Showers of Flowers

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There's a mysterious, melancholy beauty that is so specific and to this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. The skies are dark and flat, matte gray, or like a frosted light box, glowing and opaque. The wind is cold, blowing cold rain into your face. The ground squelches and sinks, and you slip, sliding on the skanty grass while trying to fill up the bird feeder. The birds come, bright flashes against the dark afternoon. The wind blows water from the new leaves. Some daffodils have already faded. The branches that haven't yet budded out (and there are many) are dark and wet, their patches of lichen and moss (and whatever else it is that creeps across their spongy bark) bright with chlorophyll and optimism. Everything is tender, and cold, and vulnerable. Nothing, absolutely nothing, wants for water, for water is everywhere now — in the wind, in the air, in the ground, in the leaves above your head as you sit on the porch and listen to the birds sing, and watch the squirrel that is probably the same squirrel that lives in your ceiling air duct eat sunflower seed for four hours from your flat feeder. He's content as a kitten, sitting there right in the pan with his tiny hands held up to his mouth, nibbling daintily but constantly at the black seeds.

This is the best time of year for me, with all the cold and rain of winter but also all the best flowers, the daffodils and forsythia and tulips and bluebells; the enormous, suede-like pink magnolias; the ornamental flowering pear trees lining every street, and the petal-heavy cherry blossoms, and her dirty hands holding bouquets of grape hyacinths to bring to the ballet mistress. The sidewalks are covered in bruised petals, and piles of browning petals collect in the gutters and gullies. Everywhere there are petals and buds and things still just beginning to start, which is my absolute favorite state of being.

Yesterday was a hard day, teacher conferences with Amelia's sweet, darling, angel of a teacher, hard because we have, with some relief but mostly with somewhat broken hearts, decided not to return to our lovely school next year. Simply, we just can't afford the tuition or the very long commute. Andy and I sat in Mimi's classroom yesterday, filled with gratitude for all of the amazing things she's learned this year, listening to her teacher talk about her with so much affection and humor and love. She told us stories so similar to the ones we live daily with Mimi, and we laughed with joy and wonder at the silliness and the amazingness and just . . . all the cool things that she and her classmates are doing right now. Learning to read is pure magic, sitting with her each night as she earns every single word she reads out loud, whispering the phonograms to herself, sounding out the letters, asking me whether a vowel is going to be long or short or silent in any case, restricting herself from using the pictures to guess at the words. I've never told her to do that, but it seems to come naturally, and I watch and listen in constant wonder at the mysteriousness of this process, and marvel at how, in just one week, a kid can go from not really reading to totally, suddenly reading. Is it not a miracle of human development? And what, honestly, isn't a miracle? I'm beginning to think absolutely everything, everything is.

We hugged the teacher and I got choked up in the hallway as we left the conference, saw one of my friends around the corner who knew how I was feeling (she's been there forever, and knows very well what we're leaving), and I said, red-faced and blotchy-necked, "Conferences," as explanation. "It's hard to leave everyone. . . ." She said, "I know," and nodded kindly. Already, in just one year, this has become Mimi's place, where she has loved and been loved and nurtured and encouraged and guided, where the Montessori pedagogy has been perfect for her, where everyone has been just so kind. I fervently hope that transferring to our neighborhood public elementary is as good an experience as this has, in almost every way, been. I'm so grateful it has been so good, even just for this year. We are definitely looking forward to being back in our own neighborhood. But I do wish there were more public options for Montessori-type education. 

Back at home, Kady and Andy and I are finishing up the final projects for Secret Garden. We've started to ship embroidery kits and will start shipping knitting kits next week. Apothecary boxes will be the last to go, as I still need to make all of the wax sachets for that. But that's almost the last thing. Packing these will be an adventure! The boxes are big and heavy. Everything looks so pretty and smells so good. I'm proud of all of this but I will be very ready to be done by the time we get the final order out the door at the end of the month. Next up for me will be a new cross stitch kit, and then I'll be working on my dollies this summer, for release sometime in the fall.

I recently finished two mysteries that I absolutely loved called Missing, Presumed and its sequel, Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner. I read the first one and listened to the audiobook of the second one. (If you don't have your library card hooked up to the Libby app, I recommend it; Libby is not great for browsing, but if you know what you're looking for you can check out audiobooks [and place holds] and listen to them right through the app.) I loved the narrator for the Persons Unknown audiobook. It's really the first audiobook since Secret Garden that I have totally gotten into. I really like detective characters. These mysteries are wonderful for me because they have so much character development. I'm now in that weird phase that sometimes happens where I only want to read something exactly like what I just read, and nothing else will do. I've started seven other books and three audiobooks since and they've all been . . . meh. I'm sure they all would've been fine books if only I'd read them before. . . .

***The lovely painting of Amelia is one I had done several years ago by Olga Bulakhovska of OliFineArt on Etsy. If you were reading this blog back in 2014 you might remember the photo in this post that was used to paint the portrait, and Oli couldn't have done a more perfect job of it. I love it so much.

37 comments

Have you listened to Michele Obama’s audiobook of Becoming yet? It’s simply amazing!

Susan from Tsawwassen says: April 12, 2019 at 11:49 AM

Having a similar spring in the Vancouver BC area. Brilliant colours and flat greys, sun and warmth, rain and cool. And green!

Gosh, I love that picture of Amelia holding the grape hyacinths!!

I just wanted to say that after reading your post about Secret Garden, I took your advice and ordered your suggested copy with the beautiful illustrations (last copy on the island) for my granddaughter's 8th birthday. She and her mother (my daughter) just love the book and will be reading it together. What a memorable gift it has turned out to be.
Thank you, very much for the idea...

My three granddaughters were attending a wonderful, private school that closed for a variety of reasons. They are now attending public schools. There were adjustments at first, but now they are thriving. And, of course, a great deal of financial pressure has been removed.

As a teacher and parent, I have always found that a child's home life and parental and familial support go a LONG way in achieving success in school. In fact, it really is the most important influence. Our four children all went to public schools and then went to outstanding universities, including two Ivy League schools. (It's a long story, but they also had almost no debt.) Keep reading with Amelia, stay engaged with homework and assignments, volunteer at the school etc. She will do great. She may also nurture new friendships with children right in your neighborhood.

Thank you for the beautiful photos of spring flowers. They are a reminder to me that spring will come here in Ontario, Canada, at some point, too. Right now the snow is melting and the lake is beginning to open at the edges. I watch the melt daily, as there is a risk of flooding again this year. I am so looking forward to grass and green buds and flowers.

As someone returning to Portland this year, worried about transitioning from her small private school to PDX public school but excited to be in a neighborhood school again...this is reassuring. We can make sure PDX public schools do what they oughta.

Witnessing a child take a leap forward in learning to read is miraculous to me, too, Alicia...actuallly the whole process of learning to read is amazing. My favorite employment was working as a teaching assistant in upstate NY working mostly one on one with young elementary students on reading skills. Although over 20 years ago, in my mind's eye, I still have a vivid memory of the look of joy on a little boy's face as he got so involved with the story, he read with seeming sudden ease, and delightful expression. It has been a long time since I have typed to you after a personally especially challenging last two years, but I still care about you and yours and am cheering you on as you share your creative gifts and transition Mimi into a new school. May the Lord bless you. 💞🌷💞🤗

I love watching the seasons change through your lens. I live in upstate New York, about halfway between NYC and Montreal. No flowers yet, but the tulips and daffodils are showing their green leaves a bit, and the grass is finally more green than brown!.

As to reading..just in case you haven’t yet discovered Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache books, please try them. It’s nice to read and/or listen to them in order if you can. Another favorite are Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti books. There are a lot of them, but only a few are available in audio format.

Teresa Stripe says: April 12, 2019 at 05:27 PM

Hi Alicia! I too recommend each and every Inspector Gamache by Louise Penny book. I also highly recommend the 4 mysteries written by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowling. I spent this past Winter totally absorbed in the Galbraiths while drinking gallons of brewed tea. Good times! Spring has sprung here in the North Dallas area, I am looking forward to working on your new projects on my patio and enjoying the sunshine.

Our library also uses Overdrive, which I find to be much friendlier when it comes to finding something you want to read or listen to, as it has "similar" recommendations at the bottom of most entries. :)

sorry for the tears!
I do hope the next school will be good; you are a wonderful Mother; take heart; I will pray for you about this today. I hope all shall be well for all of you; it's hard to have an ideal that one cannot have long term (i.e. school) but we must trust that what we are given can be enough and that we can create good and beauty there; you do this so well; I hope you have a good weekend and that you have an encouraging Easter time!

Oh my goodness how this struck a chord! We also had to switch our kiddo's school after the 5th grade in our case, because of exactly the same issue - commute and expense. She began public school for the first time in 6th grade, starting in middle school. It's all been a grand adventure that's been going really well. She's particularly LOVED the larger social environment of her new school. And I'm loving the spring weather right now - the rain, even the colder temps, although I would love to get out and do some planting - I'm not intrepid enough to plant in the rain and the cold.

What pretty moody Spring images. I'm concerned about you being unhappy.. I hope everything is okay with you. I'm here for you if you need a sympathetic ear. How neat that you visited Deep Creek Garden Center.. it's in our neck of the woods and I love going there. Don't work too hard! :-)
((hugs)), Teresa :-)

❀.•❤•.✿.•❤ Happy Easter! ❀.•❤•.✿.•❤

Your pictures are always so beautiful and I love when I see there is a new blog post from you to read. I enjoy them so much! I'm so excited because I'm expecting to receive my embroidery kit in the mail today!

Diane Gasior says: April 13, 2019 at 04:24 AM

If your app has Mainely Needlepoint Mysteries by Lea Wait, I think you would enjoy listening to them. Great books to either stitch or knit while listening. At the beginning of each chapter she recites from a “sampler” then gives you the date and the person who stitched the sampler.

Angela Pea says: April 13, 2019 at 07:28 AM

I followed the link in this post and read about your accident. The depth of hope and gratitude, and the likening of your recovery time to a brief return to childhood with its boredom and dependence, struck a chord on this Mother's heartstrings. You see, our youngest son was in a terrible motorcycle accident before Christmas last year. The driver changed lanes without looking, crushing his right leg. The surgeons put it back together, creating bones with titanium and tethering tendons with miniscule plates and screws and wires. He's been housebound all winter, frustrated and bored as only a twenty-two year old man-boy who has never seen himself as anything other than invincible. I've been reminding him that this is a period of resetting, a time to stop reaching for the responsibilities of adult life and be dependent on Mom and Dad for just a little while more.

He took his first steps this week, just as spring throws her riotous embracing arms around us.

Elizabeth says: April 13, 2019 at 12:30 PM

We are having similar weather in Salt Lake but with addition of snow. Not much the last two mornings but enough to keep everything wet as it melts. Patches of sun now and then as the clouds roll by.
My Secret Garden kit arrived today, thank you, Alicia! I'm a bit nervous as I've not done this type of embroidery before. I guess I'll just take it slowly and undo until it looks as nice as the picture.
I was wondering if you've read The Secret Garden to Amelia yet? Is six and a half too young? My granddaughter is the same age and I'd love to read it to her.
Thank you for the book recommendations, I'm always on the lookout for a good mystery!
Enjoy this lovely time of year!

Sarah Craighead Dedmon says: April 13, 2019 at 04:03 PM

Will you be doing anymore of the sweet little Secret Garden embroidery kits?

I so love you're writing. It's neither precious or indulgent and somehow so in line with how I'm feeling so often. I feel for you leaving your daugher's school. We've been in our neighborhood public school for Kindergarten this year and although I'm not a huge fan, the learning that is happening is magical. I've forgiven myself or keep forgiving myself for not being able to afford something that is more in line with how I want her to learn. I am my daughter's advocate and I'm regularly questioning to make things better (from my perspective). XOXO

Barbara Prime says: April 14, 2019 at 07:57 AM

I love the beginning of Spring too. Digging around in my flower beds, uncovering the tips of bulbs. Noisy birds, warm sun and cool wind, the smell of wet earth. I wish it lasted longer in Montreal - we only seem to get 4-5 weeks of Spring, before it becomes hot in the middle of May, and all the Spring flowers wilt. I'm envious of all the gorgeous blossoms you have there, most of which don't even grow here. Sigh. Oh well, I make the best of what I have.

I'm not sure if you like YA novels, or if these will be something you'd enjoy, but last Fall I read a series called the Wells and Wong Mysteries, by Robin Stevens. They're set in early 20th cent. England, at a girls' school, and involved two best friends who have a secret detective agency for solving murders. The characters are so interesting, and the stories are funny and engaging. They were just such an entertaining read, and I had to make myself space them out, so I wouldn't read them all in a month!

"And what, honestly, isn't a miracle? I'm beginning to think absolutely everything, everything is."

loved this just so so so much. xxxooo

This post make me feel a little sad and nostalgic, I really hope you and Mimi will be happy in new school! Both you and Andy always seemed to me a kind of people who are blessed with the ability to love the moment, to love everything that you have, be happy with sun and trees and the live that is happening right now. So I’m sure this will make you all happy in new school. You alway find something to be happy about, some beauty in simple things, I’ve learnt to do it from you and this really is a life changing thing. And also hooray to the new cross stitch pattern! I love my 4 seasons collection of your designs and will look forward for the new one.

Such beautiful writing! Blessings to you and yours!!

We are also changing schools this year, at the end of grade one, leaving a tiny, welcoming, private Quaker school for a massive, closer, public school. I am terrified of the transition and very sad to be leaving such a special and intimate community. Good luck to you guys!

I just love reading your blog. It's so comforting to realize we really do live in an amazing world full of miracles everywhere we look, if we just look. I can't imagine not seeing miracles. And seeing Amelia's picture, I just remember I thought she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen and she's growing up into such a sweet, pretty, kind little girl. Every time I read your blog I feel like making something, planting something or reading a good book. I'm with you wanting to stay with the same kind of book after reading a really good one, but there are so many great authors to explore, I soon find another. I love when an author has written lots of books so I can read that particular author for a while. Wishing you joy and a happy Spring.

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About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.