First Days of School

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I am delighted that school has begun. We’ve had a goooooood LOOOOOOONG stretch of summer vacation (88 days, to be precise), and we enjoyed so many wonderful adventures. But the time has come to try new things, learn more, make new friends, and engage with the world around us in a new way. The boys are both ready for it. They’ve embraced going back to school with enthusiasm.

Lucas is in fifth grade now. Suddenly that seems amazing. He is charming, capable, dynamic, and creative. He is looking forward to this year, especially studying the Greeks and the end-of-fifth-grade pentathlon. This semester he is taking woodworking for the first time, and is very excited about that. He’s waffling about staying with violin or switching to flute. He seems, well, ready to take on a lot more now. He wants to study. He wants to make his own lunch. He wants to spend his own money on school supplies. Our job is to support him in his new responsibilities. I’m grateful that we established a good chore routine this summer, as I feel schoolwork will fit in nicely.

First Karate class punches

Also this week, Lucas has started his first karate class, which is being offered through the local Parks and Recreation department. He has wanted to do martial arts for a long time, especially after an exciting and brief taste of Brazilian jiujitsu. Since we are dabbling and on a budget, this is the right solution for the time being. It helps that Lucas’s best friend is also in the class. Both Ian and I are favorably impressed with the sensei.

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Asher’s first day of his second year of Kindergarten was a day after Lucas’s first day of school. Asher is an “older” this year, which means he is an older Kindergartner who will be going to first grade next year. He knows the ropes, and is expected to help the younger students adjust to school. The olders get to work on making their Michael swords right away. This is a big deal for a little boy. He has looked with covetous eyes on Lucas’s wooden sword for many years. Apart from some new children, the Kindergarten is the same and he’s comfortable and happy there. His lovely teachers have welcomed him back with open arms.

Now, I do feel a tiny little bit bittersweet about the end of summer. Rather than focusing on the longed-for experiences that we didn’t have, I’m going to think about all we did to celebrate life and living together. Not only did we make it through, we made it beautiful too.

 

Camping Bliss

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We had a beautiful time camping with Lucas’s fifth grade class last the other weekend. We went to D. L. Bliss State Park on Lake Tahoe. Everything about the weekend was lovely.

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I was so taken with the beauty of this place. We are definitely coming here again. We hiked on Saturday along the lake and were treated to views like this. Asher, Ian, and I hiked almost four miles, which was impressive for our 5-year-old.

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All along our hike we were treated with exquisite sites: bleached, dead manzanita branches and glittering green and gold leaves of living manzanita; vanilla-scented Jeffrey pine trees; sparkling lake waters in tiny coves;

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sparkling lake waters in tiny coves (I could have spent my whole day here!);

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a trickle of a waterfall and a wet crossing;

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and wildflowers and gorgeous evergreens at every turn.

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This is Asher along the hike—after a snack of trail mix and a little rest, he was ready for more.

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The waters of Lake Tahoe truly are blue. Clean. Pure. Inspiring blue. With shallow bits of aquamarine to take your breath away.

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We hiked all the way to Emerald Bay, where the Vikingsholm historic site is. As we three were stragglers, we were lucky to meet up with our friends in time to book up the mountain to the road  and then catch rides back to our campsite. Lucas hiked back with friends and a few parents, making a round trip of about seven and a half miles. Along the way, his sandals disintegrated. It didn’t stop him.

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We spent part of Saturday afternoon and Sunday on the shore. The only problem with this place is that dogs aren’t welcome on the trails or beaches, as it’s a state park. We had our little Solstice dog with us and we like taking him camping, but I can see that this is something of a limitation. Thank goodness one of our friends was willing to keep Solstice while we hiked the trail on Saturday!

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We swam in cold water, which didn’t slow the children down a wit and was surprisingly lovely, once I got use to it. The children played in kayaks and rafts. Adults sunbathed and chatted. It was relaxing and wonderful and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

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And if by chance you are wondering, Where are the photos of Lucas? It was his class camping trip after all. Well, all I can say is he never once sat still long enough for me to take his picture. He was riding his bike, off with friends, hiking, or in the water the whole time. And, for the most part, we tried to give him his space. Here is one of the few I have of him, out in a raft on the lake.

Family Advenure Day

We’re ten weeks into summer vacation now. The boys are enjoying themselves immensely. They drift through the days, adventuring, squabbling, eating, and swimming. They spend one day a week with my mother and one day a week with Ian’s mother. Sometimes they’re with me, sometimes they’re visiting friends. Or friends come to play here. They’ve come to accept summertime chores as something they can’t get out of. Most of the arguments about chores have died away, as we’ve been pretty good about keeping the bar high. We’ve raised our expectations of them and mostly they’re rolling with it. There are plenty of interpersonal arguments to fill the space. Lucas and Asher are presently best friends and worst enemies. Somewhere there is a happy balance between planned activities and unstructured rambling time. We find it and lose it and find it again, week by week.

So, they’re having a great time. I’m really ready for school to start. Two more weeks to go. What is it about August? The heat, the drying up of my garden, the looooong summer. It’s not my favorite month. I seem to always have junk to confront. And yet, there’s plenty of deliciousness to celebrate.

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On Sunday of last week we took an impromptu drive up the hill. The four of us packed the dog and some snacks, and let the car take us somewhere new. We were without a plan and it was a great feeling. We stopped by a little town call Dutch Flat to see what there was to see. It’s a gorgeous little place—very picturesque. I wanted to get some shots of the homes, both because they are beautiful and quaint and also because I feel they will be great references for future paintings, if I ever get good enough. Which I will!

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See what I mean? So simple and beautiful.

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This is the main street. It was hot while we walked around and I looked for someplace to spend a little money to support the local economy, like an ice cream parlor or something. Alas, I couldn’t find anything and I’m not sure how this town survives.

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This is the hotel. It was lovely from the front and from the back, where we were able to peek over the small fence to see the deck and garden.

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Great homes. White picket fences everywhere. Plenty of fruit trees in yards and baskets full of flowers hanging from porches. I’ve rarely seen so many American flags on display.

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Anyway, we continued on our way up the hill and ended up at Donner Lake. The temperature was far more pleasant than at home in the valley. We walked a little through the state park and enjoyed a rest at the edge of the lake. I would love to go camping here.

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Naturally the boys wanted to swim. It was beautiful and very satisfying to say “yes, of course.” Next time, I’d like to rent a canoe and paddle about for a while.

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It was a perfect family adventure day. Just what I needed in August.

Nature Therapy

I love this meadow

A couple of weekends ago, we joined 30 of our best friends for camping in the mountains south of Lake Tahoe at Grover Hot Springs State Park. I got to visit my favorite meadow for some much needed nature therapy. After four solid weeks of difficult work, I was ready for an escape.

Lucas Holding Baby J

It was just the ticket for me, really. We got to be outside in a beautiful alpine forest. We got to hold a wee three-month-old baby (sublime!), and play with friends.

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I got to watch this, and watch my competent 10-year-old son light the campfire.

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The only hard part came on Friday afternoon, when my boys were stung by wasps after moving too close to their hive near the creek. They each received five or six stings, which were very painful. D, a brave 12-year-old girl, ran for help and trundled through the forest to find some, eventually making her way to the road and the ranger station. She brought a ranger who was prepared to give us medical help. Meanwhile, Lucas bore his brother away from the wasps and helped him back to camp. I am very proud of my son for helping his little brother! Honestly, my heart is full to bursting about this. When they arrived at camp, traumatized and sore, there was still a wasp in Asher’s armpit, stinging him. Fortunately, friends had Benadryl on hand and that, with some ice, did the trick. Within 2o minutes or so of resting, they were up and playing again. They are brave, irrepressible boys.

Holding Hands

Everything after that was sweetness and light.

Daddy and Solstice

Our little dog Solstice surprised us with his desire to confront forest creatures in the dead of night, and “boof” at every nighttime sound. Hmm… He is braver than he is smart, I think. Apparently, bravado is just a part of our family.

E, T, and Suki

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It was gooooooood to see some friends out there. Quite a few of us have been having a rough time this summer. I’m so grateful to have these amazing, inspiring people in my life. And I’m grateful that they continue to put one foot in front of the other.

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Ian made us hobo stew (custom dinner for each of us!), which we cooked over the campfire. It was yummy, and I have some notes to make it even better next time.

Potluck Barbarians Party

The second night we had a huge group potluck with TONS of veggies. I totally failed to get photos of everyone. Sorry, darlings. I was determined to relax and didn’t cart my camera around everywhere.

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On Saturday night we had a thunderstorm and it rained and rained. We were cozy and dry in our ancient Coleman 1970s tent. The rain sounded wonderful on the canvas of our tent!

Ivan the Terrified and Luna

We had eight dogs of varying sizes and shapes in attendance. Amazing! These were particularly kooky.

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Some of us traveled six or more hours to join us. I am grateful to them for all the extra effort they expended to share this weekend with us.

J and Oscar

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I got to spend a little time with my easel and oil paints in my beloved meadow, which is what I wanted to do from the moment I first saw it last summer. Plein air painting is hard and delightful. The only thing missing from my painting experience was a tall glass of cold white wine. Next time!

Family Clay Camp

Family Clay Camp

Right at the beginning of summer vacation, my boys and I participated in Family Clay Camp, which was offered through our local Parks and Rec. Michelle Leuth was our wonderful teacher. Lucas and I had taken a clay/pottery class from her a few years ago. Now that Asher is 5, he can start doing some of these fun activities, too!

We had a blast. Camp was four days, for two hours each day. Some friends from the boys’ school were also enrolled, so that made it extra fun. We had unlimited clay to play with for three days. On the fourth day, we painted everything. Then our pieces dried and were fired, and we picked them up a couple weeks later.

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This is Lucas’s piece de resistance: A hand reaches up out of the ooze to clasp a golden ring. The ring is separate from the hand.

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(It’s been a good, long season of reading The Lord of the Rings books in our home and these stories have clearly  fired up my children’s imaginations.)

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Asher thoroughly enjoyed this class, and got really into the feel of the clay and the fact that it took impressions. He spent a lot of time pressing textures of all kinds into his clay objects.

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This is Asher’s “design collection”—a series of clay objects with many textures. They are right in keeping with Asher’s appreciation for treasures.

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This is a small mask he made. I noticed that Asher had little interest in painting his creations—for him it was all about the forming of the objects.

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This is a kind of creature sculpture that Lucas made for his father as a Father’s Day present. The back view is on the left, front view is on the right. Asher made a lovely, lumpy candle-holder for his daddy for Father’s Day.

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The expressive artist holding his sculpture.

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I made this little gnome, using the coil method. I started at his feet and worked up, taking care to avoid having any air spaces inside the figure without a means for the air to escape during the firing process. My gnome now stands in my garden and I am rather fond of him. I also made a sunshine face and a pinch-pot style bowl. It catches my earrings on my bedside table at night.

I like making art with my boys!

Local Evening Safari

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It’s been a bummer week for me. I’ve worked a lot. I’ve struggled with my current roster of projects and I have lots more work in my future. Last night, my mother-in-law gave us a big break by keeping our kids for dinner, which allowed Ian and me to go on a mini date. We had a lovely sushi dinner. (When I’m feeling beat-up by life, I always want sushi.)

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When we picked up our kids that evening, I just wasn’t ready to go back home. So we drove to Folsom, parked the car and walked over the historic truss bridge and into the old part of town. It was a great opportunity to visit a part of town we don’t often visit and the spontaneity of it felt really good.

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We had great views of the Rainbow Bridge and Lake Natomas. I enjoyed watching the fishing boats move into their nooks for an evening of fishing.

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Along the way we ran into our friends, which was a nice surprise. They were out looking for sticks to make into arrows and wild blackberries—you know, like you do.

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We walked through the main street and stopped in a New Age shop to admire the crystals and gems (Asher is very font of such things). We saw a huge crystal ball made of quartz with a price tag of $3800! Madame Trelawney must be missing it.

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As dusk fell, we looked into glittering shop windows and then popped into Snook’s ice cream and candy shop for a treat. I really didn’t realize that Folsom has nightlife on the weekends. We saw several open wine bars and pubs. A band was setting up to play in the Folsom Hotel bar. We also discovered a cute and cozy coffee shop. I think this means Ian and need to come back another time when we’re alone.

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For an unplanned ramble, it was very fun. We walked back to our car in the dark. Asher was pretty tired by the end, but he never complained once; his steps only got slower and slower as we neared the car. It was a perfect summer night.

 

Surprise Evening Picnic

 

The River is FAST this Summer

We surprised the boys with a picnic dinner the other night after swimming. We haven’t had a chance to leave town yet, so I’m trying to find little slices of heaven close to home. The river is running very high and very fast this summer. Although there was a small beach, I wasn’t comfortable letting the boys get in the water.

I read about this secluded little park on the American River and decided to check it out. Its entrance is sandwiched between two private residences in a ritzy neighborhood and the park is very small. They have the eleven-space parking lot closed during the summer, which I take to mean that the ritzy neighbors don’t want riffraff using their park.

Boys at River's Edge

Nevertheless, we weren’t the only people there. One family was fishing. Another group brought their dog down for … well, they seemed to want him to get wet. He wasn’t too keen on that plan. One couple swam a while, which looked fairly risky to me.

Our Beautiful River

We waited for Daddy to bring Solstice dog and our picnic dinner, as the boys and I came here straight from swimming practice. It was a beautiful place for a picnic.

American River at Sunset

We watched the sun sink lower and light up the far bank.

Canada Goose

We watched the Canada geese and mallard ducks. Solstice dog wanted those ducks sooooo bad.

Canada Geese

I (obviously) played with Instagram on my phone camera.

Picnic Reading

Lucas enjoyed some time with his Wimpy Kid book. Asher and Daddy explored a bit, and Asher tried to play with another little boy who was there. We ate ham sandwiches and apples and blueberries and corn chips. Simple. Perfect.

Summer Swimming

Swim Practice

My darling boys are sure getting good workouts in the pool these days. We are nearly done with Lucas’s a six-week swim team commitment. There are four more days of swim, with the last day a meet.

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Lucas was on this American River College Aquatics youth swim team two years ago, and because he was younger then and the length of the commitment a couple of weeks longer, it was kind of a slog. Long before the season was finished, he was ready to be done. I had to coax and cajole to get us through it because I felt it was important not to quit. Last summer, he wasn’t interested in doing swim at all.

But this summer has been altogether different! This summer, Lucas is older, stronger, and more confident. This summer, three of Lucas’s classmates are on the team with him. This summer, he’s better able to take direction and coaching and incorporate new knowledge into his strokes. This summer, the session is a tad shorter. All of these factors have combined to make swim team a lot of fun. He’s getting great exercise four days a week, having fun with friends, and getting to be a stronger swimmer.

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This summer, he’s learning the butterfly stroke. His backstroke is beautiful. On June 21, there was an “inner squad” swim meet and these photos are from the meet. The competition of the thing didn’t interest him much at all. He was just determined to swim hard and have fun. I love the photo above because he is smiling while racing!

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And for three weeks now, Asher has been taking swimming lessons. This young man (I’ll call him S) is Asher’s very patient and gentle teacher. Asher has learned to trust him during these 20 minute lessons, and S has coaxed Asher along from the point when he was afraid to get his face wet, to floating, going underwater, diving for toys, swimming in streamline position, and now doing “freestyle,” which for Asher is a kind of flailing about and moving slightly forward. But it’s a fantastic start. Now Asher goes underwater for fun, even when S isn’t asking him to. Now Asher jumps from the side of the pool into the water, knowing that S will help him up.

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And now when Asher and I swim together, he’s willing to practice these new skills with me, even though it’s not lesson time and  S isn’t there to encourage him. This last week, Asher was paired in a group lesson with another little boy, but the boy was very frightened and the swim instructors split them up because they weren’t at the same level. So Asher’s been getting private lessons with S and lots of attention. I watch him closely. I see him negotiating, asking S to come a little bit closer so he doesn’t have to swim quite so far by himself. And he’s always got a smile on his face while swimming with S. This week, S had Asher “dive” with assistance. He sort of carried him head first into the water from the edge of the pool.

The last time Asher had swim lessons, two years ago, he hated every single moment of it. He has come so far!

There are four more days of lessons. For my part, I’m ready to be done driving to the college pool and waiting around in the hottest part of the day for my boys to do their swimming, but I’m so grateful this summer’s swim experience has been so successful and fun for both of them. I’m proud of them. There’s so much good stuff here to build on!

Nature Walk in June

On the Trail

We all went on a nature walk yesterday to one of our favorite areas on the American River. We like it because it’s close, it’s beautiful in all seasons, and it’s a nature preserve. Lucas has done many day camps here over the years and he really knows the place well and feels very comfortable and confident there. The day was warm, but not too hot. We took Solstice along with us, but learned that we’re supposed to keep dogs out of the nature preserve. So we skirted the edges of it and made our way to the river and back again.

Woods

The sun was shining so beautifully through the trees. We saw many deer on our walk, and lots of butterflies, and some quail. Things scuttled away from our feet into the grasses—probably lizards although we didn’t see them.

Woods at Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve

Everything looks like a potential landscape painting to me now.

Heart

We found a treasure along the way.

Solstice Gets His Paws Wet

Solstice is getting better at walking on a leash, but still has a lot to learn. I’ve never seen him touch the water on purpose before, so this was interesting. Usually he is fastidious about keeping his paws clean.

Grasses

We relaxed a while at the water’s edge.

Asher

There were sticks to poke and rocks to throw. Lucas spotted a crawdad in the water.

River View

Kayaker

We watched the rafters and kayakers float by. Almost everyone waves from their little boats, which is a funny, friendly quality about being in nature and encountering other people. We seem to retreat into anonymity so much of the time while we go about our daily business, but out on a trail, under a big sky we tend to be better about saying hello and striking up conversation.

Lucas Splashing

We made that typical warning that parents make—If you get all wet, you might be uncomfortable on the hike back. It went entirely unheeded, as expected.

Now, we are new dog owners, you see, so we learned something important on this little hike. Ticks really do jump onto your dog and even people. This has never happened to me before. Three little buggers hitched a ride home with Solstice and one with Ian. We were able to treat the problem quickly, so all is well now. This info will be retained for future precaution.

Midsummer

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Happy Midsummer! It’s been a perfectly lovely weekend for our family. It looked like this:

Asher's June 22 Writing

(Asher’s writing, 5 and a 1/2)

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Morning Glories for Joyce

Asher Caught a Pullet

Remodeled Chicken Run

We had friends over for two spectacular meals—friends whom I adore and crave constantly.

Lucas went to a fantastic birthday party. He gave his friend a copy of Fellowship of the Ring, a thoughtful gift, as Lucas and Asher are thoroughly enjoying the Tolkien trilogy. Ian is reading The Two Towers to them now.

Ian got a spiffy new phone f0r work. The Star Walk app is awesome!

Friends from school rode their bikes over to play here with us on Saturday. They get along so beautifully with my kids.

I painted a tiny bit.

We did some shopping for home improvement stuff.

Ian shortened the chicken run a tad, as the first step to solving one part of our drainage problems. He built a new wall with tree stakes we already had laying about!

We worked on our drip system, fixing problems and adding drippers. The weather was so cool, we had to take advantage of the opportunity to work in the yard.

Lucas played in a piano recital, which was altogether wonderful. So many talented kids!

We grown-ups have been watching the Lord of the Rings films. All the boys’ talk of orcs and elves and dwarves made me want to see them again.

Our Midsummer days have been happy and full of food, friendship, love, useful work, and celebration! I hope yours have been, too!

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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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