Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wally's Story

Last month without really thinking about it or planning for it, I became a mother again--three months after my first was born.
While I decided to spare the Twitterverse the details of my first birth, I tweeted pictures and daily updates of this one.

Which thankfully for the Twitterverse was more of a metamorphosis than a birth.

Here's my second-born:But let's get too far ahead of ourselves. In this era of oversharing and TMI, I need to tell you about his conception. Award-winning blogger and great garden party host Renee gave birth to him, or at least carried him over to me on some of her fennel in a tomato swap: her Cherokee purple for my Lemon Boy. The fennel was a happy extra. Renee pointed out two tiny caterpillars to me. My sleep-deprived brain decided to tear off the fronds and stick them in a cup in my kitchen window. One drowned almost immediately--oops, Mother Nature can be a beast inside or outside--but the other thrived.

My decision was so spontaneous that I didn't even take a picture of those early days. And then when i did get some shots of the caterpillar my husband named Wally, short for swallowtail, they were these:Wally, the prodigous eater, and Wally, the prodigous pooper. (Did I really just post a picture of my Wally's frass? And I thought I couldn't sink any lower than anole lovin' on this blog. Can I still blame my actions on sleep deprivation? Or can I just explain that much of my day is already spent celebrating the miracle of pooping and everything else the baby does so why not glorify #2's #2's? Please someone intervene now!)

I had no birthing plan for Wally. I had no midwife, although one later appeared in form of Linda Lehmusvirta who is an experienced butterfly-birther. In those early days I just watched and cleaned up the poop.

A couple of times Wally wondered off up the window or the curtain. I wondered if he was trying to pick his spot to pupate, but after noticing how dejected his fennel fronds were looking, I decided he was just off in search of better grub. Fortuitously for Wally, I had just received more fennel (and its fronds) in my Greenling Local Box. After refreshing his water and fronds, he returned to his cup. I took the fennel delivery as another sign that Wally was meant to pupate with us. Had I needed to pack up the baby human and drive to the store to buy something to feed Wally, I would have instead tossed him and his poop water outside.

And then one day I awoke to find Wally had attached himself to the side of our dishsoap bottle, proving that Seventh Generation products are green in a whole new way.I missed the moment where he split his caterpillar skin and wriggled it off of him. My husband saw it, but I was busy feeding baby #1. (Just a bit of foreshadowing: missing important events in Wally's life is a theme here.)
With that attachment began Wally Watch 2010. I posted daily photos of Wally on Twitter and his thousands of several fans cheered his fortnight of inaction.

Around day 11, I began to worry that Wally was a goner but Annie, Rachel, and butterfly doula Linda reassured me that Wally's time would come.

(I could also just paid closer attention to the book I was reading the baby, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, which clearly states that it takes two weeks for a caterpillar to become a butterfly. The book also states that a caterpillar forms a cocoon, and not a chrysalis, so maybe it isn't the best source of accurate gestational length information.)

And then on Wally Watch Day 14, I saw that he was making his move:
I thought his darkening skin meant I had just another 24 hours to wait. I wandered into the other room to watch the World Cup.

At halftime, I walked into the kitchen and found this:

Yep. After two weeks of assiduous attention, I missed the big moment. I searched frantically for Wally the butterfly and found him drying off his wings up in the curtains:
As he dried his wings and tested them out, I saw that he was actually a she, Wally-mena. We set out some cut-up fruit and water for the gal to gain her strength. She was still a bit too weak when she tried to drink some water and fell in the bowl. My husband rescued her from drowning.

A few short hours after metamorphosizing, Wally, now Wally-mena, was ready to leave us. She tried going straight through the kitchen window without luck so I decided to give her a helping hand.
I didn't succeed in getting her on my hand. I guess it was too crazy, what with my holding my first-born on my hip while trying to send my second-born out into the world while my husband videotaped it and the dog eyed her new playmate.

Finally, my husband caught Wally loosely in his hands and escorted her out. She flew off so quickly that I didn't even get a picture.

I pretty sure though that a month later the swallowtail butterfly that occasionally buzzes my head is Wally, letting me know how she is doing.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Welcome to the Boomtown

Over the Fourth of July holiday we traveled against the tide (pun, intended) to the Gulf Coast. When I first booked the tickets back in April, I was looking forward to introducing my baby to more of my family and to one of my favorite places on Earth: Pensacola.

As you might have heard, an environmental catastrophe of epic proportions the likes of which the world has never seen and government regulation-willing we'll never see again has bespoiled (and continues to defile) my heart's land.

Paths for workers on the beach, pedestrians on the left, ATVs on the right

We chose to continue with our plans because the baby would only get bigger, relatives were traveling from near and far to meet him, and because we figured everyone in that part of the country needed something else to look at besides the oil in their water and on their beaches.
I can't adequately express what the area, particularly my grandparents' house in Gulf Breeze on Pensacola Bay, means to me. As a place, it holds layers upon layers of memories, from the days we kids (my brother, my sister, and I) traveled to stay there and to eat fried mullet--freshly caught by Pop and freshly fried by Grammy--for breakfast to the day eight years ago when friends and relatives also traveled from far and wide to celebrate our wedding to the day five years ago when we spread my mother's ashes in the water in front of the place that was also her favorite and filled with her own memories of eating her father's freshly caught mullet and celebrating her little sister's wedding to the day last week when I tried to explain all this to my newborn son.

I didn't adequately explain my feelings for this place to him nor will I do it here.

Instead, I took pictures. I took pictures of the beach where we got married; it's now part of the "oil impact area." Hurricane Ivan wiped out of the road to that beach in 2004. It took years for the road to be rebuilt. This was our first return visit.I took pictures of the workers cleaning the beach,putting oil-soiled sand into plastic bags produced with petrochemicals, ensuring that BP will still make a profit as it desecrates my mother's grave.I took pictures of the tour bus now used to transport workers to clean the beach.Back in Gulf Breeze, I took pictures of the booms out in front of the house. (My grandparents' house, now occupied by my aunt and uncle, is the only house I know with two fronts: the waterfront and then the "out front" where the front door is. Confuses the heck out of visitors but those of us who grew up there know exactly which front anyone means at any time.)

I took pictures of the "beach towels"--provided by the city, not BP--vainly trying to protect the sand. In the end, I decided I'd just rather show you pictures of why I consider this area one of the most beautiful in the world.