Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Growing UP: The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of

I am really not sure I can do this story justice. I do not think that I have the vocabulary or skill necessary to relate the sheer terror and absolute horror that my cousins, siblings and I experienced the summer of 1979. We were living in that quaint northern California town in our little family commune as I have previously described. We were free and happy. Life was idyllic in nearly every way that our young bodies and minds cared about. We played in the dirt, ran and skated in the streets with reckless abandon day after day. That is, until they came.

Crickets. Lots of them. So many that even extreme use of forced hyperbole will not make you see the extent to which we suffered. They loved dusk. It was their time. You need to understand something. To outsiders, California seems like a lovely place where the weather is a perfect 80 degrees all the time and everyone spends their time at the beach. Ok, let's get one thing straight. That is SoCal. The valley of NoCal is hot. Blisteringly, menacingly, uncomfortably hot. So, we children were often forced indoors during the worst part of the heat and let out again at dusk when it started to cool down to a nice manageable 95. But, they loved dusk too. As far as we could see, nothing but crickets. The sidewalks and driveways were relatively cool compared to the asphalt, so they congregated there like some evil assembly of devoted worshipers waiting for their master to arrive. Waiting for their master. Waiting for the children.

I can still hear the crunch of cricket bodies, large and small, give way under the weight of even the tiniest feet. We were not accustomed to shoes. I do not remember if we even owned any. Usually shoes were outgrown by the end of the school year and our folks just waited until fall to buy new ones. Crunch, crunch, crack. Those that did not immediately meet their demise jumped frantically in what I am sure was an attempt at attack in retaliation of their fallen. Smack, smack, sting. We could feel their tiny sharp bodies hitting our bare legs, some clinging to our clothes and skin in an endeavor to avoid the onslaught of children running for safer ground. Little Brother, the youngest and smallest of our gang, often received the worst of the pelting as the creatures jumped high enough to pepper his bare belly, chest and back. Sometimes one of the older kids would go back in a valiant attempt at heroism and carry the little man to safety. It was by sheer grit that we made it through that summer alive. We were Cowperthwaites and we were determined. Not even an invasion of the most menacing kind could keep us from a good pile of dirt.

Of course, if any of them read this, I am very sure they will not be sleeping tonight!

Quote of the Day: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. And also crickets." --Me

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

UPdog: Keep Calm and Follow Through

In an attempt to follow through with yesterday's post, I have made a step forward. A tiny step, but a step. I am hoping to challenge myself a little bit with a new project. It is nothing fancy...kinda like me, but I hope that it will keep that evolution going and that it will keep my creative juices flowing. I am an expert daydreamer but not much of a followthrough-er. Hopefully, this will help me overcoming a few shortcomings in that department.

Anyway, if you have any interest in learning more about yoga, find my new endeavor here on Facebook.

Quote of the Day: "I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering."
--Steven Wright comedian

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

UP UP and Away: The Theory of Evolution

I have been thinking lately about evolution. No, not that evolution, although only my hair dresser knows how dangerously close I am coming to having but a single eyebrow. No, the evolution of me as a person, as a Christian, as a yogi, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer etc. All the things that make me, me. And you, you. I do not think that my ideas about important things have really changed much, but in some ways, as I learn more about stuff, my ideas have evolved. Certain ideas have broadened and expanded while others have come into sharper focus.

I love learning. Sometimes to my detriment because I often jump from subject to subject and I find myself in middle age, the pupil of numerous subjects, but an expert of none. But maybe that is ok. Maybe it is ok to be the student. Perhaps it is a great thing to keep evolving and learning. Gosh, how boring would it be if we didn't continually grow and change and become. If we didn't take a few chances now and then, learn something new, try something different! The world is our classroom and all that jazz. Just a thought.

Quote of the Day: "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
--Pablo Picasso

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Growing UP and Other Shenanigans

In an attempt to get down a few family stories (which was the original intention of this blog in the first place) I asked my siblings and cousins for a few memories to share. One actually came as a surprise to me today. Well, the memory did not come as a surprise, the fact that none of the grown-ups knew about it was the surprise. Surprise!

I need to preface this narrative with a little back story...
NatureGirl--4th grade

I spent quite a few of my very most formative childhood years living in a little bit of a commune. Not a commune in the strictest sense of the word perhaps, but quite communal nonetheless. We had a family business in construction and in that work, we built a subdivision and all lived in that neighborhood together. We had our house, next door was my aunt and uncle and two cousins. The next house was Mr. Toy, the mailman. Next door to that was my other aunt and uncle and two more cousins, and across the street was my grandfather, Papa. We lived like this for quite a few years rather happily, likely because, as I mentioned in the last post, we had very little supervision.

To get a sense of the fact that it was less like 4 families living near each other, and more like one rather large family, the cousins were at one point, ages 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 & 5. (Truth be told, I wish my mother had tricked my dad into having my brother a little sooner, so that there was no dangler, but nothing is perfect.) The family joke is that when the street lights came on and it was time to go in for the night that the moms would just open the door and yell out the number of kids that belonged in that house. When they had the right number, they shut the door. It did not really matter which kids they had as long as it matched the number chairs at the dinner table.

The memory that all 7 of us cousins share, but that the grown-ups were oblivious to, is the nudist. Yes, nudist. As in naked guy. Naked Guy lived one street over from where our homes were and we had to pass his house on the walk home from school. No one ever sold Girl Scout cookies or went trick-or-treating there. Not more than once anyway.  He did a lot of stuff naked. Worked on his car, luckily in the garage. He mowed the lawn au natural, thankfully he had a four foot privacy fence around the front of his yard. It was certain though, that every kid walking by would attempt a peek through the slats in the fence by means of a carefully honed sideways glance, mindful of the need to appear completely uninterested! 

For the most part he really did keep to himself and we saw very little of his birthday suit, with one exception. He had the tendency to talk on the phone standing in front of his floor to ceiling second-story window. Now, I do not want to jump to any kind of conclusions, but he seemed to talk on the phone a lot. So, now you know what we were exposed to as Californian children of the 70's. The surprise part of this story is that apparently, as I just learned, the grown-ups had no idea! Hilarious, or extremely creepy. Either way, memorable.

Quote of the Day: "If you never jumped from one couch to the other to save yourself from the lava, you did not have a childhood."--Unknown

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Bike DOWN Memory Lane

I really should have put this thought to paper when it actually happened, but I did not and so I am saying to myself, "Better late than never, right?" I have been plagued as of late (40 years or so) by what could be called a wee bit of self doubt, but is actually a huge, enormous elephant sized helping of such. And because of this doubt, I stopped writing in public. Little Brother's rather stern lecture today has all but forced me back in the game.

There is something about smell that has the ability to transport us instantly to another time and place. It is usually, for me, a nostalgic conveyance back to a specific and often intense memory. While out on a bike ride this summer, I was stopped mid pedal-stroke by a smell that brought vivid memories to mind and made me almost laugh aloud. I stopped on the side of the trail and backtracked until I found the small clump of yellow flowers that had sparked the memory.

When I was a kid, we lived in a subdivision that still had several undeveloped acres surrounding the new homes. Those plats were overgrown as far as the eye could see with what we called mustard flowers. The plants were over my head, and it was the most amazing playground a kid could have asked for. My siblings, cousins and I spent countless hours making forts in those weeds. We would stamp down the plants flat to create different rooms in our weed mansion. A living room and kitchen. Bedrooms, playrooms and even a bathroom, which I hate to admit we used, but we did. Don't judge, it was the 70's and we had very little supervision. The smell of the mustard flowers was intense and by the time we were done flattening the stems to the ground, romping through the rooms we had created and sleeping atop beds of flowers, we were sticky with the scent. Catching that scent in the air that day on my bike, brought me back in an instant to those fields.

I should have put this thought to paper the moment it happened, for in that brief moment, by the side of the road, the memory was as thick as that smell had been then. I was 9 years old again, and all was right with the world.

Quote of the Day: "If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older."
--Tom Stoppard playwright