Tuesday, September 25, 2007


There's Grace eating marshmallows and quesadillas in the great outdoors. Summer went too quickly, as usual. The deer ate everything from our garden except the cornstalks. The girls ate every possible meal outside. The hornets and wasps ate chunks of me. And now...
We had ice on the horses' water this morning. The hose was slow; the water came out like a slushy. It's September on the hobby farm and we are cold. Last weekend Ryan and a neighbor trenched from our lower well to the barn to bury water and electricity. Hurray! No more hoses and extension cords. Well, as soon as the pipes and conduit are connected we will realize the benefit of this convenience dream.

I'm not sure I'm ready for the the change of seasons. Or maybe I subconsciously am. It seems about this time every year the watering of the garden and flowerbeds gets to be too much ... and getting out of bed gets harder. The chickens and rabbits noticed my tardiness this morning. The horses were stomping and calling for me, blowing their steamy horse breath around the paddock with impatience. I wore one of Ryan's big denim shirts and tread the fine line between hurrying and not slipping on frosty grass.
We have been worried about money again. The first stall isn't closed in and the second stall isn't started. The hay is in the barn but not paid for in full. My freezer isn't full either, thanks to the aforementioned deer. It costs money to build a deer fence too. For some reason I thought they wouldn't bother my tomatoes, peppers, beans. So they did and I will visit a farm stand to do my canning and freezing. The chickens are bothered by molting or the hot days and cold nights or something and anyway we are buying eggs. The school wants $10 per child for classroom incidentals and I am waiting for the FedEx everyday, hoping for the check that is 58 days past due, walking to the post office with Grace and stopping at the general store for the paper to read and do the crossword and wait for the girls to come home. Climbing mount washmore and greatly missing the days of the paid housekeeper.
Applying for jobs. Six months pregnant and hoping for an editing job when I haven't edited -- other than second-checking homework -- in years. I was so excited the other day when a distantly known editor called me out of the blue. So sure that he represented one of the blind ads I'd answered, I gushed my enthusiasm. He was calling to look at houses and I hadn't the guts to tell him about my wished-for transition back into publishing.
Now that I think of it, I am ready for the change of seasons.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


So today's pictures (did I mention how astonished I am that I am able to upload pictures without tech support?) actually relate to the subject matter.

Madeleine, our oldest and most horse-obsessed daughter, has two broken arms. Two casts. Twice the bragging rights, as our EMT neighbor put it. This is not exactly a comforting thought for a parent, but it has cheered up the 8-year-old. My dad asked if M was "milking it," and I have to say, no, she's a complete pill. Her first question of the doctor was how "they" take casts off. The doctor thought she was showing interest in medical procedure, but of course it's been too long since he was parenting a wily daredevil. I think, so far, she's afraid to consider sawing or cutting. But she has been talking a lot about atrophy, and whether she can shrink her arms enough to simply slip the casts off like gloves.
At school they are making paper mache puppets. M had to wear unwieldy plastic gloves and her perfectionist nature was not pleased with the results or the process. She swindled the PE teacher into letting her play and of course, off-balance, bloodied her elbow and knee on the first day back to school. Bathing (a daily necessity for even the smallest and stinkiest members of our mini farm) requires extreme flexibility and strength of Biblical proportions, as she has to hold both her arms above her head for the nearly the entire process. Wardrobe is a consideration, as well. We are all learning patience, or trying to.
So today I am thinking about the price of passion. Do we get back on the horse? And I know it could have been a bike, or a tree, or gymnastics, or any number of household mishaps. Another mom at school told of how her child broke an arm falling off the kitchen counter.
I may not have detailed here the fact that I myself have been horse crazy most of my life. I never sustained any injuries as a child, however; I was very cautious. Even in jumping I didn't take risks, didn't push myself or the horse. But this last spring I was trail riding with friends when I got dumped twice in 15 minutes (bad stirrup leathers: never take a new-to-you saddle on Man From Snowy River ride). The first fall ended in concussion. The second ended in a broken tailbone and a 4x4 ambulance ride.
So now it's my baby hurting and hurt. Ryan would like to discuss whether we need to have horses. I would like to consider whether we need to have risks, need to leave the house at all. Gracie (the baby) was wounded by the neighbor's banty rooster just two weeks ago. Sarah loses her glasses or her balance just about every day while cruising the property. Our friends' son was hit by a car while leaving middle school football practice. It took him months to recover, to get back to playing sports, and just last week he broke another boy's collarbone in a legitimate tackle. This parenting/protecting thing turns out to be pretty complicated.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tesser Well

There's Sarah at an end-of-season minor league baseball game. The girls went with Ryan. I don't think the Ems won, but the victory was still there.

I am thinking a lot this week about Madeleine L'Engle. The wrinkly time between my ninth birthday and now, nearly three decades later, when that great lady is now no longer on earth. I have wished to write to her for more than 20 years, for more time than I thought of myself as a writer. I have held out the letter-writing dream as some sort of icon of communication, of mentorship possibility. Every dog-eared book of hers I've collected through Powell's Bookstore and Ebay and hole-in-the-wall vacation spots, I've read with the undercurrent that her words expressed some inexplicable, some circle of quiet I sought and couldn't reach. Now that I know I can't correspond with my hero I am sobered to realize that the passing of the generations is real. Somewhere I read that she had been accused, gently, of too often appearing to be about to burst forth with greatness only to state the obvious. Oh, I wish I could state the obvious so sublimely, in such a way that others would be glad it had been said.

My oldest daughter is named after her; a little presumptious, possibly, but there are other great Madeleines too. I even gained parenting insight through another meditation of Ms. L'Engle's. She wrote at length and brilliantly about the appropriate use of icons. I came to see that my little Madeleine's much-loved teddy bear was nothing short of an icon for the stability of her world. That the bear represented all being right, Mommy and Daddy in the room, warmth and love and more. Who, then, could take away or wean a child from such an icon?

Everything is not alright with my world. I would love to have an icon of comfort and peace to remind me of God's goodness and grace. Of course there are many symbols of goodness, but I could really use something to hold on to.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I may have mentioned that we live in a tiny village -- maybe 200 people in an 8-mile radius, but I'm not a statistician nor census amateur -- and that we live in the exact epicenter of this tiny village. A picture postcard, really, with the white Grange and white church and red schoolhouse and red fire station. Oh, and a three-story IOOF lodge, slightly ridiculous, mysterious in its size. And all of it visible from my front room window. Our home was built in 1887, which is ancient in the West, and from our porch we can watch the mini metropolis action. My girls walk to school, so this view from the porch is important. I stand on the porch when it's raining or at the picket fence out front when it's clear. They turn and wave when they reach the building. If I have prematurely turned to go inside, I hear about it at 2:10 when they come home.

Today was the first day of school and the first time that they were not new. It takes a lot longer than a year to overcome the "new" label for adults, of course, but today the kids greeted my children not as outsiders but as old and best friends. Last year was hard; we took a lot of personal days, explaining to the part-time school administrator that the constant rough country hazing required frequent safety zone retreats. So any little excuse had us hideaway hermiting for the day: new chicks to watch, a barn going up, grandpa passing through from the neighboring town, too tired, too shy, too fed up. These were hard decisions, each day we kept them home. How to become a member of the whole when absence is much more comfortable? Their teacher, also new to our community, conceded that they certainly learned more while at home.
But this year is starting on a completely different note. We feel the tiniest bit part of the community, where it takes a village possibly, but that village has to want you.