Children's Fashion Workshop



I'm Erin.  Gardening addict, incurable maker, insatiable reader, closet author, chronicler of childhood, wanderer, wonderer.  I'm glad you've come to sit a while with me.

Instagram @ewatsonhowe


Offhand comments:

9.y.o.-"I have three ant bites.  Can I use this stuff I found in the first aid kit on them?  It's called ant-acid." 

9.y.o.-"It would be awesome if we had a 3-d printer because then we could print anything. a tiny little model of Angkor Wat!"


how it looks from here

A packed truck.  The road ahead, curving around a corner out of sight.  A mystery and a heartache: Why must we carefully pack up all the things, which don't matter, when all I want to pack up and take along are the friends?  I would give it all away many times over if I could bring you with me. 



a place I go

Early in the morning, after walking and breakfast but before the children are awake, I take a beat-up little camp chair, my personal study books and notebook, and hike up into the canyon behind the house.

It's quiet there, except for the birds, who seem to go insane with the chirping this time of day.  

Sometimes there's fog, like the morning when I took these pictures, and I'm cloaked and hidden, a solitary human in the shifting curtains of mist.  Sometimes the sun rises on a glitteringly clear morning, making me glad for the lace of shade the oaks provide.

For an hour, a delicious silent hour, I read and think and sit, really and truly alone.  Nobody comes barging in, shattering my thoughts.  I can't check my calls or emails.  I'm about a two-minute walk from the house, so if there was an emergency, they could of course come and find me, but it hasn't happened yet.  

Because here's the thing.  I love people.  This is a turnaround for me.  I used to say I didn't even like people, but I'm finding it isn't really so, I just like people one, maybe two at a time.  I like them very much, and of the people I love my family is top of the heap.  But constantly being with people is tiring, and I end up disappointing myself by needing to withdraw, be alone, and saying things like, "I don't like people."

Someone said to me once that my apology for not being so much better than I was was like apologizing for not being nine feet tall.  I think about that often.  I'm not, in so many ways, nine feet tall.

Amazingly, my daily retreat helps give me the stamina and resilience I need to enjoy being with my children all day.  This seems paradoxical, doesn't it?  That a little time alone should shore you up and make being not-alone more enjoyable?  Now I find myself thinking, not, "I never even get to be alone," but "I have been alone, and will be alone again," and the thought is strengthening, somehow.  

This little guy is the king of my quiet place:

I wouldn't say I go looking for weird shapes in tree crags.  The trees around here just serve them up so readily. 

One morning while I was reading a coyote came out of the brush maybe ten feet away.  I was so quiet he didn't notice me.  I stood up to scare him away (coyotes must remain afraid of people, this is the human/wildlife law) and off he ran, chuffing under his breath for his buddies.  He couldn't find them, and finally set up a desolate howl when he reached the other side of the canyon.  I remember the startled look in his eyes, the "Where did YOU come from?" that almost made me laugh.  Do I not belong here, coyote?  Who gets to say?

I'll miss my quiet place when we move, but now that I know the power of it, I'll surely find another to take its place.  Who knew what an hour alone could do?


p.s. Do you have a quiet place?  Do you need one?   


precisely why we never keep them in the house



when the little birds have flown

Well, we finally hired someone to finish the porch ceiling.  We struggled with it off and on over the last three years until it became a kind of symbol for all that we believe we can do but really can't.  It's not that we don't have or can't learn the skills necessary, (although our carpenter did tear out all the work we had done, rather pitilessly, I thought) but more that our time simply can't expand to contain all the things we think we should be able to do.  

The birds that lived in the porch eaves had become woven into our story as being more or less like us, living and raising children in the unfinished, imperfect corners.  So I was upset to see their nests lying on the ground when I came home from Cub Camp each day.  I was quickly reassured that there hadn't been any baby birds in any of the nests, that most of them were old, but I wondered whether these guys would tell me or keep me in the dark in order to finish the job I was paying them to do.

A day or so later, I came home to find the ceiling finished, all but a tiny hole in one corner.  There were baby birds there, I was told, and if I wanted them removed, I only had to say so.  Relieved, and to the carpenter's relief, I said please leave them. 

The house finch babies take only weeks to grow and leave the nest.  When this nestful has grown up, the hole will be boarded up, the ceiling finished.  By that time, we'll be gone from here too.  A new job, and a new adventure, calls to us from South Carolina this time.  I dream of afternoon thunderstorms, of the way the green landscape hurts desert-parched eyes for weeks before settling into normal, of, yes, a house we can hope to someday finish paying for.  

When we moved back to California four years ago, I was lost and hurt, angry and closed.  I was leaving people and a place I loved, and I didn't know, love, or want to love anyone here.  I wallowed in that corner alone for a long time, I'm a little ashamed to admit now.  When we moved out of our rental home after a year, no friends wept for me because I had none there.  I had carefully kept my heart fenced off with barbed wire.

Now that it comes time to leave again, I wonder whether that's better or worse than this.  Because I took down the barbed wire, bit by bit, and let a few people in.  I never let many in at any time, somehow, but once they're there, I have the strangest compulsion to put the fence back up and never let them out again.

I suppose I'll go on wondering.  It's what I do.  I'll wonder while I pack up my weary and child-dinged things to move across the country again, a little worse, and a little better, for the wear myself.  I'll think on how leaving doesn't hurt as badly because I'm older but hurts even worse because the faces are different each time.  I'll think about the faces I have yet to know, those that are blank to me now, but in years to come will be as dear as those I'm leaving behind now. 

I'll lay these things away to ponder on, probably for the rest of my days.  This, blithe as it sounds, but with all the depth I can give the phrase, is life.  It's a twisty-turny, upside-down, ever-shifting kaleidoscope, but it sure does give you a lot to think about.  

When we're through with this house, it'll be more finished, and hopefully more presentable, than it ever was when we lived here, which is fitting, I suppose.  It'll have no bird nests in the porch ceiling corners, no holes in the drywall, no scribbles on the walls.  It'll be presentable (and saleable) to the next family that wants to have a go with it.  They'll have to put the last board up over the empty nest in the porch ceiling, though, because by the time those little birds have flown, we will have too.  



yes, that's exactly what it is

Driving along the other day, I was absently running my fingers through my hair and pulled out an extra long one, white from root to tip.  "Here," I said, handing it to my 13-year-old who was riding shotgun.  "This is for you."  

He gasped, "A unicorn hair!" and wrapped it reverently around his finger to save for later.  I like his definition much better than my previous one.  I'm not growing old.  I'm growing unicorn hairs.