The Work of Spring

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My baby girl is growing up. She frequently would like me to make her a cup of chamomile tea. She sets her little table with a tablecloth and the good china and wants to sit there by herself for dinner. She climbs trees higher than I feel comfortable with, and I try to remind her of the rules (you don't climb higher than you can get down from by yourself) without my voice going up in pitch just that very little bit that says I'm nervous. She tells me she's careful. She wants jeggings but she doesn't like how they have pockets in the back instead of the front. She brings me countless dandelion bouquets, and it is very hard for her to have the self-control needed to let all the tulips and daffodils now blooming in the yard stay in the ground, uncut. She is reading the very early reading books (but tells us she "already knows how to read"). Her baby teeth are falling out right and left. She's pounding nails and digging holes and knows all the words to songs I've never even heard. She is so thoughtful, so joyful, so quick to assist, so eager to play. She can take your toes off if you're not careful, dragging her footstool over as fast as she can to help you at the counter, to climb up to get a glass, to reach the water. She's busy. She's very, very busy, always drawing, always stapling, always cutting stuff up, always gluing, always arranging her nightstand or making a book. Today is the first day back to school after spring break, and it's my first time having a couple of hours all to myself in well over a week. It's been a whirlwind, and we didn't even really do much, or go much of anywhere. But it was so nice. The weather was gorgeous, the garden is starting to bloom, and we spent a lot of time cleaning up our spaces and uncovering the flourishing new growth of spring.

I spent some time at a bread-baking class with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in the Columbia Gorge. I drove out to the convent one morning by myself on the recently opened historic highway and wasn't prepared for the devastation. It is still very, very raw in our beloved gorge after the Eagle Creek forest fire, started by one teenager with illegal fireworks, burned 50,000 acres back in the fall of 2017. The fire, miles wide, went right across the historic highway. Everywhere the trees are still bare, brown, broken, the cliffsides denuded of green, now nothing but brown dirt and crumbling rock. Occasionally, you'll drive through a few dozen yards of road that the fire missed, and you'll see exactly what is missing: the green is gone, the layers and layers of moss, tiny filaments of green branches creating a haze overhead and through the woods, all the gauzy layers of greens, creating a complex web of new growth, small growth, old growth, so much green, depths of green, like green tulle tumbling upon itself in frothy layers of lichen and lace. It's all gone now. The spring sun blazes down there now. The slanted March light is harsh and unfiltered, and everything is brown. It's mostly just rock, and the blackened backsides of tree stumps, and the violent jumble of rock and log that comes right to the edge of the road, and starts up again right on the other side. It feels, as you're driving, that there should be many more guardrails; without the comfort and cushion of trees and leaves, the road feels like a hair's width, clinging to the side of the cliff without a spotter. It was startling. I wished I had not been there by myself. I was late, and the going was slow, winding and winding, rocks on the road, everything feeling like a landslide about to happen. I was disturbed, thought about calling Sister Rose and sending my regrets, and turning around. But there was nowhere to pull over, so I kept going. I couldn't not think about our many drives through the years, drives through what was once a cathedral of green, Wilco playing on the car stereo, sunlight dappling through the leaves, the air cool and clean, Amelia in her car seat on the way to her birthday lunch, or Andy's birthday lunch, at Multnomah Falls. It's different now. I wasn't prepared. It made my heart ache. Next time, whenever that is, we will go together, and I hope that spring and summer and time will start to have worked their magic once again on that aching and injured place.

Sister Rose taught us to make a lovely, homey white loaf, and that weekend I taught Amelia how to make cinnamon rolls. They were delicious. We used this recipe (and cut it in half). I don't like brown sugar so I did all cinnamon sugar. They took hours to make, which felt perfect for that rainy Saturday morning, and we at them for brunch. It felt good to knead the dough, and I had to knead it, because the Kitchen Aid is broken. The big screw that holds the mixer up came out somehow, and the whole thing is listing into the bowl. I need to take it to a repair place. Is there even such a thing?

Slowly but surely, all of our Secret Garden projects are coming together. We have candles to pour and wax sachets to make, and fifty more skeins of yarn to dye, and then just a whole lot of assembling and packaging. The soap is cured and wrapped, the patterns are printed and waiting, the floss is pulled, the duplicate stitch yarn is dyed. The lotion bars are half done. The bath salts need to be made. The labels are in my hands and the jars are on their way. The hoops — I almost forgot about the hoops. The hoops arrived from Denmark (after the embroidery kit patterns were printed) and they are a bit smaller than the hoop I used in the photo. There was some confusion about measurements, as I measured 6" from the inside of the hoop, and the manufacturer was measuring from the outside. Nevertheless, everyone here agreed that the smaller hoops actually look even better than the sample I'd photographed, so we are using them (and attaching a note about this to the kit). Things like this seem to happen. It's kind of the risk of taking pre-orders. I'm making peace with that. Very luckily, I really think this is actually a better option and one I would've chosen for it myself if I'd known. So hopefully that will be okay.

Our neighbors cut down a small birch tree on their property this morning. I asked them if I could have several of the limbs to use to make some edging for our raised beds, which we've cleaned up but haven't planted yet. So I have a pile of branches in the driveway and now need to teach myself how to make a simple woven border. I have an idea but I have no idea if it will work. I'll keep you posted.

Right now I'm listening to the purring of three baby squirrels that have taken up residence in a duct pipe above the exhaust fan in the crawl space about my studio. They are bustling around in there quite a bit today. We suspected they were there because I've been hearing something for a while, and Andy sent his phone (taped to a stick and recording video) up into the duct to see what was going on. Yup, three of them, all balled up together in a nest of fluff. Dang. They're so cute now but they can't stay there forever. I've been assured they can't fall through the exhaust fan into the studio, but I'm not sure I believe it. They literally sound like they're right there. Right above the fan duct. Time to make some calls.

***Amelia's new sweater is the Summer Rain Cardigan. I used leftover Purl Soho Cashmere Merino Bloom, which is baby soft, because I really wanted to make sure she would wear it. And she really does. It came out just how I wanted. For her new slippers I used this pattern and leftoever Lang Yarns Merino+ Superwash. Trying to hit that stash yarn hard these days. It feels good.

28 comments

That is terribly sad about the fire area. We'd driven up there the summer before the fire, and were shocked to see that this beautiful green magical place, straight out of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" really, was up in flames. Can't imagine how sad it was for you to drive through it. I'm glad you were able to offset the sadness a bit with some "creation" - the bread and, well, all your many other creative outlets.

Mackenzie says: April 01, 2019 at 04:50 PM

We made a little wattle fence for the edge of one my beds a few weekends ago. It is surprisingly easy! It will look neater with more stakes and similarly sized branches, but mine has neither and I love it.

https://www.kitchenaid.com/service-and-support/service-locator.html

I used this to find a place to fix my kitchenaid years ago! The place in Seattle was great, I’m sure there’s somewhere in Portland too.

I took my KitchenAid into a local appliance repair shop to be fixed a long time ago. Twice actually. My mixer is 18 years old and totally tries to rock itself off the counter every time I use it, but I can't bear to get rid of it and buy a new one.

You make the everyday very beautiful. My youngest is a very busy 6-year-old girl, so I get it all. But you handle it much more gracefully than I do I think ;)

Patty Ryan says: April 01, 2019 at 05:53 PM

Oh my goodness! The Franciscans have a convent near where I live in Michigan! On of my favorite sisters, Sr Mary Margaret Delaski, moved to the convent by you recently. She is an amazing harpist and just one of the most wonderful, holy women I have ever met. I have such wonderful memories of Saturday work days on the Franciscan's farm with my kids. They are just lovely people.

Such a lovely Spring post! Amelia reminds me so much of myself when I was a little girl. My mom said I would pick every tulip in our yard, and occasionally, one from the neighbor's yard - oops - and bring them inside to put in a vase. Not much has changed in that department, except I no longer pick from a neighbor's yard. They make me so happy!

wow, she really is growing bigger, older... so beautiful!!! what a wonderful bread-baking time; so sorry about the residue devastation from that forest fire; how horrible that is. Thank God in time, it can get better and heal. wishing you all the best in this Spring time!!! Hard to believe that Easter is just weeks away!!!

I haven’t seen that area since before the fire (we visit Portland annually), but I remember how magical it was. It was hard to believe what happened to it— we’re used to fires in SoCal, but Portland was always so different. Dry and warm though it is around here, it still always heals— I know the Gorge will too, although so much lushness will take a while. As for fixing things— the sew & vacuum place near us fixes everything. We also have a terrific handyman— maybe ask around and find someone who knows one?

I hadn't realized where the fire hit until reading this post. I was fortunate to see the area four years ago and fell in love with all of the magnificence and beauty there. Hoping nature restores its magic soon.

As always, your posts are wonderful reminders of the quiet joys of life. Thank you!

Oh, dear Clover just melts my heart...Those eyes!

Your posts always make me smile! I love seeing how Amelia is growing, changing and learning. It brings back so many fond memories of my girl's childhoods. (They are now 31 and 27!) You obviously treasure every moment and your blog will be something to look back on in the future. We live on the east coast but visited the Falls this past year. The devastation from the fire was sobering, so sad and unnecessary. Thanks for starting my day with a smile!

Christine says: April 02, 2019 at 04:55 AM

Beautiful photos! I love her sweater and slippers. The same thing happened to my Kitchen Aid mixer and my husband was able to screw it back in. You've probably tried but I thought I'd mention it. I was thinking I needed a new one.

Joan Lesmeister says: April 02, 2019 at 06:45 AM

Beautiful, sweet, thank you for your pictures, writing, blog......you are amazing! Thank you! Thank you! Hugs, Blessings on you and your family and readers!

Stefanie Price says: April 02, 2019 at 07:00 AM

Phew!...Girl you do stay busy!!...what a delightful age Amelia is...Busy at play...she sounds like such a sweet souled person!....I have to believe it has come through you and Andy modeling such behavior to her...you are great parents...making great memories...such a great foundation you have provided her with!!

you're exactly the kind of mother i'd hope to be if i become one.

I make a woven wattle fence every year using pyracantha and apple tree prunings. It is really easy.
just google some youtueb vidoes. Sadly, they do not last forever...as they biodegrade, but every year we need to prune the fruit trees and you have new building materials!

Amelia is growing up so quickly. She looks a lovely little girl.You should both be very proud. Time flies! x

I needed to coment today, just to tell you how beautifully descriptive your writings are of the moss, and your words about the devastation created by the fire made me sad, as my husband and I used to visit the area on our motorcycle, every year. It makes me feel much the same as I feel when I come across an area that has been clear cut. Thank goodness, we don't see that as often as we used to, but these fires in recent years...I wish sometimes that we could go back in time.

It is amazing how life continues and and you forget about things like the fire. I'm in the Seattle area (Poulsbo) but we have friends in Portland so we like to drive out on that highway. The description made my stomach hurt. I can't imagine it bare and burned, it sounds heartbreaking. I am so glad I will be prepared when I do drive it and can only imagine what it would have been like to come upon it alone.

I comment very rarely but I always read you and remember so well the first posts with baby Amelia, and it's shocking to see her so big. She's one lucky child.
Your posts and most of all your pictures are always so calming Alicia...I think you're better than therapy.

Kathleen Grady says: April 05, 2019 at 01:50 PM

such joy. I so appreciate your blog.

We have many fire areas here in Northern CA as well - a reminder to not take things for granted. So very sad for nature and people. That bread class sounds wonderful, but I would be scared to drive a road like that too! I'm sure you can get your mixer fixed although, at times, it seems cheaper to buy something again compared to the cost of repairs! Amazing how busy we are and the days fly by. Spring time and all it's beauty - yay! The heat will be coming too and that, is not something I look forward to! Happy Spring to all of you!

We had some friends visiting for the first time from Australia this past summer, and the elaborate lengths we had to go through to get to Multnomah Falls was really something. When I saw the burned parts of the gorge I cried on the bus, and have never felt quite right ever since, to be honest.

Love that crochet Alicia!! Very clever to add the blue. It's sad when a fire like that destroys things that have been there for so many years. Only took one teen age to do all of that. It shows the importance of teaching responsibility to kids.

JoAnne Daniels says: April 09, 2019 at 10:36 AM

I'm so sorry to read about the forest fire devastation and how it affected you. I live in northwest N.J. which is very rural. We had 2 beautiful hemlock trees that grew over our deck, waterfall, and Koi pond, which fell over last March when we had 4 back-to-back Nor'easters. The cool shade of these beautiful trees was our favorite place to sit on the whole property. The beauty of the trees, pond, and patio used to make me feel like I was lucky enough to live at a resort. Now the space is sunny, and even if we replace the hemlocks or plant some other tree, we will never sit under their shade again(my husband and I are in our 60s). It's made me feel differently about our yard, the work we put into it, and the impermanence of it all. Between fires, mud slides, tornadoes, and floods, so many of our countrymen have lost everything. I try to look on the bright side of things.
I think this is the first time I've responded to your blog -- probably because I could identify what you experienced. I enjoy your photos of Amelia and cooking, and your crafts. When I check into your blog, you brighten my day. Thank you!

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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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Photography

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.