Life on Mars

I suppose you noticed that 2016 was weird. And perhaps, like me, you’re thinking that 2017 might be, um, weirder. So when I was walking down the street several weeks ago and saw this miniature marquee in homage to Bowie in the window of a chic-y chic-y clothing store, I thought:

Ah, yes, it no longer is life on Earth. It is life on Mars.


Because I mean, really—doesn’t it seem like we’ve been transposed to a different planet? It looks like ours, but it sure doesn’t feel like ours. When I’m not downright horrified, I’m curious. How will this play out? Matt Damon, in a recent address to the graduates of MIT, asked if perhaps we weren’t in someone else’s simulated game, as has been suggested by some very learned types. I suspect we aren’t. It’s just that things are so weird, one does grasp for an explanation. He sort of lamely tied things up by saying that whether we’re pawns in someone else’s game or not, it matters what we do, and he sure hoped those geniuses at MIT would sort everything out. Well done! Pat on the back! Ciao!

It’s odd too, to be exactly middle-aged when all this is going on. As if that particular passage weren’t jarring enough on its own, now the whole world is conspiring to make you aware that you are truly in the middle. 1. What was, is gone. 2. What lies ahead is a mystery. And  3. You are somewhere between 1 and 2, and by the way, your hair is doing that funny thing again.


The saving grace, once more, is that I’m curious about what will happen. In the world. In my life. Etc. Almost every day. And as unsettling as it is, it is also invigorating. A wake-up. A call to be alert, to be smart, to use all your tools, to NOT lose your head in the swamp of loudmouthed opinion and speculation, and, maybe most of all, to nurture those good loving relationships.


The other aspect of life that contributes to my feelings of being an alien are my two teenage daughters. Nothing like having youth erupting under your very eyes every day to remind you that you are not exactly young (at least not in that sense) any more. And the differences between our brains and how they approach life are sort of astonishing and comical. And yet, it is these two funny, irritating, brilliant, observant, quirky young ladies who are at the top of my list of people to love and nurture going forward. This is their world, by God, and I intend to make the most of it for all of us! And as horrific as so many things are, they are also golden opportunities to teach these two something about humans’ need to behave. Even to them, the need for civility and “how it’s done” are glaringly obvious.

The images in this post all relate to my daughters in some way. They see the world with clarity. They see beauty and curiosity where I often miss it. They remember to have fun. They are fascinated by themselves and what’s going on “in there.” They look out when I look in, and vice versa. No matter how weird 2017 gets, I’m sticking with them. We’re family. We’re in this together. We’re gonna get through it. No matter what planet we’re on.


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24 Responses to Life on Mars

  1. Yes! You have a houseful of Adults in Training. Taking your hands gently off them so they can be confident enough to fly solo when the time comes, then fly back home for sustenance between skirmishes, and that flight always comes too soon for Mum! Mums are also in training to fly solo. Your girls are becoming young women. I loved your pictures in this post. Have a gorgeous day! c

  2. The gorgeous day is already off to a good start! Yes, I find that raising children is a balancing act between letting go and propping up. But you’ve been there before me so all advice is welcome! “Sustenance between skirmishes”…perfect description of domestic life.

    • I had one teenage daughter – two would have about killed me! They struggle hard to be free – girls do. And that strength and determination is what will get them through life. They need it. I don’t care what anyone says – it is hard to be a woman. And hard to grow into a woman. I was a terrifying teenager – I roared and slammed doors and refused to eat. My mother probably died from exhaustion. And there were THREE of us girls. Poor Mum – she was constantly under siege. c

      • I can totally relate to all of this. Its not just that they want to be free, it’s that they want to be SEPARATE from you! There’s a lot of pushing and pulling and anger that seems to zing out of nowhere. But then they are just amazing and perceptive and loving. So it is all very OK in the end! I shouldn’t laugh about your mother’s death, but I very often feel that I WILL die of exhaustion and that it would be equivalent to a long overdue vacation!

      • Ha ha ha a- oh I fully empathise with that! It is called a WASHING BASKET MOMENT!

  3. The pictures were inspired or taken by no. 2. She looks at EVERYTHING! She photographed the mushrooms (growing on a tree), herself and of course was responsible for drawing on her own arm. She’s a hardcore David Bowie fan as well, so the first photo was for her.

  4. Elizabeth Moore says:

    Great essay, TDC! As a fellow mother of teenaged daughters (17 and almost 15), I so appreciate both your post and the comments that follow. I hope that you will continue sharing your thoughts on the world and our role as parents in it. The times do seems a bit wacky, and our teens clearly crave both independence and support on their own (but mutable) terms. Often I am not as sure of my footing on this journey as they are! Is that the way it is supposed to work?
    Elizabeth Brown Moore in Atlanta

    • Hi Elizabeth? Are you my Elizabeth from GPS? You are, aren’t you? Mine are almost 17 and almost 13, so we’re pretty much in the same bucket, you and me. Funny you should mention our footing…I’ve decided that it’s normal that our footing is not sure, in some ways. I think that as I get older, my mind opens to more possibilities and that somehow makes it harder to be firm. I’ve also noticed that certain types of “firmness” backfire. It takes a lot of understanding…and I think, yes, it does work that way. Do you remember when we were in school? I was damn sure about most everything when I was 16. I miss that about myself, but it’s okay. Do you feel like the same person? x

      • Elizabeth Moore says:

        I am absolutely “your Elizabeth” from GPS! Love how you put me in the possessive!

        And yes, I agree that I was more sure of my way in life when I was younger, especially by the time I was in college. Had it all worked out, but life, marriage, and parenting changed all of that!

        I think maybe my responsibility with the girls is now more about helping them clarify their own voices rather than to hear mine when I think I have found a “teachable moment.” Changing gears from parenting younger children to dealing with teens has been the biggest adjustment, and it is still hard do. Old habits die hard, and on top of that, I often realize that I finally understand a developmental stage of my older daughter right as she is leaving it. For example, I finally figured out her two-year-old self right when she moved into the 3 or 4 year old stage, etc. Then the new insights gained don’t necessarily apply to the younger daughter as she is such a different personality with a different approach to life! Ah, parenting.

      • Elizabeth, I totally agree! You have nailed the dynamic. Just as you describe, I too “get” stuff when it’s on its way out…My poor no. 1. I often think of her as one of those brave, strong ships that makes its ponderous way through the arctic ice, breaking it up for those that follow. She has to be so patient with my/our learning process, and she’ll never have the pleasure of our having figured it out first. But she’s just smiled at me, reading over my shoulder, and that makes it all–for the moment–sort of OK. I should have mentioned in my post that the patience has to go in both directions.

  5. ron moore says:

    inspirational! i’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the world (the cultural part, the part humans “control”) and have missed sketchbooking and being more aware of the here and now part, the looking around at what nature has to offer, the indifference of it to what humans are doing. clouds still move the way they’re going to move, weeds still pop up in the most impressive places, bugs surprise with their simple, singular determination and focus….. whew…..

  6. Thank God for all that stuff that doesn’t give a sh*t about what’s going on geopolitically, etc. The thing I am really struggling with is that I am giving way too much/way more time to following the news. I need to back off and get back to the tiny mushrooms and the clouds and all the beautiful things this blog was supposed to be about at the beginning. I’m glad you wrote this comment. It’s right on.

  7. dayphoto says:

    I loved your conversation with Cecilia! Miss C, as I like to think of her. For my two cents…the main gift I ever really wanted to give my THREE daughters and my one son was this: I want them to live their life exactly the way they want to live it. And to know, no matter what, I will always be there to support them and prop them up.

    Love Number Two’s images. She must take after you!


  8. janette144 says:

    This is a wonderful post. I don’t have daughters, but I have a son who will one day (maybe, I have high hopes) be with someone else’s wonderful daughter and of course, I have friends with daughters! And of course I am a daughter who, despite our differences, learned from my mother how to see light and shapes and composition. I think you’ve done a good job in that category.

    I also have to stop obsessing with the news which I cannot control. It’s finally raining here in Northern California and there is magic in that with mushrooms and happy plants breathing a sigh of relief.

    • I heard about the rain. So relieved. It must feel like manna from heaven. Funny to think how many of us grumble…for you, to feel rain on your face must be the most wondrous thing! Thank God for California. I was listening to NPR this morning and was relieved to hear the role CA plays in pulling the whole country forward environmentally. Sounds like we’re going to have to fight to save the planet state by state.

  9. Gerlinde says:

    It’s not just raining, it’s pouring here in Nothern California. As alway I enjoy your posts and before commenting I thought about this one a lot. My mother, friends, family members and I raised my niece since she was 14. I think it takes a village to raise anybody. I wasn’t that fortunate with my son. It was my husband and I with little help from anybody. Maybe blogging makes up for the lack of community.

    • I’m absolutely sure that I blog in part because of the community. I love living in Italy and I wouldn’t change a thing, but I definitely I’m not surrounded by my best friends. Besides, as time passes, we all disperse and follow dreams, careers, etc. We have to stay tight and make new friends any way we can. I am SO grateful for this thing we can do here in the digital realm. And you are right, children do well surrounded by support. We do not have a big extended family here in Milan, but we do have support, 360 degrees.

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