing through dead, brown foliage. For goodness sake, there are still tiny blobs of snow leftover from earlier this month. February is growing smaller in the sideview mirror however objects are closer than they appear and what’s more, after six or seven bluebird days we woke to solemn gray this morning so my arthritic fingers are crossed to be on the safe side. It was a pretty fun month for the boys, they missed lots of school for snow followed by a ridiculous weeklong mid-winter break. It’s not that I’ve got a case of spring fever because I love these snow days that let me be with the boys extra it’s sorta the opposite my legs are buckling time was fast forwarded just so (although let’s be real, you can take only so much “quality time” with your children before the law of diminishing returns kicks in). Really, I would like March to telescope a bit and not roll away so quickly…..
postscript: I wrote this yesterday. It snowed in Seattle this morning but the sun is shining. And the boys went to school.
So it was that we did explore with the boys up and down through woods for miles until arriving at an abandoned shelter with stone-block kitchen fireplace whereupon owing to the sogginess of the previous evening a struggle did ensue to keep a wimpy little fire going. The reader will rightly imagine dry kindling is difficult to come by in temperate rain forest this time of year but as the boys’ pockets tend to contain unlimited supplies of gum wrappers, dubiously-constructed origami, papier mâché booger bundles and other paper-based lint we crowded into the small space of that hearth to warm our hands, bits of resinous material scrounged from the shelter added to flame piecemeal for incense, and the rest of the afternoon sniffed longingly at the black fragrance under our fingernails. The boys made me promise I won’t forget the marshmallows, next time.
We lunched on sandwiches and cookies while enjoying the occasional hissing swash of invisible cobbles in the winter-swollen, pea-green river (off-limits to the boys this day except for those quieter back channels). Adam happened upon a drowsy, not-in-a-particular-hurry Rough-skinned newt in the upturned roots of a storm-damaged fir and admonished me not to touch it (the newt, not the tree) lest I desire the most Shakespearian death. He doth exaggerate a little, sometimes. Oliver Fern and I shuddered for between us there’s common sense enough to give Adam the hard time but we weren’t interested in testing the toxicity of that dainty amphibian.
We found this fascinatingly fulsome bracket fungi while climbing in the forest above the river. What a beauty and not really even the outlier in these parts! It was a lovelier late autumn day than expected and I got so caught up in bejeweled spider webs, splashes of orange and mysteriously dark draws with slippery creeks that ultimately I would leave numerous photography opportunities on the proverbial on-the-way-back table and wouldn’t you know I got burned by afternoon drizzle on the return? When I was shooting with the Nikon Armored Tank I tended to operate everywhere from snowstorms to spattering cloudbursts nary a mildish concerned pause but I have but one lens for the itsy-bitsy Fuji and it came with this most insubstantial economical hood which qualifies as mostly un-useful except for trapping bugs for closer observation but at least there’s more time for taste-testing raindrops.
At any rate, we stayed alert for biggo falling limbs because you know around these parts November can be a dangerous time to walk in the forest. The floor in the woods was scattered with fresh debris like garland. The boys hopped, skipped and inhaled allotted caches of Halloween candy whilst staring up at the treetops. Novemberlanding at its finest! Later that evening amid the sonorous rumbling across Elliott Bay I marveled at the ferry just three quarters and a half emptyful, that’s a thing that also mighty tickles me about the black curtain.
Postscript: Now let’s see here, egg nog was just coming into season and another light bulb had exploded in the dining room. For the time being we were taking dinner and homework by candle, Kentucky log cabin style (calling to mind a young Abraham Lincoln). We would close those old fashioned pocket doors (not all the way because the panel on the left always slips off the track just before the doors meet) for eerie shadows and atmosphere (enhanced family talks). It was cozy but the novelty wore off by December. This broadcast from back in November was never really in danger of being relegated to the dustbin for that walk in the forest is surely deserving of a place in the archive. Better late than never.
Adam rode the train by himself tonight, for the first darn time. The intrepid journey into metropolis was to join his mother for a high falutin’ dinner to chat about important stuff (like who keeps stealing his lunch at school) and then “catch” a show at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. Oliver Fern and I walked with him into the Capitol Hill station and after waving his transit pass in front of the electronic card reader which emits a grating electronic blip that tells you to hurry already, he dismissively (quite unceremoniously, if I should say so) waved us off goodbye or something like it while commencing the descent atop the escalator which goes down very, very far into a mighty cavernous hole that was dug impressively deep (deeper than most, apparently). Down on the subterranean, windy platform waiting for just about forever into the future because the dadblasted train got broken down someplace else, he found himself confronted by half a dozen concerned, well-meaning bystanders (including the transit police) who couldn’t comprehend how in the world anyone under thirty years of age let alone an eleven year old could possibly venture into the city without a telephone surgically implanted to their head. The breathless recounting tonight about this Big Train Station To-Do unnerved me far more than him because you get lumpy-throated when it comes to your babies. The plan was fairly failure-safe with his mother on the platform just a couple stops down the line waiting to receive him and don’t accept candy or video games, kick the creep nice and hard in the acorns, gouge the eyeballs, scream as loudly as you can, most of all watch out for “nice” people but never mind. Sure I was wracked with parental guilt until the eagle landed but Adam was passing the threshold to Pluto, for Pete’s sake. And after all, Seattle’s no Thunderdome plus he’s well aware two out of every three grownups are useless, he can handle himself.
postscript: This is a sliced-and-diced excerpt from a December draft (still that doggone first week). I’ve been stuck. Everything I write has been sounding like prototypical pseudo-pretentious bloggy-woggy horseshit. Well, the usual problems with coherence are cropping up, too. Oh bother, I’ll get there! Winter break is over. Grandma left town by jet airplane back to the Windy City, yesterday. As you can imagine, this has the boys in more of a funk than homework. It’ll certainly be quieter around here. Much of my discretionary time continues to be occupied by the in-depth study of that wonder and mystery called the tides you see having had in my possession for some time a trio of fascinating books on the subject that were waiting to be dusted off and finally one day several weeks ago when the boys, grandmother and I explored about sunny Lincoln Park in faraway West Seattle for the occasion of observing the impressive king tides, it dawned upon me a rearranging of the queue was in order and so I’ve been happily transported lately to places like the Bay of Fundy, Mont Saint Michel, the Qiantang or weathered pages of my old tide tables for different points around the Whulge. A couple of the books had been languishing atop that little three drawer pullout I refashioned (utilizing my orbital saw, a sander thingy and another cutter thingy) from the arts-and-crafty desk the neighbors left sitting on the sidewalk last winter. It’s the conundrum of the generalist in that I’ve wanted to dive into them the worst way but needed the right window.