Friday, December 23, 2016

The Gift of Rain :: Three Hundred Fifty Eight

Everyday I find something happy in these holidays... from seeing a house lit for Christmas, to tying bows, I deliberately make or take cheer. Our Solstice party really puts me in a grateful and celebratory mood... I love the full house, the engagement. Gathering with my friends reminds me, in the happiest ways, that we have everything we need, and plenty to share, and that makes me feel euphoric, thankful, humble. Nothing is perfect. There is a great deal that is wrong, and trying, in the world, in daily life, in the challenges that come up at any time of the year... and I am not immune to the weight and pull of sorrow, fear, disappointment. I often find, in even my happiest moments, I'm tearful and crushed, because of what I miss, what I wish could be portioned out for everyone, how difficult it can be to hold on to hope, to courage, to love... the verb. I don't take action because I am so optimistic and confident, because of some over-idealized world view I possess. I make or take cheer to give me the courage, the motivation, the will, to keep moving forward. I believe in love, kindness, empathy, compassion, learning, growing, and sharing. I believe the rain has been a wonderful gift, the gray clouds a soft pallet to calm my angst and frustration, the wind a shake-up to strengthen my resolve and gratitude. Merry Christmas, friends. Happy Chanukah, dear ones. Be of good cheer, all. I wish you love, kindness, compassion, and shared light, every day of the New Year.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

No Yard Waste :: Three Hundred Fifty Seven

The yard where the chickens and goats live is hard-packed, decomposed granite. It doesn't do a great job of absorbing rainfall, and we've had a considerable amount of rain this week. Yesterday, with some dread, I went out to see how everyone was faring. The chickens don't mind rain, but the mud and muck isn't great for their health and happiness. The goats definitely have a zero tolerance policy for any water... drips, sprays, standing, falling! And they avoid mud, puddles, soggy ground, too. Honestly, no one wants to muddle through.

These leaves, and the barrel full of pine needles, are what save the day when I need to give the chickens and goats dry ground. We don't recycle our yard waste at the curb any more. Now it's collected in covered bins, and I use it to fill their shelter, and lay over puddles and the muckiest mud. The dried leaves smell good, so do the pine needles. Everything gets a generous layer of dry, clean clippings, prunings, and fallen leaves. I don't even do much to spread it around. If left in heaps, the goats love to forage through it, and the chickens delight in scratching and pecking. In no time, it will all be spread about.

Cozy, and tasty, that's what the goats say! They looked so relieved when I filled their shelter. No more damp corners, no more sloshy ground. And in a few weeks, on a sunny day, we can rake everything out, and add it to a compost heap. Everything will be well broken down and exceptionally ideal for going back to the yard as mulch, or in time, great, organic gardening soil.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's Warm in the Kitchen :: Three Hundred Fifty Six

The oven is preheating for the bread. We made chocolate chip cookies. We might bake brownies, or those cranberry-pecan bars I mentioned. I roasted chicken, with almonds on top. And that chicken on the stove is seasoned and spiced for tamales, but I have flour tortillas, and sometimes it's too hard to wait for tamales, when those burritos will taste delicious, too.

Yes, I am cooking a lot. Too much. It's almost compulsory, this time of year, isn't it? It's a heady mix of habit, tradition, and hiraeth. Oh woe, lachrymose me, with my ineffable emotions, nostalgia, and sentimentality.

It's warm in the kitchen, and blustery outside. I count my blessings, but cannot quell the murmur in my heart that wishes family were nearer, and time moved more gently. Maybe all of these pots and pans, spices and nourishment are a recipe to conjure comfort, summon solace.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Whiskers on Kittens :: Three Hundred Fifty Five

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Baking, and sewing, and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Janece, you're right! I do live a good life.

Mister Foo was so intent on following me as I prepared some dough for Dutch oven bread. What better way to spend the eve of Solstice, than to get ready to have bread baking the first day of winter? And Foo was there, too, when I flipped through recipes, choosing a few for winter baking. Cranberry-pecan bars. Our recipe for chocolate chip cookies. A few more of our favorite things. William, Maria, and I watched the first half of the Sound of Music, and it was as beautiful as ever. We have rain today, it's cold... perfect for finishing the bread, starting on those cookies, and enjoying the second half of a good movie, then maybe start another.

Happy winter, dear friends, and I wish you all good lives, too, full of favorite things, and reasons to sing.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Making Joy :: Three Hundred Fifty Four

Geoff posted, from work, a link to a podcast... of Neil Gaiman reading A Christmas Carol. It's not just a favorite author reading a classic tale; there is an introduction, with remarks and backstory, to this unique edition of the Dickens' telling. Even before Geoff shared the link, I had popped corn, and set some aside with the idea that maybe we would string popcorn. I haven't done that in sixteen years, or more. William was about to warm up a pot of wassail... Trader Joe's is selling a spiced juice for the season, and it's lovely. Alex had started a fire. It turned out to be an impromptu, yet rather idyllic evening.

Neil Gaiman reads well, with a measured balance of levity and respect for the work, and a compelling voice. The story, told from Charles Dickens' very familiar work, has a fresh tone, because, apparently, Dickens' had this prompt annotated especially for reading aloud, so it's sprinkled with details, and phrasing not heard in the original. Maria and I strung the popcorn in the soft light. Max, Alex, William, Maria and I shared the story by the fire, and I was aware that this was a good time, a time of making some joy. It's no good waiting for joy to happen, for everything to be just right. We miss Geoff when he has long hours away from home, there's a lot going on in the world that make it hard to feel happy. But that's life, too. The good. The bad. It very rarely all comes together just as we might like it to. Lately, I'm more aware than ever before, that we cannot take good times for granted, that life brings heartache, and pleasures... it helps to savor the blessings, and taking the joy that is before us.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Good Morning :: Three Hundred Fifty Three

Another party, another mess reminder that we live in an amazing community, are blessed with plenty of everything, and want for nothing. Thank you, friends who joined us in welcoming winter, in celebrating light, community, creativity, and joy. I love the day after a good party, because my head and heart are full of great memories, and I find evidence of all we have to appreciate, wherever I look.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.