New Critter

8/2/20 Sunday

Meet the new addition to our family, Little Miss Butter Biscuit. She is 11 weeks old, likes to shred things, and is always underfoot. Her specialty is attacking toes, eating, and purring on my neck. She is significant because she is a creature of the world, and deserves a shot at a happy loving life.

after-the-rain.org / New cat

She is also significant because I had planned on officially asking my ex-wife for custody of our son’s other cat which resides with her. This was sure to be a battle, a battle that our son ultimately didn’t need. So I love the other cat, and in a weird way I will always love the ex. But it’s time to move on with a new life, new pets, new dreams, and maybe one day with a little luck – a new love of my own.

Summer Afternoon at the Marina

7/15/20 Wednesday

North winds lately, the sign of good weather. After work, Day and I slip down to the local marina to try our luck fishing. We get snagged right and left, and catch no fish this time, although my boy almost hooks a pigeon and a seal that swam a little too close.

after-the-rain.org / Old dock pilings

I’ve felt a lot better the last few days, and have noticed a pattern. When my son is with me, I’m busy but happy and content. When he’s with his mom, life is easy but it feels like part of me is missing. I get low and it takes time for me to switch gears from being a Dad to just being… me. It’s such a big change.

after-the-rain.org / Fishing under the dock

It’s a summer afternoon, and life is a bit calmer than usual. The sand is warm and feels good on our feet. We play with old crab claws, look for sea glass, and watch the different boats go by. I have a fleeting thought. For a moment I want to think of myself as a marina – smelling a bit fishy, getting older and beginning to look a bit run down, growing a few barnacles, but still full of life, beautiful in its own way, and in general a fun place to be. I come back to the present and smile. We didn’t catch any fish today, but still got what we came for..

after-the-rain.org / Summer afternoon at the marina

Nerf Guns & Army Guys

7/5/20 Sunday

Just dropped Day off at his mom’s for the week. For now my time with him is over. Nerf gun battles, jenga blocks, lincoln logs, army guys, camping, fireworks, swinging in the new hammock – now just memories. Sunday handoffs are the hardest, it’s a time of transition, a time of change from being a single dad to just being….single.

after-the-rain.org / Empty hammock

Coming back to an empty house is hard. It’s tempting not to clean, not to do the laundry, not to eat. With no appetite I struggle to the kitchen and whip up a big slab of halibut, caesar salad and leftover mashed potatoes from yesterday. Feeling better, I can pause to think, and clumsily put together a post to reflect on the last week. My ideas crumble though, and am left with just a few thoughts of the present – It would be nice not to have to work this week. I have an overwhelming urge to climb a mountain, to sail, and to have a cup of coffee with a woman. My soul needs to connect with the world, to feel its love and pain wash through me like a wave.

This pressure won’t be contained forever. At some point I’ll need to break free, to stop fighting the current and flow with it, to resume growing into the man I was meant to be, with or without someone new in my life. Tonight I’ll do what I can, which will likely be stretching, breathing exercises, and reading before bed. I’ll do what I can to move through these hard days. I know I’m too sentimental. One thing I won’t do just yet is put away my son’s toys. I need that connection, even if it’s just to a memory, just a few more minutes..

after-the-rain.org / Nerf guns and army guys

Busy Sun

6/17/20 Wednesday

It’s been such a busy week so far with work, watching Day, and getting ready for his 4th grade graduation. I know most students don’t head off to middle school until later, but there are so few kids here on the island that our school district had to get creative. It’s a big deal for him and I’m proud. I’m even more proud that this week he won the school’s annual reader award, the only student to do so from the whole school!

I’m burning the candle at both ends trying to keep up with everything, but managed to carve out a few sunny minutes at the beach this afternoon before returning Day to his mom’s for her mid-week overnight visit. That gives me enough of a break this evening to eat a plate of leftover rice and chicken and a big fat bowl of ice cream, write this post, and get back to decorating the truck for the graduation parade before coming back inside and falling into bed. Before closing my eyes the busy schedule drifts away, and I find myself checking wind and weather forecasts for next week. It looks promising and I faintly hear the boat calling, whispering a soft reminder that she needs my attention too..

after-the-rain / Dad and son

On the Lighter Side

6/11/20 Thursday

On the lighter side of life, the sun came out today. To most of the world that doesn’t mean much, but in this tiny corner of the Pacific Northwest it’s something worth writing about. It was worth putting work aside and taking my iced coffee out to a sunny seat on the front porch.

after-the-rain.org / Drinking coffee

Comfy pants, coffee, and sunshine come together to remind me that the simple pleasures of life make it worth living. The flowers that Day and I planted are coming on strong, and we just got our first strawberry. It feels warm, it smells like hope.

A blacktail doe has been leaving her fawn out back again, just like last year. The little one sees me through the window and tries its hardest to be still. I see it of course and it knows I see it of course, just the game we play. I respect the vulnerability and politely leave it be. Space and trust are important.

after-the-rain.org / Blacktail fawn

The sun is out, the sheep are out. Yesterday Day and I walked up and fed a granny smith apple to the ram, which is kept separate from the flock at this time of year. The ram’s name is Romeo, but we call him Boss Derp, because sheep are sooooo derpy. Derpy is a word I think my son made up, which is clever and useful, because it fills a void in the English language. It’s sort of a cross between silly, goofy, and loveable. I’m proud of my son.

after-the-rain.org / Sheep pasture

We’ve made significant headway in the parenting plan part of our divorce proceedings, and now we’re starting in on the financial part. It’s not pretty. I want to pay less and she wants me to pay more, imagine that. But money is just money, and stuff is just stuff. In my little world it’s the people, the cats, and the fish that are important – the living things. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun, and for a moment the negativity of the world drifts away..

after-the-rain.org / No slugs allowed!

Fighting Pirates

4/26/20 Sunday

We take advantage of the empty places around us. Skateboarding on the sidewalks, scootering on freshly paved parking lots, paddling around the empty marina. Staying active, breathing cool clean salty air.

after-the-rain.org / Kayak at the marina

Being outside, on the water, the mundane becomes an adventure as we load our lunch into the kayak, paddle across the bay, and sit in the cockpit eating turkey sandwiches, pretzels, fruit snacks and oreos. The wind howls through the rigging but for the moment the sun is out and it’s smiles all around.

after-the-rain.org / Pulling up to the boat

We try fishing but don’t have any luck. Everyone seems to be hunkered down, even the little perch that we usually catch. Day’s focus changes to defending the boat against pirates. He swings gallantly from the jib halyard as I point out the imaginary attackers. An American flag marks our base and we make our stand with an empty flare gun and a paddle.

after-the-rain.org / Boy swinging from halyard

As the clouds move in, the wind picks up and the temperature drops. Our adventure for the day is at an end. We claw our way back to the ramp where it all began and start the process of heading back. Soon we will be at home. Soon he will look away and tell me he is tired. Soon he will turn around and I will see a tear slide down his cheek.

His mother’s restriction on visitation is ending. She has met the criteria for spending time with him on an unsupervised basis. We are rolling into a 50/50 parenting plan. It’s what we have been striving for, but when I see my son’s reaction to going back, I realize the struggle is not over. I guess we all have our demons, our own pirates. Today I watch my son fight his at the end of the dock. I’m with him all the way.

after-the-rain.org / Fighting pirates

Dancing with the Sea

4/12/20 Sunday

Gray fog, born of the sea. The invisible cold blows softly, a wet whisper. There is no escape its timeless breath. We close our eyes and acknowledge the ominous embrace, yet we do not accept, we do not yield. Standing resolute and firm, we fight the silent enemy with our greatest strength – each other.

after-the-rain.org / Labyrinth in the sand

In time the fog relents, burned away by light and warmth. We make the most of our opportunity. We express and create, love and connect. With gratitude, hope and longing, we lose ourselves in the beauty of the blue. It is appreciated if not understood.

after-the-rain.org / Drawing in the sand

The fog returns. Cold as before, the air shivers with uncertainty and risk. Yet this time we are not afraid, nor blindly optimistic. It is not the blue skies that are needed – it is knowledge, love, and understanding. Death and decay are a part of our world, but so is youth, beauty, and goodness. We dance not to reach the end, but for the sake of the dance itself.

after-the-rain.org / The dance of life

Blind In One Eye

3/13/20 Friday

There’s a particular bird that comes to the feeder at my bedroom window everyday. I’m not sure what kind it is, but it doesn’t look like the other sparrows, juncos, finches, or towhees. It’s also different because it doesn’t fly away like the others when I move about in the room. It just sits there at the feeder for much of the day, pecking at food occasionally as it feels like it. A few days ago I put my face right up to the window to check it out, and finally saw why it doesn’t fly away even when I’m so close – it can’t see, it’s blind in one eye. It spends much of the day perched on the feeder where it feels comfortable, keeping a watchful eye out from one side of its head for the other birds, and ignoring any potential danger from the other side of its head where it has no eye.

after-the-rain.org / Blind bird

The other day I dropped in to see my counselor. The divorce and custody battle have been taking a toll on my weary 47 year-old bones, head, and heart. Sara was able to put together a response to my motion to modify our parenting plan, which turned out to be a blistering 11-page list of grievances and accusations against me. Interestingly she also filed a response to the guardian ad-litem report, letting the world know she didn’t think much of that either. Bitterness, scorn, and rage poured through her words. I could picture her typing them, I’ve seen her eyes and facial expressions many times before as she lets them fly like arrows, trying to cut me down. However I did something she could not have expected. Instead of being torn apart I absorbed those arrows because as everyone knows love conquers hate. Instead of fighting back I let her know that I think she is a good person and that to me anyway our marriage was a good one for the most part, then I turned and walked away. This of course was an unforgivable offense, and has ignited an incredible fury which is confusing, surprising, disturbing and sad all at the same time.

My counselor told me a story of one of her former clients, a lady in her eighties who like Sara was also diagnosed with psychosis, and also a gifted artist. The lady had let her appearance go, and had arrived at her session dressed in an old mu mu, with wild gray hair, nervously peering out at the world through giant thick-rimmed black glasses. The counselor asked her to draw a self portrait. The lady took her time, carefully looking back and forth between her reflection in the mirror and her sketchbook. After quite some time the lady revealed her work, which was a talented and striking portrait of herself, not as an elderly lady, but as a beautiful young woman in her twenties, with long flowing auburn hair, no glasses. I guess sometimes we see what we want to see as we go through life. We can’t see both the good and the bad sides of each other, blind to a fault.

On Monday the judge decided that our son should keep staying with me during the week, and with his mom on the weekends, as long as her visits are supervised. I hope we can ease into a 50/50 shared parenting plan but these days I’m not so sure what to expect. Since today is Friday my boy is not here now. I see that my house is a mess, nerf darts and army guys again cover the floor, I love it. I see my tools by the door because tomorrow I’ll head to the boat. I see a piece of paper on the counter with a woman’s phone number on it. She gave it to me weeks ago. It never moves because I don’t know if I should call her or throw it away. For now I’ll turn a blind eye to it and concentrate instead on my dinner of roasted chicken, potatoes and vegetables. I’m starving because as usual when I write I forget to eat. It’s raining again and so cold outside it’s almost snowing. The schools are closing for 6 weeks starting on Monday due to coronavirus. Life goes on and it all seems so unpredictable. I trust the weather will warm up soon, I’m hopeful things will get better. I guess we’ll see.