This is midsummer


My in-box is full of back-to-school sales. My freezer is full of popsicles and nobody wants to eat anything except sliced cucumbers, cold cereal, or banana milkshakes. We drink chilled, pink wine or lemonade over crushed ice, and sleep on top of the sheets.

We finally had our huge and sorrowful lawn aerated, sprinklers adjusted, but it seems like a close call. There’s so much thatch, white clover, and lesser trefoil I begin to think we should let it go wild.

We once took the train to California — my mother, my brother, and me. She packed bagel sandwiches in tinfoil (when bagels, in Colorado, were so unknown my schoolmates teased me about bringing donuts in my lunch). As the cars pulled away and down the track, we waved to my father from the window, my heart breaking in the terribly woeful melodrama of a 9-year-old-girl. We made it to my aunt’s, and spent three late-summer weeks eating shaved ice and boogie boarding at Hermosa Beach.

I don’t remember if we took the train home, or flew, or drove? But when we got back to our shabby and magical little stucco house, my father told us to go see the backyard. We ran, expecting perhaps a new swingset or a puppy.

The grass was a foot high, at least, full of seedy stems and huge dandelions, little white moths and bees. He’d let it go wild while we were away, the push mower at rest in the crumbling garage. We walked through this tiny meadow, pushing at the tangled grasses with our knees, laughing at how the clothesline seemed closer to the ground, wondering at how something could change so much when you’re away.

I’m curious now if he ran out of time to mow before my mother came back, or saved it on purpose for us to see, did they argue about it, or laugh? Later, I watched him through the wavy glass of the eating nook window, the whicka-whicka-whicka of the mower and the green falling flat behind the blades.

Love the Place You Live

[Ed: When Design Mom opened up submissions to her Love the Place You Live series, how could I possibly say no? It’s still magic, this new place we call home. Thanks for taking a peek!]

“Life is bendable. Let’s see what shape we can make it.”

We’re nearly two years in. Two years since practically fleeing our beloved Portland for small(er) town life. Two years since setting the intention of “a small 1960s ranch house with a big yard and some chickens.” Two years of eyes-wide-open, chance-taking, risk-accepting days. We try hard to let patience and trust lead the way. The things we expected to be hard … haven’t been. The things we expected to be smooth sailing … not always the case.

Still, this place. It has stolen my heart and returned me to something I didn’t know I’d left behind.


The wide open skies of the high desert give us room to breathe. I still can’t get over the clouds. How did I, a Colorado girl, almost entirely forget the way clouds can tower over you, smack in the middle of a vibrant blue sky? My jaw doesn’t drop quite as far as it did in the first weeks here, but still, I am smacked with wonder several times a week. I’ve written about this before — instead of feeling lost on the vast horizon, being able to watch an entire weather system move across the land pinpoints me securely in place. I like to know exactly where I am.

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Lake life is the thing, it turns out. As a kid, I was landlocked. Then for a decade, I was sodden under city rain for months at a time. Now, I am still astonished that I can head out my front door and be in a pristine river in 15 minutes, or gliding across the silken surface of a clear alpine lake in 30.

Hosmer Lake

Hosmer Lake

Elk Lake

Elk Lake

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For the fourth, we left town in a flurry of late-night decisiveness. (The “late night” piece of that was daring, for us. The “decisiveness” piece was uncharacteristic. Go toward adventure … I’m working on that, hard.)

The Westy loaded by 10pm, we rumbled up the mountain highway toward a thick crescent moon and a place we’d never been before. We abandoned fireworks for friends under the trees, campfire smoke, stars sprayed thick and glittering … and in the morning, we woke to the clear waters of Little Lava Lake.

The mountain peaks stood sentry. We tested a kayak, SUPed (that’s stand-up-paddle, don’tcha know), and watched the girls wade for treasures and dig crawdads out from under submerged logs. We ate sandwiches and slathered sunscreen and yelled in surprise at the icy water. (It’s an amazing thing to stand in snow-melt waters while looking up at the very snowcapped peaks from which they flow. This, too, is to know exactly where you are.)

The kid and I paddled into an inlet, surrounded by tall reeds, and listened to the slap of water under the board, fish splash, hawk cry. I told her that one day, she would realize how lucky she was to know a place like this as her normal–just up the road from home.