Transitions

The boys have gone on an adventure.  I’m sitting at our temporary, borrowed table in the kitchen of our rental (which we’ve dubbed the Slate House), looking out at a beautiful blue Craftsman house that is the neighbor across the street.  All the sounds are different and new.  There are birds that startle me with colors I’m not used to.  Our windows show people walking up and down the sidewalk where they once looked out on sky and phone wires.  This last is a disconcerting difference, as superimposing people walking where sky should be can be a shock.

I’ve been looking back on big moves in my past and I have come to a sad conclusion, namely, that I get homesick easily.  (Goodness knows I want to be Indiana Jones.  Who doesn’t?  Sigh…)  I’m excited and interested in our new home.  I want to give it the full chance it deserves.  I was a willing and decisive participant in the discussion, and in the conclusion.  Yet sadness does not easily banish.  So I’ve given myself a few days to be sad and then it has to go.  I don’t have time.  And today I am indulging in enjoying myself.  It’s good to establish happy days in the new locale.

I’m surrounded, on the temporary, borrowed table, by knitting.  Drawing materials.  A gardening book, and Linda Przybyszewski’s The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish, which is really funny and also intriguing.  And Facebook, which although it may be a time suck that usually ends up at the bottom of my things-to-do list, has been very helpful today in reminding me that I can still be in contact with the people I miss and care about.  Thank you, FB!

I’ve also decided that if I have to leave the original Treehouse—the treehouse apartment back in San Diego—that I can take the spirit of the Treehouse with me.  So I’m renaming the blog Treehouse Tea.  That’s a happy thing too.  It works to remind myself that the aspects of the Treehouse and of San Diego that I value are things that can go with me, wherever.  Like drawing, and knitting, and eating sandwiches and drinking tea, and watching clouds and making jokes and trying to not be too judgy about things.  Reading books and sewing and playing with my guys.  Cats and fish and other friends.  None of this was endemic to one place or one city.  So, I brought a little bit with me, in the treehouse, inside.

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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.

In space, but now back.

Hello, little blog! How I’ve missed you! You may not believe it, but it’s true.  It’s been a very long summer–first gray and tepid, then bright and sunny, and now hot and humid, with more water in the air than anywhere on the ground.  Chris and the Geeklet and I spent most of the month of August traveling.  Two weeks of play-living in Seattle in a little temporary Treehouse (it really was, a small apartment three floors from street level, up among the treetops with unripe apples pushing against our railings and temptingly ripe pears just, oh just out of reach).  Chris worked one of the weeks from home in a co-working space walking distance away, and we made no effort to go out of our way to sightsee, but wandered neighborhoods gasping with pleasure at the mini lending libraries on many streets…

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…and at the gardens taking up most yards and verges.  There were tomatoes and beans and zucchini and blackberries and blueberries and squash, growing like the most exotic of flowers with pride of place, right out there in front, with seeming little fear of vandalization or–gasp!–the occasional plunder.  There was one house with beautiful black fruit growing out near the sidewalk, so shiny, crisp-skinned that you could nearly see your reflection, globular.  We wondered whether this was a kind of tomato?  A round eggplant?  Its mystery was a kind of joy.

I managed to grow a few tomatoes this summer, finally.  They might even taste good.  I’m afraid to try them for fear that they don’t.  And potatoes, too!

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These were pretty yummy when Chris applied his magic touch and transformed our motley crew of Yukon Golds into his Special potatoes.  Oh, I do love potatoes.

 

On the whole, our poor garden has suffered from a lack of love.  Maintenance is not love when it is merely the occasional watering, which was done for us (thank you, thank you!) while we were gone.  In our absence, a ground-covering leafy vine which we call Morning Glory vine for lack of a name has covered everything.  It has encircled every pot and tried to eat our watermelon patch.  Poor dear watermelon patch.  It tries so hard.  It’s as though my desire to grow a decent tomato this year has taken all the will to live out of our other plants.  I tried to get down and pull out a batch of these vines and smelled something… odd.  Something a bit like cat pee.  I looked up to find a two-foot-long mutant stem of basil flowering at me.  At me.  It was malevolent, I say.

 

So, after a few weeks in Seattle and almost another week of travel to Huntsville, Alabama to go to Space Camp (YES!  We went to Space Camp!  It was awesome!), we are now home and our garden is glowering at me.  I tried to make it up to it a little this morning, by ripping up some vines and applying some compost tea.  I can still sense some simmering resentment.  The heat requires any garden-love to be early in the morning, so I’m sensing a few early-morning applications of love in the days to come.  Maybe I’ll tell the plants about Space Camp.

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.

Notes from the trip, September 19-20, 2012.

I have discovered that I enjoy traveling with Bing quite a lot. He enjoys seeing new things, still likes to be read to, and it doesn’t take much to entertain him–give him a few things and he fills in the gaps with his imagination quite nicely. We spent a lot of the flight reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. As the flight took place on a Wednesday, we had our Wednesday night movie night, and watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Bing had not seen it and was very pleased and excited by my surprise, even if it was really hard to hear over the white noise of the engines.
After all my efforts to prepare to sleep on the flight, and his sworn belief that he wouldn’t, B got more sleep than I.  I woke after a brief nap feeling sick and dehydrated, and spent the greater part of the flight in recovering (or at least maintaining) my level of health, and watching him sleep.  Thank you, peanut butter Clif bars and giant Nalgene bottles!
His only restlessness came when we had a 45-minute line at the UK Border check. But we worked with it, eventually playing a game he invented (not all that different from 20 Questions in essence).
It’s been a funny balance–he is so interested in the world, in making decisions about where we go and what we do, and I want to honor his initiative and his interests. After all, I’ve been here before and he hasn’t. But sometimes I have to decide which way to go, just to get us through Customs or to the hotel.
In a way, traveling has reminded me of what it is like to be a small child:  Why do I have to walk this way instead of that? Why do I have to stand in line for so long? What are the rules of social negotiation when it is the middle of the “night” on the plane, your neighbor is a round, wrapped ball of blankets reminiscent of an oak boll, and you have to pee?  Why do I have to go that way in the Tube station instead of this way?  What happens when I push this switch in the hotel room, unlike other switches I’ve seen before, yet somehow reminiscent of other switches I’ve seen before?  (Note for later: light switches, Don Norman, infant cognition, how do we recognize things as the thing when in an unfamiliar configuration?)
Tired though I was–and as the day came to a close I was trembling whenever I stood still–I still felt that wonderful A-ha! joy when Bing would be interested in our adventures.  When he fully explored the bathroom, in all its British foreignness (curved glass half-door, kidney-shaped tub, unfamiliar toilet).  When we went for a walk and he grabbed my hand and said, “Come on, let’s get on a bus.”  When we’d explored by sitting at the front of the upper deck of the bus and had decided to switch buses and head back, he took charge:  “That one says it goes past Marble Arch, and we passed Marble Arch on our way here–let’s take that one and explore Hyde Park before we go back!”  When he decided, as we stopped at a Marks & Spencer for snacks, that his juice has been enough carbohydrates and what we really needed was protein and went to find us nuts… in a crowded and completely new grocery space, he was unfazed.

As he played that our train was a spaceship, undaunted by the bemused gazes of the self-possessed passengers around us.

And now, despite our mutual exhaustion, we are up at 2:12 am local time. This was not my choice. Evidently 5 1/2 hours of sleep is enough for the boy, but not for me. Still, it’s a good opportunity to make notes, drink water, make a cup of tea and read a book before we catch our train to Brussels.  And maybe I’ll convince him to take a nap on the train?  Or maybe not. In that way too, not so different from toddlerhood.  Not that I’m complaining.  Toddlerhood was awesome, too.

Traveling to Places Unknown, with Boy

We traveled, we did.  For a month.  And I thought, that like last year, I was going to be all traveloguey and share the journey, ah.  Well, no.  Not really.  Part of the reason was that I was traveling to places unknown.  These not only included places I had never been to AT ALL and where they spoke random languages where the vowels were all in the wrong spots, but also cities that I had previously visited where we rented apartments with the internet in all the wrong spots.  And then, when the internet had been found, there was stuff to do, like going outside.  Yes.  And then, sleep.

 
The problem with sleep is that if I don’t lie down, I can squeeze another hour or three out of the day before I fall sideways onto a soft surface, to be kicked awake by my alarm.  However, with the Bing along, there were bedtimes, during which I (on a regular basis, believe it) let myself be suckered into reading in a prone position.  After a day of Explore there is no coming back from that.

So, no documentation, other than my British Airways ticket stub, exists to say that we went where and did what.  Oh, there were the occasional interactions with Twitter.  But Twittering can be fickle.  By the last week, I’d just given up.

 

But look!  There’s still a blog here!  Perhaps I can write down some of the things that I don’t want to forget, that we did, before I forget.  But first, I’m going to sit here and enjoy the cobwebs floating about the blog for a minute.  Excuse me.

 

Listening to:  A very odd song called “Music In Your Soup” by the Dwarf Chorus from the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs soundtrack.  There are a lot of mouth noises.  Try blowing your nose a couple of times while ringing a cowbell.  There, you’ve got it.  Oh, look, it’s another song, and it begins with the sound of someone taking a shower.  This is a strange album.