Monday, August 31, 2009

To the lighthouse...

An account of my last day at the beach with you, my beauties~

This morning we woke up alone in our charming beach house on the high hill that looks out over the Pacific ocean. The sky was full of gray clouds and when we ventured onto the second story deck the air was cool and damp against my cheeks.

We (Audrey and I) wrapped ourselves in down comforters and collapsed into the deck chairs, our “coffees” in our laps, our hair askew.

After a moment's pause I rose to put a sheet of cinnamon rolls in the oven and lay you (Evie) down, all bundled up and asleep, on the quilt just inside the door. When I returned, you (Audrey) said, “You halfta sit here. You halfta talk-a me.”

“I am sitting here,” was my reply. “And I would love to talk to you. What would you like to talk about?”

You looked at me quizzically, as though the question eluded you, and proceeded, as I do so many times after a lull in conversation, by saying, “…anyway…”

I laughed and we chatted about this and that – the chirping birdies in the trees, the cuteness of baby sister – until the timer sounded. When I returned and handed you a plate on which was perched a piping hot cinnamon roll with two giant smears of icing, you took one long look at it, and then thrust it into my lap. “I share my cinnamon roll with you!” you said.

I threw my hands up. “My, but aren’t you generous!" I said. "Thank you.”

You watched scrupulously as I tore off a gooey morsel and placed it in my mouth. “You like it?” you asked. “You like my cinnamon roll?”

“I do.”

“I like it too! I like my cinnamon roll! Is it your favorite cinnamon roll?”

“Yes,” I said, still chewing, “I do believe it is.”

“O-kay,” you said and nodded like a doctor who has just finished an examination. “Now you halfta share my cinnamon roll back. This my cinnamon roll.” You seized the plate and hugged it to your chest. “You go get your cinnamon roll and then talka me.”

Laughing once more, I sailed back to the kitchen and found, after I returned, that it had begun to rain. You stood looking so small before the large glass paneling that wrapped around the deck. “Ought go down there!” you said, ‘ought’ being a conflation of your two most frequently used words: “I” and “want.” “Ought go see the rain!”

We ambled downstairs and you tiptoed across the driveway, in your white socks, as though witnessing something extraordinary and rare. Of course, to you, rain – and particularly drizzle, so unlike the desert monsoons – is rare. And consequently, it is fair to say, also quite extraordinary.

When I asked whether you’d like to take a ride in the big car, through the rain, with baby sister, to visit a lighthouse, you said, “O-kay, Mom, let’s go. To the lighthouse!”

We drove 35 miles south on the coastal highway, through Nehalem and Wheeler, roundabout Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi Bay... Dense fog blanketed the coast. In the water just south of Garibaldi we saw fishing boats that seemed to float, weightlessly, against a stark white ground. Fields of brown cows grazed in the late morning haze. Horses, too.

"Ought go see them," you (Audrey) said. "Ought go see the cows."

"But we're going to the lighthouse," I returned, "which will be so much more exciting."

We entered Tillamook and began to follow “cholkie”-colored recreational signs featuring white lighthouse silhouettes.

As we drove along the Cape Meares scenic route which hugs the coastal bay I rolled the windows down and we breathed in the smell of saltwater.

At last, the highway looped around, up and away from the water, and we entered forestland. The trees immediately formed a heart-shaped canopy over the road and a pearly mist shrouded everything in stillness, inspiring you (Audrey) to lean forward in your seat and say, unprompted and in response to nothing at all, “Sssshhhh. You halfta be quiet,” as though you spoke the language of the trees and knew, instantly, that here was a place which called for silence.

We wound up and up through the ancient fir trees, all of them covered in lichen and green velvet moss. Their branches were lopped off, or had fallen off, so that you could look straight through and see cascading rows of naked tree trunks one upon another, endlessly. The entire scene stood out as an evocation of Longfellow’s "Evangeline:" “THIS is the forest primeval, / The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, / Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight…”

When we arrived at the cape's entrance, we walked along a little path strewn on either side with wild daisies, to the lighthouse. We stopped at an ocean outlook and listened, with the tall trees swaying at our backs, to the echoed sounds of seagulls cawing as they glided up and down between the barren cliffs – all of them awash with shattering waves. “…Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean / Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest….”

We circled up the iron staircase to the top of the small lighthouse and looked out in all directions toward the ocean. The fog made it impossible to see more than a few dozen feet in front of us. Only a few of the largest rocks were visible peeking up through the clouds. Apart from these, all was mist and haze and I imagined the fright of the ancient mariners who would have been helpless in such weather, if not for the flashing lighthouse.

Built in 1890, the lighthouse – which, after it had fallen into disuse, became frequently vandalized – had been rescued from demolition by a small group of local people who recognized its historical significance and rallied to save it.

I am so glad they did. I have always loved lighthouses – not only for their structural beauty but for what they signify – rescue, guidance, shelter, hope.

I looked down at both of you girls – Evangeline, with your little head bobbing up and down against my chest, your eyes peering out in all directions, an expression of utter tranquility on your face; and Audrey, in your brown-and-pink-striped dress, and your pink converse sneakers, peeling a lighthouse sticker from its paper.

How lovely, I thought, to be created for the purpose of providing guidance, shelter, and hope. And what a lovely prayer for each of you: that – whatever your futures may hold – God might craft you to be like the lighthouse – living, flashing lights, “flaming out like shook foil” in the darkness of this world.

“Shall we walk down,” I asked at last, “and explore the grounds?”

“No,” you (Audrey) said, your little brow suddenly furrowed. “Ought go see the cows.”

And so we did.


Dear sweet Evangeline Grace,

How to begin a letter to you, my darling baby, who are still so small? When I think of you I cannot help but recall to mind those famous first lines of the Elvis Presley song, "Wise men say...only fools rush in...but I...can' in"

It has been exactly twelve weeks since you were born, which seems such a long time, given that, by the time you were five days old, I had only a vague memory of what the world was like before you became a part of it. How does this happen? “It is amazing,” I told your Beppe, “how after such a short time I already consider my life without Evangeline unimaginable.”

A surprising consistency exists regarding how others have responded to a first encounter with you: “She is absolutely dreamy, that girl,” your Nanny said. “So elegant,” said Beppe. “Peace and joyfulness radiate from her little being” wrote your Aunt Sommer, “she is beautiful to behold.”

A moment after I laid you down in your Uncle Everett’s arms, he looked up at me, with his penetrating green eyes, and said, “Why -- she is so calm.” There was a note of surprise in his voice, as of having been arrested by the quietness of your spirit.

When I look at you, there is a kind of paradox that wells up in my heart: I feel, all at once, as though the sheer breath has been knocked out of me; at the same time, you put my heart at ease.

You smile at me almost without being prompted, always giving your affection as though it were nothing, an easy thing. You have long eyelashes; a long, lithe frame; and a diminutive cry, like the bleating of a lamb - these, of all your features, are the three which most frequently inspire comment. You sleep soundly – perhaps you will be less prone to worry than other people? - and when you are awake, you often lay quietly on your blanket, ogling up at the world.

I surmise you are, or will be, a contented little creature – poetic, feminine, gentle, and affectionate.

Last Saturday, throughout most of our 9-hour expedition to Waldport and back, you slept soundly. When you weren’t sleeping, you simply looked mildly out the window, and watched the scenery as it flickered past.

For the last hour of our journey I sat in the backseat between you and Audrey. At a certain point, Daddy asked, “How is Evie? Is she asleep?”

I shook my head. “She’s wide awake,” I said, “and perfectly happy.”

“It seems impossible,” Daddy said, “that she could be so...”

“So sweet?” I offered.

“Yes,” he said. “Exactly. She is so sweet.” A moment later we were surprised to find tears had welled up in both our eyes.

you might ask someday when you are old enough, and pert, isn’t that a common thing to say? Aren’t all little girls said to be sweet?

In a word, yes.

But when people say, “Isn’t she sweet?” they often mean, “Isn’t she cute? Isn’t she charming? Don’t you love her dimples?” When we say you are sweet, we mean that you seem, somehow, to be not only cute and cuddlesome, but kind; not just charming, but endearing; not only adorable, but good-natured, with a spirit that seems to brim with gentleness.

My favorite memory of you during our stay in Manzanita took place last Sunday. It was our last day with Daddy and, as we walked toward the beach, I was mourning the fact that the morning had gone by so quickly. By the time we finally arrived, Audrey had fallen asleep in her stroller. It was windy – far too windy to spread our blanket down on the flat, warm sand and recline under the noonday sun. Instead, genius Daddy dragged the stroller up into the dunes and we parked under the shade of the cattails, in a little indentation of cool sand.

We laid you down in the furthest crook of the dune, out of the way of the wind and sun, where myriad strings of tall green grass formed a little canopy over your tiny frame, dangling over your brow, tickling your cheeks as you slept. I called you, “my little Moses baby,” and we chuckled with joy and wonder every time we looked over at you, cocooned in a kind of Nature-made cradle.

The clouds above our heads, two clusters like cotton awnings, hung low, so low we felt we could almost touch them. And as we watched a pair of pelicans swoop and dive for fish between the rows of waves, my spirit soared with gratitude.

“When she passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music,” wrote Longfellow, in an attempt to capture the quality of his heroine, Evangeline. It is likewise true of you. Already, your presence in my life, in our world, is like the loveliest music. When I am with you I feel as though I am being serenaded – a truth which remains undiminished even in moments of profound silence.

Your very existence inspires me to believe that nothing, truly nothing, is impossible with God – not even a walk through the clouds.

With Love,

And great excitement to become better and more deeply acquainted with you,

Your Mother (amateur sleuth)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Summer afternoon, Summer afternoon...

" - the two most beautiful words in the English language."
~ Henry James

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dear Dutch,

It is morning, the morning after you have gone – back to work, to ‘real life,’ as they say, while we, your women, remain behind for a spell, to enjoy the ocean airs.

Ashamed as I am to say it, my predominant feeling is one of regret. The week went by too, too fast. It always, always does, particularly when I am with you. We had too much to say to one another and not enough moments in which to simply sit, enjoying each other's presence, not talking.

I know, I know, I am so greedy... a living testament to the truth that the eye is never satisfied. Whatever the size or quality of a gift (and oh, what a gift this week was!) – I cannot help, as a vile member of the human race, always wanting more. No wonder gluttony is a sin! It is satiation without satisfaction; (over)consumption without gratitude. No sooner have we feasted upon one perfect morsel than we are already thinking of the next…

All week long, I was unwilling to relinquish more than a few moments to the drudgery of housework. I’ve still hardly unpacked and my clothes are spilling out all sides of my suitcase in crumpled mounds. Silly, perhaps. But all those ordinary tasks seemed to crouch in the cobwebs, like thieves, waiting to rob me of my time with you!

I never quite figured out how to reconcile the simultaneous sense of awe and panic that each moment of beauty aroused: awe because, in it, I found myself risen to new heights; and panic because I knew it was bound, any second, to end…

But even the briefest moments will endure in the wellspring of my memory: like winding around Garibaldi Bay with you, on our way to Waldport, with the sunlight flashing on the water and the seagulls hovering, wings stretched, above the great black rocks; or stopping at the fresh fruit stand, with Audrey, to buy ‘apples’ (peaches, really) and survey the vast vats full of cherries.

I never, not even in Ireland, saw grass as lime green as that which stretched out across the low wetlands south of Tillamook; and there was something primordial - Eden-like - about the violet haze above the mountains as the sun set that evening.

I will on no account forget how astonished we were, hours earlier, after we finally arrived on the doorstep of that ancient, outworn house, to find ourselves enveloped by the sweeping views: the ocean in front and behind; the bay, alive with bobbing sailboats and arched by a steel bridge, beside; and sand, all the way round.

I wish you could have seen yourself, sprinting across the beach, with Audrey in your arms, to frighten that flock of seagulls. It was spectacular, watching them scatter and then swoop back over our heads in a perfect triangular formation.

And then - who could have guessed we would happen upon a harem of sea lions, sprawled out on the bay’s shore?! I must say, you were right at home amongst that gang of schoolboys, itching in their shorts, wanting so badly to ignore their nagging mothers, who shouted, “Not too close, Ollie!” and, “Put that stick down, Dylan!” and run up to give them a proper scaring yourself. “Blasted animal etiquette,” you said. “In the old days I could have walked right up and touched them!”

And though the way home – with a squealing, about-to-be-carsick 2-year-old – was anything but pleasant, you helped me find the joy in it, setting us on a search to find the perfect chowder.

There were, I must admit, incidents I hope to learn from: like the moment when, just after Audrey had finally gone to sleep, you slammed the door of our bedroom – loud! – so loud I jumped and hissed at you to shush. You hate being ‘shushed.’ It is your least favorite thing in the world. I know this. And still I shushed you. I am sorry!

I am even sorrier that I shushed you a second time when, several seconds later, you – quite accidentally, according to you – slammed the door again!

Finally, there are those things I wish to reinstate, such as poking fun at one another. It was easier to engage in this kind of jovial, lighthearted banter before we had children, when we had, seemingly, endless hours of recreational time together, wasn’t it? One tends not to poke fun when one is pressed for time. Instead, in the lone hour we usually have between Audrey’s bedtime and our own, I often feel we must be serious, must ‘get straight down to business.’

It’s natural, then, to wish this week in Manzanita – sweet land that I love – could have lasted forever; but I realize, now that it’s over, that I wouldn’t want to live in a state of suspended ‘sunset’ moments. After all, a good part of what makes the sunset so magnificent is that it is rare - the vast majority of one’s day is spent looking up at a gray, or, in our case, clear blue - sky.

But besides this, I recognize that it is only a matter of time before the Eden which this ocean ecstasy appears to be, gives way to reality. I must remind myself – you must remind me, when I am home – that until our hearts have been remade no place, no matter how beautiful, will ever be Paradise.

As Wordsworth says, "Though nothing can bring back the hour / Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; / We will grieve not, rather find / Strength in what remains behind."

So here's to our very own, very ‘real’ life- and the context it provides for the perfecting of our souls.

I wouldn’t want to live it with anyone but you.


Your Wife


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To Dutch: an account of your parting …

I woke up with a start to the sound of Audrey crying. It was just after 3 am and, when I stumbled into her room, you were there already, holding her in your arms. "A bad dream," you told me.

She asked if she could snuggle in ‘Mommy’s bed’ and, knowing it would soon be empty, – you had an early flight to catch – I consented and we ambled back like two lost kittens, and huddled close together on your side.

“What’s that, Mom?” Audrey asked. She was pointing to the stationary green light attached to the smoke alarm, the only visible thing in the utter darkness.

“It’s to protect us in case of fire.”

Oh," she said. "May I touch it?”

“No,” I mumbled, “it’s too high.”

Oh. Can you touch it?”

I explained that only Daddy was tall enough to touch it.

She proceeded with a litany of declarations: “You can’t touch it. And I can’t touch it. And baby sister can’t touch it. And Katy Kat can’t touch it. And –

“Audrey,” your voice broke in. You stood in the open doorway, with – I recognized vaguely - your hat on backwards, in your red shirt, your arms at your sides. You seemed to fill the empty space completely, making everything – the bed, the house, even the street outside - feel weightier and more substantial.

“No more talking,” you went on firmly. “If you talk I’m going to put you back in your bed and you won’t be able to snuggle with Mommy anymore, okay?”

“O-kay, Dad.”

Silence followed and I knew the space you occupied had emptied. The room felt suddenly cold; the house, hollow. If a gust of wind had come at that moment I believe it would have blown us clean off of our foundation. “Mommy,” whispered Audrey. Her voice sounded tinny. “I not talking, Mom… I not talking, okay?”

“Good girl,” I said. “No more talking just like Daddy said. It’s nigh-nigh time.”

An earnest rumble emanated from the ground floor below.

“What’s that, Mom? What’s that noise?”

“It’s the garage door,” I sighed. “Daddy’s leaving.”

Those two words: ‘Daddy’ and ‘leaving’ – had never hit me with such a pang of melancholy, as though “the last lights off the black west went…” An apt description. For that is what the moment of your parting was like: the instant when the last sliver of sunlight falls below the horizon, blanketing everything in darkness.

I heard you back the car slowly out of the garage. The engine whined and grunted as the gears shifted. The tires pinched the gravel as you rambled down the hill. Just like that, you were gone.

My heart sank. Summer partings usually hold, for us, a kind of sweet sorrow: the difficulty of our being separated is eclipsed or, at least, muted by the fact that I am busy visiting family while you are busy working.

Circumstances this year are the same; but there is nothing of sweetness to it; only sorrow.

“Who’s coming, Mom?” Audrey asked.

“No one,” I said. “That was Daddy…going.” In the silence, half-sleeping, I blinked back tears.

“No one’s coming? No one’s coming a get me?”

“No, no one’s coming to get you,” I said.

"You – you staying here with me, Mom?”

“Yes. I’m staying here.”

“O-kay, Mom.”

We lay in bed together, fully awake, until after 5, when Audrey finally nodded off. I carried her noiselessly back to bed and we slept until almost 10, notwithstanding Evie's waking once or twice.

After she called to me, and I lifted her out of bed, Audrey said, “A big giant coming to get you!”

“Did you dream,” I asked, “that a big giant was coming to get me?”

Yeesss,” said Audrey. “A big giant coming to get-a you! And – and – coming to get Daddy!”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about a big giant getting Daddy because Daddy is too big. And it won’t get me because Daddy would save me.”

“Yes,” agreed Audrey. “Daddy save you.”

And this week, my darling Dutch, you did.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Once upon a summertime..."

"once upon a summertime, if you recall
we stopped beside a little flower stall
a bunch of bright forget-me-nots
was all I'd let you buy me

once upon a summertime, just like today
we laughed the happy afternoon away
and stole a kiss in every street café

you were sweeter than the blossoms on the tree
I was as proud as any girl could be
as if the mayor had offered me the key to paris..."

~ The Innocence Mission


Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Go Hide!"

Babe on Quilt

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Gift from the Sea

This book, "Gift from the Sea," by Anne Morrow Lindbergh - wife of famed aviator, Charles Lingbergh - was a gift to me, in anticipation of our journey to the sea.

The opening paragraph begins, appropriately, like this:

"The beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries down the faded straw bag, lumpy with books, clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even - at least, not at first."

Dear sweet Audrey Sophia,

This morning was a perfect morning: I woke up to the sound of your voice - yours and Daddy’s outside on the deck playing Memory. Or playing at memory, I should say. You are still too young to fully grasp the concept, although you love to gather fistfuls of matching cards: one bear; followed by ‘the other one bear;’ one prickly cactus followed by ‘another one prickly cactus…’

When Daddy asked who wanted to go down to the beach you said, “I do!” and when you overheard us talking of stopping for coffee on our way you promptly informed me that you simply couldn’t, no “not yet,” as though you’d made a fixed date with the ocean and simply hadn’t time for 'trifles.'

You passionately resisted changing out of your polka dot pajamas – you love them so – and cried when I put on your red-and-white-striped dress. You preferred the brown one instead, and looked so darling in it, with the white flower in your hair.

As we walked down the hill to Laneda Avenue we saw a man out for a stroll with his two dogs. “Look at that people, Mommy!” you said; and I told Daddy how much it amuses me to hear you use the plural term in place of the singular.

I followed you for miles, it seemed, as you wound through the glistening tide pools leading to the ocean. We stopped to watch a ladybug wriggle in the sand. We spoke with a little girl who was so enthralled with you she invited you to 'step inside' her sand castle. We found a great big stick which you couldn't carry - "It's too heavy, Mommy! You take it!" - and so I dragged it myself for a space.

You got not only your feet wet – but your pants, your dress – and you laughed, easily and without restraint, at nothing in particular and everything at once. Your joy is contagious. I love every moment that I spend with you and shudder, almost, to imagine there will ever come a time when you must grow up and go out into the world.

When that time comes, I hope you will leave our home with that same joy in your heart. And I hope, between now and then, to assist you in acquiring the qualities you will need to face your days with magnificent grace and faith. I hope to live in a way that inspires you to run with endurance the race set before you; and pray that the way you see me respond to the circumstances of my life grants you courage in future years; encouragement when you need it; and perhaps a little wisdom thrown in to boot.

I love you with all my heart, precious girl. “To the moon and back…”

With Love ineffable, in-ex-pressible,

Your Mother

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Manzanita News and Espresso

'Pink ladies...' - or so I always called them. A flower that captured my imagination as a little girl. So good to say hello..

Aud... enjoying her 'coffee!'

The infamous white mocha. Lots of whipped cream. And espresso ice cubes - how clever!