The Splendor and Travail

Autumn had come, and the Giant stood again at the horizon of day and the ebbing year, his belt still hidden in the bank of cloud, his feet in the deeps of space and the far surges of the sea.

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In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

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The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.

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Our civilization has fallen out of touch with night. With lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of night back to the forests and the sea; the little villages, the crossroads even, will have none of it. Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars?

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And you? How are you embracing this life in all its terrible, visceral, astoundingly beautiful glory? All set with your Halloween/Samhain plans? Have you put up your own Day of the Dead altar? What do you offer to the ancestors, to the changing seasons, to your own darkenss?

All quotes by one of my heros, Henry Beston.

Images on my candles from the Dead Relatives collection by Ernesto Yerena. I printed the images on vellum and then attached them to the votives with an extra strength glue stick.

New Dia de los Muertos banner also made with images printed on vellum. No more giant hallway ofrenda for us…gotta get crafty when you’re livin large in a small house.

P.S. Lots of magic going on over at the new Terrallectualism. The url for this blog will be changing to stayalittlelonger.wordpress.com on November 1st.

The Gloaming

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Why hello there…

96 degrees is too hot for October, is the grumble that passes in and out of my mind all throughout the day. Ironically cued by the sight of pumpkins and a longing for chai, I remember that Indian Summer makes for the best beach weather, and we spend many salty hours on the shore.

Hasn’t it always been warm though, in the first couple weeks of October, and aren’t I always fooled into thinking a jacket won’t be needed on Halloween? In my young adulthood, many a sexy Samhain outfit was covered up by a drop in temperature. Now, I think ahead and buy the long sleeved leotard for my daughter’s fairy costume, despite protests.

Fern went to bed with a 100 degree fever last night. In the dark of 3am she whimpered for snuggles, and her hot limbs were a welcome contrast against the cold air coming in through the window. Moments later a syncopation of raindrops began, and we drifted in and out of sleep, riding on the waves of sound and water. In the morning, her fever had broken.

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Days are rattled, not unpleasantly, by shake-ups to the routine. Jeff’s parents come to visit for six days, and Fern is in Grandparenty bliss, with the added bonus of having a hotel with a swimming pool in which to play. I get the pleasure of experiencing my partner when he is in the context of his family, and notice the way he smiles more, the increased light in his eyes that matches the one in his mother’s.

I momentarily forget where I am in my life, as all points of focus come into the singular care of the body. I praise Obamacare while driving through the forest for a doctor’s appointment, tall redwoods interspersed with the gold of the turning sycamore. Stepping into a clinic is entering into another world, one I have avoided like the plague for most of my adult life. Now though, something is wrong, and I experience gratitude at my incredible luck of being assigned An Awesome Doctor, my good fortune at being able to finally get help right when it seems I need it most. My heart does a wonky dance on the EKG, my blood is taken, concern is given. Now I wait for results, and wonder.

And try to avoid googling symptoms.

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Coming back from a morning run, I watch our (new) hawk friend dive into a bush and emerge with a golden crowned sparrow. When Fern meets me at the door, eager for the stories with which I always oblige, we all cringe in sympathy at the bird’s awful demise. And then laugh in dark humor as we re-imagine their song. From “No gold here… we change it to Where’d Ma go…? or Dave’s all gone…. A private joke within the smallest of spheres, a bubble of family, land and home.

Driving to school, Fern and I despair at the most recent casualty of race and haste…a grey fox on the side of the road. My misanthropic tendencies increase and persist beyond dropping her off. I steel my resolve to pay homage by moving it to the earth beyond the asphalt, but upon approaching the site, I see someone has beat me to it. A woman in her late sixties, long gray hair, eyes me suspiciously when I motion for her to roll down her car window. “Did you move the fox?” I ask. “Yes.” she replies. “So sad”. “SO sad.” I echo. “But,” she says, pointing up to the sky, “someone’s hungry”. 20 turkey vultures revolve above. I thank her, drive on my way, kicking myself for forgetting to connect, for forgetting to say…Me too. I do this too. I thought maybe I was alone in my respect and grief. I’m so glad to know I’m not.

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We spend an afternoon on Mt. Tam, at the first annual Oak Ceremony, hosted by Go Wild Institute. Fern and I celebrate in The Council of All Beings, delighting in the reverent irreverence. A song from the day still threads through our play, one of us starting, the other always joining in Hey, little acorn. You’re a baby oak tree. You’re a little home for an acorn worm, who I ate and became part of me. Today we will harvest our own basket of acorns, Black Oak, Coast Live, and leach to make flour. I am reminded of something I read lately, how the Okanagan word for body literally means “the land-dreaming capacity”. We build our bodies out of food that comes from under our feet, and we begin to hear the voice of place.

At night I hear the dog chasing something outside our window, and in my dreams I think he is barking after a being made of rainbows.

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The gloaming of the year. Coming upon the time of ancestors. Two days ago, the door to our house unexpectedly opened and I felt a presence come in. It leapt about the kitchen and then followed me into the bedroom, where it was story time with Fern. It jumped onto the bed and nestled into a happy curl. Leo.

The season is deepening. Lately I get the sense I am walking in new territory. After months of feeling disoriented, of feeling turned around and discombobulated, it’s all beginning to make sense. I have been re-forming, re-membering, re-wilding. I imagine I have found the loose stone in the maze wall, the one that you push on to reveal the secret door. The one that opens to descending steps, leading to an expanse of wild garden. You know the one. The one you have always been searching for, but maybe don’t realize.

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Polychrome

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The Rain King got too much water in his basin and spilled some over the brim. That made it rain in a certain part of the country—a real hard shower, for a time—and sent the Rainbow scampering to the place to show the gorgeous colors of his glorious bow as soon as the mist of rain had passed and the sky was clear.

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The coming of the Rainbow is always a joyous event to earth folk, yet few have ever seen it close by. Usually the Rainbow is so far distant that you can observe its splendid hues but dimly, and that is why we seldom catch sight of the dancing Daughters of the Rainbow.

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In the barren country where the rain had just fallen there appeared to be no human beings at all; but the Rainbow appeared, just the same, and dancing happily upon its arch were the Rainbow’s Daughters, led by the fairylike Polychrome, who is so dainty and beautiful that no girl has ever quite equaled her in loveliness.

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Polychrome was in a merry mood and danced down the arch of the bow to the ground, daring her sisters to follow her. Laughing and gleeful, they also touched the ground with their twinkling feet; but all the Daughters of the Rainbow knew that this was a dangerous pastime, so they quickly climbed upon their bow again.

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All but Polychrome. Though the sweetest and merriest of them all, she was likewise the most reckless. Moreover, it was an unusual sensation to pat the cold, damp earth with her rosy toes. Before she realized it the bow had lifted and disappeared in the billowy blue sky, and here was Polychrome standing helpless upon a rock, her gauzy draperies floating about her like brilliant cobwebs and not a soul—fairy or mortal—to help her regain her lost bow!

So begins the adventures of Polychrome in The Road to Oz, her first appearance in the series by L. Frank Baum.

Even before the storm on Friday, there had been a lot of rainbow fairy talk in our house. Today we’ve got plans to begin making her Halloween Costume, and I’m wondering just how expensive 7 different colors of tulle are going to be.

It may have all started when I found my 80’s dream necklace at a thrift store last spring, the one my daughter covets and sneaks out of my jewelry box, only to be found hob nobbing with a plastic chicken or wooden gnome in her dollhouse.

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I know. It’s truly glorious.

Perhaps it’s the age, a coming into the technicolor joy of early childhood, and how better expressed than with nature’s best refraction? Maybe it’s just good marketing, since everything at kid eye level in the stores is rainbowrific. Rainbows have also colored the edges of my own visioning for her, and years ago we thought we would decorate her room with black silhouttes of the forest, with rainbow accented…everything. Whatever the reason, we are all rainbow, all the time in our house, and I have amassed a giant stack of Hello Kitty coloring pages, each one colored proudly in marker by Fern, each one showcasing a different rainbow striped outfit.

As a result of the drought, my imagination is parched, and I just don’t quite believe it when water starts falling from the sky, I cringe in expectation that it will stop as soon as it starts. But driving home from Petaluma last Friday eve, I was tickled to see a 360 orchestration of Rain King antics, and it just kept getting better the farther north I drove. Huge golden sheets hung from the clouds in different areas, and as I turned off the highway I thought to myself That biggest one right there…I think that’s right over my house.

Sure enough, even the fastest wiper speed couldn’t clear the windshield, and I arrived home to a deluge, both from the sky and from my children, who were now out in the storm, dancing wildly.

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There was a mad dash indoors to dig out rain boots and then we were out again, running around the ranch and shouting in delight.

The rain ended too soon, but we were then treated to a wonderful sunset, the rainbow still lingering. Good show nature I said. Nice job, God. said Jeff, only half joking.

Indeed.

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Have the Autumn storms arrived where you live? (Or the Spring ones? Hi Teeny!)

Golden

The Golden-Crowned Sparrows are migrating through West County, and their woeful songs seem to say Summer’s all gone. Summer’s all gone. In 1849, the ever-greedy gold miners thought the clear whistles of these little Clementines were lamenting the truth…No gold here. No gold here.

Take a listen…

While I absolutely adore their singing, and think their proclamation of summer’s end is appropo, I would have to disagree about the absence of gold. The shift into autumn is like the sudden discovery of the last of the elderberries, or the ruby surprise of ripe rose hips…as the leaves of summer fall away, what remains is the precious heart.

What a perfect time to celebrate that radiant age of childhood…the big FIVE. Five is a fistful of fingers, the petals on a rose, the favorite number of strawberries on your plate.

FIVE. How did that happen?

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For the day of her birthday, Grandma, Daddy and I surprised her with presents in the morning…

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Her friends assembled the night before in anticipation.

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It’s become a tradition for Jeff and I to collaborate on a “project present” for her birthday. This year, we decided to turn her hot mess of an art corner into a proper deal.

…and strawberry shortcake cupcakes in the afternoon.

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I’m not gonna lie. I am daring to show you my messy kitchen counter because what I really want you to look at is my shirt. Yes, I have been wearing it every day.

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For her party on Saturday, I wanted to give her a classic childhood experience, the type of traditional birthday celebration that I had as a kid. Horn blowers, punch, a pinata, pin the tail on the donkey and cone hats. Also, with going to Waldorf, I don’t think she’ll be learning how to play Duck, Duck, Goose, and I’m sorry…I’ve agreed to the “no screen-time thing” until she’s 8 or 9, putting on hold her induction into important familial culture…I’m talking Star Wars and LOTR here…but let’s get our priorities straight. Every five year old needs to know how to play DDG.

We played games, ate ice cream sundaes, and a very, very happy chaos was created. The pumpkins lolled around in the garden like jolly orange trolls and the giraffapoodles looked on with mild interest. It was perfect.

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Party hats under construction.

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Leo and Fern counting out candy for the pinata goody bags.

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“If you’ve been with me for a while” you’ll remember the birthday banner and it’s changing theme each year. This last spring we read “Charlotte’s Web”, and since her name sake is the heroine, it seemed just the thing for the big 5, a coming in to the fullness of “Fern”.

This year is probably the last bday party that will be primarily family. I hope we still celebrate with the cousins in the upcoming years, but school changes the cast of characters in a kid’s life.

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How has the time gone by so quickly? From her #1 party in 2010…

…to this…

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Erin

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Preston

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Christopher

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Lisa and Sebastian

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Everybody say “Ice Cream Sundaes!”

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Ready for ice cream

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Pin the tail on the donkey. We also had a “Pin the Horn on the Unicorn” that didn’t get brought out.

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I ached from head to toe by the end of the day, and we were washing watermelon juice off everything ’til after sundown, but in the midst of all the cleaning-up, Fern grabbed my legs, squeezed and said Thank you for my party.

Well ok. I guess you get another one next year.

Sunday was the Climate March in NYC (400,000 count…woo hoo! Excited for what comes next!) and in solidarity we decided to join in a march taking place downtown.

All of 30 people showed up. One had a sign. Guess we’re not in Kansas anymore, says my city-girl activist self. Still, it was a chance to show my mom The Barlow, and the new murals recently painted during the Village Building Convergence.

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Back on the ranch, beauty continues to refine itself, manifesting in more outfits than my all my daughter’s costume changes in a day. And that’s saying something.

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She found a rope to do some attachment parenting with her new stuffie…Rainbow Dash.

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The boys. Each evening they spot us from way over yonder and trot over with skips and bleats. And this was even before we started bringing them apples.

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Another friend made on a recent After Dinner Walk.

Our thoughts are turning to All Things Autumn, we are adding warmth and spice to our meals during the day and sometimes an extra blanket at night. There has been talk of Halloween costumes and I think the pumpkins in our garden know their days are numbered. The work of harvest still needs to be done, garden beds need to be tucked in for the winter with secret fava seeds and garlic bulbs folded under the covers. Misty mornings give way to slanted light afternoons.

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Our volunteer chicken. We almost got an omelet’s worth before she picked a new nest spot.

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It’s been almost a full week’s worth of birthday celebrations, with more to come since we are all fall babies. Jeff’s parents will be here in a couple of weeks (hooray!) and kindergarten keeps us ever busy. Motherhood is becoming richer, deeper, and I am ever aware of these sweet lives of ours, journeying together like the leaves falling to the ground. So brief. So precious. So outstandingly beautiful.

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Happy Autumn! Happy Equinox! Much love to all.

P.S. Check out the new Terrallectualism later this week for an update on the Bioregional Incense (hint…it’s super swoon worthy). Also, a reminder that the url of this blog is changing soon, hopefully to stayalittlelonger.wordpress.com. To every thing, turn turn turn…

On this Harvest Moon

Full moon times in the West County make for tightly wound days that uncoil through dreams in the night. The Queen of Summer retraces her footsteps past our bedroom window, now as Demeter, ragged in her dress. The plants in my garden are giving it a last go, most of their leaves are laced with holes, browning at the edges. The sunflowers bow their heads and the juvenile American Goldfinches try out their grace, as they acrobat for the seeds. The sun still plays at ferocity mid-day, but goes to bed earlier each evening and burnishes everything with golden slanted light.

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She’s had that tutu since she was two.

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We spent the weekend starting some projects, finishing others. We canned tomato sauce, planted two half wine barrels with herbs, and, because I didn’t learn my lesson in the spring, I planted the seeds of kale and carrots. Heeeerrrre earwig wiggy wiggy… Fern and I also played with full moon magic by making bioregional incense. We have to wait a week for it to dry, but I’ll tell you how it turned out on the other blog.

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Fern returning from gathering plants for her incense, wearing her current go-to uniform.

We spent most of the weekend around the homestead, being decidedly unglamorous, but as ever, there were mundane wonders. Such as…

Mystery Solved: The case of the random eggs.

Over the last couple of weeks, Fern and I have been bemused by the sudden pathside appearance of random eggs. Here and there, down where the horse ranch abuts the neighboring farm, we have found chicken eggs nestled in the grass. The ranch doesn’t have chickens, nor have we seen any, save for off in the distant pastures. Are they booty stolen by a crow or weasel, dropped or temporarily hidden? Is the Easter Bunny getting in some early practice?

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Distant chickens

On Sunday, Jeff was getting some help hauling redwood fence boards up to our house from a pile down by this section of the path. As they removed a few from the top, a sudden cackle and flurry announced the presence of a rogue chicken, startled from her nest. We’re guessing its an escapee from the farm. I didn’t see it, but Fern said it was white with that red thing (comb) on its head. The hen  buh kawked its way over the fence, and as of last night, hadn’t returned to her nest. We left her eggs there and made a little shelter for her, just in case she comes back.

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Another Mystery Solved: The case of the insomniac owls.

Each morning on my run (I run now! 1.5 miles! Everyday! I haven’t lost an ounce, but I’m getting stronger, which I’ve decided matters more) I pass my favorite field and slow down, listening…and then there it is…the inhaled screech of someone decidedly owlish. Often there are two, calling back and forth hhhhrreeeeep? hhhreeeeeeep! Sometimes there’s a little action thrown in, like the scolding of 30+ crows, all mobbing a tree by the road and calling for reinforcements. Crows were answering from all over the hills and flying in, swooping over my head. I stopped that day, expectant. I knew what was happening and I held my breath in hope. Sure enough, the crows flushed an owl out from the tree and it flew right in front of me, back to its usual grove, the mob of crows following behind. I was giddy with delight, but also perplexed. I had thought for sure that they were Barn Owls, with that hissy screech, even though it didn’t make sense (Barn Owls are considered to be “strictly nocturnal”), but this owl was not at all white.

Thus followed several days of me driving myself crazy trying to id this bird. I listened to every call on Bird Songs of California from Cornell Ornithology. I even used up my book credit at Green Apple to buy another id book. It was only after watching the juvenile goldfinches that I chanced upon a hint. I’ve also heard Great Horned Owls around here…what do the juveniles sound like? Ah-ha! Check out this great blog on Earbirding...because I know you’re just rapt with attention about all this. A-hem…

And so went our weekend. It seemed I was doing nothing but cleaning, until finally I hugged Fern and said Let’s color because all this cleaning is getting me down. So we colored and listened to America’s Back Forty and I took photos of clean corners in our messy house.

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Fern’s beloved purchase at the county fair. We named it Stinky, because it off-gassed “that beach ball smell” all the way home in the hot car.

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Yup. Exactly what it looks like. Cleaning it with Hydrogen Peroxide.

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I thought I could wrap up this post with something a bit more poetic, but I been sittin here for 10 minutes, and I got nothin. So I’ll let the rest of my photos do the talking and hey…did you catch that post about Meinrad Craighead on the other blog? I think you’ll love it (I especially thought of you Anne).

Look for the moon tonight at the horizon, a little before sunset. She’s the last supermoon of the year, and she’s gonna be a beaut.

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Hey my herb-lovin ladeez…Moonrise Herbs, my first-love herb store from my Humboldt days, has these shirts for sale. I have Nettle (shown above) and California Poppy (grey and gold) and there’s also Echinacea (purple). They aren’t listed on the website yet, but you can call them, which is what I did after squeeeeeeing all over their FB page.

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Mid yawn in her new sit spot.

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What are you harvesting? xoxo

Pssst…

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Just a gratuitous little girraffapoodle for ya.

New post up at the new Terrallectualism.

And in case you haven’t seen it, new page on explaining Stay a Little Longer, the new name for the old terrallectualism.

It’s all a little confusing isn’t it, all this newness and switcherooing? I will continue to post links to the new blog on here for a while, but do want to eventually have the two be utterly separate, so best to take note if you want to follow both.

Also, in a month or so I will be switching the URL for this site, to stayalittlelonger.wordpress.com. At least I hope to. Oi vey. Don’t you worry, I’ll keep you appraised of all the going ons. In the meantime, enjoy those two links up there. (And because I recently found out that some of my readers don’t know about links…when you see words highlighted in the text of an article, it usually means that if you click on it, it will take you to another site or page.)

xoxo

We Be Jammin

Every week for the past month, as we take a certain back road into town, invariably the question has been asked Should we check the apple tree? Situated just outside a fenced orchard, conveniently close to a dirt pullout and a three way stop, sits The Tree. Or, as we now affectionately call it, Our Tree. Small and gnarled, with sour apples of varying size, it is just the type of forager’s friend that we like. We’ve been guessing and gauging the imminent ripening, and this past friday we knew it was time. I picked Fern up from Kindergarten with a bushel basket in the front seat, and by the time we got home, it took the two of us to carry our harvest inside. Thus began a weekend of canning, taking gatherings out of the freezer while Jeff and the kids went on expeditions and came home with coffee cans full of more blackberries.

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Yip yip. Uh huh. Uh huh.

We set up the peeler/corer/slicer on the table (what a fun and wonderful invention, thank you Jan!) and put the kids happily to work, while elderberries simmered down on the stove and frozen blackberries melted with a sigh wherever they were dropped. Sticky up to our elbows, with stained fingertips, our sound track was percussed with the satisfying pings of cooling jars, our tongues pleased with sugary taste tests. In between impersonating one of the Martians from Sesame Street, Fern made herself sick on apple peels. It all went on late into the night after the kids had gone to bed, and I even postponed the premier of Doctor Who in favor of pectin for elderberry jelly.

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Canned summer…apple-blackberry jam, apple butter and elderberry jelly.

Returning home today from morning drop off, I walked in the door to the smell of cloves and sugar, the flies buzzing around to the tune of apple butter. It’s bittersweet to greet my empty kitchen each morning after dropping off my girl. My Time beckons and the quiet is startling. The first day of school last week, we awoke to a power outage. When I got home, it was still down, which meant no internet and no writing. I sat in our one comfy chair and wondered Now what do I do? I called my mom. I went for a walk. I cleaned the kitchen. And I missed my best little pal. I went to pick her up, expecting a glad reunion, but she was kinda meh. Turns out she was having so much fun, she didn’t really want to leave. And that’s good, it’s what I’ve been working towards all these years…a securely attached child who can carry me into her times without me. And even though I gave birth almost five years ago, I carry her still, like I have a ghost womb as an amputee has with a missing limb, still feeling her kick inside me even though she is now in the cradle of her teacher. She is going through her own labor of independent childhood and I am ready to give birth to myself once again.

I have lots on my agenda for Me. Studying for MFT exams. Figuring out how/when/why to move my private practice to Sonoma. Getting sharper with this whole writing thing. And it’s all gonna happen with three free* hours every morning. Right? Right.

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Her first day. So excited.

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My midwife encapsulated my placenta after I gave birth. I’ve saved the last few capsules for this time of separation.

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Goldfinches and crows are my company on solo morning walks.

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Our garden has turned the corner and is on the downhill slope, life flowing out of the leaves and going into the fruits. Our sunflowers radiate and tower, heralding the glory of autumn. The pumpkins are turning golden, the leaves are already falling and the ground is hard, dry and thirsty. Worrying about the drought is useless, but the situation is undeniably troublesome. We plan rain catchment systems just in case the clouds ever come and turn to prayer, to enticing weather. As we near the equinox next month, I am thinking about balance, of how we are out of it and as always, the question of how to guide us back into right relationship. In the meantime, I am realizing that I have spent the last few months since we moved, on correcting my deficits. Like a starved child at a banquet, I have been unable to turn my attention away from the spread before me. The meta issues like climate change, race relations, Middle East sorrows, lack of rain, are ever present and part of my attention, but I have been primarily consumed with the milk and honey of finally living on land. I awoke last night because an owl was hoo hooing right outside our window, and I took out my earplugs and let the sound fill my ears, let the dna in my bones attune. Before going to sleep at night, I am often presented with unfinished gestalts, moments from childhood that froze in time, often in pain. My little self brings them to me and asks Can we hold this now? Because I’m tired of being alone. The memories swell, are released, and I snuggle us to sleep.

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Fern has become quite the forager, whether it be stealing the first ripe tomatoes, or discovering her own plant allies (She loves Mares Tail, a tarragon-like weed). She takes her favorite basket outside, returning to knock at the front door pretending to be peddling wares…if anyone needs crow feathers, fennel or cat ear flowers, I’ve got a good source. All of our baskets are filling to the brim, our family the jam pot simmering on the stove. We are going deeper, getting stickier, letting the rawness bring out the sugars as we cook down in the cauldron of This Life, This Moment, This Now. Being out of the city is affording me the opportunity to become present to the vividness of Life…whether it be the glory of my daughter’s blackberry scented smooch or just that extra bit of patience to greet my own aches and pains. Our lives feel more Real, the hollowness from our city lives plumping out like berries at the peak of ripeness. (And I also mean literally, because we moved to the land of Good Beer and the tire around my waist has inflated.).

Healing. Harvesting. Preserving. We be jammin.


Notice how Fern becomes Animal from the Muppets.

Despite my new found wealth of three free hours, I still have not found the time to comment on your blogs or respond to comments, and I apologize…I know it makes feeling connected harder. Do know that I so appreciate hearing from you, and despite my silence am keeping up with your own blog worlds.

*Anne Lamott recently wrote about how cleaning the house is basically a waste of a good opportunity to write, and a good life as well. How do you do with balancing the needs of family and home vs. doing things just to appease the critical voices in your heads, the ones that say “should”? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t clean as much as I do if I didn’t feel stressed or attacked by my inner critic when the house is messy. I want to respond to the appropriate voices, the nurturing ones, and not squander my new found free time on laundry. Still…I do love me a clean kitchen…