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Phoebe is 23!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

When Phoebe was a wee little thing, we had a game. She pretended she was a princess who could get anything she wished for from her subservient Queen Mother. “Oh, my darling little princess, what is it your heart desires today?”
“I would like the moon, Mother.”
“Then I will build a giant ladder and take a lasso and get you the moon. I’m not sure where we will keep it, but you shall have it. What else do you desire?”
“I would like a pet giraffe.”
“That will be no problem. I will have to get a sailing ship large enough to accommodate one, but you shall have it, my darling! I wonder what they eat? And if you can bridle train them? But never mind. You want a giraffe, you shall have one!”
And on it went. It was a good parody of real life, in which most of the things she wanted stayed right there in the realm of things she wanted. But she was well fed and clothed and, along with her little blonde brother, certainly well-loved, and neither of them spent much time complaining about what they couldn’t have.

Now she’s 23, home for a few weeks, and she lost her dad on March 25, and the only thing she really wanted for her birthday I couldn’t give her. Still, we had a great time shopping and eating our way across Columbus on July 10, the day before, meeting our sweet friend Alex for tacos, and staggering home around 1 AM.

Phoebe's actual birthday was the 11th. I got up early and started cleaning and straightening; wrapping all the gifts; making a special dinner of pad Thai (because nothing says “I love you!” like a labor-intensive, incredibly messy meal); baking a layer cake strewn with fresh flowers; hastily writing some birthday cards. I did everything I could to make it nice, but there was no getting around it. Milestones take on a whole new meaning when you've lost someone so dear. I gave her lots of stuff, but all the pretty clothes only seemed to underscore who was missing, and that felt enormous to us all. No matter what anyone did, Phoebe's actual birthday was rough and sad and teary. And that’s just how it is. No jollying that away. 
It rained much of the day, but there was a rosy sunset. 

Curtis wants some cake. He and Liam are the best Dr. Feelgoods we could have. 

She already knew what was in 'em, because she'd picked it all out, but I wrapped 'em anyway, over her protests. It's our tradition.

With all that going on, I never got the chance to write my traditional birthday blog, because living in the moment is all we can do lately. This year, I broke a streak of writing joyful birthday blogs for everyone in my family that started in 2006. They never felt obligatory before now. Life just got too big and overwhelming, and it needs to be faced and lived, not written about. Beautiful things happen every day, and I take photos and store them away, for what I don't know. For remembrance, I guess. 

But I still want to write a present for Phoebe, so I will lasso the moon and recreate our best day, June 29, for her and her novio, Oscar from La Gomera. This was his second trip to the U.S. His first was in late March, especially to meet Bill, and outside of his birthday music party, nothing thrilled Bill more than meeting Oscar. On this latest trip, Oscar could only stay two weeks, so we piled up things we wanted to show him. We waited for a sunny day with big puffy clouds and took off for North Bend. Puffy clouds are required for any North Bend canoe trip. I got up, saw them, and set about rolling everybody out of bed. "We're going canoeing today. This is IT."

My friends Doug and Andy of North Bend Outfitters in Harrisville, WV, have done the most amazing job turning what could be a simple canoe livery into a total outdoor experience.  They've got a lovely breezy barn/office right by the lakeshore, and they've built a gorgeous deck around two young sycamore trees. Young sycamore trees don't stay small long, and they've had to cut the deck holes larger a couple of times already.  And they've made this outdoor living room with sycamores for a ceiling, a place I could be happy hanging out all day, if there weren't a whole beautiful lake to get out and explore. You can rent canoes, kayaks, and even a pontoon boat. Their terms are fair and the service can't be beat. Nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. For the best ever canoe adventure, call 304-299-1768. Tell them Julie sent you!

Jessica is the new Assistant Editor at Bird Watcher's Digest. She's been a dear family friend for years. On this morning, she had wanted to come to the house to visit Bill's grave. That would be fine, I said, but I had other plans for Jess. I surprised her with an invitation to one of her favorite spots, doing her favorite thing: paddling around looking at birds, dragonflies, trees and flowers. (She's taking a picture of me, taking a picture of her).

 Wanna know what a happy woman looks like? Like this:

Oscar knows his way around the water; he's a lifeguard and water sports instructor on La Gomera, Canarias. Born and bred on the island, you've got to believe that Harrisville, WV is a long, long way from home. But with his sharp eyes and high situational awareness, Oscar was completely at home at North Bend. 

And Phoebe was at home with Oscar.

I had a hard time getting many photos of the lake's famous red-headed woodpeckers. There was too much other scenery to take in and meticulously document. And I'm the gal for the job. 

We forged on through the puffy white cloudscape, seeking spots of shade, as it was hot! But that only makes the shade feel better. Shila's hoisting her Yeti thermos. No adventure is complete without Shila. Each one of us brought a two-quart thermos and drained it.

It was a disorganized, happy flotilla, each of us following our own butterfly, coalescing to share, then drifting apart.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Oscar paddling hard to build momentum.

 I only realized what he was doing as he began to pass through two closely placed snags.

Nary a scrape on the sides!

 Pretty slick!

 I think my best find of the day was a little family of FLYING SQUEEEE-RILS peeking out of their nest hole!

First there was one:

and then there were TWO


and there was some hole switching going on with a fast skedaddle (fairydiddles specialize in quickskitters)

It was all just too cute for words. What a gift to see these night sprites in broad daylight! They looked like juveniles to me.

We found a 5-6' long snakeskin, likely that of a black rat, neatly shed in one piece in an old snag. The interesting thing about this is that the snake would have had to swim to get there. It kind of shook up my notion of the snags, surrounded by water, as super-safe nesting places for all kinds of cavity nesting birds: red-headed woodpeckers, great crested flycatchers, tree swallows, eastern bluebirds, flickers, red-bellied woodpeckers--and the eastern kingbirds that also nest on snags. Ack. Those black rat snakes will do about anything to get to a nest.


 Right next to the squirrel condo, Phoebe and Oscar discovered a Midland map turtle in a peculiar place. He was a good 6' above the water's surface, high and dry on a snag!

We paddled around for three more hours, and when we came back he was still there! He had to have climbed laboriously up this long snag (pictured below) to get there. I wasn't concerned. When I was a kid, I'd had a Mississippi map turtle as a pet, and that little thing was an expert climber and smart as a whip. But Phoebe decided he must be stuck or high-centered, and she determined to help. I was already chuckling as she planned her climb to aid the turtle. No stopping her when she's decided a critter needs her help. Wonder where she gets that?

When her kayak drew near enough to make him nervous, that turtle spun like a disco turntable and skittered back down the log like a flat squirrel, his feet scrabbling madly on the bark.  Then he dove headfirst into the water from about three feet up, totally soaking Phoebe with the splash!  Obviously, I failed to get a photo, but I sure wish I'd been shooting video. It was heee-larious! Little soldier knows where he's going.

 We laughed for about ten minutes.

If there's anything better than being out in nature with kids and friends, I don't know what it is. 


Remember this day, sweet blue-eyed girl. It was yours, and there will be many more.

Mint chocolate cookie by my sweet Martha. They went on a three hour cruise and never returned.


So bitter, sweet. Life; you never know what it's going to deliver, wrapped up pretty or a punch in the gut. Hugs to all of you.

Your photos and descriptions made it feel like I was there�� Well done!

Yes - bitter AND sweet, but sweetness was obviously dominant this day. We've missed your posts but entirely understand you've had other priorities (and more than enough obituaries to write). Know that there's always love flowing your way, and not only from Curtis.

Such a beautiful birthday post for Phoebe. Yes, both bitter and sweet. So much love here in these photos, in your hearts for each other. What a celebration of love with the added delights of woodpeckers, flying squirrels, kayak adventures, turtles and more love. Happy birthday to your beautiful Phoebe.

Wonderful. Happy birthday, Ms. Phoebe!

It's your blog and you should do what YOU want with it. I'm just one of those people who's grateful for all the things you share-happy & sad.

Dear hearts all at Indigo Hill: After the year you've all had, you should absolutely do whatever you feel you need to do, blogwise and otherwise. A very happy belated birthday to Phoebe--and praises to the universe for the two blessings you've definitely received this year, Oscar and Curtis.

That picture of the kids with Curtis and the precious. Julie, you capture the beauty and innocence of young people in love in a way that warms the heart like nothing else can.

Ah, the milestone days after death are hard worn indeed. Sending love and peace your way. How lovely for you all to be able to enjoy her birthday together.

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