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Phoebe is Twenty!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I hope by now, our big box of tiny presents has arrived in San Diego, where Phoebe will be celebrating her first birthday away from home--her twentieth. 

It had to happen sometime. Wonderful people get called away by work and travel and exciting opportunities. I'm thankful she was here for 19 of them!

Phoebe is a Research Assistant at Scripps Institution of Oceanography for the summer. She's learning to do all kinds of cool data analysis and modeling. She is running on the beach in the evening. She is cooking for herself in an 11th floor apartment that overlooks the ocean. I understand she is also learning to surf.
This is further proof that she is a different species from me, a land-hugging hobbit. That is easy to discern in this picture. Even with her hunkering down to make me feel less stunted. Thanks, Egg.

I also threw a sport with Liam. They might be giants.

In addition to a bunch of zany little presents and Dollar General birthday cards sent in the mail, I thought I would give Phoebe a photographic walk down Memory Lane (Dean's Fork.) This took place on June 14, a few days before she left for California.

I figure she might be able to show this to her new friends, to help them understand why she's such a nature elf, why she knows so much about natural history without even knowing why she knows it. How the knowing has gotten into the marrow of her long bones, how it grows in the roots of her hair.

It was a rare and beautiful summer's day, cool and clear.  We were soaking up the walk, and loving seeing Chet Baker being hisself. 

Phoebe was the first to spot what turned out to be a Blue Racer ( a color morph of Black Racer)
Oohhh so beautiful. 

We snorted with laughter as Chet walked right past it. Twicet, without seeing or smelling it.

He doubled back to see what was going on when we stopped to admire the gunmetal blue beauty of its keelless scales.

Bum ba bum de dum...Oh Bacon. You get an F in Situational Awareness. Racer, you get an A+ for stoicism.

On his THIRD pass, having actually stepped on it, Bacon finally whiffed the placid snake and leapt straight up, catching about a foot of sweet air. This sent us into paroxysms of laughter.  Baker immediately went into Puckerface mode. He gets this goofy grin, pulls the corners of his mouth up.

Phoebs said, "He looks like a cartoon of a surprised dog."

The snake, knowing he'd been outed, wisely went on his way. That was the coolest racer I've ever seen, cool as the blue sea. They're usually total hotheads.

We found the lining to what was probably a scarlet tanager nest, and Bacon thought it was a toy or a treat.

This is not for you, Frost Warning.  That's what Daddeh calls him sometimes.

As we walked, watching and listening to birds, we startled a family flock of crows. They left some weird stuff on the road, and it took us a little while to figure out what it was.

They'd caught a female Cope's treefrog, and made sure these eggs would never become tadpoles.We deduced it was a treefrog because it was near some ruts in the road that were full of their eggs. It's too late for American toads or any of the others to breed. So: Cope's treefrog. 

Crows will be crows, and that's not the worst thing they left, but it's Phoebe's birthday, after all. Let's keep it light.


Light. I never, ever tire of this road, all 3 plus miles of it. Season doesn't matter; it's always beautiful, but I have to throw an extra vote in for mid-June. 

Spread them shadders anywhere. I'll get down and waller there. **

**James Whitcomb Riley, "Knee-Deep in June," my DOD's favorite poem. Riley was the only Hoosier my dad had any time for.

Speaking of knee-deep, we laughed to hear the ka-plunk, ka-plunk of the Bacon, wading the stream.

Like his mama, he's no swimmer, but that dog do love to wade. 

You might want to click on this one, to see his Steamboat Willie eyes and little pink tongue. We like to take this route on hot days because he can drink and cool off at five different crossings.

Oh yes, she's her mama's girl, gettin' down to breathe in the wild rose, pure attar of rose fragrance,  sweet and musky and old as time.

Sometimes you have to really get down to smell the flowers. Caught her ground-truthing my assertion that water lily "Firecrest" smells heavenly...

Back on Dean's Fork, The Bacon, coming back to smell the roses, too, smiling at his favorite girl, and she smiling at him. (Click on this one to enlarge).

I could feel her drinking him up, saving up these moments for when they'd have to be far apart.

I was doing that, too. 

 Do you like our sky-dyed tights? Come see us at work!

(That's a big camera rig on my hip, just so's you know). 

 Really, we haven't changed all that much since Phoebs was nine and I had a tiny Olympus point and shoot for a camera.

photo by Connie Toops, taken at her incredible retreat high high high in the NC mountains. I treasure this shot!

Phoebe remembered, looking at this, that our trip together to Asheville was when she really became Mommy's Girl. The kind of bonding you get on a trip like that, you can't get any other way. Take your babies on trips. Just one on one. There's nothing like it.

  I sent her ahead of me, into the Ironweed Festival Grounds, to see how she looked alone. I envisioned it gone purple, and that red hair in the midst. I won't get to see that this year, but some year, I hope to. 

 Everything looked in perfect order for the Ironweed Festival in mid-August. The grounds have been well-watered; the plants are healthy and full of buds. There is an obvious choice for Ironweed Queen, but you have to be present to wear the tiara, PHEEBS.

I am so glad that Phoebe will always have this place to come home to. She tells me she has never wanted to show me anyplace as much as she wants to show me San Diego, but any potential airfare is going right into Molar 9, yayyyyy. And then we will likely start on the upper rows. Ah well. We can't always get what we want. But in this willowy girl, we got an impossible dream. 

Returning home, I whomped up a cake, frosted in Phoebe's signature pale aqua, which also happens to be my favorite hue. Funny how that works. 
I never make quite enough frosting. Always a bit thin around the sides. Oh well. 

Hoping she remembers how it tasted, a month gone. I sent her out to the gardens in the gathering dark to pick flowers to decorate it. Delphiniums, fuchsias, petunias, and one Chicago Peace rose. 
She knew it was a real Zick cake when she found earwigs in the first cake topper. Eek! Shake that thing out!!

Phoebe girl, we love you. Your impossibly sweet and handsome brother fills me in on your every doing. We are so happy you're happy way out there on the edge of the continent. We can't wait to know what you think of your fall semester in Panama. It's all coming so fast, flying by. And when I see you again in December, we will pick up right where we left off. Guar-on-teed.

These are the sweet times, when you're mobile and unencumbered; when you can fit all your stuff in the corner of a friend's basement and head for the coast. I don't have to tell you to enjoy it all. You're really good at that. And we are so proud of you, of all that you are and all you are going to be. Fluent in Ocean and Spanish, for two.

JUN-Happy birthday! The world awaits you with open arms.

Meet you down Dean's, in December?

Love, MAI


Phoebe? 20? It seems impossible. Don't know how much more love you could squeeze into these beautiful words. Happy Birthday to you, Phoebe. May you feel all the love this day and forever, and know that home is never too far away...

In another world I wanted to go to Scripps or Woods Hole. Somehow this marine bio major turned into a land lubber, though. I hope she enjoys the time at Scripps!

What a sad/happy day! Been there....

Best post EVER. And that's saying a lot. I would give my eye tooth ( if it hadn't already been sacrificed to the Gods (Devils?) of dentistry) to have a ten-foot wide poster of Phoebe smelling the pond lily blossom. WHAT a photo. Knocked me right over, even though I was sitting down. I've been ambushed by you more times than I can count. Heartfelt thanks for this vivid reminder of youth and of all that is magical, good and RIGHT in this sorry world.

As it happens, I'm going to UCSD in the fall (to get my doctorate in Linguistics)-- I don't know how likely I'll be to cross paths with Phoebe, but if I do I'll say hi to her.

Julie, your art and writing and photos are wonderful! I love reading firsthand accounts of humans interacting with wild birds, and few are as vividly and entertainingly written as yours.

Happy Birthday, Phoebe! Loved seeing the photo of you and Julie at the cabin years ago. Know you will have a fantastic time on the West Coast! Connie

Posted by Anonymous July 10, 2016 at 11:24 AM

I don't even (personally) know Phoebe or Liam but your pride feels contagious!...
And nice to be reminded, after SUCH a depressing week for this country, that there are young people arising who may ably repair the messes we've left for them.

Thanks, Julie. You say what I feel. Lucky You, Lucky Me.

Posted by Anonymous July 10, 2016 at 12:51 PM

Happy Birthday, Phoebe! May twenty be sweet and enriching for you.

Julie, that last shot of daisies in the foreground, Chet in the mid and Phoebe walking away tugged my heartstrings.

Posted by Gail Spratley July 10, 2016 at 1:55 PM

Amazing post, Jules! Just wow!

Your birthday tributes to your family always stir my heart. To be so eloquent...

A tender sweet post, so well done.
Happy birthday Phoebe!

It's been a joy to watch Phoebe grow into this remarkable young woman. Her first birthday out in the world on the coast of California, on her strong and capable wings she has taken flight. Happy days all around!

First, happy birthday to Phoebe. I can't believe she's 20 so soon. I started following you in 2005 (?) when we we in Mexico. Your kids have grown up before our eyes. And Chet Baker has gotten old. I guess that means we have aged as well. This is such a poignant post filled with wistfulness. Must be bittersweet to watch your grown girl spreading her wings. I wish her well and much adventure in her journeys ahead.

Oh, my, my, my. Beautiful. The prose, the photos, the mama and her daughter. How I love you all. xxoom.

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