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October 31, 2021
Saturday morning I woke up to swirling wind. Out on the athletic track with the baby in the jogging stroller, I could see the waxing crescent moon overhead, and to the east, the sun rising behind Mt. Hood, an indigo silhouette outlined in orange and pink. The two old tulip trees I'd been admiring for weeks on my walk to and from school with Sky, their branches dripping gold, were already half-bare in the wind-scrubbed morning.
Every year in Portland, Fall drops like a brocade curtain over the entire city. We're struck dumb by its beauty for a few weeks, and then it seems like it's all swept away by one or two days of strong wind, ushering in winter, with its moodier palette and skeletal trees.
Pushing the stroller into the gale yesterday morning, I thought about the power of wind, an unseen force that can change the season overnight. It pushed the stroller right when I leaned left. (Iris was safely bundled in her puffy bear suit and protected by the rain cover.) It launched me into the straightaway on my first lap, and hurled me backward on the second lap. The wind was an invisible guest that morning, my silent companion in routine, keeping my senses sharp and my mind alive to the day ahead of me.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you, Rumi writes. Don't go back to sleep. This was way more than a little breeze, but it made me think about that poem, and the doorsill where the two worlds touch. I thought about how grateful I am to be alive, able to run, up early enough to feel the movement of this threshold wind. I thought about how early morning and late fall are edges, seams. Places where we are invited to honor the unseen.
Tomorrow is All Saints Day and Dia de Muertos, days set aside in different cultures for the honoring of ancestors. Our saints and loved ones are not here physically, and not visible to most, but somehow their lives remain with us. We can visit them in memory and connect to them through the cooking of a favorite meal, the lighting of a candle, the sharing of fragrant flowers. I love how these rituals involve our senses. It's a way of waking up to what is real and true, even if it can't be seen.
I bring both weariness and hope to this letter. I am weary from nights fractured by our teething baby's cries. Her shorter nap-times are changing my own rhythms for studying, writing, and self-care. I am hopeful for winter's slower, more restful tempo, and this weekend's wind is helping me let go of some of Fall's task-oriented bluster.
I hesitated to send a letter this month because I don't have any new writing to share with you, but then I realized that's exactly what I want to share and honor here: the unseen writing, working, and learning that's been happening in my heart and our house. I want to play a little with this idea of the unseen, and I hope you’ll join me.
What in your life feels unseen right now? What do you want to witness?
In the spirit of giving. This month I was invited to speak during our church's Zoom service about why our family gives, or “pledges,” to the life of the church. I spent a few weeks writing down my thoughts. It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on that process of giving, and it reminded me that our church was one of the first places where Lyle and I found friendship and connection when we moved to Portland 12 years ago.
Rewriting and rewriting some more. I've also been revising, I think for the last time, a longform essay I began last February. It's set to appear in print in early January, and I can't wait to share it with you.
Sharing words in person. Halfway through the month, I got to participate in an outdoor poetry reading at 1122 Outside, a wonderful backyard community art gallery hosted by my friend Jesse and his wife Jen. It was refreshing to get to share my work with an audience again, something I haven't done in a long time, and I loved listening to poetry from Ryan Newton and Thomas Walton, plus live music from Ivory Smith, who collaborated with Thomas to bring set some of his poetry to music. It felt like she created a different “room” of sound for each of Thomas's poems.
Invisibility cloaks. With the return of the rain (hooray!), I’ve been working on sewing projects in the evenings after the kids are in bed, usually with some tea and a podcast. (I loved this episode on fall reading from the Girl Next Door Podcast, and Coffee and Crumbs' recent 2-part episode on friendship.) I finished a gray linen Forager Vest for myself, and two little capes for Sky and Iris-- Iris's in red with a mint-green lining printed with tiny Red Riding Hoods, and Sky's in Elsa-blue with a white flannel snowflake-print lining. Halloween was a little rough on everyone, as you can see above, but we more or less made it through
Hidden veggies. I've been getting creative mixing veggies into more of our family's meals, in an effort to diversify my 3-year-old's very limited food choices. (One epic fail was sneaking a little V8 into his fruit juice. He was onto me: “I don't love dis, mama.”) Here are a few successes (he ate them) in case you want to repeat the experiment for yourself.
+ Grate half a carrot and a whole zucchini into any basic pancake recipe.
+ Grate one apple and one carrot into stovetop oatmeal, and be sure to let it simmer long enough to soften. Serve with milk and honey or brown sugar.
+ Double chocolate zucchini bread (this one stretches the idea of a “meal,” but I figured if I’m making dessert, might as well sneak some veggies in).
+ Cook and puree winter squash with chicken or veggie broth, then mix it into chicken noodle soup.
Magic Pumpkins. We grew our own jack-o-lanterns for the first time this year. Amazing to think they came from one small seed, in a mound of compost in the front yard.
Growth work. I've been working with a process therapist for almost two years now. I've grown so much from this work, which always pushes me to the edge of my comfort zone, in the best/hardest way. Recently I admired a print in the background of my therapist's room on the Zoom screen, and she pointed me to this incredible shop by artist and activist shreya delgado-shah flores. I bought myself a copy of this print, which celebrates the beautiful messy work of growth, something little seeds and gardeners know firsthand.