Friday, June 29, 2012

There were days

There were June days when dozens of butterflies dried newly unfolded wings in the garden sun, and on these days I didn't water at all for fear of moving the fluttery flock. 

Laura sat between raised beds in stunned silence for hours, and if you know the child, or maybe any inquisitive sparkly 4-year-old, you know this was a miracle of its own. The tomatoes and basil were witness to this birth of butterflies, as was Laura's oft-used bug box. When I told her she should not attempt to catch butterflies with her hands she opened the lid of her box in a bright spot, loaded it with a sprig of honeysuckle, and waited. 

And waited. Finally one cooperative yellow-winged creature visited the box. Laura was ready. We took pictures and then opened the lid again.

I don't think I've ever seen such a display of butterflies and dragonflies as we were blessed with here. And another week? A baby fawn at the edge of our pond:

 Whose mother was just over the fence, nose twitching. I have to tell you the story, because, well, I do. The engineer and I were at the table with his dad. The children were at the pond catching pollywogs, which is an entire month's worth of posts, when Grace and my niece Maiya discovered the sleeping baby. They ran in the house to report their discovery but I was not particularly impressed. In fact I stayed at the table drinking coffee while my husband trekked out there to see what I was sure would be a stump or twisted root.

O me of little faith.

In other news I am considering using chemical fertilizer. I think I do this every year about this time, when the fish fertilizer and compost wear me out and my garden is still not as green and gorgeous as the neighbors'. It's a constant flirtation with Miracle Gro, I'll tell ya.
The hummingbirds ran out of fruit blossoms at the end of June and fought over my one pitiful feeder.
The strawberries are ripening now -- finally -- mocking me with their "June" bearing and, worse, "ever" bearing variety names. We did enjoy homemade shortcake with our own strawberries and whipped cream just this week. On the back deck with sounds of the stream and baby swallows.
Salvador turns 2 tomorrow.

There were days this month when I was sure I wouldn't make it through, when I doubted my preparation, my ability to persevere. Day camp deliveries and pick ups, business meetings and garden maintenance. Five dentist appointments in one afternoon. Recitals and graduations and crises, a sick lamb and sleepless nights holding her upright. I wanted to run away to the coast, I wanted to run away to the mountains. I wanted to run away to my glamper in the woods at the edge of the back pasture.

So instead I stuck with it. I pretended I was landing a difficult dismount off the end of the balance beam and I just stuck.

Looking back, despite the days, I loved June. And I'm betting July will be loved as well. Day after day.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Simple living, suite style

A blushing spider at the outer left petals... nearly perfectly camouflaged in my favorite peony.
 I settle in to the quiet of our little farmhouse. Of course "quiet" is relative. On a rainy day the roof rattles. On a sunny day we hear the creek over rocks through the south-facing windows. Every day brings children's noises: the pencil sharpener, bolted to the desk since 1978, grinding another fine point; Brio trains on a wooden track; a Barbie car on the linoleum and then the disagreement about who should drive; flute practice in the back yard or in the unfinished attic; tap dancing on the covered patio or, noisier still, interfering with the Barbie car's kitchenward progress.
Another early reader. With good taste in books. No, really.
 An afternoon when we don't leave the farm is amazing. Theoretically we stay home in the morning and study. Doctor appointments and emergency veterinarian visits -- so much more common than you'd imagine -- furnish approved absences from the dining table school. But the afternoons are for running, car-ishly, "like a mommyac" as Laura likes to say, to flute, ballet, jazz, grocery store, chess club, choir, feed store, modern, tap, rinse and repeat.
The irises I didn't plant, didn't hope for as I did the peonies, but their heavenly fragrance redeems them greatly.
 So last week we were on the run every. single. day.
A little stage fright.
I have managed to get over, mostly, my guilt about quitting the homeschool co-op. Just because it's the right thing doesn't make it easy, you know? I still haven't sent a response to an email that pleaded for one more, just one more, meeting. It gives me hives to think about it. Zyrtec works better than Benadryl.
My old guy and my preppy-cool cowgirl.
Despite our extreme busy-ness I am aware that we live this charmed life. I can hide in the woods, I can hide in the cedar-shingle-sided house or the massive hay loft. I can hide by the pond and I can hide in the driver's seat of my own life.
Not so much with the stage fright.
And we planted an enormous garden that promises to feed an army. Or my family. Or both. I subscribe to the idea that when Armageddon arrives I will open my pantry to all comers. Anyone who ventures out to our remote corner and who is, in my highly trained estimation, you know, nice. Do you watch the National Geographic channel's newish show, "Preppers"? Oh how I lovehate that show. You should watch and hatelove it with me.
I am learning to love the flaws and humility of my new farmhouse. Even before we can paint it. 
 Our preparations for the end of the world are pretty much just like our preparations for the continuation of the same. More kale. But sometimes a diet soda is pretty darn good, and then I remember that it's badbadbad for me.

On the flipside there is insulation in the unfinished attic and if you are on the underneath of 150 pounds you can play on that temporary floor all you like. Generations before us would have called it palatial, this mill cabin of mine. Underneath our house are stumps, some of which hold it up. (Unless you are an appraiser in which case it is a perfectly modern perimeter foundation.)

Anywhat this house has sheltered families through the Great Depression and maybe worse and I am so grateful for it and the cozy sweet history in which we live. The future can bring what it will: ready or not.
Don 't worry, she brightened right up under the stage lights.
 I even told my regular gas station attendant that, while I will miss him should the end of the world surprise us before my next regularly scheduled fill-up, it would be somewhat of a relief to stay home.
Oh dear, there are those plaid Bermuda shorts again. They call to mind the yellow shortalls of last summer.
Do you suspect that of some doomsday preppers you may know? That a wish for simplicity may drive them to hope for the end of today's hectic pace? My secret is this: We can have it now. Simplicity, beauty, peace. Before your debts are paid off, before your home is perfect, before your pantry is perfectly organized, before you fly to a beach vacation.
Madeleine and her sweet friend always ready to tap.
Busy doesn't have to mean unsettled. And while "intentional" is overused to the point of meaninglessness I am finding again that an intentionally full life can be peaceful, restful even. Simple living doesn't mean, to us, staying home full-time. It means filling our lives with the gardening, dancing, reading, chess-playing joy of being alive. It means weeding out the toxic and focusing on the beauty.

What does simple living mean to you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I put my children first

I made some hard choices these past weeks. Hard, and yet not so. 
To stand up for oneself, for one's family, is a touchy business but necessary. 
It comes naturally to many of us -- the "mama bear" -- and some of us do it with grace and good manners.

Unless of course one happens to be a people pleaser, backed into a corner 
by too many yeses and half-hearted mmmhmmms heard of course by others as heck yeahs.
Dozens of books, maybe hundreds, written on this topic,
and I will still ramble on the subject
 for my mental health 
and maybe for yours.

 I don't blog often about my daughter Sarah's chronic autoimmune and anemia disorders.
I don't talk about it either.
Many of my close friends aren't aware of what it looks like to live at farmsuite 
outside of the
prettinesses and the victories.
It's as though we live a Christmas letter 
because I don't see anything edifying about sharing the pain
or the difficulty that is sometimes true for us.
And probably for everyone.
We none of us know what others are facing, really.

So maybe it seems as though we play hooky too often.
Maybe we can come off as noncommittal even as we faithfully attend dance, flute, community theater rehearsals,
homeschool co-op.

Sometimes people say they understand
and then they are mean and punitive about an absence.

And I usually shrug it off.

But I quit the co-op last week, with just two weeks to go.
I did it badly, without much grace.

I feel compelled to explain that I had attempted to bow out just after the holidays,
with a handwritten letter expressing how much our family has been facing and how grateful we were for the experience and how we just needed some white space.

But in fact that letter was received with hurt feelings and I was, to put it frankly, 
emotionally manipulated into continuing.

To not disappoint someone else's child I pushed my family, myself, my children, for months.

Here's what I'm grateful for today:
They forgive me, my children do.
And just possibly they will learn that it is alright
 to put themselves and their loved ones first.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Taking root

 A few of the leotards I cut and serged (sort of -- still learning my new serger) for the Spring Show.
 The bucket goes up.
 Hummingbirds love columbines. Who knew?

 Catching the bees on their way back home on a cool evening.
 Exploring the countryside near our new farm.
 With some requisite goofing around.
 Our creek is so thoughtful as to have kicked up a huge hollow log for reclining.
 All the men in their coveralls.
That's what a new tractor transmission looks like before it gets dirty in the garden.

I'm still a writer.

I'm just not acting like it at the moment.

It occurs to me that I have at the minimum big(gish) family to feed and clothe and transport and teach, a small farm to weed and water, a (home)school to administer and a self to nurture. And most of the time I forget that these beautiful responsibilities and privileges are time-consuming. I still think I can do it all. This list, the good and the great, is filling and overflowing my cup as of late. And then I realize "of late," this season, has lasted a while. Possibly I need to readjust my expectations. I don't have time to reflect or to notice whether I'm having relocation issues, transition stress, whathaveyou. So if I use this site as a place to throw it all on the proverbial chalkboard for future reflection and dissection, would that be all right with you?

How has life's busy-ness been treating you?