Archive for January, 2013

happy sunday

A great ride on Jackson. I tried to sink into the saddle three strides out from the fences and feel the takeoff in the base of my spine. Christi said he jumped beautifully, snapping his knees over the poles.

To Salome’s new place to see Cecil B. de Milstead in his new home. Cecil and Milo lay on cushions in a patch of sun. Milo gazed into Cecil’s eyes but it was impossible to tell where Cecil was gazing. His eyes really are beautifully crossed.

To Adventure Playground in Berkeley, where the first people we saw were Yoz and Dex. Jeremy had raved to Yoz about the place yesterday. Apparently he sold it well. It’s a playground built by kids, for kids; haphazard and magical, with boats and piano parts and a zip line. The kids can earn hammers and nails and pots of paint. Julia painted a fort green. Claire made a sundial.

California has been so sunny and beautiful and my friends are so dear to me, but I am missing Mum and Dad and Sarah and Iain and Alain so very much. I wish I could be in two places at once.

american splendor

For a day that began with Hedwig having to be towed to the garage for the third time in a month, today turned out very well. I succeeded in having Front Porch grits for breakfast, I consigned five bags of old clothes and, after I had disposed of the car, we wandered around Bernal in the sunshine and met up with Carol and Tim and Ruby and Zoe and Yoz and Dexter. There are Water Contraptions, made of plumbing parts and galvanized iron basins, outside a house at the top of Alabama Street, that we would never have seen however many times we drove past them.

Yesterday was also memorably splendid: a good ride on Jackson, with one circle where I felt myself weighting the outside stirrup in an effective way; lunch at Inka’s, and being asked my opinion on a saddle by a passer-by who had it in his truck, because he recognized that I was still in my breeches and riding boots;  dropping the kids at their piano classes while meeting Cecil the cross-eyed cat at the SPCA, and being struck by his temperamental likeness to Ross’s Oscar, the nicest cat in the world. Salome took Cecil home. He is now Cecil B. de Milstead.

tongues of serpents and ambiguous loss

In Sydney I always want to read books about Australia and books by women. On this trip, I wanted to read books with dragons in them, too. Luckily Naomi Novik’s Tongues of Serpents exists to fill this very specific niche.

…no one could be immune to the almost shocking loveliness of the immense harbor: one bay after another curving off the main channel, and the thickly forested slopes running down to the water, interspersed with stretches of golden sand.

The dragons were there for their mixture of violence and lovingkindness; like cats, like life. For roughly the same reasons I read Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief by Pauline Boss.

“Don’t stay away from your homeland more than three months or you’ll never again know where home is.” …The immigration experience provides special insights into how people learn to let go of what used to be in order to embrace the new.

That was a little more unsettling than I’d hoped.

this is how we do it now

Nightmares again; this time trying to explain to Cameron why I am no longer a Christian. Or rather, trying to fathom why he is, after all that has happened. Confusion and incomprehension.

It was MLK Day, which I had off but Jeremy did not. I took the girls ice skating. We met Gilbert and Heather and Ada and Heath and Max and Noemi and Jim there, and also – surprise! – Heike and Kira, who I had not seen since Kira finished her lessons at Petit Baleen. It was good to see them! Heike and I took Julia skating between us, and then Julia got brave and skated with just me, and even on her own. Claire skated with Ada and struck out alone as well.

I was very wobbly to begin with, but I kept my chin up and looked where I was going and waited for my muscle memory to kick in again. I have a riding mantra at the moment – I correct part of my body then try to set and forget it, saying to myself “This is how we do it now.” My big fault is always overthinking and overcorrecting, so I’m trying to just fix one thing at a time and then relax. By the end I was skating around all right. I couldn’t turn and skate backwards, but considering I haven’t skated at all since the eighties, it wasn’t too bad.

We visited the MLK fountain in honor of the day, then went home to wait for a tow truck to come and get Hedwig. (Not starting again. Gary thinks the new starter engine is faulty.) I made Claire watch the inaugural address with me, and when Obama got to “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall” – tribute to the coalition that elected him, atlas of the America I love and hope to live up to – she said:

“This is why I don’t want to be a grownup. You’re always crying when people are just saying words.”

“you’re funny, mama”

I drag a weeping child out on an errand and return with a child that is giggling.

Me: That was some good parenting there.

Julia: Huh?

Me: Admit it. Say, “Mama, you are wise.”

Julia: Mama, you are pies.

Me: What? There’s no such thing as pies!

Julia: Yes there is!

Me: I don’t believe in pies.

nerdcore marriage at its insightful best

Me: I dreamed about privilege. Like, privilege made concrete. It was this beautiful school or college for boys, only for boys, built out of sandstone with gardens inside that you could only catch glimpses of if you were locked out, which I was. Like Cambridge. And I realized I thought that would cure my depression. It was the Opposite Of Depression. I know how ridiculous it is but that’s how it felt.

Jeremy: Belvedere.

Me: …?

Jeremy: All those Escher paintings that go round and round in circles and defy physics.

family as bearing witness

Me: Dad told us about how when he was seventeen he built a radio controlled boat from a kit and sailed it in the pond at Kew Gardens.

Big: I remember that boat.

Me: You do?

Big: It was in the lawnlocker.

Me: Oh my God. I think I remember it too. About yea big?

Big: Yeah.

Me: I can see the curve of it. And smell what the lawnlocker smelled like. I would never have remembered that on my own, not in a million years.

the feast of the epiphany

We had another dinner at the Playhouse last night for the remnant population: Mum, Dad, the Marretts and the Fitzhardinges. Haddon made chicken in a mushroom sauce with broccoli and perfect roast potatoes like Mum used to make – that is, parboiled then deep fried, so that the insides were creamy and the outsides were golden crisp.

Conversation was flagging until I realized it was the eleventh anniversary of another Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the Worst Dinner Party I Ever Threw, Oh My God, Now That I Think About It That Story Doesn’t Reflect Well On Me, At All. I made my way through a bottle of Oyster Bay Marlborough sav blanc and tried to tell the sorry tale. I told it very badly, but it encouraged everyone else to tell stories of terrible parties, and then to share memories of great ones, like Sarah’s 21st, at which Dad skipped around the Bluegum Crescent house for hours, filling peoples’ glasses of champagne.

And so just for a little while, last night was one of our great parties, too.

me and dad

DSC_3262 by Goop on the lens
DSC_3262, a photo by Goop on the lens on Flickr.

so this is my family

DSC_2774 by Goop on the lens
DSC_2774, a photo by Goop on the lens on Flickr.

Yup. That’s us all right.

sarah said: it was only a small one

As if falling in a creek, climbing a tree, diving off a diving board and gazing at stars weren’t enough of a spectacular day for Claire, she also got to make the best joke. I was chasing Jeremy across the pool when he stopped fleeing and started laughing: “You’ve had a nipple slip,” he said. I was mortified, so I pulled my swimsuit back up over my wayward left breast and went to tell my sister all about it.

Back story: we’ve been sharing the Playhouse Hotel with Skydive Maitland. Their toll free number – 130013 JUMP – is plastered across their van in a font that makes the digits “13” look like the letter “B”. Yeah, that’s right. B00BJUMP.

That is why Claire said to Sarah: “Mama had a boob jump!”


I was so not in the mood to go into Tamworth this morning. I IMed with my sister about it last night and she understood, but I was still worried my mum would be hurt. When I said to her at breakfast:

“I’ve been having second thoughts about Tamworth…”

she interrupted to say “Oh thank God.”

So that was that sorted. Instead, we loaded Dad into the passenger seat of my rented Mitsubishi Lancer (his name is Boy Racer) and drove back up to the Horton Falls, where we’d spent a happy morning last year. We all clambered down to the waterhole and Dad and I sat under a tree talking for an hour while Jeremy dangled himself off cliffs with his camera and the girls fell into the creek. It was exactly what I needed. Using my words! Asking for what I need! It’s no guarantee that I will get what I need, but it makes it a damn sight easier for people to give it to me if they are so inclined.

We came back and had lunch and Claire climbed a tree and Dad joined us for mah jongg before we headed down to the pool, where Julia swam the width and Claire leaped off the diving board about one thousand times. And then we went back to Sarah’s for chicken and wasabi prawns, and Sarah’s friend Jane had made the world’s single greatest pavlova, so we ate the heck out of that.

Sarah and Mum had organized for me to buy a painting by Rupert Richardson, and I finally got to see it on this trip. It’s acrylic or oils maybe? A landscape with a mass of mountain hulking across it in cobalt. It reminded us all of the drive back from Upper Horton last year, when we drove through country so beautiful it hurt your eyes. When Dad brought the map of the Horton River for us to study, I noticed that Rupert Richardson’s property sits at the crossroads there. Curious, I googled the strange name written on the painting: Grattai. It is a mountain in the Nandewar Ranges. We would have passed it when we drove to Narrabri a couple of years ago.

Jeremy’s Dad was the best man at Rupert Richardson’s wedding, and Jeremy remembers driving out to that property to watch Halley’s Comet. Tonight was clear and instead of coming straight back to the Playhouse, we drove down to the river park to look at the stars. For every star you can see from San Francisco, Barraba has a hundred. Jeremy pulled up the star map on his phone and we discovered that the star, big as a fist, snapping at Orion’s heels, was Jupiter.

I watched Claire watching stars with a glad heart. It was my Dad who showed me the Galilean moons, my Dad who taught me to navigate by Orion, my Dad who stood next to me when I looked at Halley’s comet. I chose my father well and am so grateful.

because ponies

I spent New Year’s Day as I mean to go on: at a Welsh pony farm. We first visited three years ago and these pictures are from that first visit, but Ruth and her red stallion Paris haven’t changed a bit. Jeremy’s pet name for Paris is “Boy Band Hair.”

Dad didn’t come with us this time but he and I enjoyed our last visit:

That was a good day.

three things for the elven-kings under the sky

  1. On the way to visit Jeremy’s aunt and uncle in Nana Glen we borrowed an iPod from Kelly, who is seventeen. Her musical taste overlaps with mine at a single point – P!nk – so we played “So What” and I changed the words: “Nanana nana nana, nanana Nana Glen!”
  2. Wollomombi and Chandler Falls are very spectacular, and nearby there is a general store and cafe where we had meat pies and strawberry milkshakes, sitting in a butterfly garden. I promised to recommend it to my friends and so I do.
  3. When I was at university I dreamed of entering a very specific adult world that was represented by excellent parties in Newtown terrace houses with original Martin Sharp Nimrod theatre posters hanging framed on the walls. I was talking to Mum in the lounge of the Playhouse Hotel when Andrew, the owner, brought me a glass of wine. “Is that a Martin Sharp?” I asked him, gesturing with my sauvignon blanc to a very good picture on the wall. “Yes it is,” he said. “Martin’s my cousin.”