Starting the year off with a mountain song in our heart, even though an icy wind stung our eyes and burned our skin. After a decade of living in a city that stays mostly green, seeking out winter on Mt Hood became a comforting ritual and reset.
Exclamation points every where I look, telling me to take stock of my flock. So my gaze lands on this one, about to turn six. This is the only home Otto has ever known and it has been good to our family. We stayed for 8 years on Maryland Avenue, two years was all we had ever been able to pull off everywhere else. When we started tossing out the idea of moving away, the children would howl in protest.
We spent every Tuesday at the roller rink in February. Skating in circles turns out to be a comforting mechanism when all is unpredictable. Also learning how to fall hard and get back up again.
Oscar turned 13 in on Vashon Island. We stayed in a house with a canoe and a couple of kayaks and I watched my kid, push off toward teenage adventures.
Oscar and I were the only ones up for his birthday sunrise. It was supremely quiet, he’s always been the kind of guy that goes on an adventure with his eyes open and his ears listening. I feel very lucky to have Oscar as my teacher for this next stage of parenting.
Oregon. You drew us out of the house on a regular basis, made us believe that waterfalls were easy day destinations, and gave us edible pathways to wander. The Pacific Northwest was a magical place to call home.
The apple tree in the backyard had more blossoms than I could ever remember. It was the spot to amble away a spare moment. Anyone could be found on that swing. Change galloping into our lives so insistently at that time, and the most glorious canopy of renewal above our heads. Instead of planting seeds in the ground that spring, we kept our gaze pointed up. Hoping to stay just long enough for a couple more pies.
Sayulita, Mexico. Blue for los ojos.
Adventure came into our lives like a long howl. We could not deny that we had hatched the plan, but it still sounded funny coming out of our mouths. This plan to see the world, becoming a reality, I’m glad it sprouted in Mexico. Our passports were stamped there first in 2016, is a humid haze of smells that imprinted into our nostalgic operating system with record speed.
Watching these girls grow from chubby faced toddlers to sophisticated girls has been a real wonder. It’s been so hard being apart for the last 6 months of 2016. I have a feeling these two will use this experience to make creative reunions in the future.
My kids spent two weeks on their own, visiting with both sets of Midwest Grandparents in 2016. This is what they looked like on the day I flew on an airplane away from them. I hope this becomes a regular retreat for them, they all loved it so much.
Glen Canyon Park and I have a thing for each other. Justin and I dreamed a little dream of a life here, or nearby, but Berlin won the neck and neck race.
We are moving away, it all sinks in at once. Writing our love notes in the sand and trying to make eye contact with the future.
We had just dropped off all our possessions with the ocean freight company and then we found a happy hour with oysters. It was on one of these dates, many years ago, that Justin first floated out the possibility of a life in Berlin. Now this bearded sea captain is about to take me around the world.
First stop, Puerto Rico for Trisha and Ed’s Wedding. When they announced their engagement, we were spending the weekend together on the Oregon coast. We were staring out at the ocean, it was the beginning of April, and the cousins were whooping it up on the beach. We knew on that springtime day that would meet them there in August. It was a simple plan then, sparkling at us on the horizon. Then as the months progressed it turned into something impossibly complex and layered.
The beaches of Culebra are breathtakingly beautiful and it was so bright, neither my camera nor my eyes could really take it in. We spent the afternoon swimming in that impossibly turquoise water and in the evening Trisha and Ed exchanged vows on the beach. This feels like the fulcrum of 2016, the moment when everything we anticipated was realized in ways we could never anticipate.
On the same trip that we were to celebrate a beginning, we saluted an ending. It was a supreme gift to live in Oregon for 10 years with Justin’s sister, our kids got to be cousins together, and Trisha was always there when I needed backup. It felt good to find a new ocean vista together, to acknowledge all the beauty yet to come, and fly off in new directions with courage in our hearts.
Berlin has the best ice cream. Our temporary flat is furnished with Eames furniture. It’s August and we are off to the races, making a new life in a big city. Trying not to feel like posers, but that’s how we are feeling anyway.
Getting used to our new grind in Berlin, we spend a lot of time of the train. It is hot and sweaty, claustrophobic and stinky, but then there are moments of brilliance, both enjoyable and terrifying. I find myself in the belly of a snake, pretending the whole time that I know where I am going. All the time retracing my steps to the mouth of the beast.
Sometimes I wonder if I would be as stressed out if we were only visiting Berlin. If I didn’t have to spend so much energy grappling with how to live here, what would I be experiencing in this mysterious place?
In October, we found a place to live and we signed a year lease. We have great neighbors, a river to gaze at, and it’s close to all the places we need to be. Justin and I sprouted many new gray hairs during the process, but we met the most amazing friends too. The ladies at Move To Berlin and our new neighbor, Christina, made everything possible. Our flat is on the top floor of a five-story building, we have skylights in every room and we have a balcony. There are many stairs to keep us breathing, light to keep us sane and someday there will be plants to keep us company.
We are arriving in a new neighborhood at the end of Autumn. The leaves fall as we carry boxes and mattresses up the stairs. Perfect weather for hunkering in.
Justin takes the kids to school on his way to work, now that I am learning Deutsch every morning. They ride the bus and I ride the train and we all spread out on the weekday mornings and find something to do. When we find each other around the dinner table 12 hours later, we make each other laugh about silly things. Even though we are all digesting heavy thoughts.
Settling in, but I still can’t quite settle down. I must keep my eyes open because there is beauty all around. In this city, a cloudy day can have the most beautiful sunrise.
Justin’s studio is now our living and dining room as well. This holiday season, he’s serving up giant portions of Spock.
Five days a week, four hours a day, I sit here. I am beginning to feel my mouth make sense out of Deutsch and I have inspiring classmates to keep me going. It feels good to be a student again.
Olive led the quest to find our holiday spirit in Berlin. She found the tree with Justin at the plant shop down the street. She wrapped her brother’s presents and spearheaded shopping trips. She made a tree topper out of a toilet paper roll, as is our tradition.
Our first Christmas is Berlin was simple and good. We have a sweet dog to keep us company for a couple weeks. We are forging brand new traditions and slowing down our roll as we close out the year. I have this image of our family as a comet, rocketing from our previous life into this one. Crossing an ocean while we slept, awaking only as we skidded to a stop on new soil. Throughout autumn, we were sizzling and smoking and cooling off from that experience and now it is winter and we are socked in as regular neighborhood rocks. Ready to grow some moss on our backs.
As the year ends, I am humbled by where we have ended up as a species. I wish for the health and happiness of the friends and family we have near and far. It’s been a crazy year, for a lot of folks and 2017 could very well be even crazier. I hope everyone finds someone to snuggle through it all. And something cool to build together.