Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Best of Times :: Three Hundred Fifty Two

Friends, lights, food, music, a few robots, some Lego bricks... it doesn't get any better than a full house when you want to feel love and joy, peace and light. The night we welcome Solstice... it's one of my favorite nights of the year.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Priority Foo :: Three Hundred Fifty One

This is a holiday tradition... Mister Washburn Foo watches for packages, and other special deliveries. He oversees the opening, watches the tissue, sniffs out the contents, then waits. When we've emptied his box, he claims his prize.

This priority delivery came all the way from Great Grandma Nancy, in Wisconsin, and it was full of her always anticipated and eagerly consumed holiday confections. With love, she sends us her Chex mix, cookies, yogurt covered pretzels, good stuff. I love the holidays, traditions, cats in boxes, the love and thoughtfulness.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Their Ancestors at Plimouth

William and Maria, before we boarded the Mayflower.

One day, on our trip to Massachusetts, we went back in time, to the lands of the Wampanoag, to the Mayflower (II), to the living history museum, Plimouth Plantation. Then we finished the day by stopping in Duxbury, to see the Myles Standish Burial Ground, and the resting place of John Alden, and his wife, Priscilla Mullins Alden. William and Maria, Max and Alex, too, are decedents of John and Priscilla Alden. This is on their father's side. It's certainly an interesting distinction and it made our visit to Plymouth and the all of the historic places more meaningful, but given that John and Priscilla had ten children, and those children had more, still... well, it's not improbable that many are descendants of the Aldens! (And after skimming the Wikipedia links, I am curious... which Alden is their cousin Longfellow descended from?) History and family ties are fascinating. I didn't mean to delve in so, but maybe our grandchildren, or great-great-greats will stumble across these notes, and be amused, or chagrinned!

Beside the statue of Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy, at the time of the Mayflower's arrival at Plymouth. He is credited with saving the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony.

Actually, this is attraction is possibly no less dignified than the rock that is Plymouth Rock.

Never mind.

Let's visit a living history museum. I love a good living history museum, and the one for Plimouth Plantation is very good. We enjoyed the details of daily living in both the Wampanoag village, as well as the Pilgrim's settlement. Their were knowledgable people there, in period dress and effect, and they gave fine examples and demonstrations of crafts, chores, and daily living.

All of my life, the stories of the Pilgrims, of a harvest feast, of early settlers, colonists, the Wampanoag, all of it, was textbook material, novels and poems, movies, imagination, sentimentalized through Thanksgiving, and taken with reserve and sorrow because of the actual plight of the Indigenous people. I find seeing real places, for myself, to be a profound and moving experience. I wanted to see the same kinds of trees, the same riverbanks, the Cape, the shoreline, the horizon, the terrain, where all of these events transpired, where men and women from far lands, met people in their homelands, where they struggled to find common ground, where the early history of this country played out. There were good moments, and good intentions. There were also struggles, failures, betrayal, and heartache. I think we still feel the repercussions and influence of these places, people, and events. I hardly intended to explain, defend, or preach on the whole sordid history of the colonization of the Americas, but I feel remiss in not acknowledging that I know it's a mess, as I also happen to love Thanksgiving, and have a fascination for re-enactment, living-history museums, and the culture heritages of all people.

One thing I love about living-history museums, particularly in the Americas, is how much I recognize... not just in a historic context, but in my own life experience. I have slept in earth and clay rooms, by open fires, and helped my grandmother grind corn for dinner, I have enjoyed the experience of washing clothes by hand, from water drawn from a well, feeding livestock, heating water to cook, to bathe, to clean, and living in a village that you can walk through, on dirt roads, in half an hour, stopping to greet countless familiar faces. Dirt floors, rustic furnishings, cooking over a fire, small rooms, close living with neighbors and nature, self-reliance, and making your own amusements, in these places, like the missions and old towns of California, I always get a bit of homesickness, nostalgia.

We visited the reproduction of the summering village of the Wampanoag. Then walked on to the Pilgrim village...

The fort is at the top, and entrance, of the village. Jennifer and Ken were such great guides, and enthusiastic companions. Nothing beats visiting new places with local folk!

Every house represented the home of an actual passenger on the Mayflower. And the village is full of people carrying on with the typical activities, and daily lives of the Pilgrims.

Since William has made a few reproduction firearms, we were particularly interested in seeing these muskets. And, the clothes, too, for that matter. William sews, and we both had our sights fixed on plackets, hand sewn button holes, top stitching, and waistcoats.

The opportunities to see village life, to communicate with residents, and even to participate in activities make the visit to Plimouth Plantation exceptional. And muskets are very loud!

Really impressive? The lessons and training Ken and William stepped up for, with pikes. I thought it would be a cute photo-opportunity, where they would carry the pike, and learn a few facts and trivia. But this guy put them through a rigorous, thorough drilling, complete with chants, marching, and formations. It was actually quite comprehensive.

This makes me especially happy... seeing my daughter and friend, recalling what a beautiful day it was, how smoothly each hour of our visit went. We were so lucky with the weather, with enjoying off-season quiet, no crowds. And too, just how easy and uncomplicated everything was between us, as though we have been meeting and traveling together hundreds of times, over many years. Kindred spirits. Such a rich fortune of goodness in finding your kindred spirits.

We had lunch at the Museum, and yes, I ordered the Thanksgiving sandwich, which I still feel giddy and indescribably linked to history about, because I am odd. Then we visited the Grist Mill, which was cool, and I want to build a doll house model of a grist mill, because I am odd.

Our last stop of the day was in Duxbury, at the Miles Standish Burying Ground. Only our second cemetery visit of the trip, but probably one of the more solemn ones, as we were seeing family. And truly, every cemetery visit was solemn, though not somber or grim. We found a kind of comfort and familiarity in these places, where we admired the craftsmanship, appreciated the history, acknowledged the long lives, and felt pangs of grief for the sad stories suggested by dates, and names, etched and weathered, in cold stone.

Maria, tending her great-many-great-x grandmother's memorial. She made little twig and stone hearts, one for Priscilla Alden, one for John Alden.

I remember, at the end of this day, after Jennifer's delicious ratatouille and polenta dinner, after visiting and chatting, Maria and I snuggled into bed, and were recounting the day, and we agreed, that even on just this third day of our trip we already felt like we had seen enough and enjoyed ourselves so much, we could feel like we'd had a worthwhile and complete experience, and then we giggled happily in anticipation of how much more we still had to look forward to.

Totes Our Goats :: Three Hundred Fifty

Tasha Tudor Goat and Ada Lovelace Goat. They want to play with you, obviously. Sometimes I forget, and then I laugh when I remember... we totally have goats!

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

In Step With the Chicas :: Three Hundred Forty Nine

The worst of their molting seems to have passed. We haven't had a single egg in what feels like a month! Poor chicas, though. They've really been through a rough spell. One thing that never changes... chicken feet. Someone's always gotta step into the breakfast! Fiona, it's chicken "feed," not chicken "feet."

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wishes :: Three Hundred Forty Eight

Every morning their teacher poses a new question for the sixth graders. They can answer anonymously. Maria didn't sign her name, but I know, without a doubt, which one is hers. Alex's not-so-subtle Scotland Campaign is deeply-seated and firmly fixed. I love it.

My wish: That all children were safe and comfortable enough to make happy, carefree wishes, with joyful abandon. My prayer: Some Peace on Earth, for all.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Home School :: Three Hundred Forty Seven

When it comes to education and school, we've done it all. Private. Home. Un. Public. Charter. Lately, if anyone asks whether Maria is, or was, homeschooled, I pause. Formally, the answer is, No. But effectively, the answer is, Definitely, yes. Maria comes home from school, and then she immerses herself in a curricula of her own devising... languages, coding, art, writing, geology. She makes books, charts, and projects. She reads, researches, and records. She tinkers, explores, creates. Alex and Maria share books, reading aloud together, for hours. William has introduced her to 3D graphics, stop-motion animation. And, when Max is home, she love-love-loves to delve into a little trigonometry, physics, and pre-algebra. It's play. It's curiosity, and wonder. It's pretty darn awesome.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Decking Our Halls :: Three Hundred Forty Six

Over the weekend I made a huge push to rethink & reduce, without regret, our Christmas decorations. On FB I posted a quick calculation and assessment of the situation... When you are nearly fifty years old, have moved twenty-five times in forty-two years, and have saved ornaments since you were ten. I am absolutely, positively, honest to goodness purging! We made our local family charity and resale shop happy, freed up a lot of attic space, and we still have more than enough glitter and greens to go around, and around and around!

Alex and Max took some festive initiative, and entwined the banister with garlands and lights. It looks so cheerful, especially at night.

Just sitting here and thinking... letting go can have such a liberating, calming effect. Things and ideas, both, can sometimes be burdensome. I like being reminded of the ease that comes from traveling a bit lighter.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Home Scenes :: Three Hundred Forty Five

I've begun to think of 2016 as the year of the shelf. Cheers for the year of shelves! We have our entry shelf, over the door. And now, throughout the house, we have the little shelves we built from designs I made. The little shelves, painted and hanging, are displaying tinier things we've made, or collected. Here, on the dining room wall, are the tiny kitchen tools from the darling curiosity shop on Water Street in Wiscasset, Maine.

Would you like to see some more? I've actually been kind of aching for someone to ask...

These two are favorites. Chicken and Cat, painted so they are chalkboards. Maria gave them chalk faces. So dear. That's William's cat drawing, which he did when he was three.

Here is one blue shelf, and the little treasures Maria made with Lauren.

And another blue one, with paper clay creations.

This is a very tiny shelf, with very tiny clay dishes from Mexico. I need more shelves if I am going to bring out my childhood toys from Guadalajara, Esquintla, the Calle Olvera.

The roo practically flew over to sit on this last shelf, with the painted hen and flowers. I love his self-satisfied expression, and the watchful look of Alex's watercolor rabbit.

Really, for me, none of this is quite possible without acknowledging Lauren, and the little shelves she made and displays in her home. I was instantly smitten with those, and came home eager to make some of my own. Thank you, Lauren, for being an inspiration in countless ways. And too, I think of how wonderful it was staying in Jennifer and Ken's home, where all kinds of treasures and beautiful art is hanging, shared, lovingly curated. Funny thing... I felt a bit sheepish about never having stepped into any art museums during our visit to New England, but the truth is I felt like I was seeing great art everywhere, and all the more meaningful and enjoyable for being the art appreciated by friends. I do so very much love that I came back to the Bird House with a determination to recognize and respect the art we have, and we make, and to share it.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.