Monthly Archives: October 2010

WEATHER OR NOT

I’m glad our neighbors cut down their dead trees.  One was perilously close to our house.  The wind is whipping the branches around the rest of the trees and blowing the fall colors to the ground.   It will take a few more of these windy days to knock all the color out of fall.  We still have a little more time to go out and enjoy this season here in the Northwest.  In other parts of the world people are seeing winter knocking with its suitcases at the door, looking like it will move in for a long spell.

Bill teases me about my love for weather.  It’s one of the first sections I look in the newspaper every morning.  (I showed him how to read the tide charts and now he checks that too.) I have always been fascinated by weather.  As a child, books about extreme weather always caught my eye.  Maybe it was because I was from LA and our weather was so boring.

The typhoons of Southeast Asia were exciting to experience.  I was amazed when we landed in the middle of one in Hong Kong.  Our plane shuttered and dipped with tall buildings on each side, but landed undamaged to the relief of all aboard.  Once in Taiwan we decided to go to the movie theatre during a typhoon.  The theatre was pretty empty.  I guess most people found it safer to stay home rather than risk something flying from one of the tall buildings onto their heads.  I see their point now in retrospect.  During the big ones we stayed home and watched from our 4th story windows as the debris flew by and our building was buffeted by the winds.

I was not prepared for the harsh winters of Northwest China.  How could I be, having only seen snow fall once in my life?  Before moving there to start our English teaching jobs, we did some research and bought our winter gear through an LL Bean catalog.  One thing we forgot to do was check the winter fashion info for our destination.  So when we showed up in our Maine hunting boots that first winter we made quite the impression. You know the kind with the thick felt lining, rubber soles and leather sides. I was grateful that my feet were warm and dry, but I couldn’t walk down the street without all eyes (and there were a lot of them) focused on my feet. Most people never lifted their eyes to see the rest of me as they passed by in their sleek leather boots.  For the women 3 inch heals was the norm.   I finally could take it no longer and broke down and bought a pair of the high healed version of boots.  There were two problems with this approach.  1.) I, at 5’ 8”, was already towering over most women and had never really learned to walk in high heels.  2.)  Learning how to walk on ice was already tricky for me.  As soon as we got out to Hong Kong for our winter break I ditched those boots and found some more stylish flat ones.  Not an easy feat with my biggish feet for Hong Kong sizes.

Along with winter weather comes the challenge of keeping warm.  Southeast China can get pretty chilly and damp for a few weeks in the winter.  The places we lived never had any heating.  So we quickly learned the art of layering and understood better the need for padded clothing.  If all else failed we headed to bed under our thick cotton comforter.  When we lived in the Northwest there was always a certain date that the central heating via steam radiators came on.  That date more often than not was after the first snowfall.  We usually had a couple of weeks on each end of the season that we were pretty miserable.

In Kazakhstan there were other problems of staying warm.  In the early years during the coldest weeks the gas was low in the city. This meant very chilly conditions in our homes.  Later, we moved to a home that was heated mainly by a wood stove.  Simple enough except that dry seasoned wood was not always available or we just didn’t know where to find it. Following are a couple of poems that help capture my feelings during that period.

Entombed in winter

White, ice, cold

Slip sliding away

Crash, fall, trouble.

Let me stay home

By my fire.

For others joy

Ride, slide, ski.

I feel trapped

Waiting for spring thaw.

Wood is almost gone

It’s snowing outside

I’m hiding from my rascal cats

In my electric-space heater heated room.

© 2010 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, Life, Trees | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The Cormorant

There you are

on your piling in the sea

reminding me

with your wings stretched out

drying in the sun

that I am not “water proof” either.

Sorrow and sadness

weariness and frustration

cling to me

like water to your wings.

I need to find that place

in the sun

where that wind is blowing

that holy wind

to clear my head and my heart

so I can fly again.

© 2010 Julie Clark

Categories: Poetry | 2 Comments

Decamping

In our family this has never been an easy thing to do.  I imagine the Kazakhs moving peacefully from their high summer pasture lands to their winter homes down below.  I see them rolling up all their felt walls and rugs as they take down their yurts, piling these along with their treasures stored in metal and wooden chests onto horses and carts.   The children and elders lastly finding seats among their belongings.

For us leaving home, no matter if we are going east or west or how many time zones we had to travel through, is never an easy task.  Usually it measures on the far side of stress.  There are always sad good-byes to family and friends or friends who are like family.  There are all the decisions of what to take and what to leave behind.  This complicated by the fact we never seem to know for sure when we will be returning.  Often we are packing for more than one season.  So heavy coats and boots need to be in our luggage or carried on.  When the children were young, growing like blackberry vines in the Northwest, we needed to take shoes for growing into as well as for wearing in the present.  Then for large-footed teenager boys playing various sports we almost needed one supersized suitcase for their shoes.

When we lived in China in the early years I was always baffled by how people could travel so light.  No one seemed to travel with more than one small bag the size of a brief case.  And this could be for a month-long trip!  And here we were with our luggage filled with clothes, books (many of those!), children’s favorite toys and various essentials.

Once we were moving back to China for the summer after two years away.  Bill had started a doctoral program.  We needed to get back there to stay connected and not lose our language.  At that time Michael was 9, Suzie 5, and Nathan not yet one.  You can imagine we had a lot of “essentials”.  For example our dear friend escorting us to the airport found that Michael was having trouble carrying his backpack.  He had packed it himself.  She gave it a quick once over and found that he had not only stuffed his basketball in there but also “The Complete Works of Beatrice Potter.”  One of those had to go.  He could not be parted from the basketball.

Bill remembers at the airport that he caught a glimpse of the NBA playoffs on a far-off TV screen.  He started edging that direction.  I surrounded by the 3 children calmly told him if he went over there to watch the game I was not going to get on the plane. He got the message and decided to keep hanging out with us. Somehow, after 12 hours of flying and a 3-day train trip, we managed to get to our summer quarters.

Categories: borderlands | 4 Comments

Love Has Time (Fridge Poetry)

Love has time

For summer music

Playing magically

Like moonlight

Bouncing upon the night

Love has time

To wait

For blossoms in their buds

To spread forth into the light

And say “I am here in all my glory”.

© 2009 Julie Clark

Categories: Love, Poetry | Leave a comment

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