Well, the holidays have passed and the weather is changing (and changing and changing) in that little-bit-of-everything Seattle springtime way. The little flowers are coming up and being pelted by hail at the moment. And something has been telling me for a while that it’s time to write my holiday letter. You kind of want things to stop happening for a moment to write such a thing, but perhaps this is the moment.
The cast of characters at our house this year is reduced. We lost a dog. Big black bear-like Miss Angie died about a month ago of something rapid and mysterious to do with her lungs, maybe cancer. At 14 she was our younger dog and so her leaving first was unexpected, although perhaps fortuitous, since she might not have enjoyed being left in charge. We miss her. Astro is still around, though, and at age 16 we are enjoying what’s left of her. She can be very fragile but also energetic and playful. And as she ages she’s much sweeter and less type-a. And she gets whatever she wants to eat, fresh chicken, coco puffs, lots of dog biscuits, my sandwich? well, sure, why not.
Kids? oh yes, we still have two healthy ones. They also get whatever they want to eat, although sometimes they have to fix it themselves. Rose turned 11 last week and is in the 5th grade, her last year of elementary school. She’s now one of the big kids. She finally weighs over 60 pounds of which pleases her immensely. In addition to homework, she plays the violin, viola (beginning) and fences. Music is going well and fencing is a great discovery. She has a knack for it, good form and a tendency to beat everyone in her class, bigger and stronger notwithstanding. She say’s this is because she’s left-handed and that gives her an advantage, but I’m inordinately proud anyway. She reads lots and is particularly fond of fantasy (especially girls with magical powers) and humor (Calvin and Hobbes is a favorite). She’d like to learn to blow glass but is probably too young. Her sense of humor and gift for non-sequiteur give us much joy, only partially offset by her pre-teen impatience with us.
Christopher is 7 ¾ and is in the 2nd grade. He continues to be talkative and inquisitive and to feel things intensely. He enjoys using phrases like, “this is the worst day of my life.” Christopher’s social life has blossomed this year. He has a number of new friends all of whom we like. He is much absorbed with thoughts and fantasies of good guys and bad guys, what’s more powerful than what, and what “the Force” (Star Wars) really is. He has some stunning insights about this. This year he took up the piano, being taught by a wonderful neighbor just down the street. They get along well and he looks forward to lessons. He likes to figure out how to play movie theme songs. The repetition is a little trying sometimes, but he loves it. He still thinks the word “no” means “let’s negotiate”. He gets along remarkably well with his sister, although they would both deny it.
Richard has had a big year. He took a solo trip to Europe for five weeks last spring to study language and culture in Rome and then went skiing with his friend Paul in the Alps for two weeks at the end. He’s not had much experience traveling alone, and is trying to decide if he likes it. After getting home he climbed up and skied down Mt. St. Helens. He took up and subsequently dropped Spanish as a second foreign language since it got frustratingly confused with Italian and made him tongue tied in both languages. At the same time, the lack of anything to do drove him to initiate the massive remodel of our basement. This took from June to October. It was noisy, the dogs hated it, I was frazzled, but the workers were great and the outcome is second only to Versailles in splendor (and expense). No hall of mirrors, though. In October Rich offered to take up the mantle of leadership of the two Group Health Anesthesia departments for the winter quarter. This was greatly appreciated but all consuming. Rich likes efficiency but he discovered that as the number of people required for consensus increases, that glorious rush of a job done efficiently becomes increasingly hard to achieve. Like skiing in sticky snow with “death cookies” sometimes. He so looked forward to returning the mantle of responsibility to it’s original owner and skiing in real snow which he finally managed to do in January for a couple of weeks before everything in Washington melted. So he’s gone to Colorado this week to ease his broken heart. If this is global warming, he may have to move to another planet.
Rachel, that’s me the narrator, has been enjoying all the things I do and balancing looking after the brood with all my individual interests. I continue to be interested in my mind, which is very practical since it’s always right here except when I’ve lost it. Meditation is great and I continue to have a fruitful association with the Pacific Zen Institute in California where I attend retreats whenever I can. A friend of mine in Oregon and I got to arrange a book tour (didn’t know this was something I knew how to do, but hey) in the Pacific Northwest last month for my Zen teacher, John Tarrant. The rest of the family enjoyed it, too ( pleasant surprise). I’ve also this year moved almost imperceptibly closer to making art something I do in the world and not just at home. I’ve been working on a website and am also involved in the design planning for a local playground that will include some of my sculpture. Albeit with what seems to me like glacial slowness, I’m moving in the direction of writing “artist” on my tax return.
On the sad/happy side of things, during the last year I was very lucky to be able to spend time helping out my grandmother Janice (Grammie Jannie) Boughton as she dealt with being 94 years old and still living by herself in a house on a hill. A broken hip in the late spring was the beginning of a series of catastrophic health events for her that also brought our small family together in a very nice way. She had a pretty rapid decline and passed away at the end of the summer, but before that happened we were able to move her to Moscow, Idaho where my sister lives in time for her to have a month of really good care and lots of family visiting. Quite unexpectedly we all realized how much we depend on each other and that was a very good thing, though we were truly sad to see my grandmother go.
Our family activities this year have included camping trips, hot tubbing in the back yard, walking, hiking, skiing, swimming, pulling weeds and raking leaves, kids’ soccer games and even a trip back East to see family and explore Washington DC. We love to see you all when we can and we will modestly boast that the number of stars next to our house in the tourist guide books has again been raised. Check it out.
love and hugs, Rachel, Richard, Rose, Christopher and Astro