Were any of you readers wondering where I’ve been? Unfortunately, I’ve not been traveling the world Reading Lolita in Tehran or roaming the Green Hills of Africa. Rather,  I’ve been up hill and down here in Ballard, exploring my new little patch of earth.

All seven of us have been trying to figure out the essentials of survival here, what our hardiness zones are, how to sink some roots down into this little Hidey-Hole of a house and make it our home. We are not at ease here, yet. Damon and I have both fallen down the steep, narrow stairs in rapid succession. We’ve been on a formal visit to the Seattle Municipal Court Magistrate to explain why we parked in the handicapped zone right outside our front door, which neither one of us recognized as such until the morning we ventured out to discover our mini-van towed away. We’ve overseen a leak in the kitchen sink, repainted a bedroom, and learned how to bake blackberry pies from scratch, even as we’ve remained completely mystified as to how to turn on the overhead kitchen light. Where, oh where, could that little light switch be? 

The kids have started three different schools with three different schedules, while Damon’s begun a new job with last-minute trips to Vegas (I’m pretty sure they’re legit), and we’ve all shifted ground. Throughout much of this I’ve been oddly mute, because sometimes you’re so busy ‘doing’, that there’s no time to talk. Or write. Or even think. Then one night you finally go out to dinner with your family, and realize that every person in the restaurant over twelve is furtively typing on some portable computer device, communicating in tweets and bursts to the world at large, writing non-stop, but speaking nary a word to the people sitting right in front of them. No one talks much anymore, it turns out.

The world now seems to favor soundbites. What is there to say about the release of the movie Contagion, which sounds like two hours of projected horror, absorbed by a random assortment of germy humans all shoveling millions of salty, sugary calories into their mouths with their hands? Surely this would be the ideal breeding ground for a viral pandemic. Why would I pay $50.00 for that kind of ‘entertainment’? And who can afford $50.00 for entertainment anyways, nowadays? With one bottle of liquid detergent costing around $10.00 everything seems way out of whack. Much of the working population doesn’t even earn $10.00 an hour after standing at a physically demanding, mind-numbing, minimum-wage job. How are they going to be able to eat, live somewhere with a roof, and clean their clothes? Contagion is coming to a home near you sometime soon, you better believe it!

Obviously we as a nation don’t care if those around us have health care, or can afford to be educated, but do we really want a country in which no one can afford to clean their clothes? Our national values now seem to be whittled down to guns, wars, corn syrup and the mass distribution of fear 24/7. None of which I want to pay for.

So I stay mute day after day, and instead walk the hills of Ballard. I like passing the multi-colored houses with their steep, steep stairs. I like seeing fat cats sprawled along porch railings. I like the apple trees and blackberry bushes and the sprawling monkey tree curving towards the clouds beyond my kitchen window. And I particularly like, no…love, the butterfly tree. It beckons to all my girls, with its twinkling lights and dancing butterflies, and it never ceases to make us smile.

Our own yard at the Hidey-Hole is not as magical as the neighbors’ homes. It is merely a worn, grassy patch, hidden behind a tall, wooden fence. Until last week. Then, a passion-flower burst into bloom right there at the front gate.

No one in our family had any idea what type of flower this strange beauty was, but it’s colors and quirkiness grabbed our attention. A family friend enlightened us, and we learned that passion flowers bloom for just one day a year. Imagine! All of that quiet, all year long, and then a triumphant arrival that no one can miss.

One day, someday soon, my sister’s new baby boy will be born. One day, someday soon, I’d like a butterfly tree in my very own yard. And one day, someday soon, maybe our national quiet will cease.  Just like the passion-flower, waiting to bloom…

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