Ride

Riding (1 of 7)

When we’re up home, as I will always call my childhood island, the thing my kids are most excited to do isn’t to play at the beach or take the ferry. Apart from seeing their grandparents, they most want to go to Charly’s and ride horses. This is where I spent a staggering percentage of my youth: in these rolling fields, in this old orchard, up in those woods. It’s no fancy riding stable, only a simple corral and a rustic shed to house the tack—if the door is latched you simply scramble in by the glassless window—and a couple of shed roofs to tie the horses under for shelter while grooming them. The barn swallows loop in and out. The paddock is fenced with branches pruned from the fruit trees and dropped from some of the big maples over many years. Here I learned how to stick on a horse and also a great deal about kindness, empathy, awareness, and balance. Charly is mostly retired and doesn’t teach many young riders now, but she has open arms and bowls full of cherries and strawberries picked from her garden for any of her pupils who find their way back with fervent little starry-eyed equestrians in tow.

Riding (3 of 7)Riding (4 of 7)

I’m chuffed at my girl’s easy way on a horse. She’s timid, or at least cautious, about physical risks, but she can’t wait to get aboard a great tall horse and trot around, keeping her head up and her back supple. No hands? No problem. And she’s attentive rather than assertive, which I like to see in a young rider.

Riding (5 of 7)

Riding (2 of 7)

Jolyon was not to be left out. His face got a little scrumply when he learned he couldn’t ride Chocolate, the pony of my first adventures, or Koprina, the fiery half-Arab mare who figures in so many of the stories the kids clamor to hear again and again. But he reconciled himself to Not Chocolate and sat proudly and independently astride.

Riding (7 of 7)

Kisses to ask her to walk on… and one for Mama, too.

Riding (6 of 7)

It’s good to circle back and savor old pleasures through new experience.

Swishy swashy

SculpturePark7-14 (2 of 16)

SculpturePark7-14 (5 of 16)

They never just opt for the mown path, these two. A sea of grass so tall it stirs the sky overhead? In we go. I like that about them. Luckily the little one has his trailblazer, his native guide, his St. Bernard come to rescue him from the drifts.

SculpturePark7-14 (4 of 16)

SculpturePark7-14 (3 of 16)

She’s a stand-up sister, this one. As I write it’s half an hour after bedtime and she’s invited him into her bed to read nursery rhymes. I can hear her teaching him how to clap “Pease Porridge Hot.” It’s too charming to interrupt, even though I should really go in there and sling a little thunder. I hope they’ll carry some imprint of these early days together even if they don’t recollect anything distinct. Warm evenings barefoot in the clover outside, picking pole beans and eating them before they reach the table, calling back to the fledgling nuthatches in the apple tree, picking most of our sweet neighbors’ berries, lying feet to feet in the hammock or taking turns to swing each other. “Ada! Cookies!” Jolly proffers two fistfuls of bright geometric foam tiles. She’s wriggled under the kitchen island for Hide and Seek, but she stretches forth an arm to take them. “Oh man! Jolly made me cookies!” “Pee-TEND, Ada. Not real. Not eat them.” Oh, but that’s the real stuff, isn’t it? Boxing up the kitchen before demolition guys turn up to begin our addition and writing grant applications and grading patterns should also be real, but shhhh. I’m pretending there’s just this tranquil summer sweetness for a few more fleeting moments.

Harbor

The curtain has gone up on the tenth year of my marriage. Spend that long with anyone and you’re bound to shape each other permanently. These years have seen the usual measure of love, loss, laughter, tears, worry, contentment, frustration, and joy. I’ve watched him plunge into founding a start-up. He’s watched me knit a whole lot. I don’t think either of us really fathoms why the other would want to put so much effort and time into that, but mostly we try to admire the qualities that come to the surface in pursuit of mastery. We daily test and refine our agreement about what matters in the world as we muddle through parenting the small humans we’ve jointly made, and we spell each other when forbearance wears thin. Only this evening he noted the set of my jaw as the children pawed at me for peanuts and frozen peas like so many half-tame zoo bears and he calmly started peeling a cucumber, thereby drawing the little camp raiders to himself and fixing me a Hendricks and tonic at once. I cherish that sensitivity.

We had a long-delayed dinner date yesterday while my parents put the littles to bed. Waiting for a table, we strolled down the docks to look at the boats and watch the sea planes take off. He’d scoffed at my wanting to bring the proper camera along, so I had to make do with his phone for a few shots of our dress-up attire. This is the Negroni shirt I made for his Christmas present and gave to him in May once I’d finally attached the &@#$ snaps. Let’s all take a moment to laugh at my clueless self of December, thinking it would save time to do snaps instead of all those buttons and buttonholes. I’m sure there are seasoned snappers who could have banged out this project in ten minutes. For me there were hours of squinting at internet tutorials and my snap setting pliers and back at the tutorials interspersed with failure to stick the things to the fabric at all or bending the prongs until the snaps looked like squashed beetles and still hadn’t adhered to their backings. Just the memory of it makes me tense. I managed the cuffs and then stuffed the whole shirt back in the closet for several dejected months of time out. And let’s not judge my decision to use yellow flannel recycled from a crib sheet instead of interfacing because I didn’t have enough on hand. I swear I read somewhere on the internet that one could do this; I just didn’t realize that the fronts wouldn’t be sewn down inside to hide the flannel and now it reminds me of insulation peeping out of an unfinished wall. Ah well, keep learning or die, right?

Negroni

Negroni_back Negroni3:4

The fabric I’d absolutely use again, though. It’s a Robert Kauffman chambray, soft and intriguingly streaky. I got some more for a shirt for myself, which I’ll undertake once the memory of the pain has faded. (They say this happens with childbirth, but two years out I’m prepared to say they lie. Serial mothers are just made of stern stuff.)

My dress was a far simpler project. I’ll admit it was insane to follow the whim to make a garment to wear to a formal party in three days’ time, but Rae Hoekstra bailed me out with her Washi dress pattern. This came together very easily indeed, although I was hemming and pressing down to the last possible minute, with the children flitting about me like Cinderella’s little forest minions offering tiny pitchers of extra water for the iron. I followed Rae’s hints here to lengthen Washi for a maxi version. I didn’t get the bust darts right—they fit quite well, but I’m sure it’s not at all professional to have a frown in your dart because you were too lazy to redraw the gore so you just moved the point of the dart and skewed the seam allowances. Where has shirring been all my life, by the way? Turns out it’s easy and fun on the first attempt. So is the Nani Iro double gauze I splurged on. I felt more than a little smug slinking through an evening gala in what amounts to pajamas. I think I need actual pajamas made of double gauze.

WashiMaxi1WashiMaxi2

So here we are, he with grey salting his hair, I with brown splotches on my forehead that didn’t fade as advertised after the last pregnancy—all the marks of having lived a little since we made our vows. There’s work to do, weather ahead, but I’m gladder than ever of the company I chose. He’s as much my home as is this seabound shelter up north. Yes to whatever the tides bring us.