Giddy Springtime



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.

Three Rivers

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We last passed this way a dozen years ago, our younger selves half-grown and beautiful and lost. Last time through, we quarreled and debated marriage, and in the morning continued on our desert loving way. We had a ’69 VW van. The Man of the Place didn’t know how to play the guitar yet (what on earth did he do instead? I can’t remember). Some things are the same. We’re still traveling together, after all, nowadays in a water cooled van, and with two little girls running the show from the backseat. Returning to this canyon was like a taking a very long road to step in an old footprint and to see the wholeness of the circle that has been traveled.

And because the land is so big, it’s history so long, I couldn’t help but pause and see how our story is a short one beside the volumes of fallen leaves, the years the sun has passed over the black rock butte covered in etchings. Take the land, erupting with lava for some thousand years. Take the people who lived here, then and now, their migrations and exchanges. Take all the losses of history, every tragic tale of conquest, every new home built on the foundations of the old. Take the day the first atom bomb was detonated in this very valley. Take the herd of twenty elk we saw in the foothills at dusk, the stars spinning through the clear night as they always have.

Camp made, our children ran to meet the stream and play beneath the tawny gold of ponderosas and oak trees. I saw then that each generation must find their way through history, must be brought to meet the waters of this year’s snowmelt, to take their steps on that spiralling road and mark the page where their story begins. Flip the pages back, if you will. The story is old, and still unfolding.


If you ever pass this way, or would like to from afar, do bring Miracles of Sainted Earth and Blood Desert as your guides.

After Candlemas


I heard yesterday morning about a tradition of hanging a prayer cloth from a tree for Brigid to bless as she passes by on her day. Candlemas was one of the busiest days I have seen this winter, but in the midst of rushing here and there I grabbed a bit of yellow calico from the scrap pile and paused long enough to unfurl a scrawled prayer across it. I hung my prayer flag in the peach tree, where the sun and wind can lift the words to the spirits, who I now and then remember need to be fed by our praise and thanks. My words were simple, for once, as they spiraled across the cloth, taking their time, but in the end asking just one simple thing:

May we be blessed, and through our lives, Bless.

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


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.


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.

Moving Gently Through the Days


In the Sonoran Desert last week we walked carefully through Saguaros to a beloved canyon where water runs through the desert. Do you have places besides your home where a particular landscape and a feeling of absolute belonging are intertwined? It happens to me every time in that hot country my husband hails from, and where we found one another. Relatives, thrift stores, palm trees and fragrant creosote bushes watered by rain also help.


Back home, the cottonwoods are shining bright. At the Leonora Curtin wetlands, named for our favorite old time ethnobotanist, there is a Land Arts installation up until Nov 9th (you should go). Can you see the map of the USA poking up through those reeds? We mapped our own lives on the trails there during our visit, walking in the bright sun, beneath the glowing trees, to the edge of the water. One of the pieces was about pligrimage, what we carry in our bundles, how we bless our children and our days. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.


This morning we rose into the still dark day, our home disordered from travel and time in the woods and world, the kids sick, and the to-do list blessedly empty of anything but one formidable task: Restore balance. As my husband readied himself to teach another round of Faust to 12th graders after a late night of grading, I said to him, “Let’s just move as gently as we can through the week, and see if we can catch up with ourselves at some point.”

He laughed (was it wryly?), and said, “Like we always do?”

Well, like we try to anyways. This season our community has had its spattering of births, unexpected deaths, weddings, divorces, reunions and celebrations in the midst of the ordinary unfolding of our lives. How does a pilgrim walk through her days? What gets carried, and where in the world is she going?


Not unrelated but somewhat tangentially, (for one never knows when the blogger will return to her post) the Santa Fe Harvest Swap was yesterday. I brought a big batch of goat milk soap, a handful of face creams, tea blends from my garden and the wild, and half a dozen Elderberry tinctures. Here is what came home:

In the freezer: 1/2 a pastured rooster, a jar of pastured chicken liver mousse (paté right?), pesto, & green chile sauce.

In the fridge: Tortillas, lard, lactofermented apple sauce, pink kraut, & dilly carrots, cultured butter, pickled beets, & fermented cod liver oil fertilizer (hmm, but was that lacto-fermented?).

In the pantry: Zaatar spice blend, beeswax birthday candles, two apple butters, apricot ginger jam, a pint of honey, dried apricots, watermelon lemon grass jelly (!), and my perennial favorite rosehip apple jelly.

In the medicine chest: Calendula salve and oil, herbal chest rub, arnica-St. John’s wort salve, and a jar of coconut deodorant.

In other words, not your average trip to the grocery store. It is really something to behold the collective abundance that these swaps celebrate; this is just a very incomplete sample of all that was there. It is quite an experience to show up with my bit of creativity and gleanings from the garden and land at large and be blessed with so much in exchange.

Is this a metaphor for life, friends? May the days be gentle with you as you walk through them.


 ps. of all the thoughtful things being written about autumn right now, this is my current favorite.

Letter to Sunshine Valley


Dear Claire,
The season must be full upon you
up in Sunshine, the valley cold, frost come and gone,
the aspens bright in those seams of the mountain
where aspens grow. Here in the city I lift my gaze
and take in the purple daisies which are already fading
and the chamisa which grows brighter still.
There are rumors of gold in our mountains
but I have yet to confirm them.

I’m going for apples this weekend, and hope
to fill a box or three because that is what I do and who I am:
the woman who gathers fruit. But the truth is
I don’t care so much about those things as I once did.
I’m writing poems again, and can’t be bothered
to hang laundry and peel roasted chile or make apple sauce,
though sooner or later I get up and do those things anyways
because that is what happens when you have done some good thing
enough times. It is in me and I am glad.
And what is a poem if not a clean swept floor,
a pot of apples simmering on a fall day?

I might not be noticing the leaves changing yet,
but in the lessening light I feel the fall reckoning
come roaring out of me. Like leaves on a tree
in October, down comes certainty, one belief
at a time. In the end, there I am, branches bare,
no longer who I thought I was, or sought to be.
It all gets held up to the light and if not discarded, exposed.
All those hanging threads and thin places;
it takes days to get through the pile.
In the end there is some scrap of cloth that is intact
and that is enough to go forward with
into these darkening days.

This is all just a long way to say
that your daughter is as lovely as the days are sunny,
and I’m so happy to see her in your arms.
Let each season carry you the way you carry her,
as motherhood shapes you and strips you and fills you anew.
After the apples get picked, we’ll make our way
to the mountains to see for ourselves the rain of gold,
and one of these days I’ll make it to your place, back home,
whatever that means, wherever that is.

Love Kyce

Song in the Key of D

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So much is forgotten in these ripe days of our summer together: emails and efficiency, grocery shopping, the world beyond our gate, where we went wrong. On the table are a few scraps of cloth, snips of thread. So you see, something is made by hand here and there, now and then. As much of a surprise as the sweet purple tomatoes from the garden I had been despairing of. On my piano I make something like music, and the girls call me the piano queen. I will miss them when school starts, miss these long days home where I sometimes wonder “Who are these beasties and what on earth can be done to get them to stop screaming?” I feed them the twelfth peach of the day, sweep the floor, stop fretting that we didn’t do enough jump-roping before first grade starts, let them bring home those pink little ponies from the neighbor’s yardsale. I wonder what it is I will do with myself when the hush of fall arrives.

On the road this summer, camping in the far northern reaches of this mountain range we live at the tail of, my husband and I sang together in the darkness of night. We’d forgotten all the song books, but his fingers knew the way across the guitar strings, and we knew enough lyrics to fill each night with music. Who can say whether those songs were a seed planted or a seed bursting forth. I can say only that it is good to remember that our gardens are wild places, in the end, and we do not really know what our faithfulness in tending them is for, or even how best to do it. 

I came home from that trip washed clean in the way that happens when we step outside the lines of our days. I looked at the clothes in my closet, the messages on my answering maching, the events on the calendar’s days, and wondered “Whose life is this?” It would be nice to know what it all is for, what comes next, the answer to every need. Instead, we find our way across the strings, and see what music will come of it. 

Watering the Little River


At the end of our road, and across the next, there sometimes runs a little river. The winter waters kindly left us a beach, and we pay thanks by visiting often. This is a fine place to watch the greening of the land, and to water ourselves.  This river can always use more water, and my children happily come with their watering cans to oblige. Our hearts, too, can always use more softness and hope, and I find that those seeds in me are well watered here. This is the place I come when I feel the tides of my despair rise.


You see, I live in a very special place, a place where it is almost too easy to forget that we live in troubled times. Our little river was long ago dammed, but in recent years has received “environmental flow” to water the willows and create a commons. There is no fracking for hundreds of miles. Our last mayoral election was a heated battle between two highly progressive gay candidates. Yes, we drink plutonium tainted water, but there are plenty of watchdog groups keeping an eye on that particular fly in the ointment. New Mexico, I’ve heard, is one of the best places to survive a zombie apocalypse.

I find that it is easy to rest in the comfort of hope. As my awareness grows, so does my commitment to finding solutions and living a life that reflects them. I imagine that if I and my friends and the readers of Orion Magazine are doing that, then surely everyone will and all will be well. And then some choice pieces of bad news gets through my filter, and I realize this is a story that we are not writing a happy ending to until a fair amount more drama takes place. I lift my gaze from all the good and hopeful things, and wake up again.


Last week I signed an online petition asking Monsanto not to sue the state of Vermont, and the full absurdity of our times hit me. If that hopeful act doesn’t seem absurd, then bless you. You should move to Santa Fe. It’s usefulness was not in getting Monsanto to change its mind, but in helping me to examine mine. If not a petition, what? How shall we live, my friends?

This little river here, it is running because for twenty years scores of dedicated people did whatever they could to fight for it. The biologists did studies and wrote reports, the citizens picked up trash and planted trees, the poets wrote poems, the elders told stories, and the politicians listened. In time, a dying river came back to life in the hearts of a community, which brought it back to life in its dry little channel. Which is a good thing, because the river’s future and our own are the same.


I believe most days that my work in service to the earth begins where I am. That I am accountable to what is before me–my home place, my community, my family, and myself.  From there, we grow and expand, we ripple out, we strengthen the grassroots, we trust in the healing that we are directly engaged in. We try to stay awake as best we can.

Pete Seeger said the world would be saved by people saving their own homes. So dig in, friends. Do the work that your place needs to have done. Go often onto the land and fall so in love with it that you cannot breathe unless you are taking steps to protect its wholeness. Work to serve others. Sign those Facebook petitions, and write your own. Go spend a day working on the farm that grows food for the needy. Speak on behalf of the land, join the neighbors that need your solidarity. If you don’t have time to hang your clothes on the line, then for goodness sake make some. Clear away whatever clutter keeps you from knowing yourself and living according to what your heart knows is true.

And keep watering those little seeds, that trickle of water, this good thing we call life.

Postcards from La Jara

In April, my friend Arina and I were recruited to run the kitchen for a motley crew of Hippies and Old Order Amish as they built a house on our friend Colin’s off grid farm in southern Colorado. Here are some glimpses of our time at the “frolic” in La Jara.

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I’ve always said, I can’t resist a trip to the olden days, so here we go, to a house raising in the boonies. After weeks of planning menus and grocery lists, Arina and I and our three children head north to see what’s for dinner. We arrive to a spotless, empty kitchen: two pies on the table, a cauldron of borscht on the wood range. Our children fill the quiet home in no time, jumping on the old loveseat and kicking up a cloud of dust the likes of which you’ve only ever seen in a San Luis Valley windstorm. There isn’t anyone about; all are working on the House. It’s for the House that we’ve come, to cook for all those who are here to build it. We stoke the fire on the cookstove, tie on our aprons, and arrive.

April 8, 2014

IMG_0822 Folks have traveled from across the country to help Colin build the house (it’s that tall pitched roof in the background, behind the Spanish Villa chicken coop). His old friends, colleagues, and neighbors come in a regular stream, staying for a few days or a week, someone always arriving, departing. The house will be for the Yoder family, who have just moved to the Valley, leaving their community and dairy farm in Wisconsin to join their kin that have settled out West. The plan is that they are taking over the running of the farm, the raising of the sheep. The Amish men and boy-men are wicked fast with the nail guns. Arina admires the cut of their pants, asks the mother, Lydia, if she makes her own pattern. “This is what’s been handed down to us,” she answers simply. She comes in to help us cook. We watch carefully as she makes pie crust, she looks over our shoulder at Moosewood cookbook.

April 9, 2014

IMG_0859I am in love with this kitchen; for it I came. My friend and I, joined by an occasional neighbor, by Mrs. Yoder, by my own mother, cook all the day long. The huge meals created on the wood burning cook stove are like a puzzle to put together. I wake in the night realizing just what the leftover pot of beans must become, how to stretch two chickens to feed twenty. Each meal a feast in its own right: braised lamb, baked beans, corn bread, salad, cole slaw, pies, cakes, cobblers. When we set the table for the midday meal, the construction crew of Buddhists, Sufis, Amish, and mystical Christians takes their seats. After the silent blessing, they eat, try to fathom one another.

April 11, 2014

IMG_0948 Nobody knows quite what to call the House, so that’s what we call it. But it is really something else. Nobody can say quite what the destiny of this building will be. Is it for a family? A community? Like a life just beginning–an unborn child–it is a Being that demands to Be. The beams and wood, windows and tile are all salvaged from the departed Beings of the Valley, barns and courthouses, old farmhouses. There are stories everywhere, some reclaimed, like all those building materials, some remembered around the table as Colin’s reunion of old friends tell tales about their wild days, and some emerging with each day. We are part of all of them, it seems.

April 13, 2014

IMG_0892 The kids make the rounds each morning on the farm, from cow to draft horses (Maida calls them Giraffe horses), 200 Churro sheep and lambs, wild turkeys, lamas and donkeys (who guard the flock when out on the pasture), and carefully keep tabs on the progress of the building. When they get to rub up close to the Amish children–the girls in their blue dresses and head scarves, the boys in their charming pants and suspenders–it is a bit like meeting a slew of storybook characters (Laura and Mary and Almanzo times many siblings). They are shy and curious and a little in awe. Which isn’t to say they don’t make us blush with embarrassment from time to time. For some reason, when everyone files in for lunch they leave their quiet, heart warming play to jump on those dusty chairs, make noise, and ask loudly “Why do all these guys have funny beards?”

April 13, 2014

IMG_0969 Palm Sunday brings snow, rest, a big pancake breakfast for my own newly arrived husband, whose birthday is upon us. He gets suspenders, of course. After tea and a long morning around the table, Elliot and Colin head out to smear clay on the strawbale walls. The girls settle into a game of mother and baby, and we in the kitchen try to catch up with the gallons of milk we’re indundated with each day (Arina calls it Chinese Water Torture, the twice daily arrival of Hannah’s fresh milk, which we are otherwise grateful for). Cooking here is like a retreat in which service, meditation, bewilderment, labor, laughter, nourishment are all mixed together. We lick fresh cream from Hannah off our lips, and start plotting the next meal. There are daily miracles, and finding something to make a feast out of from our dwindling stores is not least among them.

April 15, 2014

  IMG_0849In leaving behind my home, my rhythms, my very sense of self, I was able to return to all of that with clearer eyes, and a warmer heart. The world outside our knowing is waiting, and sometimes we manage to answer the call to step outside ourselves. As ever, the land takes us in with its goodness. As ever, there is the gift of giving ourselves over to service and its fellowship, of saying grace around the table, silently, lovingly. And then sharing the meal, seeing what will come of it. There are friends waiting to be met, open spaces within us waiting to be discovered, and always, a few more dishes to wash, another floor to sweep.

May 14, postscript

It turns out the Yoders found a farm of their own nearby, which I mention just in case you have dreamed of living in an off grid strawbale palace in paradise, of raising heritage sheep and running a farm with draft horses and a kind mentor next door. I happen to know just the place, and would be happy to introduce you.