“Letter from Home” Age of Sail

BALCLUTHA at Hyde St. Pier

What an opportunity! My son is on a seventh-grade trip to the Balclutha, a tall ship moored in San Francisco Harbor that was built in 1886. They will be there about 18 hours, during which they will work on the ship. We parents were asked to write a letter to our child, as if we were living in the Age of Sail (or in the early Renaissance, which is what they really are studying right now), and the child had been gone a while at sea. Here is my letter.

Star of Alaska (BALCLUTHA) under sail

Dearest Son,

It has been eight long months since we received your last letter. We take it out of our special items box every Sunday evening to read it again. We all talk about you and wonder what you are doing at sea, and we never fail to pray for your safety and well-being, morning and night.

At home, life goes on just how you probably remember it. Father wakes very early each morning to do all the heavy lifting around here. I wake in the dark and make us all a hearty breakfast. We are blessed with a full larder, thanks to Father’s hard work and sound investments. I have been enjoying being creative in the kitchen. The morning air is full of autumn’s chill now, but the days are still bright and warm. It looks to be a good harvest this year. All the farmers hereabouts go to and fro with a smile on their faces. In two weeks we will go to the harvest festival.

Your brother is the one who changes quickly. You might not recognize him now. He has grown so tall. His teacher at school tells us that he is learning his letters and plays well with the other children. How fortunate we are to be able to send our children to school! Sometimes I wonder, Son, whether you miss your carefree days at the schoolyard, learning sums and verses, and playing games with your friends. Now that you’ve gone to sea, I expect your days are full of labor and adventure.

I met a woman at the market last week, who told me that her husband, a Captain in the Navy, says that life aboard a ship is terribly frightful at times, with storms and weather beating the sailors down, day in and day out. But I wonder if there might also be times of boredom—if, perhaps, you sometimes find yourselves adrift in calm, glassy seas without a wind to blow you onward. I’m sure that able-bodied Seamen such as you and your mates still have plenty to do during such times. I beseech you, My Son, please do keep your behavior Godly and seemly, and I pray that you do not fall prey to temptations you might encounter when you anchor off the coast of some island town, where there might be vicious scoundrels and worse.

Forgive me, Son. I know you are a man now, making your way in the world using your good mind and strong body. I know you will succeed and make Father and me proud. I wait eagerly for your next letter. Please write to us to tell us that you are safe and sound. Remember that we pray to God for your safe return to us, and that, while you are away, you meet with fair winds and favorable seas.

Blessings upon you.

Sincerely,

Your Mother

 

Sweet Summer

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This is how our summer began. We took a trip to Tahoe in early June. At first it was just me and the boys, then Ian joined us for the last part. I learned last year how valuable it was to launch the summer with a trip, and repeating it this year was a good plan!

My lovely son #12yearold #summer #woods

Summertime is special time. I know it in my bones. For my children, summer is such a gift of freedom and light, with opportunity both to be in their bodies and to drift away on daydreams. Exploring the woods, freezing in the lake water, shifting the sand through their fingers—these are all precious experiences, for them and for me. I am always pleasantly shocked by the color of the sunlight through leaves.

Tahoe valley #summer #tahoe #nature #woods

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I spent many happy summer weekends here as a girl. I wanted to give that to my children too.

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Aspens #summer #tahoe #tree

#summer #boys #wild #tahoe

We had some wonderful beach time, and some forest time.

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#summer #boys #wild #tahoe

Little John on his fallen log #summer #boys #wild #tahoe #nature

Here’s “Little John.” This fallen log forms a bridge across the creek.

Road trip #summer #boys #tahoe #mamaandbaby #mamainthepicture #12yearold

#summer #flowers #tahoe

I love these blue flax flowers.

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We had the dog beach almost completely to ourselves when we visited. The breeze was quite chilly.

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(Almost 7 and a half)
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(12)

Hiking Tallac trail #summer #boys #wild #tahoe #nature

We had a great hike on the Tallac trail, above Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake. The views were stunning.

Hiking Tallac trail #summer #boys #wild #tahoe #nature

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Just some of the mountain wildflowers blooming in the Tahoe forest in June.  #summer #flowers #tahoe #nature #woods #wild

These are some of the wildflowers we found during this early summer trip. So pretty.

Obviously I’m way behind in my blogging, but nevertheless, here’s a vision into our sweet summer. Maybe posting this now is actually good, as I’m working on hanging onto this full and optimistic feeling as we now enter the final month of summer vacation.

Our love to all. We hope your summertime is full of sweetness too.

Sleepaway Camp

A little guarded and anxious this morning. Then seven of his friends arrived to go with him. It's going to be awesome.  I'm a proud mama. #summer #waldorf #camp #12yearold #seventhgrade

My sweet 12-year-old left this morning for his first sleepaway camp experience. He and six friends from his school (most from his same class) left for Camp Winthers, which is in the mountains not too far from our city. We are very excited for him and we’re sure he’s going to have a wonderful time. He had a little trouble sleeping last night because he was anxious, but I don’t think he’ll be feeling that way for long. I think he looks a little guarded in this photo.

Waiting for buddies, and for roll call. Camp Winthers,  here they come! #summer #boys #kids #waldorf #friends # camp

This is the same summer camp that Ian went to when he was a boy, and later, as a teen, he worked as a camp counselor there. He assures us that they will keep Lucas so busy with fun activities he won’t have time to be homesick. Ian has already send Lucas a care package so it will reach him before the end of the week.

He will canoe, hike, play, learn, swim, and explore all week. He’ll have no little brother or mama or dad nagging him. He’ll be with some of his best buddies for five whole days.

Lucas and some of his friends left for Camp Winthers this morning. First time at sleepaway camp! #summer #12yearold #friends #waldorf #camp

I’m very grateful that Lucas got to go on two week-long trips earlier this year with his class and teacher. They were great practice for this first opportunity to be without parents or a familiar teacher. My son is a kind, sensible, competent guy, who has great friends, and who makes friends easily. I am pleased he’s getting the chance to stretch his wings in this way.

Bon voyage, my love!

Summer in the Sierras

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Pyramid Peak

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Cody Lake

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GG and Mimi and Maggie the Dog #summer # grandparents #codylake #mountains

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He climbed so high!

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upload upload Lupine #summer #flowers #tahoe #nature #woods #wild #sierra Star for Mimi's cabin #waldorf #summer #sierra #star #windowstars #red

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Creek colors #summer #river #sierra

Many, many thanks to Grandpa and Mimi for a wonderful weekend in Strawberry!

Summer Solstice Camping

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#camping #summer #boys #nature #woods

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Playing poker #7yearold #summer #boys #games #camping

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Glamping #camping #woods #friends #summer

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We visited the Tunnel Mills campground in the Tahoe National Forest over the summer solstice weekend. A bunch of friends came and we had a wonderful group campsite all to ourselves. I never managed to have my camera with me when we were playing and rock hopping down by the gorgeous creek, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: it was a truly spectacular, magical place of huge, broad leaves, water snakes, clear, cold rushing water, warm boulders, dancing sunlight, and a million shades of green.

We had our Midsummer bonfire (which I wanted so badly), plenty of relaxation, games of Magic the Gathering and poker, reading, music and singing, shared potato chips, and friendship.

It was a little too chilly at night for my taste, but the warmth that these fine people bring to our lives makes it well worth it.

My Midsummer blessing for you is that you find the people who most uplift you, inspire you to be your best self, who understand you, encourage you, and delight you … and then hang on to them. Learn to be the very best friend you can be because love and connection, joy, trust, and forgiveness is what this one perfect life is all about. And we are all still learning.

Valhalla Renaissance Faire

Lake Tahoe #tahoe #summer

Just after school let out a week ago, we took off for the mountains. Originally we were going to stay a few days in Tahoe, but some work obligations shifted around and we ended up changing our plans and making just a day trip to Valhalla Renaissance Faire at Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe. As we drove to the Faire, I mentioned to Ian that I’d never before stopped at one of the tiny turnouts at the summit on the edge of cliff a couple thousand feet above the Tahoe valley floor. Before I knew it, he was pulling over so we could look over the edge.

Stopped near the summit #tahoe

Asher wouldn’t get out of the car, but the rest of us got to look down into the valley and at the beautiful blue of Lake Tahoe off in the distance.

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I had a Groupon for the Faire admission, but I have to say, it was almost more trouble than it was worth; we had a hell of a time getting online to the Groupon to get into the Faire. Next time I’ll have to print the damn coupon instead of relying on the phone. Maybe it’s my carrier—Credo—but I have a heck of a time using the Internet on my smart phone up there.

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Anyway …. the Ren Faire was super fun and the boys enjoyed it. The most spectacular feature was the jousting by Imperial Knights. Great show, beautiful horses.

Knights at the Ren Faire #renfair #tahoe #summer #knights

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Asher,  me, and photo bomber #rennfaire #tahoe #summer #7yearold #mamaandbaby #mamainthepicture

Beautiful macaw

#rennfaire #tahoe #parrot

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This fellow has been doing his show Fowl Tales with his macaws for years and years. Gypsy has been with him 42 years.

Boys looking at swords and knives #rennfaire #tahoe #summer#12yearold
Unsurprisingly, Lucas was fascinated by all the weapons sellers’ wares. Like father, like son. I could see Ian sizing up the sellers based on his own extensive experience hawking swords for Mayhawk armory at Black Point, Navato, back in our college days. Spending the day at the Faire was an interesting trip down memory lane.

Giant bubbles #rennfaire #tahoe #summer #7yearold

Asher found this cool giant bubble-making booth.

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We saw the show of Captain Jack Spareribs. Ventriloquism!

Lucas shooting arrows at Valhalla Renaissance Fair enough #rennfaire #archery

Lucas found the archery to be a little disappointing. The bows weren’t up to the quality he’s become accustomed to.

We ate yummy Faire food and drank expensive beers and wandered about. We enjoyed seeing Nicole and Bryn and RJ, whom we almost never get to see. The boys were tempted by the real and toy weapons and I admired the woodcarving and the jewelry. So, yeah. It was a pretty normal and fun Faire experience—a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a 78 degree day when it was 105 degrees at home!

2014 Family Vacation: Part 1, Science

It’s been more than three months since we returned from our week in Los Angeles in February. It was magical in all kinds of ways. I wish I’d written about it sooner, but life has been so complex and full.

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We started with a trip to the ScienCenter in L.A.

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It’s a beautiful museum.

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We got to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour in person! We knew it would be cool, but we didn’t realize how moving it would be to be in the presence of a real spaceship! It completed 25 missions into space, including the first service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and the first mission to add a U.S.-built component to the International Space Station.

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I cried when I saw the photo of the Challenger crew. I remember exactly where I was when I learned of the disaster as a child.

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We also saw an IMAX movie about the International Space Station. Such an enormous achievement! It gives me some hope for humanity. We learned a lot about how the astronaut/scientists live aboard the station, and the work they’re doing there. We learned that the Russians have a very sweet and simple tradition. They honor each cosmonaut with the planting of a tree. (Google “cosmonaut grove” or “cosmonaut trees” to see some cool photos.)

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We also got to visit the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, just across the campus, which has a great dinosaur exhibit. And we caught a gem and mineral exhibit too.

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There’s a hallway where you can walk past the paleontologists in a lab, working on fossils. Very cool!

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The Natural History Museum also has those weird taxidermied animal dioramas, with full-scale animals set in scenes depicting their natural habitats. They are fascinating and strange at the same time.

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And we caught a gem and mineral exhibit there, too. Asher really loves the crystals.

This was just our first full day in LA. The next three days we spent at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park.

He’s Home

He's home! Tired and dirty,  but happy. #waldorf #11yearold #sixthgrade #camping

Boy and his dog #11yearold #sixthgrade #home

This was Friday afternoon. My beautiful son came home—tired, dirty, and a little wiser. He had a wonderful time. I think there were hard parts to his class camping/farming trip, but he wasn’t too cold or too wet. Or at least not so much as to ruin his trip. He says he wants to spend more time with Farmer Harl at Rudolf Steiner College.

The next sixth-grade class trip is in May, I think.

We are so in-between now. He’s responsible about some things and irresponsible about others. I guess that’s called growing up.

 

Mama’s Getaway

Well, we’re halfway through summer vacation now. I’ve been struggling a bit lately, and I find my mind turning back to this glorious trip I took last May. We’ll call it mental escapism.

Have you ever given yourself a Mother’s Day gift? I did this year and it was beyond wonderful. I actually took some time away from my family and home to drive half the length of California to visit friends. It was a blitzkrieg trip; I was gone only 54 hours.
Ferns

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When I got to Humboldt county, I found ferns and rhododendrons, misty mornings, and cool evenings. I got to see my friends’ home for the first time, and what a marvelous place it is! They have space for a fruit orchard, backyard chickens, a tire swing, and two wacky dogs. There’s a basketball hoop for their sons and plenty of yard projects for Peggy. Their neighbors are spaced at a good distance as you’d expect for country living, and yet their home is only about 10 minutes from town, where they can get anything they want. Furthermore, their property has one whole edge that’s redwood forest. I can’t imagine a better place to rear boys.

Home away from home

Arcata Yarn and Fabric Shop

Chris had the day off and so we got to hang out together, which we NEVER get to do, and it was wonderful. We did a bit of sight-seeing, visited a yarn shop, had a sushi lunch.

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Chris showed me the Redwood Curtain Theater, which is Chris, Peggy, and Clint’s life’s work and labor of abiding love. I got to see Chris perform the lead role in Skin Deep that night. Great play, great acting.

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We stopped for some photos of this guy, who was very friendly, and visited the neighbor’s horse too.

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On the second day Chris and Peggy and I drove up to Trinidad for a couple of hours, just to look around. Such a cute town, with million-dollar properties up for sale. Ha!

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It was such a great visit. But, right on time, I kissed my friends goodbye and left for home and drove six hours. It was even kind of nice to just drive by myself.

Happy to be home

I found this poster on the front door when I got home. What’s more, I was given a very thoughtful Mother’s Day gift: my family had prepared a section of the garden for planting, and amended the soil and everything. They took me to the plant nursery the next day for plants and then helped plant them in the new shade garden. It was the best Mother’s Day present ever.

Summer Kickoff!

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What better way to kick off summer than to take a vacation? The boys and I drove up to South Lake Tahoe to spend a few days in the woods. Having some time with just the boys was fun, just as I’d hoped. It was special, since we weren’t at home like normal. Ian was able to join us a couple of days later.

I took some work with me—a project that didn’t finish up in time for me to be free and clear of it. Fortunately there’s a Starbucks where I could get my work emails, and download and upload files. Even better, my dear ol’ dad called the next-door neighbor and he generously gave me his wifi network password. It was a bit hoopty, but well worth it. I went out on the deck, pointed my computer at the neighbor’s home, and worked standing with the computer perched on the balcony railing (standing desk?) or sitting at a little iron bistro table. It was totally brilliant and I’m so grateful for this solution; my days with my boys would have been disrupted much more if we had had to spend hours and hours at Starbucks.

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We brought the boys’ bows and arrows up with us, and every day we set up targets and practiced shooting. They both LOVE archery. And shooting arrows in an alpine meadow filled with blooming wildflowers and pines and aspens all around doesn’t suck, I tell ya. I’m proud of the boys because they seem really interested in practicing and getting better at archery. It’s a hobby that is well-fueled by their imagination, of course. Fantasy characters like elves and dwarves use bows, and that’s connection and motivation enough!

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Naturally we spent some time throwing stones into the creek.

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See the caterpillar?

I was a bit nervous taking the kids out of town on my own, but this is my comfortable home away from home and there’s plenty to do near the “cabin.” I have many gorgeous memories of rambling up and down the creeks with my brother and sometimes my cousins. I remember searching for swimming holes, places to fish, and places to dam the water with logs or stones. I remember watching the minnows and dragonflies, of staying out too long and getting sunburned and so, so tired from our adventures. I remember getting lost in the woods and having to find my way back to the house, where my grandmother and grandaunt waited to scold us. Summertime in the Tahoe woods: I wanted to give my boys a taste of this. And I hope to come back and do it again and again.

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We asked a local and found an amazing beach that allows dogs and we spent two glorious afternoons there, enjoying the beautiful lake and sky, and meeting plenty of doggie playmates for Solstice. Our sweet dog gets along pretty well with almost all dogs, and that’s a relief.

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One animal was so totally wolflike that we were mesmerized by the way she moved. She was lean and furtive, and she wore a purple bandana around her neck; its purpose was clearly to communicate “I am not a wolf. I am a dog and I have people who love me.”

I’m continually surprised by what I don’t know about this beautiful area. We found the Tallac historic village (full of amazing rich people homes from the early 1900s). I had no idea it was there.

We stopped off on the way home at Wrights Lake for a picnic and a swim. This lake is just gorgeous and totally peaceful. Very few people were there and no watercraft with motors are allowed on the lake, so there was nothing to break the serenity of the place—except our own whooping and hollering …

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… and Calvin-like dancing.

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I took tons of photos for painting reference.

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The only problem with this gorgeous campground and lake is that the mosquitoes are prolific and hungry.

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Honestly, I can’t think of a nicer way to start the boys’ summer vacation.

I hope you too are enjoying long, lazy days in nature.

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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