The Tree of Generations

This time feels different. The warm, squishy, dependent child that swam from my body — her legs run now. She involuntarily throws looks – simultaneously irritated and apologetic – my way when I mention anything at all that isn’t what she had in mind. And, in her literal very next breath, says mommy I want to snuggle with you. She presses her forehead to the soft space under my collarbone and falls heavy into my body, her knees arched up under my bicep, her arms draped around my neck. 

She feels tiny for a moment. We both hug the tenuousness of childhood.

She wants to wear bikinis — the teenier the better. When I said no to borrowing my mascara she proudly saturated her lashes with her cousin’s lip gloss. She’s beautifully curious and rebellious. She’s admirably courageous and kind.

Strangers are fond of saying They’re beautiful. Watch out, mama. That’s trouble. I know it’s just a thing well-meaning folks always say like Well, you’ve got your hands full! when I’m checking out at the market and both children are doing carthweels. But I don’t like it. I smile and think They’re beautiful. Notice them, mama. That’s all. They got this.

Why do you want to grow up so quickly? I wonder, momentarily forgetting that I actually really remember feeling this very same way. Like summer break was as eternal as life could feel, like my newly minted wings felt unfairly held by my parents wanting me to simply check in. Or stop eating sugar already. Or drink a glass of water. Or apply sunscreen.

And then they’re babies too. My babies. Wasn’t it last week I held one on my back and one on my front? Yeah, it pretty much was. They still crawl into my lap, tell me everything, think I hung the moon and stars for them to wish upon.

We snuggle into the creaky old double bed at night, a pile of feet at the bottom. We miss Andy but wonder how this is all going to work when he arrives in a few days. I text “bring sleeping pads and more coffee” and then hold my phone overhead while walking about camp, hoping the words will magically beam to him from this one-bar shore. I feel irritated at the lack of space in bed and then suddenly feel grateful for the lack of space. Ruby breathes heavy into my temple, Margot rests her leg securely upon my hip. I touch their eyebrows and earlobes, trace my favorite freckles.

Night girls. I love you so much.

The feminist in me wants her to wear whatever motherfucking bathing suit she chooses. The mother in me wants her to not wear things that seem too grown up for a kid. This is subjective, of course, and granted to those like me who’ve navigated the relatively safe and structured waters of childhood to the stormy island of teenagedom before diving into the cool, free ocean of adulthood and have the luxury of time to think about such things.

We earn our motherly opinions and kids aren’t always meant to understand.

Because I said so. my mom used to say. I now get it.

I am sitting in the dark cool of my cabin writing this. This cabin we come to every year. Nothing changes here, this physical place my family has attended for generations. But also everything changes here. The lengthening bones of children, the graying temples of parents. I remember nursing Margot at the end of the dock when everyone was at the campfire. Now she jumps off that dock without a lifejacket and leaps around the campfire with her cousins. 

It’s my memories, same as theirs. I came here a bit as a kid. My mom came here as a kid. We reengaged nine years ago, same week every year, same families every year. And on until.

Kids’ summer-hardened bare feet trotting down the gravel path, out the screened door. Water gun fights. Growing into those big teeth, learning to ride bikes from the kids who were growing into those teeth a few years ago. White sun sparked off the navy blue water and the intoxicating giggles of cousins. Inside jokes, sunbleached hair, lollipop stained lips, surging autonomy, counting crawdads, sneaking milkshakes. Wondering what it feels like to be older, remembering what it feels like to be younger. Gathering around the camp pool table, flirting with flirtation. Looking for turtles, otters, minnows, eagles and celebrating every single creature spotting as the miracle it is. Understanding the value of a clean cup and the handwork to wash it, the value of a one room cabin that has every single thing we need. Uncles and aunts and people who feel like uncles and aunts — someone always within earshot. Refusing bedtime until collapse into the warmth of a parent’s arms, hair still wet from that last jump in the lake just after the sun dunked below the mountain as the mud settled to the lake’s bottom only to be again churned by tomorrow’s big living.

I got you. You got me.

There was word that the the camp planned to take out this old dead tree in front of the cabin we rent every year. So these girls started a petition called The Tree of Generations and collected 39 signatures from fellow campers. Turns out it was rumor. And a wildly successful initiative.


  • Photos are from two different lakes. The supremely clear lake with big mountains is Flathead Lake. My godparents have a house there on the west side, out on Rocky Point and we visited for a day. The other lake where the cabin is located is top secret. wink wink xo
  • Our family adventures are gratefully sponsored by our local Honda dealership, Denny Menholt University Honda. Follow our road trips on instagram with #digthisadventure.
  • My current favorite podcasts to listen to when the kids are asleep in the car: Invisibilia and Modern Love.
  • My favorite camping reading light, a gift from my friend Caroline.
  • When my kids are awake, we all like to listen to Bill Harley always. Also Naya Nuki is our recent favorite book on tape. We’ve listened many times.
  • We’ve put our Hippie First Aid Kit to great use this summer! I’m pretty proud of this creation and I’d love to put one together for you.
  • I am reading Hold Still by Sally Mann. An influence of my art when I was in school, I’ve long admired her art. Now, as a mother and writer and artist, I am finding new connection and inspiration from her memoir. I recommend!
  • My girls are reading Critter Club and Smile and The Adventures of Sophie Mouse.

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with our own two hands

Well shit, things are heavy in the world right now. I woke up in the middle of the night last night imagining things I’d rather not imagine. Things I’ve read about this summer. You know the stories. The senselessness and heartache of humans murdering other humans.

The parts of the ocean that are so deep we can’t find the bottom? I think those go straight through to the way to the other side of planet. Like, we all see the same water.

I’ve wanted to write about it. About my fears and hopes, about how/if to talk about it with kids. In our home we’ve talked about prejudice and racism with our daughters and we have not talked about people gunned down while dancing and police killing people and people killing police and big trucks driving through gathering families. But I have not written a thing, I’ve just been thinking and reading. Studying and listening. Talking to my friends and family. Wanting to do more than just talk. I have a lot of questions and very few answers.

Mama? Nature is in charge. It’s the most powerful thing. More powerful than you or the president. Really, it makes ALL the decisions.

Of the few answers I have ideas about, I feel sold contact with the following:

  1. Loving the hell out of people. I am not doing self checkout at the market ever again. I am making eye contact with humans and asking them – and meaning it – how they are doing. I am spending time with the kids that irritate my kids. I am high fiving strangers when I feel like it.
  2. Being the best mother I can be. Giving and exhibiting the love, guts and compassion I want my children to carry on well after I’ve sipped my last breath.
  3. Supporting initiatives and organizations – financially and physically – committed to peaceful, loving, inclusive proactivity. More on this soon.
  4. Experiencing and making beautiful things. Nothing is too small to form a meditation, a comradery, a ritual of the heart. We need to write poems, paint murals, sing ballads, sculpt clay, make clothes. We need to make art with our whole hearts.

I wonder what it feels like to be the earth. I bet it feels hard.

I think all four of those tiny objectives overlap a lot; we can fold them into just about everything we do. I plan on paying attention to just that.

I went to a yoga class this morning and dedicated my practice to a family member who is hurting. While on my mat I thought a lot about hurt. Down dog into pain. Bridge into divisiveness. Warrior One into grief.

Sometimes when I snuggle with Mabel, I like FEEL Alice. It’s like she’s there. Inside Mabel or me or something. 

We made garlic braids. I always appreciate working with my hands, connecting to life and kin. Garlic is one of my favorite things to grow. So easy and surprising, the first to come up every spring, a hardy stock of spicy and explosive flavor that lasts until next year.

My daughters and I created a little video of braiding garlic/braiding love into food and experience and the world. xo

with our own two hands from Nici Holt Cline on Vimeo.

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Summer on a String: Marigold Garland

Amidst the:

Salad every night, snacking on sun-warmed peas, all those green tomatoes wiggling bigger every day…

Bouquets of mint, oregano, chamomile, dill and lavender drying, waiting to season the winter’s tea and soup…

Are the flowers!

I always tuck marigolds into my vegetable garden. I like the neon orange waving from the tones of jade, mint, emerald, sage, lime and clover.

Marigolds are also a good friend to vegetable gardens. Their nectar feeds beneficial insects that eat harmful insects and they are also known to deter some insects from vegetable plants. Honestly, I think you’d have to plant gobs of them to make a real difference so I mostly plant them because they are jubilant.

And they dry so beautifully! I made a garland last summer that has been in our bathroom ever since. The color has really held up and in the midst of winter’s 4:30 sunsets and grey skies, I committed to make MORE marigold garland this summer.

Plus, they make a nice backdrop to our everyday situations like washing chicken poop from feet while wearing pearls and pink sequined purses.

Making flower garland is a snap and super fun to do with kids.


  • marigolds
  • monofilament or string
  • large needle


  • Harvest the marigolds when they are in full bloom, before they begin to dry on the plant.

  • Snip just at base of the flower receptacle, top of stem — the bulbous part beneath the petals where all the flower organs grow.

  • Thread needle through receptacle. You can either go straight through, parallel to flower (as seen in my bathroom) or through hole where you snipped and up through flower (as seen in the making here). While the through-stem-out-blooom is more typical, I actually prefer the bathroom garland: more flowers tighter together and I like that they point all different directions.

  • Use skinny end of a chop stick to push needle through the large marigolds.

    • Only harvest what you can string up right away; you can add more to same garland at any time.

beautiful handmade scissors available at DIG + CO!

  • The needle needn’t be sharp. A rounded, long needle is perfect for the littlest kids to help with zero fear of a poke.

The whole process is so satisfying and meditative and smells just like summery earth. This little dude hangs in our kitchen window. I have plans for so many more!

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the immortality of make believe

Two years ago my daughters wrote a letter to a potential fairy and left it out on the deck. She wrote back. Her name is Lavender Fawn. The girls stitched up beds from fabric scraps and fashioned sofas from soft leaves, they set out itty portions of banana and pea sized bowls of jewels.

Those who’ve been reading here a while might remember my discomfort with Santa etc because I couldn’t shake lying to my kids. So how did we get here? Where I wake at 6am to craft tiny notes from a tiny fairy who cares for fawns in western Montana in the spring and lives in Nicaragua during our winter and took a sabbatical to help the moon fairy with the tides last summer?

Because I can play make believe too. I learned from the best make believers of all time. And I can tell the truth in my make believing.

This year, at 8 1/2, Margot wrote a letter to Lavender. Lavender wrote back in her best fairy script. The following morning Margot raced to the deck, eagerly read the letter and then looked to me.

“Mama, this looks like your handwriting.”

“It does.”

“Is it your handwriting?”


She shrugged and smiled. She sat down to write Lavender back. Drew her a heart on a little fairy-sized rock. Arranged it all beautifully with tiny fairy writing utensils, gave me a hug and said she could’t wait to see what the letter said tomorrow.

Ruby is naturally curious about the things her big sister takes interest in. Sometimes it sticks, like obsession with blank books. Sometimes it doesn’t stick, like tight pants. But this interest in the realness of fairies? That stuck.

She came to me two nights later, tearful because she knows not to look up things online without a parent but she did and saw something scary. Honestly, my first thoughts were dark. I imagined she saw…I don’t even want to type it. I followed her to the ipad and this is what she found while searching for “pichers of real tooth fairies.”

Now, that is a mildly scary thing. And really funny all around. But it did freak her out. The tooth fairy situation is already a little dicey but who wants a groggy, green-faced Bruce Willis in a bad Pollyanna wig visiting toothless, doe-eyed children in the dark of night? I’ll take Tink.

We had a good chat about it all — the crumminess of feeling afraid, the inability to unsee things you see, the weirdness of the internet and reasons we have rules for its use. Also, about pretend images and fake ideas. What to believe.

That night she left her tooth under her pillow. When the tooth fairy came in to take the tooth and give the loot, she found a note in the most careful, endearing kindergarten spelling. “Dear Tooth Fairy, I am not sure I want you to take my tooth. I like my tooth. But I do want money.” Love, Ruby

The good fairy left the tooth and the money. The following morning, Ruby grabbed a stool and climbed up to the little ceramic jar where I keep my girls’ teeth. I didn’t know she knew that jar. She put her tooth in there without asking a question.

I remain careful about how I talk about the fantastical ideas that leave quarters under pillows and fill stockings with bubblegum. My decidedly frank yet encouraging approach might confuse things. But I do think it clarifies. As with all parenting everything, time and therapy will tell.

“Mama do you like know the Easter Bunny? How did you get the aprons you made in with the other things? Or, wait, is it all you?”


“Anyway, it’s fun.”


Margot and Ruby know. They trust and tell the whole truth with their whole hearts. They know about the endurance of beauty and magic. They know about joy and faith, about the immortality of make believe. And I’m remembering, learning from them.

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Artful Homestead at Windrush Farm

I’ve been home for over a week now and my suitcase remains packed, including bits of California grass, Pacific scented sand, exotic leaves and seashell shards my daughters carefully collected and studied. We’ll get to it.

The first ever Artful Homestead took place on Windrush Farm in Chileno Valley on May 28. When my best friend first asked me to be a part of something with her there, I spent a lot of time imagining what that might look like. It’s fun to day dream about Windrush Farm, about collaborating with my old friend, about pushing myself into something new.

Paige’s mother in law owns the farm and Paige has hosted many photography workshops there. Her husband, Arann Harris, is a musician and leads Farm Camp and Animal Music. Arann’s mom, Mimi, has written several books about gardening and farming and now teaches workshops about dying and spinning wool. All of this is to say: the space is an educational and creative oasis.

We dreamed up a day full of








And the 24 of us did just that.

I loved wondering, thinking, creating with Paige. We work so well together, with similar work styles, senses of humor, ability to rally, love of process.

The afternoon before the workshop, we were driving all about the rolling hills of grapes and rosemary, nasturtium and live oak to collect bendy branches for wreath making, discarded burlap coffee bean bags for tablecloths, wild plums for decorating. And it was extremely, blissfully unstressful. It was a blast: the thrill of it all coming together, the inspiration that comes from Deadline. Also she good and gently nudging me toward letting things go when I get excited about adding things to our plates. (Next time I will allow for more time to make those berry pies!)

The day.

A tremendous group of strong, smart, creative women.

A chef that knocked our socks off with things like roasted vegetables and salad greens with farro, feta and roasted chili Green Goddess dressing; blistered shishito peppers with roasted mushrooms; roasted baby beets, onion, turnips and carrots with potatoes and herbs tossed in a cilantro pesto; preserved Lemon and garlic chicken from the wood­fired oven. Yeah, we ate well.

 Chef: Joe Ferraro (chef.ferraro AT

Thinking, writing and snuggling with sheep under a canopy of singing cottonwood leaves.

Exploring and photographing.

Swimming in the jungalicious garden pool.

Foraging and wreath making.

Sharing in experience, ritual, place, song, food, time.

We’d like to do more, artful homesteaders. Hope to meet you all. xo

* Two group shots so that each photographer could be included! All the most beautiful photos in this post are by exceptional, lovely photographers Paige Green and Laura Schneider.

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