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Phoebe is 24!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

She's like one of my birds, my ephemeral clients, come to settle in the nest for a summer. It's been a  seemingly endless stream of days that are very much the same. Confined, becalmed, cast out of our former lives into this odd replay of high school summers, we are frozen in time, bewildered but also knowing we are blessed to be together. We are reduced to our elemental selves, back in our old roles. And yet we know it will end; we will all find ways to move back into our old lives. And so it seems to be happening. 

I hear her talking to her laptop, to the people appearing in little squares on its screen, who've hired her to counsel high school students in the mountains of North Carolina. She's found a job--no small feat-- during the pandemic, all those hours of searching finally culminating in this. She's forming bonds, training for her work, expecting to fly the nest next month. We'll have to get her a wardrobe and a car and all the million things it takes to set up a life eight hours from home. It's as sudden as the months since March have been slow, and a bit overwhelming for her mama. In the long view, she is doing what she must as a young adult. She must start her own life, earn her own way, and she's fiercely determined to do it. She was literally kicked off La Gomera in the Canary Islands by her sponsoring organization, Fulbright, when the pandemic hit in mid March. Phoebe had to leave her elementary school students, her fellow teachers, her home, their dog Arafo, and her love, Oscar, with no assurance of when they'd see each other again. But they talk and laugh in the afternoons, so grateful to be connected by the miracle of video calling. Somehow they will be together again, but it's not going to be easy or soon. He waits patiently for that day in the bright Gomeran sun. 

She has handled it all with grace and grit, longing and love. Oscar has responded with incredible strength and positivity. He's back at work and saving money, studying English on DuoLingo and practicing conversation with Phoebe and us every day. I've been awed and humbled by their ability to adjust to their separation. What's their choice? She wants to be happy and independent, to find her own way. So she puts one foot in front of the other, and dreams of somehow getting Oscar over here to start fresh together.  America as we know it now will have to change a lot for that to happen. But it is changing, every day. We are well past ready for that change, for relief, for love and tolerance to conquer chaos, hatred and fear. I don't think we're alone.

Curtis helps. We all fall on him, inhale his woodsy scent, hug him as if our lives depended on it. He has lots of work to do here. He loves being wallered on all day long. He loves his long walks in the orchard and meadow.

Flowers have helped. It's been ages since she's been home for lilac bloom! Oh, to get to experience spring oh so slowly arriving, what a gift that was. Now we pray for the rain that seemed in May as if it would never stop. Prayers were answered today with a torrent! 

The woods have helped. Going into the woods is one of Phoebe's very favorite things to do. As if they knew we needed them, perhaps 50 showy orchis plants threw a party in a little gully in the farthest reaches of our 80 acres back in April.  We hadn't even known they were there, and suddenly they were everywhere.

They came up, among many other places, right in a circle of stones that Bill made back when the kids were little, and we packed up everything it took to cook hamburgers in the snowy woods on the coldest day of the year. He built a fire right there, and cooked our dinner. Oh, what a moment when we found that ring of rocks and realized what it represented: when we'd last been there together.

We turned over the stones, now gone mossy, and remembered. We've been talking about him every single day, keeping him alive in our minds and hearts. Part of being home, of course, is remembering what it was like when he was with us. Phoebe and Liam don't want to forget anything, and neither do I. We miss him, his expert guidance ("Here's what you need to do...") and the rich Thompson family history he could tell. We are a bit adrift without him. But we're finding our way.

She's been tending two new Moultrie game cameras, seeing what walks our paths when we're asleep or otherwise occupied. She looks for the perfect place to situate them, her trusty cur by her side (or ranging far, as he pleases). I love to see her suit up and go off by herself into the woods. She's a Maxi-Me, at 5'9".

There have been many memorable meals, three a day last I counted. We've all done some cooking.

Spinach/feta salmon burgers with asparagus and watermelon on a pretzel bun-- ole!

And on May 9, she brought home a tiny naked song sparrow nestling, found on the side of an asphalt road on a drizzly 37 degree afternoon. It had been discarded by its parents, we think, who couldn't keep it warm or fed, so they took it from the nest and dumped it on the roadside.

Together we raised it up, fed it hundreds of times, saw it grow strong and wild, and then let it go.

  Dustin deserves her own story. What a bird!

From this

to this!! in 45 days!

Phoebe was happy to move her job search outside to better accomodate our recent fledgling's need for food and companionship. Believe it or not, the new WiFi she researched and obtained for us reaches out to the chaise, in the shade of the Japanese maple! (Curtis gets his own chair, though he prefers the chaise and steals it the second Phoebe leaves to get something).

Yes, along with Liam, she's also in-house tech support and advisor. She helped us break free of HughesNet satellite "service," which was a lotta money for practically nothing. I'd been shackled by it for twenty years.  Now, getting Internet through our LTE signal, (Cyberonic Rural Internet Providers) we can do most of the things that normal folks can. Like watch videos, blog,  Facetime and Zoom. Phoebe swooped in just in the nick of time to save us from the Dark Ages. That first couple of months were really tough, when we were all living under one roof just as everything went online. We were still hamstringed by HughesNet and its paltry 15 gig/month "allotment," which invariably ran out within four days. It would take me hours just to upload the photos for a blogpost like this.  Now, it still takes me hours, but not because of a snail-slow connection. :/ Thanks for the rescue, SuperGirl! You've made our lives ever so much easier, faster and better!

Liam says Yay Phoebe! I can stream things now!

We have had some nice walks down Dean's Fork to visit the beavers and hear the wood thrush concerto at dusk. 

One of the unexpected gifts of the summer was all that rain in the spring. It filled up the puddles on the road that leads to our Personal Oil Well. (It's an Appalachian Ohio thing). Phoebe began monitoring them for frog eggs and tadpoles in late May and by the first week of June she was fully engaged, with American toad, mountain chorus frog, spring peeper, and gray tree frogs all going wild out there. When the rains stopped and the broiling heat started, she began toting jugs of rainwater to two puddles. She wasn't going to let a tadpole die on her watch. She enlisted Liam to carry some, and carried lots herself. A pint's a pound the world around; each jug is 5 gallons, so that's a 40-pound load on those shoulders.

By last week, it was getting so dry we were filling one of the puddles twice a day! I drove the tractor and wagon out with four jugs. All told we've probably toted more than 50 gallons of rainwater out to help the tadpoles. We moved those taddies to a more reliable puddle.

It's work, like everything else, to keep puddles full in a bad Ohio drought, but oh, the rewards are so rich. First to grow up and go were the mountain chorus frogs and spring peepers. I'm not pretending to know which one this is. We're just glad it's alive!


Rana, the Frog Princess, keeps everything documented, just like her mama.


 There were other cool things in that puddle. Here's a predaceous diving beetle, Acilius mediatus, next to a maturing gray treefrog taddy. See its little hinders folded up?  We have found this beetle to be no threat to the tadpoles, though perhaps small ones might be at risk.

 Phoebs has discovered that the gray treefrog taddies get pallid and thin right before they frog out.

As well they should; their mouths are changing from a sucker/scraper/radula thing to one more like ours! Probably hard to eat while your mouth is metamorphosing. Liam wondered aloud if it hurts. Dang good question, Science Chimp Jr.

And then, TaDAAA! you're a treefrog! Green for camo to start. Still with the little buttnub of your tail. Oh man. You are CUTE. 

But for Phoebe they wouldn't be on this earth.

All 250 of them would be a sad handful of dried mud. This was taken just a few days ago, when the smaller puddle finally dried up, despite our efforts. We think the deer and turkeys were drinking it down. We panicked, then quickly moved them to a nearby, deeper puddle that's reliable, and now we're augmenting that one. We have two puddles going; one with 170 tadpoles; the other with maybe 80.

And every day we go out at least twice and see who's popped out of the water. Oh, it's sweet. 


 Sweet, like a girl who's turning 24 today.

Who loves her brother, her dog, and her mama

who wears her grandpa Thompson's naughty hat with style

and is growing up just like the child of our red oak grows, straight and tall, strong, slender and true.

Happy birthday, dear Phoebe. Happy birthday to you! This is a little blog to remember your summer by. It has been the greatest gift to have you and Liam here together for the spring and most of the summer. I will never forget it. You are the best, the boldest, the brightest stars in my sky.

If you are thinking of taking Curtis to North Carolina with you, think again. 


So much already packed into just 24 yrs... can't even imagine what all she'll be contributing to this needy world in the decades ahead.
Happy Birthday!

Beautiful birthday blog mama. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Happy Birthday, Phoebe! And thank-you, Julie! Over the course of my life, I've learned that in every difficult situation there is usually a gift. This spring has been a doozy! But the gift of having Liam and Phoebe home with you is something you'll remember the rest of your lives. I'm so glad you shared it with us! Godspeed, Phoebe! North Carolina is lucky to have you.

Oh, Julie--too sweet for words, this wondrous paean to your daughter. And such sweet memories you are capturing. It is wondrous to me that in the midst of one of the most unsettling times I have lived in, you have found...carved out...a memory for a lifetime. You will and Phoebe and Liam will all look back on this gift of a summer together.
As one who spent 5 years apart from my parents, and am now spending years apart from my children and grandchildren, I know what a great gift this time is.
AND happy birthday to Phoebe--and much success to her in her new job. And in her quest to reunite with her love.

I met you almost 24 years ago. Tiny child, you were introduced to me by your Uncle Dave, one of my forever besties. We went to cooking school together in Baltimore.
Phoebe, you were born into a perfect paradise. And it still is the original sanctuary, nurtured by your parents. This knowledge we share through this blog and your mother's Facebook..... This sharing in all things bright and beautiful and meaningful with your mother’s guidance. You have been given this lovely life, this meaningful existence in good faith.
A most perfect birthday I wish for you. May all your desires, dreams be fulfilled in your continuing wonderful life.
Paula Bauer....

Best Wishes, Phoebe. It's a beautiful area. Be sure to go for dinner -or a stay- at The Fryemont Inn in Bryson City. Biscuits and Rainbow trout and Mushroom Business to swoon over. The trout farm property backs up to the GS National Park so the water is optimum cold.... oh, lots of memories of vacation weeks in late 70s/early 80s.

I lived and taught school in the mountains of North Carolina for 3 years (Fayette County). What a beautiful place! Enjoy your new job.

Happy Birthday, Phoebe! I'm ahead of you 16 years today but 7/11 is always a good day in my book. Best of luck on your new adventures in North Carolina!

Julie, I hope we get to hear more about Dustin!

The love in this post--for your dear girl, nature, life itself--is a joy to read. Thank you, Julie. Your writing is always a call and reminder to love every little bit of being alive.

Your birthday tributes are always among my favorite posts--filled with love for Bill, Phoebe and Liam, and the natural world.

Captain Covid is despicable ! But such joy you’ve had these last four months... my momma’s heart aches a bit as your girl prepares her journey. The last four months have been in some ways a gift to me.. never have I had such a luscious garden .... quiet times with my grands! Saving gas and money just staying at home.. another blessing.. I’ve been a nurse for 38 years, always in Neonatal ICU... so I have seen very little COVID ... you must always find the good things and I’m so glad I’ve found you and your blog.. thank you, Julie!!


It's all just so beautiful – your kids, your relationships, your world. What a gift this time has been, even with the uncertainty and longing. The fruits of it – memories, a new job, better wi-fi, are lasting. As always, I am so thankful for what you share with us. Happy birthday, Phoebe!

Lovely, Julie. Happy Birthday, Phoebe! May you have many, many more.

What a truly lovely post! Kids are so precious and this summer you've been so lucky to have a magical time with yours. You have two wonderful kids who've had wonderful parents.

Happy birthday hope you have a fantastic day

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful young woman — who just happens to be your daughter. Parts made me tear up.

Thanks so much for the birthday post (beautiful, as always) and for the family update in general. With this year's calamities on top of last year's, you are three of the strongest people I know--plus the greatest dog, of course! Blessings and peace to you all, and especially to Phoebe and Oscar as they work toward a solution to their dilemma.

Oh, my. I love everything about this. But a woman who carries gallons of water to keep a mud puddle habitat viable is the best. Her modesty would prevent it, but I know of some tall, empty pedestals who’d benefit from a bronze casting of Phoebe to grace their town squares. Love you all, but special kisses to the birthday girl.

Thank you so much for capturing so well the experience I too have shared having my grown daughters with me again in a beautiful place for this extended time.

Made me cry - again. Your honesty, clear-sightedness and openness Julie is incredible. What a gift you are.

Your post is like a book i can't put down. Beautifully written ..(you are an excellent author) and the photographs along with it. I enjoyed it so much. Best wishes to your kids, our animals, birds, frogs, etc.. and you.

wondered how P. was out there in the middle of somewhere-else during all the COVID disasters. Glad that she made it home and that you all had some good time together. Miss your fornmer dog a little...>sigh<

I’m so glad I read this post. Happy birdday, Phoebe! Best of luck, Phoebe, Oscar, Liam, Julie, and Curtis!

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