Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Family, From Afar

How is it that my family looks morebeautiful from afar?

I am running the lake, feet pounding the gravel, breath pounding from lungs with each thud, and I see them -- standing on the concrete dock, like an island, a pedastal, holding them like art, no sound of them. Ken. Noah. Katherine's canary yellow stroller. Bright against the green trees, the gray sky, the smooth silver water. Framed. Still life. I slow down, hear only my breath. I want to stop running, to grin, satisfied, to linger, to take them in, like a painting I want to stop and gaze at for a long time, no sound of them, just my eyes soaking them in as art, no words, my heart gasping now, how beautiful they look from this distance, three beings somehow one solid sculpture of family, my family. Oh, my heart.

I didn't want to admit this - how much more I can see the beauty now, then up close, when I am mostly myopic and feeding and wiping and bossing.

And today I come across a quote I saved a few long months ago from the back of The Sun - and I feel better to know - why - they looked so beautiful in that moment on the dock, far away, no sound.

"If you see the whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern." ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Thank goodness for moments from afar; those tiny glimpses of the whole.

Friday, May 4, 2012

No Longer Spineless

Following a decade of publication in magazine journals and newsprint-style formats, behold: The Spine.

If you're interested in cross-cultural conversations, you can find The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays in all the usual places books are sold: the big A, B&N or your friendly local bookstore, as well as in downloadable formats for Kindle and Nook. Or put in a request at your local libary to purchase a copy for loan. And let me know if they do as I'd be honored. Our libraries are amazing.

Among the 20 diverse essays on sociocultural topics, you will find my essay on the experience of growing up overseas from zero to 18 years old, and then "coming home" to the U.S.: "Fragments--Finding Center".

Strange how different a book feels, being published in one. I tend towards essay writing, and love all good writing regardless of book or magazine. So I'm suprised at the difference suddenly how much more permanent a spine feels.

It means I can be in libraries. It means I can take a place among people's bookshelves at home. It's a sweet spot.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Old Friend, U.S. Highway 2

You know those rare moments when you realize what a good friend you've had standing quietly beside you through the years? Today, I drove a two-lane highway for the umpth time -- through the corridor of trees, alongside the emerald Skykomish River, next to metal train cars chugging alongside, up up up to Stevens Pass. And I realized: Highway 2 and I have a long sweet history.

Today, a clear winter road took us up to Stevens Pass for Noah's Sunday ski lesson. A rare treat to spend two hours in the car, just my little buddy and me. Sure, he was tired. Sure, I was tired. 6:30 am, an early morning up and out of the house. A long drive ahead. I ignore an impulse to offer him an iPhone or Leapster game. I drive in the quiet and occasionally adjust my rear view mirror to study his face. Much of the ride, his eyes are relaxed -- lids heavy but open, his relaxed face turned to the window.

How many times have I whizzed along this road, watched the same scenery he was taking in? Today, we pass by gray-brown trees, haloed by the gray-white light of midwinter, covered in a thick moss like fur. Limbs stretch across the road like arms in slow motion. Together, my son and I fly through this tunnel of time.

Highway 2 was a frequent road to adventures in my early twenties. My then-boyfriend Brad and I would pack up for the day, sometimes without a plan, for a hike or to explore a town or to picnic or all the above. Sultan. Startup. Skykomish. Goldbar. I loved the sounds of these towns, the way you could still feel their roots out of nothingness, settlements borne out of some bold people making their way through these mountains as miners or loggers or prospectors.

The great Northwest lay at my feet, too. Both Brad and I were new to the area and hungry for its thick trees, its rivers, its mountains. That we could pass a car loaded with skis, then a car strapped down with a kayak, and another topped by a mountain bike, and us with our leather hiking boots itching for a trail... it felt exhilarating as hell to live here. It felt new and limitless.

It wasn't just a new city for me, or a new state. Living in this corner of the U.S. - it was an entirely new country for me. And man alive was it amazing. To be on my own, at the start of my adult life, discovering the beauty of great outdoors. Discovering who I was, in the context of America. Sure, I'd visited the Northwest - but under the wings of my parents, always as a child. Now I was in charge of the discoveries, and it was exhilarating. Highway 2. Curves of road lined with soft bristle of evergreen tree - and then around one corner, POW! A fist of snow-covered granite, Mount Index, hits you in the face.

Twenty years later, Highway 2 is an old friend, one that I'm still hanging out with, still new having adventures. Today, I'm with my six-year-old son. And every time I round that curve, the one that flings your car by that stretch of river that sits still and deep turquoise, your car so close you can almost imagine you are a bird swooping over the smooth boulders holding the pool wide, so close you have to inhale sharply every time, smile softly as you turn your head out the window to take in as much of the turquoise as you can, and you have to say to whoever is in the car with you this time, "Look at that! Oh man, is that beautiful. Look at that color." Every time. To my then-boyfriend or my husband or my good friend or my son or my mother -- whoever is on the adventure today. And if I'm by myself, just me and the road, you can bet I think the exact same thought.

Here's to old friends, you and me, Highway 2.