about (to bloom) the movement of grace

spring, blossoms, blooming, spring, blossoms, bloomingI took these pictures a few days ago. Already, these pink balls that dotted the limbs of this ornamental plum tree have opened, transforming in just a few days this image that caught me, the about-ness of it all so perfect and true.

Last week, we started back up with our farm harvests, started back at our farmer’s market. I waited until the very last minute to wrap my head around the changing schedule, our winter way so nice and restorative this year, but once I turned on the music in the wash station, cleaned and organized everything out there, started washing and weighing and gathering the produce together for our farm members and market customers, it all felt right. Saturday morning at the market, with all the fine people to see, the camaraderie, the community, and us a part of it, it fit back on like a glove.

spring, farming, community, farmer's market, graceprovidence, grace, loveSome friends and I have been having an ongoing discussion about the evolution of our understandings of the world and our spiritual place in it. About how learning to let go of the idea of keeping it all together ourselves, of the image of a perfect us or a perfect life, of the notion that we are in full control of this ship, how in this process of letting go and in finding the moment, we are finding more peace, more happiness, more power to implement real change, real transformations, and more love for life as it is, messy and beautiful and sad and wonderful all at the same time. Contrary to logic, somehow giving over power has this way of creating something really powerful.

One friend likened this to the idea of Grace, and I remembered back to when I was studying philosophy and literature in my college days. I read a lot of Christian writers, and I had an affinity for the beautiful way G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis understood their faith, so different from how I perceived it as a child, deathly afraid of the dark, already burning in the fire that is spiritual fear. That, for me, was no way to connect to the Eternal, so although I didn’t return to church, I did begin to appreciate the concept of Grace. I did begin to see that it was working in my life, that it always had been. Now, I am more apt to connect with this feeling during meditation, when always, the first sensation I notice is overwhelming gratitude, for all the things in my life, not just the good. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve known keenly it was where I was supposed to be. If I paid attention. I always saw signs telling me that I was on the right path, always books came to me that I needed, always lessons that I needed when I might have lost track of my way, when I might have lost sight of the why of it all.

Always, moments of surety.

Like yes, on Saturday, when we returned to market farming for another season. Like yes, today, and every day, that I get on here to type.

Like a few days ago, on just another Sunday afternoon, while my children took the raft out into the flooded field and splashed in the mud and enjoyed their childhood and my husband wrapped me in his arms as said, “I love my life with you.”

Yes.

I couldn’t see it when I was growing up, my father was a No kind of person, but still this morning I listen to the music he handed down to me and because I am a Yes kind of person, I cry and wish for this perfectly imperfect man to still be walking the earth so I could share a cup of coffee with him and talk, like we always did, about how to be good and make the world right for everyone.

Sometimes I wonder why I should be so blessed, why I should feel that my life has meaning. The short answer is that I shouldn’t. None of us and all of us deserve everything and nothing at all. I haven’t had it easy, by any means, but I do have it great right now. And that is enough. Tomorrow is another day, and I can’t predict what is to come. I can’t make the good times stay. And that is okay, too.

The truth is, I have no answers, and I realize that I never have, only glimpses and movement, ideas that fit as my life continues on through its days. Perhaps the Truth, which I have always sought, isn’t something to be found. Maybe there are no answers to any of these larger than life questions, but I can’t stop asking them, and maybe that is enough for me to always find myself right where I am supposed to be, in both hard or soft times.

Right now, I find myself like the balls on this tree, ready to bloom into spring, then summer. The hard working, fast moving season on the farm. My body rejoices to be under the sun, in the dirt, eating fresh food. There are times in our lives that we can’t appreciate until we are well through them, the layers of meaning fully integrated, but this season isn’t like that at all, it is all feel-it-as-it-happens. Being right here, right now, that is my focus. I am sure I will have things to look back on that mean more to me in the future than they do now, but I am also trying my hardest to make all the meaning in the moment, too. And this one thing I do know to be true, I love my life, too. Graciously. That is one thing I can and will always try to do. Perhaps that is the thing that has made all the difference.

spring, farming, community, grace, blooming

springing (time to wake up)

violets, spring, farm, The farm has moved into March gracefully, with so many beautiful signs pointing to the shifting seasons. The first flowers are blooming–the always cheery and bright and abundant daffodils, the lovely forsynthia opening its own yellow petals one by one, and the violets, with a sweetness we can nibble. The air is full of breeze, and sound. Like the birds singing so happy to find food more easily, and the frogs, awakening.

strawberry, spring, plant, greenhouse, farm, farmingsalad mix, baby lettuce, spring, greenhouse, farm, farmingbraising mix, greenhouse, farm, farming, springgreen onions, farm, farming, greenhouse, spring, seasonal eatingA walk through our greenhouse these days, literally so green right now, provides a wonderful respite from the sight of the fields, still only slowly coming back to life, muddy and waiting. And an equally wonderful respite for our tongues. Fresh food, again. Our taste buds, singing too, we aren’t really that different from the birds.

And the earth calls, wake up. Wake Up!

And, I answer, I always answer, yes.

whether the weather

farming, patience, almost springThe snow here has given way to rain, rain that has been strikingly absent for us during this dry and crisp winter. And this morning, as those drops fall heavy on the house in a strong, beating rhythm that awakened us to our day, as I sit here with my coffee and listen to the the sound of water tapping metal, steady and sure, I notice the comfort it brings, the relief. Coming to this valley, lush, green, and moist, I didn’t know whether I would be one to hate the rainy season or not. Would I fall prey to despair, saddened by so much grey? Or was it really that bad?  How wet was it? Were these just exaggerations, weather tales lengthened by the human imagination, tricks of the mind, the way we seem to never recall weather accurately?

I’m not sure what the truth about the weather here is, nor if there really is ever any truth to the weather, but I do know that a lot of people come out here and feel like they are home, and that I am one of them. The grey, monotonous sky offered itself to me in a warm embrace. The fog laying on the hills, the Douglas fir rising predictably from the hilltops, it all said yes to me.

And although I know place isn’t the beginning or end of our happiness, it feels good to feel at home in your landscape.

All the early plantings we sneaked in the ground in January did not weather this last bit of weather so well. As my husband says, though, seed is cheap. We will replant.

I keep thinking about the home I left behind me in Nebraska. I am surprised at the very visceral feeling of discomfort the thought of frozen ground gives me. Maybe I am not all that strong after all, abating melancholy in such a dreary place, if I feel stricken down, now, at the thought of not always being able to touch the earth, feel the dirt,  I realize that I have become dependent on the land. To feed me, even now, in what is for us a harsh winter. I am under-evolved, slave to the soil, the life that doesn’t stop living itself out here.

Part plant myself, perhaps. I can’t remember how I survived anywhere else.

But we do, and we can, anywhere.  What people don’t always realize about all this rainy weather out here, unless they work outside or with the natural elements, is just how often the sun still does come out. But it catches me, often at sundown on many a wet, winter’s day. As if to say, it will never be all this way or all that way; it will, however, always be okay.

Or, rather, that it will always be.  And that, itself, is good enough for us all.

farming, pacific NW, Oregon, sun, rain, weather, mindfulness

learning to play in the snow

snow, farm, winter, funThe snow started falling Thursday.  Just the sight of it in the sky is pretty exciting around these parts since it doesn’t happen that often, but that it was slowly starting to stick to the ground, that the forecast predicted accumulation, this was big news.  So, we sent the papa to the store early, before the roads turned for the worse, and then we settled in, expecting at least one special snow day.  What we got instead was four of them, along with nearly a foot of perfect, fluffy snow.

It was amazing.

And so much fun.

snow fun, snow play, the importance of play, snow daysnow play, learnig to play, snow funsnow fun, play, the importance of play, snow funWith the landscape transformed, and everything on hold, we took to imagining we were in a cabin in the mountains.  We made the event into a little vacation and it has been just as relaxing and invigorating and awesome as a real get away.  It helped that at this time of the year we don’t have our weekend markets to get to, or pressing work, no major missed obligations.  Letting go of the “normal” and embracing the surprising, turning the worry into wonder, receiving this weather as a gift, it wasn’t too hard, which ended up making it such a blessing in so many ways.

tractor, snow, farm, winterIn all the busy that is life, the day to day to day, it can be so hard to really nourish ourselves, to fill up our tanks, keep the holy light within us burning bright.  I often think that I do a fine job of this with all the quiet moments with my thoughts I cultivate, the breathing, the stretching, the meditations, the time in nature, and so much reflecting; but there is a flip side to that type of practice that is important too, one I tend to shy away from.  You see, my first instinct upon trekking out into the snow is to marvel at the beauty, the stillness. I watch, carefully, the birds that appear alone in the landscape, drinking from the warm water that runs out of our kitchen into the field, checking old, dead sunflower heads for any remaining seed.  I listen and think how on a regular day even the small amount of traffic on our country road is noisy compared to this deep silence.  I bring along the camera, I notice the white, the red, the blue, the color the snow adds to the landscape in winter when things are all brown and grey, such a surprise.  I enjoy myself in these activities, immensely.

My children, on the other hand, immediately started to play, hard.

And although I consider the things I enjoy to be play for me, it wasn’t until the second day into our snowy-ness that I agreed, mostly to appease the children and their father, to get on the snow gear too, to ride the snow board, to sled down the hill.  And although I thought one time down I would have done my duty, I realized instead (of course!) that this was too much fun to be done with.  And as I warmed up from the up and down of it, the motion and moving, each swoosh of it all, I tapped into a feeling I hadn’t felt in a while.  I felt young.

In the middle of gliding down our powdery hill, going up over the small little jump the kids had made and landing, usually, in a tumble of giggles and yahoos in the snow, I realized that there is a fine line between accepting yourself for who you are, and loving that and being okay with that and doing your own thing and not trying to do all the things, between that and remaining stagnant and forgetting to be inquisitive and not trying new things. Between that and not remaining playful.  

Another fine lesson in balance it was, which seems to be life’s running theme.  Not black, not white, it keeps saying. Not stillness, nor flurry. Not just the in breath, not just the out.   The lesson, for me, was this–it is good for you to find things not just breathtaking, but breathmaking.  Check, I get it.

And I think my kids enjoyed what they saw as a different side of me.  A little lighter, a little louder.  A lot more than I was that morning.

snow, farm, snow day, funfarm, snow, snow days, funsnow, fun, snow day, farm, wintersnow, fun, farm, snow daysnow, children, fun, snow day, farmI am certain this is something I need to explore more this year, and the many more to come.  It seems like just the kind of thing to do when one is nearing forty.  Probably as good as all that loving and learning and accepting of me as the wonderful person I am was in my thirties, a (near) decade that I loved.  As I did my twenties, with all that questioning of all the things.  I want them all to be good because they all are.

Life is a magnificent journey, never stagnant, so I can not be either.

for the year of the horse (a poem)

chinese new year, oal oak tree, setting intentions, new moon, poetryOn This Chinese New Year’s Eve

I cut my hair.

I wanted to enter
the wooden horse of this new year
re-framed, re-styled, ready for anything.

Because this year, I want, fiercely, many things.

Like your legs intertwined with mine
in the motion of waves
all the time
as if there is no time.

And the kind of success
measured in limitlessness.

I will hang the red banner.
Spill the blood of so many oranges
or lap the juices with my tongue, at least,
let it dribble down my chin in fervent prayer.

Because this year, I want to enter like a Trojan horse.

For better or worse,
things must happen
and we must make them.

this moment is mine

soil, love, farming, planting, weather, small farmI don’t regularly reserve this space for straight up farming posts very often any more, but, this!  When the weather turns warm and sunny and unseasonably dry in January, dry enough to plant a little patch of ground, to smell decomposing earth, to softly crumble in your hands, then yes, farming it is.

And yet this post is not just about getting a nice little peak back into the living, breathing land again, ready to grow for us some more, it is really about this constant I keep coming back to as I relish the days this week.  That there is never just a give, or ever just a take.  This December, we had an unseasonably cold stretch of days with near constant below freezing temperatures that turned our fields, usually winter hardy here, to mush.  The more tender Asian greens, the chard, the spicy arugula, all died back to the ground.  The only things left standing were the kale, ever our hero, and the collards, kale’s just as lovely cousin.  Alive, yes, but with some frost damage.  Alive, yes, but with only enough good leaves to harvest from gingerly.  It has been, in many ways, a hungry month since then.

So, when mother nature turns around and gives us extra-dry, extra-sun, and we get to make up for loss with some extra planting to cover the difference, we take it.  And even though it is easy to think of this all as give, I remember the take.  Even this could just as easily become that.  We are certainly taking a bit of a gamble.  These crops could end up not making it (though I think they will).

And even though I try not to think about it, even this missing precipitation, I know, it isn’t all good, even if it is momentarily good, for us.  Is there ever a moment in time that is just right?

Or are they all perfectly not?

Watching my husband in the field, moving barrow full of compost with my children in tow like a hen with her chicks, the sun streaming into my heart and the worms wiggling in the baby-boy’s hand, I press the moments into my mind, snap shot, snap shot, snap shot, this is good.  I think about the next moment in time, for just a second, then stop myself, because I know I’m not guaranteed it.

But this one, it is mine.

farmer, farming, planting, sunshine, love

 

there is beauty all around you

mundane beauty, internal happiness, finding joy all around youBack in my early twenties, a close friend and I had this running debate going.  We were students together, worked together, and although we were in many ways polar opposites, we were such good friends.  We met within the first week of classes my first year, and our friendship held from then until my marriage and first birth, when I got enveloped in a certain wonder child’s wiggly ten toes and fingers and could hardly see anything else, wrapped in the blanket of motherhood so deeply that when I emerged, I found we had not really kept up with things and both of us had moved on.

But in our way of not agreeing on things back then, we had an ongoing discussion about the place of “place” in a person’s happy making.  He was ever ready to be finished with his studies, hungry to move away, to get out of the Midwest.  He had no fondness for this seemingly nondescript town in the middle of Nebraska.  I, on the other hand, was not so hard on it.  I could see the places where it shined and loved the people particularly shiny who lived there.  To be completely fair, it was probably easier for me to call on its graces because the University that we attended was in a town just miles from where I grew up.  I had a special kind of love for it that I could call on when needed, that childhood familiarity.

But I did understand, some.   I had spent my teen years plotting my own escape from that landscape through colleges way out here on the west coast not far from where I’ve landed myself now.  All of those options were more than appealing, the end goal of all those straight A’s I’d busied myself with in high school.  But in the end, a full scholarship seemed more reasonable than high costs, and I started to look forward to sharing these years with friends I was already close to.  In the end, I knew, I didn’t want to be out here alone.  So this mix of finances and fraternity, and a little bit of fear, won out over the adventure of moving away that I had always envisioned I’d take as close to high school graduation day as possible.

But our debate ran deeper than simply attachments to home or a dislike for locale.  I did get that, I felt both.  It was more about the way he seemed to be waiting to be fully happy.  In my ever philosophical way, my argument against this waiting was that happiness, deep and true, could not be about place at all.  My position wasn’t distinctly original by any means, it went a bit like this–if you can’t be happy here, you won’t be happy there.  A gold standard.

And what I kept beating him over the head with was this–you can be happy here, and then, you’ll be even happier there.

Not that a change of scenery isn’t wonderful.  Not that it isn’t sometimes just the thing.  I am sometimes so indescribably happy here in my new home, so very happy in this place in time.  But still, I remember.  I know that with or without it, I have held my happiness close to me, tucked next to my beating heart, for such a long time, in all the places I’ve been.  The truth is you own your happiness, your surroundings do not.

In the drear that can be January here, and then February, March, April, and sometimes May, the grey can really get to people.  In the days of more inside than out, though we still always do get out, the children in the middle of my brood are at just the right ages, and have just the right personalities that tend towards feeling the blah of an uneventful, winter’s day at home, working away at nothing more than our studies, our chores, the reading by the fire, the endless board games, tea, and what they see as more than one too many soups and stews on the table.  There is certainly a different flavor to this season, especially once the holidays end, that can start to taste “boring”.

But all of this, to me, is happiness.  I am a homebody, an introvert.  Give me quiet, sweet days with these little imps where we do not rush, we do not have to, and I am in love.  But I get it, I remember.  My daughter wants to see her friends all the time.  She is not content with a day where “nothing” happens.  And my middle son, whose skills and ambitions lie in things that are either too big of a project for such a day or out of his range or simply out of season for now like building go carts or tree forts or learning to hunt and going on survival hikes, he kind of just sits in here languishing while his older brother draws and draws and draws and I read and knit and write.  He is not one for sitting, and even the woodshop which can keep him busy takes some initiative to go work in when it is cold outside.

But this feeling, this boredom, I still try to bring to my children the only true fact I know about it, as often as I can, with my own actions and words, that the only way out is through.  For any human being, this is a handy skill to have in your pocket.  To learn to love the mundane, the day to day of any season, the grey sky, the blah days, they will happen, it is unavoidable, and feeling good and being happy isn’t just a matter of riding the high waves, the summertime fun.  I know that this was hard for me in my youth.  So hard.  But why wait to learn some of these lessons.  I wish they could know the beauty of now, now.  I know I hope my old friend has found this little gem somewhere on the roadside of his travels.  The sooner the better, right?

And yet, as with anything there for the learning, I can’t pour it into them.  They have to fill their own vessels of knowledge, as much as I do, and don’t, want to do it for them.

So, I pause.

I savor.

Dead plants are as pretty as alive ones.  There is beauty everywhere.  I can only show them one example, and never a perfect one, and hope they can see it, too.