A Sunday hike

We took Felix for a hike today, near the Swan valley.

He seemed to enjoy it.

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Connections

Felix always wants to be on the go right now. This morning Michael suggested walking to the Barnes and Noble, but I said no, we need a longer outing. We drove into town and walked along the river, then had a coffee. I stopped at the coffee shop a couple of mornings ago and on week mornings the place is packed with lawyers on laptops or mobile phones or meeting with clients. It’s quieter on the weekend. After that we went and bought a loaf of bread from the bakery and felt very – I’m not sure what the word is. Civilized.

We went home and Felix slept for half an hour so we could eat lunch. Then it was all go again and we felt sorry for ourselves for a while because we didn’t have any friends or family to visit. So we went to the Barnes and Noble after all. One of the baristas knows me quite well now, and always has a smile for Felix (she says she likes seeing me come in, obviously having walked there instead of driving like everyone else). Felix always has a smile for her too. He is addicted to attention. He can be as grumpy and restless as anything at home but as soon as a new person smiles at him, he beams, coyly looks down, then beams again and flaps his arms around. I had a cup of tea and splurged on a chocolate cheesecake, and Michael took Felix for a stroll for quarter of an hour so I could read my book. Bliss.

Every five minutes or so there was an announcement of a meet-the-author book-signing going on at the front of the store. When Michael came back he said you should go and talk to that author, no one is talking to him except for strange people. So I wriggled Felix into the sling and off I we went. His name was Debu Majumdar, an Indian man who’s lived here in Idaho Falls for thirty years. He’s written a children’s book about India (he told me he thinks American children need educating about the rest of the world), and a book of essays detailing his impressions of Idaho Falls: From the Ganges to the Snake River. He could tell I wasn’t from around here either, so we had a bit of a chat about why we were here and where we were from. When I mentioned we lived in Norway, he said ‘oh yes, Halden’, and I said ‘What, how did you know?’ It turns out he works in the nuclear industry too.

So Michael came back to talk to him, and bought his book, and he gave us his contact details and told us we should meet up sometime. His book looks great. It made our day.

Naptime

This may be another of those ‘see how much I can write in half an hour‘ posts. But fifteen minutes has already passed – well, twenty, actually, if you count the five minutes I waited to ensure Felix was properly asleep before moving him to the crib – so it may actually be ‘see how much I can write in ten minutes’. Which I guess is not a great deal but you never know. In any case, he could surprise us all and sleep for an hour and a half, which would be lovely.

There are so many things I have been meaning to write. I want to write about children’s picture books, how the really lovely ones are just as good as poems, or better. And I want to write about the handful of ‘how to raise you baby’ books I have read, just in case anyone is interested. And I have half a post sitting in my draft box about stone and the elements in A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. And there are a few more photos I want to upload from my parents’ visit. (Yes more, at the risk of boring you all, but it was such a special time and I miss them.) And I doubt I will have time to do any of that right now.

I could also be reading now, and half wish that I was. I have started Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. It is my first e-book. Michael has loaned me his ipad to see how I like it. I have decided I’m definitely going to get an e-reader. Just have to decide between a kindle and the more expensive but more versatile ipad. (I fell a bit in love with the new nook color at Barnes and Noble, but you can’t buy books on it when you are out of the US, which defeats the purpose for me.) With the ipad you can read in the dark because it’s backlit, but some people find the backlit screen annoying and straining for their eyes. Hence the test-run. Advice welcome…

It’s been a tiring week (see previous post). And yes the boy’s gorgeous laughs do make up for it but sometimes they don’t. This afternoon we sat for nearly an hour under a tree outside our apartment, and he was happy, and now he is resting. (Well, I sat. He rolled around and cooed at the wind in the leaves.)

And yes it appears I can write rather a lot in ten minutes because it’s only been eight so far.

I also wanted to write some more about what’s happening in Norway because I have been thinking about it. They’ve started releasing photos of the victims. I looked at them and ofcourse they are sweet young educated ordinary people, and it is terrible. The youngest was fourteen and five days. And there are some older people too, some my age, some my parent’s age. And really what can you write about it because it is unbearable.

When we were with my parents in Salt Lake City we went for a drive up the Big Cottonwood Canyon one evening. Felix was a bit fussy (he finds it distracting when there are people next to him in the back seat), so we decided to stop by the side of the road so I could give him a feed. When we got going again we found the road was blocked not far ahead of us. There had been an accident. We waited around for about an hour, and then got word it would be at least another three hours, because of a police investigation, so we did the two hour drive out through the back of the canyon. It turns out a drunk driver had slammed head on into a car with a couple in their sixties. The last I heard the drunk driver and the other driver were in critical conditions in hospital. We felt so terrible, and so spooked. Because there really isn’t a magic spell that ensures it’s not us who gets slammed into by drunk drivers.

One thing I was unprepared for when becoming a mother was how intolerable the thought of death would suddenly become. I was not only protective of my baby, death suddenly seemed unacceptable for anyone, anywhere. The disaster in Japan happened when Felix was a few weeks old, and I couldn’t read any of the broadcasts. One day Michael was talking to Felix, and Felix’s little mobile was whirling around above his change table, reminding Michael of the circle of life. ‘This is the circle of life’, he told Felix. ‘You are born, and you will die. One day your parents will die. One day you will die’. ‘Don’t tell him that!’ I said. Because it seemed utterly unacceptable. It made me afraid. If this beautiful creature would die, if I would die, what was the point?

I talked to Mum about it while she was here. I said, ‘sometimes things are really not ok’. ‘That’s true’, she said. ‘But also they are ok.’ (In case you haven’t noticed, which I think you have, my Mum is very wise.) I think she is right. And when I think about things being ok, I think for some reason of the earth, of dirt and  rocks and stones and gravity, firm under my feet. The way I did in this poem. I do not know why. I do not like how frail and unpredictable life is sometimes. But I very much like being alive right now. Yes I do.

That, my friends, was twenty-five minutes, and it got a bit heavy didn’t it! And if he sleeps any longer, I’m going to read my ebook.

A long day

I was going to write a nice long post tonight but Felix had his five month vaccinations yesterday, so has not been himself today, and decided that he wanted to stay up late. He’s feeling pretty much the way he did after his last injections, which I can hardly believe were only two months ago, it feels like such a different world. I am tired. He is asleep now, but I cannot muster the energy for a long post. Earlier in the day, after attempting and failing to coax him back to sleep after a half hour nap, we lay quietly together on my bed. ‘Felix,’ I said, ‘your mother is very tired.’ He burst out laughing. ‘Is that funny?’ I said. He laughed again. There is a line in a Kasey Chambers song that Penni told me to listen to, that goes: ‘I’d never heard a laugh that sounded sweeter than a song before you came along.’ It is true.

Dear Felix (a guest post)

Dear Felix,

It’s just over 2 weeks ago your Granddad and I boarded a plane in Adelaide to visit you and your parents. We were very excited.

It’s been so special to spend time with you while you are still a baby, though not so small as when I first met you.  We’ve played and cuddled, talked and watched you eagerly explore your world. You are particularly fascinated by patterns, edges and textures, and delight in reaching out to scritch-scratch a new surface, especially if it makes a sound.  The puzzle in your eyes is obvious as you attempt to put together what you can see with what your fingers feel, moving them back and forth curiously over whatever has caught your eye, such as a smooth table top with a woodgrain pattern that looks as if it should feel rough. You also love to watch your fingers and hands and move them slowly and seemingly deliberately, 1 finger at a time and then altogether, as if you are trying to memorize how to move each one.

Your shining eyes, cheeky grin and infectious chuckle charm not only us, but many passers-by at whom you beam when you catch their eye. “What a cute baby!” they say, and you smile again. You are constantly talking to us all: squeals of delight, and strongly expressed protest or frustration intermingle with the intonation of your own special language, sung to yourself, or in a commentary to whoever is near. Within a day or two of us arriving you were making a very passable copy of your granddad’s chronic cough, and seeming very pleased with yourself when you tried it out!

And so we have watched and joined in the endless fascination with the everyday details of your eager learning and connection with those who love you, especially of course your Mum and Dad, (who are doing such a wonderful job of caring for you).  It has been such a delight to re-enter that time, first experienced as new parents ourselves, and to also see your Mum, our first baby, experiencing the same delight with you, that she brought to us.

This chance to dip into your new world brings so many thoughts and memories flooding in. We are already so in love with the unique little person that is you, and I marvel at this ever repeating miracle of each baby with their unique new life bringing new promise, joy and love into families across the generations and around the world. It’s mind-blowing.

But for us, the particular miracle that is unfolding in our family right now is you, and we are so glad to be welcoming you into our lives.

With ever so much love, your grandma Robi, and granddad Gren xx

Norway

I am, of course, thinking about what happened in Norway two days ago. Not as much as I could be, because the mind and heart flail at such a thing, especially, perhaps, the mind and heart of a new mother. But I think of this dear, dear country, and the terror that was felt, and the lives that have been lost and shattered, and I do not understand.

 

Moab

The tourist town of Moab is dwarfed by the red rock that surrounds it.

Here you can stock up on fuel, grab lunch or an ice-cream (we recommend the Brewery for both), stay in a cheap motel,

browse trinket shops

(some of which are doing better than others)

and shelter from the heat.

If you feel like a coffee, though, you must go here. The Moab Coffee Roasters roast their own beans, and without a doubt serve the nicest coffee I’ve tasted since arriving in the US. It was so strong that it gave me a headache later in the day, but it was worth it.

Red rock

We just got back from a very lovely week in Utah. After introducing my parents to some of the joys of Salt Lake City, we headed down to the truly spectacular national parks near Moab. We first visited here three years ago, and it was just magical to return. The Colorado river runs through the canyon lands, and although I suppose the Grand Canyon is more spectacular, visiting Moab is actually more fun, for the sheer variety of the landscapes, and the way the rock formations startle you at every turn, like some fantastic playground. (And it is with some wistfulness that I read of this conference on stone, having just spent time among stones that seem so very alive.)

This rock oozes,

swells,

cracks,

crumbles.

The colours collide.

Felix goes nuclear

We took a drive yesterday out to what all the locals refer to as ‘the site’. It’s an area of top secret highly guarded research nuclear reactors, and one old one that’s been turned into a museum. It’s the place where they first successfully generated nuclear electricity. Felix was in heaven, with all the lights and knobs, the high concrete ceiling and scaffolding and pipes and dials and buttons and switch and fans. He kept craning his head around and laughing spontaneously. He couldn’t believe it.

You’d trust him in a control room, right?

Of course I know what I’m doing – why do you ask?

Books and places

I’ve just started reading Hilary Mantel’s Experiment in Love, and it’s making me nostalgic for England:

In summer, when I was a small girl, we would take a bus to the outskirts of town, and walk in the hills, rambling along the bridle paths in clear green air. We were above the line of the mill chimneys; like angels, we skimmed their frail tops (p. 11).

Of course, I was nostalgic for England even before I ever visited there (not counting being born there), having grown up with tales of the old country from my father and my Nanna. Now, however, the nostalgia is my own – for that wonderful first year in York which I had set aside for adventure, and the wonderful years after that, enjoying the town and the countryside with Michael. Ah, England in summer, with thick green grass, and little stone walls…

Incidentally I think I am developing a crush on Hilary Mantel (after loving Wolf Hall last year) and intend to read every one of her novels…

Last night I finished Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which impressed and intrigued me. Its communistic leanings are especially fascinating given the intense anti-communist, individualist sentiments here that I am only now beginning to get a feel for. I had no idea that if you earned more money here you don’t get into a higher tax bracket, for example. Back to the novel, however… I really enjoyed his descriptions of landscape and animals – especially the animals – and I liked his characters so much that when I got half way through I didn’t want to keep reading for fear of bad things happening to them. Towards the end, though, the characters seemed to become more symbolic, and you got the sense he was really laboring to make his point. (Almost like the didactic sections of War and Peace.) Still, I enjoyed it greatly and am keen to read East of Eden at some point. The last paragraph really took me by surprise – extreme breastfeeding, anyone?

In non-book related news, I am really enjoying life here at the moment. Felix’s night-time sleeping has deteriorated badly, so I’ve been quite tired, but am feeling much more zen about it just now. There is a really fantastic mother’s group which meets up several times a week in different places, and I’ve been enjoying getting to know a bunch of really interesting women and their children. If I want the car for the day I need to drop Michael at work in the morning, but he works only five minutes away from the downtown river walk, so my new routine is to drop him off and then park at the river for a walk before the day heats up too much. Felix naps, breastfeeds with a view of the waterfalls, and often has a roll around on his blanket on the grass afterwards. When we’re at home my main task at the moment is flipping him onto his back – he rolls onto his tummy, has a look around, gets stuck, then complains loudly. Repeat. Though today at the river he did manage to roll back the other way twice, with a bit of help from the slope of the ground.

Most excitingly, my parents are on their way over here and should arrive tomorrow night. I can’t wait!

Speaking of reading, here is Felix having a go at the Sunday paper, aged 20 weeks:

Felix and the paragliders

We took Felix to meet the paragliders this morning. (Yep, we’re back in Salt Lake City for the long weekend. You can’t keep us away!) He was very happy strutting about in his sling with his sunnies on. That’s Michael to the left of my right shoulder.

Here he is launching. I thought about having a go but the wind was pretty strong, and this primal maternal instinct kicked in that said: stay on the ground with your baby!

I intend to conquer this instinct soon, and did manage a little hop from lower down the slope before we left. Because, really, who wouldn’t want to be up there?