Giddy Springtime

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There were warm spells all winter, but this is indisputable, this surprise of blooming fruit trees, medians filled with crocuses, the juniper pollen billowing across the valley like smoke from a forest fire in the Jemez, and all night rains falling gentle as can be over the blossoming city.

There are baby chicks in the bathtub peep peeping and tomato seedlings to carry out every morning into the sun. There is a little girl who plucks the tiny roma sprouts and taps the dirt off the root threads and pops it in her mouth, and another girl turning seven in just days telling me long stories like the Goose Girl over dinner, which she calls Odious Beans.

In the midst of all this I am learning to meditate. For years I’ve thought to myself  it would be a good thing to do, especially if I ever got cancer or was a stressed out corporate executive. Since I was neither of these things (thanks be), I contented myself with reading books about mindful parenting, zen gardening, and writing with a wild mind. These things have a way of accumulating over the years, and let’s just say that when I heard about a class in Mindfulness Meditation and Stress Reduction for Parents my turn on the Zafu had come.

Did you know that it turns out the point of meditation is not to roll on waves of bliss while sitting in the presence of God after all, and that actually there is no point except to be aware of the breath. Or so says my teacher. In fact, one source I have seen calls the rolling on waves of bliss a side effect of relaxation and suggests you ignore such “odd sensations” and go back to following the breath. I can just say it’s a good thing I never read that particular yogi before beginning my practice! Nonetheless, it is lovely to be breathing and sitting still with or without waves of bliss, because it’s spring.

There is one pleasure I’m anticipating most of all: Peeling the row cover off my south wall garden to see what greens made it through the winter. With luck there will be speckled romaines, red oakleaf, rainbow chards, and kale. This garden hasn’t been watered, much less glimpsed, for months. But I know it’s there, rising in the long light and warmth of the days. I know this because I can see them pushing the row cover up, my little kales and chards and romaines.

I’m feeling a whole lot like those greens today. So much has been slow growing under cover for the winter, for my seven years mothering, for each of these good thirty-three years I’ve had. And the cover is lifting. What will be revealed?

I can almost feel the giddy wave of springtime bliss pulling me under, so I’ll rest now and watch the miracle of every breath coming and going, and surely there is something of God in that. That, and the greening trees.

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First Egg, Revisited

“Discipline is very important. We are creative all day long and we need to have an appointment to get that out on the page.” –Mary “Everloving” Oliver

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Perhaps it was my recent near-brush with gainful employment, narrowly escaped by some grace or other, but I have that new lease on life feeling, that bubbling exuberance to live fully that sometimes follows close calls.

Perhaps it is the first eggs that just appeared in the chicken nests–dirty and broken, certainly, but there. Life returning, productivity renewed.

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With quiet January drawing to a close, my days are fallow no more. There is a window open before me. It looks out on the blue sky, the buds fattening (already!) on the fruit trees. I have heard birdsong at dawn for the first time in months. The sap is rising, and so must I. There is so much to be done, and suddenly a striving has returned. Bless these cycles, and all they bring.

And now if you’ll kindly excuse me, I have an appointment with the page. Onward ho, making hay as we go.

Quiet, Into the House Has Come

IMG_2172 IMG_2175My husband came in from a walk on the ridge behind our house one evening during the winter break. The sun had gone down. The girls were screeching and making messes, dinner was not just late, but lame. I had that feeling of tightly wound burden, with “something isn’t right, I should have done this differently, that would have been better,” sorts of thoughts visiting me. I’ve been shown the face I make when I feel like this, and it isn’t as lovely as I imagine myself to be.

The man of the place came in from the darkness, smiling with the freshness of the newly fallen night in his eyes. He stirred the pot I had on the stove and didn’t say anything about what simmered weakly in it. Just this: “We’ve got to love the life we’ve got.”

I had my own epiphany on the ridge on Solstice, a day that was perplexing with its myriad options, so much to do, so much meaning to make, so much pressure (from myself) to get it right. In the end we did, I think, but about 4:00 I left the house to climb the hill and watch the sun drop, and I can say I was wearing my unlovely expression of consternation. I lay down on the frozen ground, felt the light pouring through my closed eyelids. And remembered, There is nothing that must be done, everything is as it should be. 

Both of our our hilltop insights carried me through the subsequent weeks, and are carrying me forward now.

In these first days of the year, I am savoring the swept-clean newness. The invitation to clear not just the overfull cupboards and drawers, but the fullness of my days and life. This year will bring its wonders and discoveries, its challenges and transitions. For now, there is a pause. An invitation to savor stillness.

The author Dan Siegel writes that our awareness is like a great wheel. At the hub of the wheel, the center, is mindful presence, and from this hub an infinite number of spokes extend to the rim. Our attention tends to dwell out on the rim, moving from one spoke of concern to the next. Mindfulness and meditation are the practice of returning to the center.

These days, as I sink gratefully into my own meditation practice, it feels like there is a counterpart to this in the outer world, the wheel of the year that turns along its spokes, spiraling along back towards January. Which is feeling a bit like the hub to me. A place of quiet, of reflection and retreat. A return to presence.

Soon enough, we’ll be carried forward. I want freshness in my eyes as I go, kindness in my gaze. I want to love whatever is there in the pot, and to serve it in our old bowls at the table where we sit each day together.

First Seeds

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The little girls have fevers. I leave them asleep on the sofa, and plant peas amidst the winter greens.

The last letter from Granny arrives on Equinox. “No more thinking, no more writing. Keep the tea herbs close.” She will die that first night of spring.

Every planting season the worries of drought or calamity fall silent as my hands begin to work. Warm soil, bees in the early-blooming apricots, cisterns brimming at last with the late snows of winter.

Was I thinking to forgo the garden?

By the moon’s transit, it is not a fruit day, nor a leaf day. Still I slip the tomato seeds, the kale and lettuce, into a wooden flat on the window sill. The girls stir. “Stay close,” one says. Birdsong. Buds. The long light of spring.

I unfurl the hose and open the tank, watch the captured rain in its release. When the snow comes in April, it flutters over plum blossoms. The heavy skies are pierced with light.

Gentleness, open me. The seeds are just beginning to rise.

A Few Favorites at Candlemas

It’s Candlemas time. Roughly forty days since the re-birth of the sun, and forty days till the spring equinox. A cross quarter day and threshold  where we can feel the earth begin to breathe out again, the light surrounding our days just a hair more. The sap is rising in the trees, and there is renewal and expansion in our own spirits. For me, this is the time to work diligently and lay the foundation for the year that I have until now been mostly contemplating. Meanwhile, some of those nearest and dearest to me have been busy all through the winter bringing their creative vision into the world, and I want to celebrate these good works today.

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I’ll began with my mother, Lia, for that is where everything began for me. Here she is, alongside some ragamuffins she picked up somewhere or other. This year she is celebrating her 38th anniversary as a practitioner of Classical Homeopathy. In that time she has skillfully cared for many hundreds of clients and taught courses on homeopathy to groups ranging from roomfuls of mothers to auditoriums filled with nurses. This course is now available to take online, my friends, and for a very good price. If you have used homeopathy before, but with varying degrees of success, if you can’t remember which remedy is for which color of mucus, or if you simply want to understand just what those little sugar balls are and why they are indeed medicine and not placebo, check it out. Fluency in homeopathy 101 is a skill we should all posses.

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Now for nourishment and healing of the heart and spirit. My friend Brenna has offered a gift to the world by looking up from her knitting and urban homesteading and homeschooling and general pursuit of beauty and heart and begun a blog. Storymama is a golden needle in the haystack of the blogosphere. Brenna is soulful and reflective and masterful in a way that encourages our own soulfulness and reflection. Waldorf Homeschoolers in particular will swoon in ecstasy when they discover her, but I think we all should give ourselves the gift of Storymama and the tonic of her wise and thoughtful ruminations on life. I hope you read all the way back to her very first post, which is not so far back, and don’t forget to introduce yourself!

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For me, February means it’s time to do a whole bunch of seedstarting. I plant by the stars, in the Biodynamic way, and use my friend Erin’s calendar, “The Gardener’s Year: Planning Your Plantings 2014” to tell me what to plant (leaf, roots, fruit) when, and where (indoors, outdoors, coldframe, etc). In other words, instead of just telling you that it is a leaf day, Erin’s calendar tells you that February 3 and 4 are the time to start mache, spinach, and parsely indoors. The calendar is also a wonderful manual for year-round gardening practices and inspiration. And, it’s beautiful.

Here’s one more friend whose creativity spilled over this winter: The Salt, a book of poems by Adrie Lester is so fine. Here’s my amazon review: These collected poems nourished me like a feast made from heirloom recipes. Adrie speaks of real things: of hard work, the earth beneath her feet, tools and capable hands, love and blessings and struggle. Her words are like prayers, asked and answered. They are treasures from the hearth of a fine baker.

Now tell me, is the sap rising in your body? What sweetness will you make of it? What buds will soon be breaking open in your days?

27 Things to Abandon in Fall

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Remorse, which will enfold you with its sweeping embrace
anyways, accompanying you on the missteps of your journey.
Those many things, 19 in total, that you are doing
with fierce determination, with impatience,
or the expectation of greatness:
mothering, getting dressed, birthday parties,
saving the world. Not getting anything wrong,
which is to say, being always right.
Wasn’t there something you meant to do?
A life made of small gestures, its shape slowly unfolding,
A quiet waiting for you to hush.
Clear away the brambles and overgrowth.
Make a space for the woman you are becoming, began as.
She is not so fierce, nor certain.
But lovely.
Gather the fruits of your heart and longing.
Stew them into a preserve for cold days.
Tally every small harvest from this year:
from gardens, from chickens, from children,
from the good, hard work of serving, of making, of resting,
of dreaming. Gather it all into your lap.
In the garden slash down the vines and bushes, the life bearers
now dead. In your days, clear a vast space.
Let a fire blaze, let flood waters come.
What stands in the way of wholeness?
Ask this 100 times a day and heed the answers.
Stay warm. Seek light.
Keep sweeping.

Home Will Do

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Colorado is in our wake. Two weeks beneath the big mountains on a farm, among friends and dairy cows and a new kind of adventure: cooking for a crowd. Do you travel around cooking for permaculture classes? one student asked.  Until now, no, but I think it would suit me just fine.

Harvesting weeds for dinner: amaranth, purslane, quelites. Harvesting weeds for medicine: comfrey, yarrow,  plantain. Kids tan and happy and grown three inches on fresh milk and forgotten hats and mama’s gaze turned elsewhere. Papa playing the strings nearby. Spinning wheel always ready, and the yarn flying onto the bobbins in various degrees of beauty.

I felt like an unfaithful wife coveting every green pasture, every ditch or stream filled to overflowing. We could live here, I said to my husband every time we crossed a puddle. This would do. 

And so it was really something to roll back into New Mexico late one night and feel my heart burst with true love. Moonlight through broken clouds, road wet with rain, silhouette of beloved hills, speckled with black piñon shadows, and that smell, that smell of this land well watered and fragrant as only it can be.

As if I could ever leave this behind.

The lights of small villages twinkled every now and then along the highway, a reminder that though our landscape is wide open and dry and not conducive to what Wallace Stegner called America’s addiction to green, it is fertile in its own way. Food has been grown here for a thousand years. Take heart, desert people, this land is good land. We’ll find our way to adapt to its changes, just like everyone else in the world will do in their places.

Came home to a garden lush and big and dripping wet from rain. Full water tanks. Our young chickens laid their first two eggs. Buffalo bone broth is in the stockpot, dusting done, beet seeds in the soil, beet roots in the fridge. There are library books to read, poems to write. The page in our own story turned, a new chapter beginning.

Home, you are such a sweet place to be.

October Travel Notes

Here we are — the long river of summer slowing into the still eddies of late fall.

 I am sinking into it little by little.

Tending the small things close at hand.

Walking the path I am given to walk, and marveling at how far it has carried me.

How good and full this summer and harvest season have been!

How sweet it is to pause and rest. To be quiet and take it all in.

Do nothing extra friends, and be well.

 

Summer Rhythm

We’re finding our summer rhythm, slowly but surely. At first I didn’t think we needed one, but oh! friends, rhythm is life. Especially when these days are so long. Each day needs some purpose to give it meaning, even if its only picking cherries, visiting a friend, or just dusting the house and baking a chicken like I do every Tuesday.  Feeling driftless, I was heartened to put down in writing all the things that form our rhythm these days. Each in its turn, our days contain a sprinkling of:

Time outside, under the apple tree, by the river, in the green woods, at the park, in the garden.

Time to move, to ride bikes, walk, splash, stretch.

Time to rest, to nap, to read stories, to look up at the fruit ripening over the hammock.

Time to sweep, sort, build, dig, spin, wash, to cross things off the to do list.

Time with friends, to play and talk and celebrate the goodness of our community.

Time to create, paint, cut, paste, stitch, cast on, dress up, sing.

Time to wander, to do nothing, to hold each ripening moment in our hearts.

A handful of those things and we call it a day. Another very sweet summer day.

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What have you been up to?

Waiting for the Light

I’ve known it was coming. Since September I’ve been preparing. But still, now that it’s here I’m caught by the fullness of it.

Darkness.

Two days of beautiful, much needed rain underscore it. No sun. Dark nights.

I didn’t quite realize how I was feeling till I looked around and saw my house lit up like a lantern.

My husband asked, “Do you think you have enough lights on?” and I was like, “Not even close!”

It’s like being cold but not able to get warm, this longing for light.

And the answer I always find is to stoke the inner fire.

To pray in my way, to write and draw and express some of the soul’s light, to shine it out into the world.

To sing. This song, a lot.

To not turn away too quickly from the darkness, but to give thanks for it, for the way it turns us inward and brightens our spirits.

It’s why we seek to create so much joy and community during this season of light. Our work is all about light making!

It’s coming, friends. Not much longer now and the sun grows stronger, the world reborn.

Excuse me while I go wait by the fire.

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The never-ending seasons 

that so lightly come and go

Are miracles of wisdom 

no man can ever know.

–JF Wornal