Treehouse Tea

There’s a brilliantly painted yellow-and-blue boat outside of my window. This is an unusual occurrence, and it likely won’t happen again soon, after tomorrow morning. It says “Del Norte Sunrise Rotary Club Welcomes You”. It’s sitting on the grass, across an access road that runs behind our hotel room, as if yearning for the beach not far to the west. I can see the beach from the same window. Poor boat.

Behind the boat a fierce breeze is whipping the tall stands of grasses and fuchsia wildflowers, and behind them stands a backdrop of redwoods on a hilltop in the distance. For the first time today, they look small. Those redwoods have loomed above us since we took to the road this morning, leaving the Old West hotel in Willits, California, where we took possession of the Sheriff Room for the night. Ben asked if the Jail Room, next door, was likely to be less comfortable than ours; I honestly couldn’t say, though a brief glimpse through the open door of the Bunk House Room downstairs showed it to have a decorative washstand, with rose-painted pitcher, an amenity lacking in ours. The Sheriff Room did have a roll-top desk, however. Particularly good for the traveler who wishes to take care of some sheriffy business, or write a few letters. We did the crossword.

That was about 250 miles ago. We started this trip in San Diego, driving to Los Banos the first night (which no longer employs the tilde over the “n” in Banos. This I don’t understand. If you have the right to a tilde, why not use it? I wouldn’t mind a tilde. Or an umlaut). Los Banos boasted some tasty Mexican food and a friendly breakfast diner. But that seems so long ago. Tonight will be our last night in California before crossing tomorrow into Oregon, and it will be a while before we drive back, as we’re headed for our new home in Seattle. I haven’t ever not been a Californian.

Each morning of our drive Chris has delighted me with a bottle of hot tea for the drive, and has stretched himself to find restaurants and other places to eat. With each act he reminds me over and over that home is what we carry with us, it is the company we keep, the people and things we choose to surround ourselves with. The Atlas movers came last Thursday and emptied our apartment of our belongings, quite a bit thinned out but still plump with books and Legos and fiber goodness. Yet we were able to pack the car as well, with our suitcases and work monitors, artwork and stuffed animals, computers and pet fish. My basket of knitting is so much a part of me that I did not consider the room it would take, any more than I would worry that my arm wouldn’t fit in the car when we left. I’ve driven most of the way with it under my knees. All of these things help our home to be a space in which we like to live. Though I’m already feeling homesick for the friends and family so far to the south, this has been an interesting practice in reminding myself what it is that makes home be home: Chris in his yellow socks, reading. Ben, designing environments in Portal 2 near the open window. Mrs. P the fish and her companion George, existing in their halfway space of a lunch cooler and battery-operated oxygen bubbler. The knitting basket. The cup of tea. (Dandelion.) A book. Snacks. All of these things remind me how safe I am, how surrounded I am by my home. I don’t need them, but oh my, they do make life nice. For the first time in a long time, the home I return to after going out into the world is the car I use to go out into the world.

The treehouse is traveling.

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Ravelry, my exercise in detachment.

It’s been established that I like to knit.  And in all the quiet spaces that leave me thinking of ways to put words one after another, I often think about sharing my knitting with the little blog.  And then, I don’t, for the simple reason that when night comes, and the Geeklet is abed, if I am awake, I want to knit.  Preferably, I knit while sitting next to my dear Chris and watch Endeavour, or maybe some Doctor Who.  I try not to do anything on my own computer after 10 pm.  It’s difficult to catch up with email sometimes, and I’m months behind on cool-beans articles and posts and XKCD, but it does seem to be the only method that keeps me from staying up until 2 in the morning.

 

And then?  I have a sweater done, and I haven’t shared it with you.  It becomes a little soft puddle of potential postedness.  It lays folded in my arms, a project completed, and it is a thing which I can use to put here!  If I post it… then it has been posted.  And there is no more potential posting.  The potential is spent, gone.  So sad.

 

However, letting go of things is important.  It’s called non-attachment.  I used to frown at the idea.  “I like my teapot,” I might muse.  “I like my son.  I like that quilt I just made.  And I feel unapologetic about liking those things.  So might I be bad at Buddhism?”  I’m not a Buddhist, as such, but like many I find the teachings to be good and useful things.  I like to think of Buddha as a big brother, the one who finished college while you were in high school, who disappeared into his room with a girlfriend and closed the door and you hated her, because when she wasn’t around he would show you his new CDs and photos of his hiking trip and you’d think he was so sophisticated, and you’d be so proud to be his sister.  So that’s kind of how I think of Buddha.  Wise and experienced, and well out of the whirlwind, and proud of you when you made grown-up choices, like being okay with giving up your teapot.

 

Then I saw, in a roundabout way, that it’s not about having to give up the teapot.  It’s about being okay with being separate from the teapot–in a different room, in a different house, in a different state of energy–because you and the teapot, you’re not really two separate things anyway.  If I close my eyes and envision the teapot filled with a gently steeped Darjeeling, the pot just too hot to touch, steam issuing from its wee spout, if I envision placing my hands around the pot so that a little pocket of air between my hands and the pot–remember, I’m not touching it, it’s too hot–becomes warm and a little damp, and I can taste the potential tea on my tongue and feel how relaxing and soothing that would be:  this experience can be as relaxing and soothing as the real thing.  And the teapot is not actually in my presence.  The teapot, and the entire experience, is not actually there with me, and yet I benefited from it.  Wild, no?

 

What does this have to do with Ravelry?

 

When I pick out a sweater I want to knit, these days, I go check it out on Ravelry.  I usually have the information on hand (sizing and whatnot), but what I want is to see it on bodies that are not models.  (I have a great deal of admiration for models.  They tend to be on the lovelier side of human, but even they must know deep down that they will forever be faced with the challenge of comparing themselves to their most beautiful, as well all do, really, except that the public will help them, like small children will help you paint the bathroom, only snarkier.)  I try to look for bodies that kind of look like mine, so I can see that the sweater I really liked, drapey and luscious in the photos, might actually look semi-luscious on someone whose shape resembles my own.

 

They never do.  Never.  Almost always, the lovely woman (men on Ravelry rarely have my curves) wearing my sweater is wearing a sweater that is not all that flattering to me.  She looks nice, she’s trying to take good and useful photos, but I’m momentarily despondent because the sweater won’t make me look like the model in the knitting magazine.  Not any more than it did for the Ravelry knitter who posted.  It will only make me look like me, in a new sweater.

 

And here’s where the detachment comes in:  I knit it anyway.

 

Wait!  I’m not stupid!  There are reasons to knit the sweater.  It’s a beautiful garment.  It’s a style that will go well with other things I wear, with my lifestyle and activities.  I have the skills, and maybe it will stretch me to learn new ones, sometimes.  I will finish it, and write about it (erm, sometimes), not because the sweater will change me physically but because it will change me inside.  I did this thing, and it was an awesome thing to do.  Even more awesome, if I use some of my newly-practiced skills at fitting and shaping garments to help it fit me well.  If I feel good wearing it.  Even with my eyes closed.  Even with no one there to tell me I look pretty.  I can give the sweater away and I will still have knit something that makes me feel good.  Like my virtual cup of tea, the experience of knitting the sweater is mine and not separate from me.  And my wander over to Ravelry will remind me of that, every time.

 

Here’s a sweater I knit this spring.  It’s the Jackaroo cardigan by Amy Herzog, from Knitty‘s First Fall 2013 issue.  (Sorry for the blurriness!)

 

Wensleyroo

Wensleyroo

 

I love this sweater.  I knit it with yarn a beautiful friend gifted me from a sheep she knows, a mostly-Wensleydale in shiny black-brown wool.  (I made a lot of Wallace and Gromit jokes while knitting it.)   It was spun fine, so I doubled it to get gauge, fully intending it to be heavier than the original garment.  Living in San Diego, I could see it becoming my coldest-weather outerwear, and its slight scratchiness didn’t bother me at all because of that.  Being an Amy Herzog sweater, the shaping was excellent, and I have come to understand how to make the necessary changes so that the torso fits well and the shoulders and arms, even though the shoulders and arms are generally two sizes smaller on a given pattern, for me, than the torso.   I’m very happy with it.  And it has pockets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In process with the Betsy-Tacy quilt.

I was sitting here yesterday on the little sofa in the front window. The front window is a big plate-glass window that looks east, over the street, and I’ve been bringing the Betsy-Tacy quilt here to hand-tie in the mornings. I can hear the birds calling and responding as the light creeps up behind the buildings across the street. Yesterday, as I sat here and worked, a hummingbird came to rest upon one of the tallest boughs of our weeping willow outside the window. And she just rested. Many of our hummingbirds have rufous heads and breasts and bright green bodies but she was dark-headed and grayish-bodied and she just sat and bobbed on the slender, bending bough. Benjamin came to sit on the arm of the sofa behind me, snuggled into my neck, and watched her too.

I’ve been working on this quilt and thinking about the next. I am really enjoying the literature interpretations as quilts; there is something thoughtful about them, as though something outside of me is telling me how to get them right, and finding a way to do this is like completing a satisfying puzzle. The one I’m working on right now is just a charm quilt, random pieces 3″ square, and I had planned to quilt it in some way–perhaps as a map of the town where the girls live, or perhaps a simple grid–on the sewing machine. It would be done faster, certainly. And I even began doing it. But the quilt argued with me. It was actually kind of painful to quilt on the machine. This quilt wanted to be tied. It was an old-fashioned quilt dedicated to a simple, old-fashioned heroine and it wanted a very simple finish. This is not to say an easy one–my fingers have felt bruised for days! But it’s gentler, somehow. I’m not throwing the machine at it. I’m touching each piece, remembering how much I liked that fabric, smoothing a square, making sure the tie is secure, moving on. Playing games with the pattern I make with the embroidery floss before I snip it into short lengths. I know, it’s kind of silly. I mean, it’s layers of cloth; aren’t I in charge? And why not do it in a way that is faster and in the end may even be more sturdy? Why be doing it at all?

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I have to respect the wishes of the fabric because the fabric has taken on a life of its own, and it is connected to and mindful of its origins in the work of Maud Hart Lovelace. These little squares are my thoughts: wouldn’t Betsy have worn these two together as a blouse and a skirt? This one would have looked lovely as a shirtwaist on Tacy with her red hair. What about this one as a part of Betsy’s sister’s clothes for Europe? And once they took on these connections, I had to be led where it would take me. I suppose this is part of that tenuous art/craft boundary.

But why do it at all? I sit here in the window as light begins to flood me and my project and I feel the cat snuggled in my lap under the quilt and see my Boy curled up under the completed quilt at the far end of the little sofa and I get angry, a little, at this question. I do it because it needs to be done. My fingers are doing what so many fingers have done for so long, find meaning in the base and the needful, interpret creatively what could be merely an animal skin. I respect the maker’s impulse, the push to bring out from the heart or the deep interior frontal cortex through the fingers and into the world. That means no shortcuts for the sake of shortness, because that means missing out on some part of the process that feels like it needs to be there. If I set the parameters of my project, whatever they may be and however arbitrary they may seem, I can only then respect them and go where they take me. To not respect them is to disrespect myself and the validity of my impulse to make.

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This is where I don’t accidentally pour tea all over the quilt and computer.

Coming back to the world.

I’ve been sick.

It’s been a weird kind of illness–no sneezing, very little coughing, but four or five days of laying in bed, sweating and freezing, and now a week later and I still have far less stamina than I did.  My legs get very cold, very easily.  Every day I can go a little longer, but Chris comes home at the end of the day and asks how I am and all I can say is, “I’m tired.”

But oh, I feel pretty well at the beginning of the day. I’m almost back to my 6:30 wake up, and over the last few weeks as I’ve worked on quilts I’ve been doing so in the front room (the library-playroom) on the worn-out little sofa in front of the big east-facing window. It’s San Diego, so as such we don’t as a rule have Weather;  but still, it’s been nice, looking out that east-facing window, at the sky so grey and cloud-covered that you’d think (if you weren’t used to it) that there must be rain coming. And the birds are so excited that it is spring, so I sit and listen to them chatter as I pull stitches through. Occasionally we get a hummingbird with a brilliant red throat come and sit on one of the willow branches outside the window. Then the sun comes up behind the grey sky cover, and warm fuzzy patches develop like wool has been overlaid on the sky, and suddenly the sun is up and there are runners and people with dogs and cars beginning the trek to Sorrento Valley.  I feel like a spy then, curled up under the half-finished quilt, watching.

Notes from our trip, continued.

We had arrived in London, and it was our first night.  I had decided that one reason I was experiencing so much stress about this trip was the feeling that there were so many things I should do.  I lay there, trying to sleep because I knew I’d wish I had later, and thinking maybe I would read a book, but I shouldn’t, certain there were more important things to do.

Really? What is more important at 3am?

So I had some tea (funny how hydration helps those headaches!) and some of the dried apricots and nut mix that the Boy picked out for us, and it was time to curl up under a blanket and not make plans, not be worried about anyone’s edification (though did I mention how interested the Customs agent was in Homeschooling?) and not be worried about the dreaded Missing of the Train. Rather, I read some Pratchett (Small Gods) and drank more tea (kava kava) and listened to the sounds of the world waking up and of B whistling to himself as he read.

Good night, San Diego. Good morning, London.

Later…  The room is quiet. Outside I hear the sounds of people talking, cleaning the kitchen after late-evening guests. We’re staying in t’Hert (“The Deer”), a tavern in Genk, Belgium, and outside, from the thin metal balcony, I can see through the greenhouse-style skylight and white-and-gold gauze curtains to the diners below.

I love this little balcony. When we booked this hotel (sorry, tavern), we had the option of a room with a bathtub or a room with a balcony. Immediately B chose the balcony and I was with him. It didn’t really matter what it looked down upon. I just liked the idea.

The little white pressed-metal balcony looks out over the roofs of other buildings, a few trees in the distance, nothing special… Except for the area directly below our room.

I cannot figure out the topography here. There are the skylight and a differently-shaped one, more like a transparent hangar, and a completely flat one the size of a double bed, and they are all in a sort of hidden trench between the rooftops of this urban landscape. A few fruit trees grow in pots there, and every time I’ve looked down on this hidden space, an older man was sitting there, on a metal garden chair, smoking something smelly and smiling up at us. I cannot figure out how he has inserted himself into the space (where is the door? The urban equivalent of a rabbit hole?) and I am reminded that so many of my favorite old tales began in places like this.

We did not stay long in Brussels, but Bing and I really liked Genk.  He, in particular, likes the fountain that we discovered in a kind of courtyard–long and flat, maybe 1″ – 3″ deep but 40′ long by 15′ wide, with spouting water that he chased from one spout to another until he was soaked through. He walked home to the hotel, happy and squelching, with a bag of mystery cheese and mashed potatoes for our dinner.

London notes, Day 3

Slept for 11 hours last night. It felt like my bones were stretching. When I woke up for the first time, it was still dark and I remember thinking to myself, “Why in all creation am I awake?” The second time it was still dark and I thought, “Why–?” The third time my alarm went off and I turned if off and went back to sleep. The fourth time was the breakfast arriving at my room. And it was pretty good, a Fair Trade Twinings certified as official and all by the Queen. I feel good knowing that the Queen has certified my tea.

Then, as I ate breakfast, I watched this, sent to my by my brother-in-law. It’s beautiful, and so good to remember to look, look, look and be grateful. It’s an attitude I want to remember to cultivate while I am here. Sometimes when I travel alone (not that it happens all that often, but when it has), I want to put on my hard shell of toughness, which is a bit necessary for self-preservation and defense when you wander a strange city. But I don’t want to let that shell turn into coolness and blase, I don’t want to forget to be wondering, wonder-ful, as I wander this amazing place. I am so lucky to be here!

And when I’m at home, I’m so, so lucky to be there.

John’s email meant that instead of listening to the news (which I don’t do at home, but do sometimes do when I’m on a trip, to kind of surround myself in what-they-do-hereness), I’m listening to George Winston as I prepare for the day. It definitely gives a different flavor to my breakfast.

Later…
After some toast and muesli and tea, I jotted some notes for my foray into the world, put something into nearly every pocket, and was off. My list went something like this:
1. Cecil Court
2. Trafalgar Square
3. National Gallery
4. Big Ben/Houses of Parliament
5. Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church
6. Across Westminster Bridge (with a photo of the London Eye for the Boy) to
7. The Imperial War Museum*
8. If I still had energy, the British Museum (which is open late on Fridays)

Okay, my list was slightly less tidy than this.

Things to Do, With Directions


However, I was full of energy after 11 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep, so with saggy pockets I leapt out of the elevator (no mean feat considering that the elevator is only the size of my grandmother’s deep freezer and the door is about 2 feet wide. Leaping through it takes finesse).

I took the Bakerloo line down to Leicester Square. I was filled with joy as soon as I emerged into the daylight. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not hot, and I was in one of my favorite places in the world: Leicester Square. I didn’t even need my copious notes. I found the art supply store right away, and stood with my nose nearly pressed against one window. I’m sure they get a lot of odd ducks in there (it is an art supply store) but still… I didn’t really need anything, and contemplated buying some spray mount just as a memento, but figured that the TSA would probably frown on it.

Then I got turned around. It’s not my fault! They are doing a huge amount of construction in all those little streets around the theaters (excuse me, theatres) in preparation for the Olympics next year and Cecil Court wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Instead, the National Portrait Gallery was. I was somewhat dismayed and went around the building, thinking surely the National Gallery was just putting up a lot of signs around town for their exhibits and with Trumpets and Fanfare, there it was.

Trafalgar Square.

My first thought was, “But I’m not ready for it yet!” It was third on my list! I drifted slowly to the railing overlooking the fountains. Behind me, in the square before the National Gallery, a mime was waltzing with a life-sized puppet attached to his body, his music loud. A group of kids and their teacher arrived at the railing. The teacher began to talk to her students, asking them questions.

Teacher: So, who can tell me where we are?
In unison: Trafalgar Square.
Teacher: And what–
Multiple kids, spotting the mime: Ooh, cool! What’s he doing? What’s that with him? I like the music.
Teacher: Very nice, but now we’re talking bout Trafalgar Square. The tall obelisk is in honor of Horatio Nelson–
Kids, now facing the mime with their backs to the Square: Ooo, look at him now!

The two boys next to me were oblivious to everyone else. They, at least, were observing Trafalgar Square.
Boy 1, informatively: That fountain is deep.
Boy 2: I could jump in that. I could swim in that.
Boy 1: It’s really deep.
Boy 2: If I jumped in, it would probably come up to my neck.

But they were interrupted, because their whole class was moving over to watch the mime.

Fine. I was going to look at Trafalgar Square (#3 on the list) first. I glanced down at the brass plaque conveniently located near my elbow, which labeled everything I could see. Nelson. The lions. The plinths. “Impressive buildings.” An embassy or two. I looked at the generals, George IV on his horse, and the big ship-in-a-bottle that is on the fourth plinth. I saw the lions. I thought about the whole place being filled to the eyeballs with joyful people on VE Day in 1945. I got a little misty-eyed. Then, I turned around to go find Cecil Court. I didn’t want to get distracted by the National Portrait Gallery until I had visited my favorite place in London first. I found it easily enough once I realized that my orientation had been turned around (easy to do; London is NOT built on a grid). Cecil Court is a tiny little street that feels hundreds of years old and is filled with bookstores (new, old, antiquarian), map shops, shops selling old war emblems and authentic Nazi travel papers (with photos!). One shop sold ephemera and had a tea-towel in the window reading, “Weak Tea, Weak Mind.” I was very tempted. I didn’t buy anything, though I might go back next week. I just needed to visit Cecil Court. It made me feel like I had really arrived.

Then I got lost trying to find the National Gallery.

I went back the way I came, I swear, but each time (I think it took five or six times to get it right) I passed something new. James Earl Jones is doing Driving Miss Daisy right now. And the Odeon Leicester Square brings its popcorn in, in giant bags as big as me, on a pallet-dolly. And why am I wandering through Chinatown…?

Finally made it back to the Gallery, had some lunch (goat cheese and courgette fritatta and tomato salad, with apple-elderberry juice) and wandered the gallery. It had a beautiful exhibit of comedian portraits, and one of glamour shots of famous stars from the ’40s (but the line was pretty long for that one and I was on the clock today!). Then off, down Whitehall which blends into Parliament Street and then into St. Margaret’s. The teeming masses were teeming, and we were all tourists together, so I tucked everything more firmly into my pockets, made sure my backpack zippers were all snugged up, and pulled out my camera. I took a lot of photographs. I try not to take too many when I travel, as a rule–I don’t want to live through the lens, I want to have experiences and taking too many photos makes you stand out as a tourist, but in that area of town, where Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are across the street from Westminster Abbey, there is no unique experience. You are just one more touristy body. So, I take a photo. But I try to get something different out of it. Also, these are the famous things that the Boy would like to see.

I love little St. Margaret’s Church, on the grounds of Westminster Abbey (I didn’t even try to go in there–the line was hours long) and I was lucky, because the choir was practicing, so I sat down and listened to them sing “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3,” to the tune of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” I don’t know, is this normal for choral groups? Anybody?

Also, in one of the stained glass windows in says, “Thou has been faithful over a few things.” Is this damning with faint praise? But then, why put someone in the window of The Official Church of Parliament if you are going to say, “mmm, not so shabby, your deeds”? I don’t know.

Oh, and then I remembered the Jewel Tower! So I went around back of Westminster Abbey and there it was. The little tower that could. Built in 1365 to house the personal wealth of the king (including his armory), it sat in the corner of Westminster Palace grounds with a moat all around. Now it has a quarter moat and a wee garden and you can visit its inside, which is mostly all still medieval, including a ceiling imp that glowers at you. There is a very interesting exhibit inside that explains how British government works, and talks about the civil war and Cromwell and the Restoration and how it was that William and Mary actually became co-regents, and it is all so medieval-now-Renaissance and stone and deep defensible windows and an iron door from James I’s reign and suddenly! There are photos of it as the official location of the Weights and Measures office and tables with scales all over them. The mind reels as history comes pouring in your ears.

Nice walk across the road to say hi to Big Ben, who didn’t look at all listy, then across the river, stopping to take a photo of Queen Boadicea and her daughters, evidently fleeing the Romans (or trampling them under the hooves of her prancing horses) and another of the London Eye. Then tramp, tramp, tramp, off I go to the Imperial War Museum. (Yes, I now have the Emperor’s theme in my head. Dun dun dun dun da dun, dun da dun…) I passed the Three Stags, which looked like a lovely pub, all renaissance and windowed, painted black and green, old man at a table outside with a beer in front of him, and Winnie-the-Pooh painted on each big window. According to their sandwich board out front, all honey will be donated to the British Heart Association.

Finally made it to the museum. There are giant guns mounted in front of the building. They are quite impressive, and longer than my house is tall. Inside, a guard lackadaisically checked my bag and let me go through. I thought to myself that he hadn’t checked very well, what if I were really packing? I came to a stop as I opened the doors to go in. I was confronted with a room packed to the gills with tanks, fighter planes and bombs. Clearly, the guard was not at all concerned with my backpack.

I will say right now that this museum was the highlight of all museums for me so far. I love the V&A with all my heart but as a museum, this was amazing. It had displays that were packed with items, all well themed and well labeled. They were not large rectangular spaces filled along the walls with cases; rather, one navigates a warren of cases that all lead in fairly predictable (for the staff) directions, but seem surprising to the visitor. Yet you end up where you are supposed to go, looking at things in the right order. At odd turns and corners there are videos set up, playing film shot at the time. I was there for three and a half hours and was only able to focus on a few exhibits: World War I, World War II, The Children’s War and 1940’s House, and Once Upon A Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children. The World War I exhibit has a part called “The Trench” in which you wander through a real trench, listening to the sounds and smelling smells and being surprised by what you see. Trench warfare was nasty. And the World War II area includes The Blitz Experience, in which you sit in the dark in an air raid shelter listening to the conversation of your “fellow” shelter inhabitants, waiting for the bombs… and when they happen, you are led on a tour to see the fallout. I didn’t take any photos of that area because it tended to be dark, but for the fires. The Children’s War and 1940’s House were wonderful, too, seeing it from so many different angles and hearing recounts from people who were children then, and were evacuated. I cried for a time in that exhibit. Classic War Stories for Children impressed me a great deal. It was a special exhibit, which you had to pay for, but was clearly intended for children as an audience. It focused on five children’s books about wartime, had exhibition materials (the suitcase of an evacuee, a barn with a model of a warhorse that was used for training those who were to help cavalrymen in WWI) but also had a child’s-eye level running series of synopses on small 3″x5″ tiles. Between each tile (a quote from the book) was an actor playing the main character(s), emoting what is happening with no background, just the actor in costume. I cannot exaggerate how impressed I was by this museum. And I completely missed their Holocaust area, and any wars after 1945. I just ran out of time.

Oh, and they had so many lovely wartime cooking and Make Do and Mend items in the gift shop! And the poster that read “Our Jungle Fighters Want Socks–Please Knit Now”!

But it was time to come home. The British Museum will have to wait until next week, because I was very tired and though I’d have had the energy to go a bit longer, my feet hurt and I have to be up at 5:30am to catch my train. That’s early enough that the hotel won’t even feed me my already-paid-for breakfast. They offered me a Boxed Snack, but I could tell that this is code for Thing I Won’t Like That I Have To Throw Mostly Away. I have a sack of almonds and cashews and a banana and the means to make a cup of tea before I go (though the little milk containers read “Tastes Like Real Milk!” which makes me nervous…). My next set of notes will be mostly notes on Not London At All, I guess. And I will say, I found myself so glad and grateful for the day, and so joyful to be here, and I don’t know if it was the video or three hours of children in wartime or just London that did it.

*Bing was so happy that I was going to visit the Imperial War Museum. He was slightly less happy to realize that it was not going to reference Darth Vader or the Rebel Alliance at all, but mollified when I told him there would likely be references to World War II.

Fruity, with botanizing.

We are in road-trip mode.

Summer, at least for the last few years, seems to have a rhythm to it. At the beginning of the summer, I am exhausted from whatever things it is that I do throughout the September-to-June “school” year. Deadlines seem to march like large, intimidating tin soldiers toward me as I stand stunned in the middle of the road. The tanks are rolling forward. I sense a break and a green, untended field in the distance and I sprint…

Okay, it’s not that bad. No one is trying to mow me down. But sometimes it is difficult to step back and regard deadlines and piles as anything but a personal attack, even when they are brought on by promises that I myself have made. In any case, usually I have The Summer to look forward to. The Summer, time of no deadlines. The Summer, time of no preconceived ideas of what we should be doing. The Summer, time of breaks-from-classes. The Summer, emotionally equivalent to that luscious field of green dotted with meadow flowers.

Except that it never happens that way. We fill it up so very fast. Wonderful opportunities bang on the door. Short trips and longer ones can be planned and enjoyed. There is nothing not-good about any of what we plan, except perhaps that there isn’t enough time to enjoy everything without the feeling that I wish we could enjoy it longer and feel like we’re sleeping enough.

Oh, and I dislike hot weather.

So fall is coming and I am glad, because it is a much desired time of mellow reflection. The Fall, time of cooler weather and fewer activities, The Fall, time of resuming dance class and recorder and wondering if we’re doing all that we want to do. Er. Not so relaxing. But that’s okay. I’m laughing as I write this. My editorializing about how-it-will-be-different has never changed anything about our days. The Boy tends to learn what he needs to learn, and I tend to get to tell as many stories as my little old storytelling heart desires. Maybe I don’t do as much planning as I’d like to have done; and I think at least one of those deadlines won’t get met. Look at me, being human. I feel all humble and such.

Learning and stories: for me, that’s why we homeschool.

And in the summer, homeschooling means we get to take road-trips to see wonderful friends in interesting places, who let us crash in their guest rooms. We get to be inspired by an existence so different from our everyday, one of being awakened by chickens, and watching cartoons, and taking walks in late morning to surreptitiously pick wild plums that hang enticingly over the road and we aren’t sure if they belong to anyone but they hang, and shine, and glow at us so that I can’t help picking just one or two… every block or so… and tuck them, little globes of soft brightness, into the Boy’s sweatshirt pocket where he exclaims of their warmth. He eats a grape from a climbing vine in a lane we wander and it turns into a story about a grapeseed that sprouts into a vine, up, up the little boy’s throat and then one day, he opens his mouth and a caressing tendril uncurls, springs out of his mouth, and seeks upward, finally winding around his glasses. Grapes sprout from the boy’s ear. “Grapes covered in ear wax? Ewww!”

We’ve picked blackberries in a vineyard empty but for the bright green heart-shaped leaves and their waiting, waiting fruit. We’ve wandered other vineyards and watched a turkey vulture snacking on an illicit bovine forelimb. We’ve eaten at a French bistro, where the boy and his kindred spirit scuffle over tomato bisque and baguette slathered in butter. He’s thrown hay to sheep and gathered eggs and helped to plant a fall garden.

It feels like the deep breath, before diving into the water. It feels like watching the tin soldiers shrink, and clatter, and become dust in the road, the tanks shrivel to tumbleweeds and roll away, and all I see is the dusty lane before us, lined on either side with green grass and tiny meadow blossoms, and the occasional wild plum tree, hanging fruit over our path and tempting us on.

I want to fill his pockets. We’ll need provisions for Fall.