Saturday, September 06, 2008

I Declare This Farmer Day

Last night I dreamed that the secret neighborhood committee began their campaign to have us and our chickens bumped out of Garage Mahal. They compiled a list of grievances against us, including "loud chickens that promote the growing of apples... "

I know, it makes no sense, but that's how dreams are.

Or, maybe it does make sense.

Having chickens does raise certain longings, like planting flowers and trying to keep veggies in a barrel. Max has a plan to make "The Big Dinner" and he wants every bit of the dinner to come from our yard and from bartering. He wants the meal prepared outdoors and for us to use water from the hose. He explains that our options are few at this point, since we only have a few tomatoes left and some mint. He looks forward to finding the first eggs, but what he is most anxious for is the day we can begin a real garden. Yesterday he and I envisioned all of the plants we would have in our own garden, and they include:

and plums

When I designed the gardens at El Rancho, I was careful to choose only drought tolerant, native, and/or edible varieties. I was completely delighted by the idea of the children walking anywhere in the yard and being able to find something to nibble. I banned all toxic plants, no exceptions. Seems like a lifetime ago. Max's thoughts and dreams did a lot to rekindle my own dreams, and a recent comment from Em, of "Em and the Gang," reminds me that we often have to work hard, be vigilant and patient before our dreams can come true. It seems Em and her gang are finally going to have backyard chickens! Then she wants to get her Food Not Lawns! plans rolling! I would love to be there, celebrating their triumph and welcoming their brood home.

We are a long way off from having a garden of our own, but the yard we do have is sadly neglected. My gang does not know this yet, but I have plans. I want to get out there and replant Lola's barrel garden, stack all of the empty pots, being careful to shoo away the black widows (Confession: There's no freakin' way I will "shoo" away black widow spiders. They are big and plentiful around here and I will be smashing them. Keeping it real.) There is farmer stuff, our last remnants from our Rancho days, that need to be tossed, donated, buried or put out to pasture. Lots of sweeping, sorting, clearing and shuffling.

I think this is a very good plan.

When do you think I should spring it on them?

My scholars are still sleeping, and they have earned their rest. The best reports and feedback keeps coming in about how good these children are in school. These affirmations are so wonderful, because when you home school there is a lot of doubt and second guessing. Now my only regret about home schooling is that I did not believe we were doing wonderfully. We were doing wonderfully and I could not be more proud of William, Alex and Max.

Farmer Day should finish with something fun, like a dinner cookout or a visit to the nursery, maybe a beach walk.

What kind of day are you going to have?

Friday, September 05, 2008

"Don't Fence Me In..."

What we're waking to...

Gene Autry and...

"The Old Chisolm Trail" Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

"Montana Cowgirl" Emmylou Harris

"Lars Mortenson's Polka" Deseret String Band

"La Mariquita" Linda Ronstadt

Think I'll just slip my boots on today. Happy Friday.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Waning Season

I don't think it's been a hot Summer. It has been humid and there were a few days when it felt better with a fan, than without. I kept waiting for the kind of heat that would make our backyard dipping pool enjoyable. But the cold water from the hose never felt necessary... rather it felt rash and overstated. We had a few water fights and those were fun, and I am sure if we had a pool we would be swimming, but unlike other Summers, we weren't wishing we had a real pool.

It could still get hot. Summer in these parts can last through October. The only cold Halloween I can recall was in 2002, in Wisconsin. It was strange and invigorating to be traveling door to door, cold and excited, sharing the amusements of the night. September can be a very hot month. In fact I seldom count June as a summer month, thinking of Summer more as July through September. I remember November 1990, swimming at The Cove with my brother, Bill. The weather was fine for an ocean swim. I was pregnant with William and it felt wonderful to ride the waves and get out passed the breakers.

It could still get hot, but I predict an early Fall. Trees in the neighborhood, the Sweet Gum, and other deciduous maple types, are already showing amber clusters, yellow swathes, and shades of Merlot. The spiders are out and busy weaving. We remember our first days here, at Garage Mahal, it was October and the yard was full of enormous garden spiders, all hanging and waiting to ensnare us in their sprawling webs. The grand-daughters of those beady eyed arachnids are already crisscrossing the garden, and setting traps across the sidewalks, getting plump and crafty. Makes me shiver. One caught me and rode in to the house in my hair... I squawked and I think she fainted... we were equally aghast!

Holly says her cat brought in a very tiny mouse, and I remember Grandma Nancy saying that mice come near the house and try to get in when they sense a change in the weather. Fall must be looming. Not just on the calendar, but in our gardens, in the pulse of the Earth. My tomato plant should not have to give any more. It is beaten and depleted, and so are the roses. All those plants that gave all they could are worn out and ready to slip back in to the earth, to return in another season.

Last night I dreamt that we had an amazing, warm, crusty loaf of baked bread. We were breaking the bread and sharing it, and it never ran out. I can smell it. I could feel the weight of it, the crust breaking and complying in our hands, and the warmth of it could not more perfectly evoke home and hearth, that quality of Autumn that calls us to gather closer and share. Wasn't that the pleasantest dream? I like thinking on it.

Maria and I went outside in search of colors and pretty things. We found, of course the chicas, and when we let them out of their sky blue coop they flew. They are nearly impossible to photograph. Some part, or all parts, of them is always moving. Their feet anticipate the next step, their eyes dart, then fix. Most pictures I take of them are a blurry haze of colored feathers. Even though they stay within the same general vicinity of each other, I don't know wether I will ever capture a family portrait... the 3 of them, poised and graceful, sitting alertly together and subtly smiling for the camera.

I am anticipating my favorite time of the year, Autumn, and hoping that plans fall in to place, that we slip in to comforting rhythms and enjoy happy traditions. I am looking forward to gaining an edge and feeling a sense of accomplishment through work and routine. I cannot see my dreams coming true, not yet, so my new resolve is to maintain the good things I do have. Did you see Chris' comment? She shared a quote from Burton Hills: "Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life." I do have destinations in mind, but I must remember to enjoy the ride, I know.

I think I will dress Maria... I should say: let Maria get dressed, because she loves to find something to wear and do it herself. We can find a nursery and walk the paths, admire the blooms and choices, then bring home new annuals for Lola's Garden, our little barrel of flowers. The season is waning, and we want to welcome the new season with our best intentions and a bit of faith, as much as we can muster.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Good Sign

Not being able to pop up north and check on my mom is difficult. Knowing that our new school schedules make extracurricular travel a pleasure of the past is sad. I never went in to great detail about my mother's accident last June, because it was too personal and too traumatic. Her recovery has been slow, steady, but slow. And it is still painful. Fortunately she is about to begin physical therapy, and I am focusing my prayers on that being a key component to her continued healing and relief.

Early on, as we were learning the full magnitude of what happened to her, I was deeply saddened by the prospect of her having to let go of her jewelry making, her art and expression, her bread and butter. It reaffirmed my appreciation for every piece of jewelry she has ever made for me and I cried thinking, what if these are the last ones? I cried thinking of how much she would have to endure on her road to recovery and knowing that it would be a long, long time before she could return to the corner of the house by the big windows, where her beads and tools sat waiting.

The accident happened the day after her birthday, and a week before she was to start her new job (the one with a regular paycheck and health benefits.) She couldn't take the job. For her birthday we had sent a new set of tools in their own carrying case, and the just opened box sat on her table, waiting. Her beads, and wire, the galleries she made necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings for would have to wait too. And while our immediate concern was for her to recover, to be okay, I was aware that until she could return to her interests and do the skilled work she is so good at, that her recovery would be slower, and sadder.

I believe in passion. I believe that to follow your passion, to do the work that gives you satisfaction is a tremendous gift. I define success in terms of being able to get by in the world by doing what gives you joy and feels like play more than work or toil. Success is doubled when you can share your interests and skills, pass them along, enthuse others. I guess that why it has been so wonderful to see my mom pursue her interests, and hone her skills. She is such a talented and successful artist, such a good role model. She has devoted so much of herself to learning about jewelry making, and to her area artists' association, I have marveled at her dedication. I did not want her to lose any of it... not the creative outlet, the income, the friendships and business advancements, the pleasure of achieving her goals.

After sighing with relief that she lived, that she could walk, and believe me our gratitude is profound, I felt like the next thing to hope for would be to see her string beads together again; to know that she could look down at her hands and employ her tools to twist silver and gold, to attach pearls, entwine stones and make her art.

Her injuries were serious. Very. Recently,sad news about a woman, a friend my brothers know, reminded me that we came very closely to losing more than my mom's art and skills. The reminder chills me. Pain and loss, the familiar ache of grief, worry... those things are such brutal reminders of how brief our time can be, how difficult the journey can be. My heart goes out to Barbara's family, her sister, her friends.

Life is precious... and quality of life matters too, and that is why I was so pleased to hear from my mom that she is "futzing,"as she puts it. She's making things she wants to make, easing her way back, by assembling a few things for her own pleasure. Not worrying about galleries or sales, just satisfying her own light.

It's so great, not just because she wants me to choose a bracelet for myself! I think I have been holding my breath, waiting for this day to come, waiting to see that she can return to her corner studio and play again.

I hope this is the beginning of more healing and light, or a continuation... I realize we cannot always recognize or appreciate that we are on a good path, that our route will take us to where we need to go. I'll take this futzing as a very good sign that my mom really is healing... an answer to my prayers.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Anything, But Cleaning

Yeah, I'm not sure I have anything significant to say here, and it occurs to me that I may very well feel compelled to blog, because anything has got to be better than cleaning. My day away was stimulating and good, but back home a certain amount of chaos ensued. Now, Maria is eating her cereal with the last clean spoon. I looked around for 1 uncluttered surface... something redeeming, and alas there are none.

The culprit? Not the 4 children. Not the husband and father, the man of the castle. No, the one I blame is the new computer, Wall-E. "Computer Wife," our dearly departed computer, the one the boys assembled with their dad, has been dearly departed for a long time and we have finally replaced her. Now the boys will have a 3-D Studio Max, homework, Maya machine so they can practice their sweet skills. It took all day to install software and network cards. It took all day to make 3 trips to Fry's (sorry Al) and to find the right spot in the house to make wireless connections work. It took all day to do the things Geoff knows how to do to make a computer sit up straight and fly right.

By the time I came home everything else was pretty much in disarray, and Geoff asked me if he could use an old school workbook to stand under the monitor. I hesitated, then agreed it would be fine. He detected reluctance and offered to use a magazine instead. I said, "Sure, whatever." This morning when I saw Martha's publications propping up the new monitor... well, it was almost offensive. Just kidding. Sure, I save all the back issues, and I love some of the fantasy that woman can weave, but seeing her magazines under the monitor made me realize that nothing she does or promotes is ever going to come true in my house.

Our formal living room is a rambling school house, computer hub, and playroom with horrific stains on the carpet. Our master bed room is a nursery too. The kitchen is not small, but it is not efficient either and if the ants don't carry away the whole operation it will be a miracle. I cannot bring myself to explain the bathroom situation(s.)

Today is the day. Kick my butt. Rattle my cage. Knock some sense in to me. But please sympathize too, because it is debilitating not knowing what comes next, to believe that in 2 months, or 3 months or soon, very soon, you will be moving, and we have been living this way for 5 years. I did not move in to this house with the frame of mind that this would be our home for 2 years. We are not unpacked. We are not settled. And even now, I cannot decide whether to resign myself to 1 more year and actually move-in to Garage Mahal. Or if I should clean by packing more of our stuff; put things in boxes and be prepared for either a home of our own or our inevitable eviction (no actual threats, but after all, this not our house.)

The enormity of my stress and fears is soothed and eased by this drawing of Maria's dog. Art heals.

So, should I look for dining chairs, since we have only 5, and 1 more is about to fall apart? Or should I wait until we can buy the right set for our own home? Should we clean the carpets, even though they look good for 1 week and then worse than ever afterwards? Or should we actually replace the carpeting? Should I give up on being a gardening, farming, crafting, sewing, cooking, artist type of homemaker; purge all excess and accept a pared down, suburban-chauffeur kind of lifestyle? Should I make Geoff save my fantasy magazines, or should I finally make good use of them and let them hold up the new monitor?

Now he is a curly dog.

I really do not know what to do. I could sit here and write about how happy Maria is when she wakes in the morning. She is sunshine. I could tell you about Alex's plans to build a flying chair, so he can get to school on time. We still haven't got any eggs from the chicas. I've finished about half of the quilting for the special quilt I am working on. The nice people at Costco were able to save my glasses, which I was still wearing even though they were ridiculously mangled... they're pretty now. Adding flax seed meal to the pumpkin pies worked.

Good and bad things are happening all the time, but I have to stop avoiding the issue: What to do, and how to do it. Cleaning, the normal business of maintenance, feels futile enough, but without a solid plan, a vision for our destiny, I know I will never succeed.

This quilt was made in about 6 months time, by hand. Just consider those hundreds of points to match and curves to ease. I don't suppose she knew how long it would take. She probably just began and kept going until she was done, and she did finish. Having tried my hand at this kind of quilt square, I am in awe of what this quilter accomplished. One step at a time... something to learn in this, I think. Lesley and I both were impressed with it. I wonder if the secret of avoiding madness is to not look too far ahead, to not worry so much about the enormity of the journey, but to go step by step.