I Am Trying To Identify Some Plants Around Here

IMG_2457This is some kind of pine. Big flat pieces with soft and short needles.

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Ivy, but what kind of ivy?  It is taking over a lot of the property, and it’s gotta go.

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These are really pretty trees, but I have no idea what they are. No fruit, no flowers. Is it really a tree, or just a big bush?

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This is a bush thing. The branches are really brittle when they die and you can crush them like balsa wood.

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This is…something.

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This is what I am most interested in. It is a vine, and it grows like ivy…but it doesn’t look like ivy.  The leaves look like aspen leaves, but they are growing up the trees, which isn’t good.

“We’re Sorry, But You Are Too Deep For Us.”

Nothing like bringing out the intense, poetic hubris in me than rejection letters that say I am too deep for them.

 

Right??

“Hi, Tamarah. thanks for writing!  Sorry to add to the rejection thingy, but don’t think this quite works. It’s deep and a wee vague, we’re hands on and nitty gritty. Best, pam”

This isn’t the first rejection letter I have gotten, and it certainly isn’t the second, either.  Being a writer and feeling the sting of rejection is a passionate relationship that never ends.  If you write, in any form, you are only pleasing yourself.  The chances of pleasing anybody else with your writing drops off the map as soon as you post it into the world.  The momentum for falling off the map of acceptance intensifies when you begin to write poetry.

The problem with poetry is….

There are lots of problems with poetry.  Some problems are on the poet’s side, some problems are on the reader’s side.  Sometimes poetry is too obscure to understand on the first read.  Sometimes poetry is too simple, and it is just embarrassing how bad it is.  Sometimes the reader doesn’t understand how to read poetry, and sometimes the reader can understand it too well…and dismiss it as rubbish.  There is a lot going on with poetry, all in all.  The same reader who loves Robert Frost will hate Tracy K. Smith, while those of us who love Tracy K. Smith will still be able to see the poetic honesty in Robert Frost.

The relationship people have with poetry will never be easy.  In short: it’s complicated.

It isn’t too dissimilar to being a SysAdmin, I don’t think.  A SysAdmin is responsible for… honestly, I am married to a SysAdmin and I know what a SysAdmin does, but that is like defining what a mother does.

What does a SysAdmin do?  everything.

But I’m sure there is a better, clearer definition out there:

A system administrator, or sysadmin, is a person who is responsible for the upkeep, configuration, and reliable operation of computer systems; especially multi-user computers, such as serversThe system administrator seeks to ensure that the uptime, performance, resources, and security of the computers he or she manages meet the needs of the users, without exceeding the budgetTo meet these needs, a system administrator may acquire, install, or upgrade computer components and software; provide routine automation; maintain security policies; troubleshoot; train and/or supervise staff; or offer technical support for projects.

That is a pretty good summary.  There is a lot more to it, like, “you need to know where everything is, how everything works, who is using everything, how to fix everything when everything is bungled, how to warp time,” etc.

 

 That is correct, Thor.  I, indeed, read all your emails.

SysAdmins are very much like Heimdall, the guard in Asgard.  “Heimdall is the god of light, the son of nine mothers . He was born at the end of the world and raised by the force of the earth, seawater and the blood of a boar. Because of his shining, golden teeth he is also called Gullintani (“gold tooth”). His hall is Himinbjorg, The Cliffs of Heaven, and his horse is Gulltop. Heimdall carries the horn Gjallar.”

“He is the watchman of the gods and guards Bifrost, the only entrance to Asgard, the realm of the gods. It is Heimdall’s duty to prevent the giants from forcing their way into Asgard. He requires less sleep than a bird and can see a hundred miles around him, by night as well as by day. His hearing is so accurate that no sound escapes him: he can even hear the grass grow or the wool on a sheep’s back.”

 

And I think Heimdall is also very much like poets.

He lives by himself and watches Asgard.  He guards the burning rainbow bridge called the Bifrost, which leads into the world.  He sees all, hears all, and is fiercely protective of what he loves.  He is overly dramatic and will stand his ground regardless of what god demands anything from him.

Tell me poets aren’t over-the-top dramatic like this, and I’ll tell you that you have never met a poet.

“The world revolves around me!” “Poetry is the verse of life!” “You just don’t get me, man.”

 

 

Yet, even poets are unable to truly define what it means to be a poet:

The definition-

“Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be ‘the expression of the imagination’: and poetry is connate with the origin of man. Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted. Poetry is a sword of lightning, ever unsheathed, which consumes the scabbard that would contain it. All high poetry is infinite; it is as the first acorn, which contained all oaks potentially.”  –Percy Blythe Shelley

The emotion-

Poetry is not a turning lose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.  But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”     -T.S.Eliot
The ego-

I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is prose; words in their best order; -poetry; the best words in the best order.”    -S.T. Coleridge

 

Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.”      -Dylan Thomas

And finally-

Poetry is simply the most beautiful, impressive, and widely effective mode of saying things, and hence its importance.”    -Matthew Arnold

 

Poets are pretty impressive people, you have to admit.  They literally walk around the world with this hubris within them, as if it is totally normal to do so.

So, without further ado, and with much hubris, here is a poem I wrote last year.

 

The Buffalo In The Room

by Tamarah Rockwood

Sometime, in between, the beats of torn petals

we meet in the parlor, sharing

a mint mocha called a Snuggler

and scrape the soft, slightly melty chocolate chips

out of the nook at the bottom of the tall

glass, garage sale, cafe` cup.

Somewhere in between little chuckles and

bullish smiles, quickly hidden by a napkin,

we stare at our fingers.

Sequentially, beating the dance of our parents

on the timeworn wooden table, shuffling silverware

shoulder shaking the hustle to the rhythm of our screed.

A lifesize buffalo head looms over our table

as our spirit animal.  He remembers the days

of indulgent opportunity, the long days on the long American veldt

spent in slow ambulate with his tribe.

Minding the calves and entertaining the satisfied ladies.

With a glassy stare he could almost see the valley

filled with long shadows, thrown in billows over the tributary

leading to the Missouri River,

whose waters dried up after Jesse James was shot in 1882.

5 Phrases You’ll Hear In A Big Family

We have 7 humans, 2 cats, a few chickens and a dog in this house…there are some phrases that come up frequently.

Statistically, given the number of people and the amount of things we do together, there are phrases that will come up sometimes.

There are phrases that will come up occasionally.

And there are phrases that will come up regularly.

 

1. “I Am Trying To Do My Work Alone…”

Ima just gonna stop you there, son.

I haven’t gone to the bathroom by myself for the past 10 years.  We have 7 people in this house at all times, and although we have lots of space inside, and a whole forest outside…we tend to like to hang out together.  That means you are doing your schoolwork with somebody either sitting next to you, near you, or on you.  Dinner is together, sleeping is together, playing is together and quiet time is together.

Now, granted, it is important to have some alone time.  It would be weird if we didn’t have some time by ourselves, at some point.  I have always said that I I really, really, need to be alone I take a shower.  Most of the time, this works!

But in the end, it is really better to work together.  I would rather be a part of my family and working with them on anything, than on my own.  When I work with my family, we come up with better ideas together, better plans, and better memories.  You can’t really beat that!

 

 

 

2. “Roll Your Window Up”

This seems weird, but it is a daily phrase for us.  In a car with 4 functioning windows, there is always someone who wants their window down.

 

Me: “Can you roll your window up?”

Her: “No. I’m singing my song.” (proceeds to sing her song to the world for the next 10 minutes)

 

Maybe this is really a metaphor for having 7 very independent people living together.  We all may be doing the same thing, or going to the same place, but we will each be doing it a little differently.  Some of us like to have the wind in our hair and roll their windows down, even when it is 36 degrees out, some of us like to take our shoes off in the car…and force us all to roll the windows down.  I’m just saying we all have our different things.

 

3.  3 out of 7 People Have Matching Socks.  

And that is just because they like matching socks (i.e., the boys).

The rest of us (i.e., the girls) are just glad we have socks.  Why would you want matching socks anyway?  What, are we going to get graded on whether or not our socks match every day?  Who are these matching sock gestapos, anyway?

 

 

4. We Buy In Bulk. The Cashiers At Costco Know Us By Name.

You show up to Costco every week an a half and buy pretty much the same things every time, with the same kids at the same hour of the day, and after a while they get to know you!

I have always liked this, honestly.  If I didn’t go, they would ask Ben how I was doing.  If Ben didn’t go, they would ask how he was doing.  They’ve always had nice conversations with our kids, and the kids have always had a good time talking with them.  There wasn’t a time when I dreaded going to Costco, because we always ran into friends at the end.

It isn’t exactly a small Mayberry general store, but it isn’t too far away either!  It just goes to show you that there are tons of good people out there, still.  And that’s awesome, and I love them.

 

Our Costco is just a little bigger than this, that’s all.

 

 

 

 

5. “Is The Laundry Done?”

Nope.

Never.

But it’s in process, and we all have clothes.  And that’s something!

 

It isn’t the laundry system I use…but I kind of like the idea!

 

Signs of Your Strength: When A Challenge Is Change

 

I ran across this quote the other day, and I really liked it.  The clothes definitely don’t make the woman.  The woman will always make the clothes.  In the same way, the situation will not make the woman…but the woman will most definitely make the situation.

 

Yesterday evening, I piled the kids into the car (it’s kind of an SUV. Don’t tell anyone.) to go pick Ben up from the ferry.

I love this drive across the island.  It gets me out of the house, I have to put on real pants for it, which sometimes is a bit of a struggle on comfy days when I am warm in my sweat pants, and it is a beautiful trip through the woods to the water every day.  Plus, I get to be seen with Ben (super hot).  It is a nice break in the day that I enjoy, for a number of reasons.

After I picked Ben up we hopped over to the store for a couple things.  Bread, apples, hand lotion (it is seriously dry up here), gluten free pasta for pasta salad, cotton balls and vaseline for a quick fire starter.  When we were done with our little shopping trip and standing in line, Ben and I noticed Alice looking particularly odd: In the middle of all the bustle of unloading the cart, which is the kids’ job, she was standing perfectly still, looking directly at Ben…and chewing furiously.

She had snagged a pack of Rollos next to the checkout line, shoved two into her mouth, and was trying to chew them as quickly as she could before we noticed.

Honestly, it was hilarious watching her small act of crime played out in such a quick moment.  Her eyes held a look of fierce determination to enjoy those chocolates as long as she could before they were taken away, which they promptly were.  We talked to her about stealing and took the roll of chocolates out of her clenched fists, and left it at that.  On one hand, it was surprising to me that this hasn’t happened before.  Maybe it has and I just don’t remember it; but given the number of kids, and the number of times we have taken them to stores, statistically this should be something we have seen often.  So, that’s a good sign!

I also got to eat the rest of the Rollos.  That was a little bonus on the side.

 

Stressful situations will bring out your true nature, whether you like it or not.

I was very proud that although Alice had a small moment of thieving, she accepted the consequences after and didn’t throw a tantrum in protest.  She knew what she did went against what we have taught the kids, and she didn’t feel entitled to the chocolates when we took them away from her.  It is wrong to steal, and that’s the end of it.  Despite her little stature, she bravely accepted the discipline that was appropriate for her actions, and that is commendable.

Right now, I am stressed out…and trying to hold a commendable spirit.

This afternoon a real estate agent is going to be visiting our property in order to “dig a parking spot” next to our property, so they can sell the forest behind us.  It is a weird piece of land back there, just smack in the middle of the hill and the only way to get to it is across our driveway.

To say I am not thrilled about any of this is putting it lightly.  The owners of the property have had it for 20 years, and it has been ignored for the entire length of the time.  All of a sudden, they want to send developers and landscapers across our driveway in order to begin permits on the land, and potentially chop down the forest to which we have just been introduced, and subsequently fallen in love.

The thing is, we just got here.  I didn’t move out into the middle of a forest to have traffic in my front yard.  We moved here to get away from it all.  I’m not sure what our recourse is, or what is going to happen, exactly; but we’ll definitely find out, one way or another.

The funny thing is, when faced with “life,” my initial response is to fight back.  I almost hate to admit that I have such a warrior’s spirit, because I don’t particularly enjoy fighting back.  However, I can just feel when my eyes get that look of fierce determination and I stare long and hard into my opponent’s eyes, and dare them to make the first move…

Tear down the forest?  I’d like to see you try.

 

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

– Lieutenant General David Morrison

Life gives us challenges all the time.  Most of the time they are positive challenges, though, and the change is for the better.  But if you aren’t ready for change, or if you cannot see the challenge as a moment of change, then the challenge will become an obstacle, instead.

Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of the Australian Army, was addressing a spate of immoral behavior that was unleashed in the Australian Army a while back, and had a very stern warning to those who had caused, and propagated, the immoral situations.  He demanded of his Army that “If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it.”

The power to change the world for the better is always within our abilities.  Sometimes we can help each other, sometimes we can change situations…sometimes it takes time and patience to see the change that is needed.  I believe there is always a solution to challenges.  It may be an unconventional solution, it might be a difficult solution, or it might be a solution as simple as walking away from the situation, but there are very few times when there is no solution available.  The fact is, though, that not everyone will see their ability to find a solution, and every challenge becomes an obstacle: either an obstacle to succumb to, or an obstacle to turn a blind eye.

The thing is, as Lieutenant General David Morrison said, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept,” and it takes a strong person to see the change in the challenge.

I will always know the strength of a person when I see them stop for the change.

Let’s Get Lost

During the odyssey of moving, things will, invariably, get lost.

This is a fact that is just bound to happen.  You just can’t pack a life into little boxes and expect your life to stay the way you remember.

Take keys, for instance.  We would put our keys on a bookshelf next to the garage door whenever we came inside.  It was a handy place to stash our keys that was out of reach from little fingers, and it worked really well for us.  So what happens when you pack the bookshelf?  You have to find another place to put your keys.  And you may not always remember where this new place is…

Thankfully, we have not lost any keys, although it was certainly a worry I had on a daily basis.  That would just be a pain in the neck we didn’t need.

However, there are some things we are used to having that did not come with us on the first trip: the bathrobes.  The laundry hamper.  The box of computer cables.  The bikes.  The rain boots.  They are all waiting for us in the garage for our second, and final, return.  But they aren’t lost either.

The only things I have been most worried about losing have been the living creatures we brought along with us.  The kids, obviously, the dog, the cats and the chickens.  Except for one very whiny cat (for two whole days straight, in the front seat of the car, emphatically pleading with us as if we would cave in and let her out…think again, kitty ), all of the living creatures did great!  8 1/2 hours the first day and 9 1/2 hours the second day, and everyone was a total trooper.  We all got through the very long trip with our final destination as the motivating factor to keep going, and finally arrive at our new home.

What we found, when we finally got here, was the previous owner and some of her friends still working on the house.

It was a little odd, since the house was not only ours at this point, but she had pushed the closing date by a month so she had more time in her home.  Which is completely understandable: she had raised her children in this home for the past 17 years, and she was being forced to leave all of her cherished memories and sacred moments behind.  They will all be replaced by another mother’s cherished memories, and she clung to the door frames until she actually saw the new family arrive.

What surprised me most was what happened next.

She and her friends showed us around the house, warned us not to mess with the water on the washer (“just don’t mess with it..you’ll want to. But don’t.” Those are words from experience), and watched all the kids barrel upstairs with Christmas morning energy to find their new bedrooms.  I had never actually been in the house before this, funny enough.  Ben had, and he said I would love it more than I could imagine; but I had never set foot into our new home.  I had spent the last few months looking at pictures of our new home and in futility, trying to figure out where things would go, remotely.  My first steps into the forest green home with a crisp white trim were a dream like blur.  I knew there were people here, there were kids upstairs, there was a diaper that needed to be changed…and after 9 hours of non-stop driving behind our rented U-Haul, I had no idea what my appearance had come to.

The previous owner and her friends told me they had spent all day making sure the house was clean for us.  There was water in the fridge for us.  They made sure there were night lights all around the house, so the kids wouldn’t get scared at night in their new rooms.  One of her friends said, “Listen…there are children in the house again,” which drove all of us mothers in the room to share the box of Kleenex.  Then, with a tearful smile and a very huge, motherly hug, she said, “This is your home now.”  And gave the house to me.  And she left.

She just wanted to see who would fill her home with new memories.  She just needed full closure on that season of her life, knowing she left it to someone who would love it just as much as she did.

And she did.

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This home is the home I could only dream of finding.

It has beautiful hardwood floors downstairs, a warm brown carpet for the bedrooms upstairs, and spaces for beds, toys, Lego workbenches for the boys and window seats for the girls.  The master bedroom has an enormous brick fireplace which is flanked by open windows overlooking our forest.  Our kitchen faces the east, so I can watch the sunrise through the moss covered trees every morning.  Our driveway descends down to our dirt road that leads to our rather remote house, on the far side of the island.  I have raised gardens, sprouting rogue squash that never died over the winter.  There are bushes with tiny yellow bell flowers beginning to bloom.  There is an old treehouse that is in need of repair, which is already being planned by the kids.

This is a home.

It is our home.

I couldn’t imagine, as a young girl growing up on the scalding and lifeless black concrete surrounding my elementary school in the middle of LosAngeles, that one day I would be raising my children in a beautiful home, in the middle of a forest, on a dirt road on an island.  Who would dream of such a thing, especially in LA?  Dreams were something you had to inherit, I thought back then.  They weren’t something you could work towards, or even conceive as being real.  They were just dreams that got you through the day.  Islands were for pirates or hotels.

I wonder, now, what my children will dream about.  What will they imagine for their future.  Where will they raise their families when they get older.

There are things we lost since we left.  Ben and I had spent a good 20 years exploring SanFrancisco, and all the cherished memories we had stayed there.  I cried during our last date while we drank a cocktail and overlooked the city at night, for the last time.  The childhood I had envisioned for my children is definitely changed since we moved.  Old dreams, old visions, old plans were lost by moving so far away.  What we found was new adventures.  New childhood memories.  New treasured moments.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”  -George Bernard Shaw

Change is one of the scariest things to experience in life.  But if the forest never changed, how would it ever turn green?

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Once I Get Internet Connection Here, It’ll Be A Blogfest

we have moved into our castle on the hill, and it is more amazing than I could imagine.

However, Comcast doesn’t want to cooperate, or find our account, or even find our house. They said it would take “4 days” to locate our house…

We really aren’t that remote, guys.

So, I’m still here! Unpacking and exploring the forests! I’m just waiting on Comcast to help us get connected to the world.

Cheers,

Tamarah