Tipping the Scale

We spent our weekend immersed in the hush of late September. The lull of the seasonal balance was everywhere, a held breath before the descent into winter. For me, the scent of memory may forever be the smell of sweet grass and dry, dry air. The farmer’s market was piled high with tomatoes, the apple tree was loaded and waiting and the creek bed held remnants, tadpoles and tracks.

On Saturday morning, we participated in a litter clean-up at Whiskeytown Lake. Fern loves picking up trash off the street, we thought this would be perfect. Instead, she hollered when we wouldn’t let her drown herself and was finally content to throw rocks into the water while we picked up countless cigarette butts. We need little excuse to spend time there, but this was a good one.

Slow down and be still.

A friend was here.

Jeff made it his personal mission to pick as many apples as possible. Only one of our trees bore fruit, but it seemed to be making up for the rest of the orchard slacking off. I have no idea what variety of apples they are. Let’s call them Dry Creek Honeys.

A Goldilocks apple…just right.

And just like the story, she would have tried them all if we had let her, a little bite mark in each one.

We picked a whole bushel, plus five pounds. That’s 47 lbs, y’all!

Lest this blog fall prey to an image of bucolic perfection (a trend in mommy blogs, as Brigit so hilariously pointed out in her recent post.), here is the countenance that portrays many of our hours this weekend.

Pobrecita. I had the audacity to offer her help in climbing the ladder. I know, how could I do such a thing?

I’ve made a small batch of applesauce, and plan on making a s#*t ton of apple butter. I am also attempting apple cider vinegar again…it succumbed to fruit flies last year, but I think I have a better method. I will post on that later!

We headed to the fair in Red Bluff…a tiny town south of Redding that we used to joke, “Blink, and you might miss it”. No progressive bubble here, this was not your Marin County Fair, with well kept pets and organic everything. The animals are for slaughter and the politics are to the far right. Gritty and uncomfortable, there was also beauty and glee mixed in.

I so hope we can make it back up for this.

Some of you may know this, and some may not…but I will drive way out of my way to go to a Demolition Derby. They’re loud, they’re a symbol of our love affair with cars and our freedom to waste fossil fuels, there’s probably nothing redeeming about them and they’re one of my favorite things in the world. The announcer said, “Are you ready to tear shit up?!”. Aw, hells yes.

I suspected Fern would love it…the crashing, the cheering, the bleachers to climb on. She certainly did, and she also made a friend who shared his cotton candy with her.



The highlight of the fair for Fern was a cringe worthy band playing “rock and roll greats”. Unable to contain herself, she danced straight through 5 songs.

I realize the top of my dress is unbuttoned at :50. Stay classy.

Knowing that the water would be nearly gone in this driest part of the year, we spent a quiet morning walking the creek bed, following a siren’s call of “I wonder what could be up ahead…”.

Just in time for New York Fashion Week, nature was putting out its fall display. The trolls are wearing stone hats like the one above, the fairies are weaving spider web shawls bedecked with dew drops and the gnomes are making garments from lacey leaves.

Gnome homes.

If you’ve ever read Gnomes, you know that they make fake footprints to cover up their tracks. I offer the above as proof.

I wandered, lost at times. Empty and aching, I frequently saw the negative space, the places carved out of me that showed where he had been. With my heart heavy with regret, guilt, remorse, I grieved for that which I cannot change. The land offered its support, leaping up where I would fall, easing me down. Nothing is resolved, but there were the reminders of the softness available in an otherwise acute process. On our last morning, I was releasing a giant wolf spider outside, when Fern, who was behind me, shouted, “Mama! Dee! Mama! Dee!” I looked up to see a visitor that I had heard at night, whose traces were all over the hill. I thought of one of the meanings of Deer medicine, that of gentleness, of self-compassion. Hand on my heart, I bowed to her.

Fern began her own mantra, that of “Dee Poop! Dee poop! Dee poop!”

On our way home Jeff said, as I was in tears, “I don’t know what to say, except that Fern and I are here to help you through this.”

I don’t know what I would do without them.


11 thoughts on “Tipping the Scale

  1. What a wonderful collection of pictures from your favorite family spot. Hope you were able laugh, smile and enjoy the outdoors. We are having similar weather here. Colin and I were catching crabs at the beach today. He would love a demolition derby, too. Who knew? Looking forward to visiting you. Love to you and may your autumnal bliss continue in SF.

  2. Fern seems to just get progressively more hilariously adorable! Great picture with the apples. And the dancing. Perfect.

    And, that last major paragraph… right there with you. It comes it waves, doesn’t it? I keep unconsciously trying to find Louie in all his favorite spots, to no avail. There’s this big empty hole in my life that once was perfectly inhabited by my furry soulmate. I’m trying to just be grateful for the time I had with him, and in my better moments I somewhat jokingly ask myself, “WWLD?” (what would Louie do? or Leo, for you). Sending hugs your way.

  3. oh, mary! i had somehow missed the post about your beautiful doggie passing. i’m so sorry. 😦
    you look beautiful dancing with your baby girl, though, and i laughed my ass off at the keep it classy part. thanks for the shout out!
    and sweet jesus i think your daughter might be an elf. who has a face like that? an elf, i tell you. she is too much!

  4. looks like a lovely weekend. i can practically hear the quiet. i hope it proved soothing to the soul.

    i am so glad that i am not alone in my strange affection for demolition derbies! poor old proud mary, why do so many bands want to do her like that? though it’s hard to mind when you have a wee golden nymph to take your mind off of it 🙂

    (and on a silly, insignificant note, i love your floppy hatted dancing ensemble. you look beautiful, wardrobe malfunction and all.)

  5. i have never been to a demolition derby. what the hell? growing up in arkansas? how did my dad never take me to one? must fix that. i live in the wild west now. they must have them here too? max would die. he might actually get really nervous, but if not, he would die in disbelief and humor. i liked reading brigit’s rant. i will go tell her. i liked watching you two dance. i liked reading how sincerely caring and supportive jeff is, in just the right way it sounds…. i like that you got so many apples!! i must go pick some now. which means i have to call a neighbor i don’t know, whose apple tree i’ve been spying. and i guess i ‘ll need a long grabber thing…..

  6. oh lovely. i enjoyed experiencing the breadth of this entire gamut of emotions, from wonder to happy dancing to emptiness and grief, apples, fairs, dry rock, dry land. what a beautiful place to work through some of it, and i think the gnomes were happy to have such thoughtful visitors.

  7. beautiful, mary. i send you a hug… i’m glad your homies are there for you. and that you have lots and lots of apples to keep your hands occupied while you feel your feelings. 🙂

  8. I’ll have you know that we make it an annual event to get a group of friends together for the demolition derby at the Sonoma County Fair every summer! It’s conveniently located only a few blocks from our house and SO MUCH FUN! Perhaps y’all can join us next year 😀

    Part of the tradition is also to make a stop at the old timey photo booth after the derby for a group shot involving pistol toting toddlers and guy friends dressed as saloon gals. I need to get ahold of this year’s picture so I can post it. Here’s last years: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23821209@N06/4886177767/

    Enjoying getting caught up with your world Mary 🙂 How cool is your hawk friend?!?!

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