all that remains

winter, poetry, writing, natureIt is cold tonight, stepping out onto the porch to return the pile of outer layers we gathered up throughout the day.  Damp jackets.  Grandma’s woolly crocheted hats.  Knitted gloves too small already, my own handmade holiday gift last year to those little fingers, grown.

I don’t mean to, but I shiver.  Days when I’ve been inside so much, only out to feed and water the animals and gather wood, days that I don’t really mind all that much because they are filled with the kind of still, quiet warming that I need in winter–just one of these days and the chill that wants to catch my skin and stay, in just seconds, shows me just how easy it is to soften.

And my mind wanders for a minute in the dark, the light burnt out a while back, in high summer when no light was needed, and still hoping to be replaced, to see a check next to its name on the long, winter to do list. I realize I don’t know.  I’m not sure how soft to be.

But soft or not, I return into the arms of the fire full house, letting the wind and cold beat the last bit of life out of things as we wash the evening dishes, finish a thousand drawings, and put to bed so many tiny, household lives we’ve lived, today, this one winter’s day.

This Sunday, this Monday, they are the first relaxing days I have had in a long while.  Since September.  And these two, just the start.  So many remain, days such as this.

This year, like every year, we find that we are not great at growing onions on this farm.  Rather, it is like this–we don’t really know if we are great at it or not because limited space and time and the lure of the green onion to eat and sell all summer long always wins over the much more sensible idea that we should just let those onions grow.  So that they might now remain, for winter.  Every week, at market, I buy onions from much more sensible farmers, with much more land and a whole winters worth of alliums to caramelize in my skillet.

And for their sense, I am thankful.

But even though our larder doesn’t house them, our home does.  Us, the onions, brought inside.  Chill morning by brisk eve, winter is the fine task of pulling back the layers to reveal what grew in us this year.  What is new there, what gone?  Opposite the bundling we take on to go out the door, inside, we peel away all but the naked remains, the new seed of us.  What will that look like?  What will we have to offer the coming, new year?

The rest is shed and buried back in the ground, the old skins, like the plants we once were out under the sun.  And my life, shaped and severed each season by these elements–sun, fire, earth, rain–at least I know how to grow it well, I think to myself.  The longer I live here, the more well shaped I become.  This land, these seasons, our little harvest, our life, it grows fuller with each and every winter that comes.  And so, I let go, the wandering mind, and slip under the heavy pile of covers for the night.  Faith can be as simple as this.

A pattern found worth trusting.

still life

photography, kitchen, capture the light, still life A still life.  Sometimes, that sounds just right, doesn’t it?  Or we look around and see so many perfect, beautiful, still shots of life and think, yes!

But the only blessing of stillness is in the reminder.  It isn’t meant to last.  It isn’t meant to be the way of things.  It is a moment. You breathe, you know, you remember.  And then it goes, because it is fleeting, at best, and rightly so.  You return to movement.  Flurried, fast.  Full.

You move and all the things around you move, and keep right on moving nearly non stop.  And it is good, moving, as quickly as you fly, because that is what life is.  Don’t try to slow it down too often.  Just often enough.

Just long enough to capture the light.  To tuck it back inside you, fill yourself back up.  But it doesn’t really pay, in the end, to linger.  Turn those beams back onto the road.  Drive.

A still life is stagnant, it isn’t what we crave.  We crave the reminder, the refreshing.  So take those in small bites and keep moving.  And find all the grace and gratitude you can manage for the movement, because really, it is the stuff of life, it is your light shining through your life.   The movement around you and the mess of living, hopefully it is the mess and movement of surrounding yourself with love, through others or work or play.  Love!

Happy Wednesday All!

happy life, busy life, sweet children, parenting, love IMG_0022

the dead like orange

calendula, el dia de los muertos, the veil is thin, november, fall, winter, remembering

This time of year is strange, the beginning of a long exhale.  Much needed, but still so different from the short pants of summer’s sprint/marathon.  When you’ve been busy, slowing down feels clumsy, and at the top of such breaths, the one you were at first grasping to take and now fumbling into, you don’t always remember how it goes.  You don’t fully let go into it until all the leaves have fallen and some of the litter on the ground begins to turn back into the very stuff it first came from.  It is as slow a process as the season that beckons it.

But in the midst of this awkward stumble, the start of the celebrating of the dark cycle of the year starts up and helps things along.  Right away, with the perfectly wild, silly, and fun night that is Halloween, there is some loosening.  For me, the line up of celebrations from now through epiphany– celebrations rooted in ancient cultures, deepened and strengthened liturgically through time–even though they are now nearly devoid of meaning, these celebrations, for me, are placed in our calender for a reason, and I always try to really let the joy, warmth, and light they were meant to bring our homes and our hearts flood the waters just as the waters outdoors do the same.   On All Hallows’ Eve, I find that sweetness is a genuine impulse, that our community takes kindly to opening its doors to strangers, that we smile and laugh and share with each other freely under the guise of this, in my book, hallowed evening.  I take it, gobble it up, that shared frivolity, the calling of the night to revel, together.  The candy, and candy companies, kind of make me want to chuck the baby out with the bathwater, but I don’t.  I find a way to celebrate despite our modern day conundrum.

And I like to keep the momentum going over the next few days for el dia de los muertos.  Calling together my mother and father, whose deaths were a hard four days apart and left me breathless in grief only to really teach me how to hold on to this life more properly, we share memories of them and my husband’s family, people my children have never really known, but whom he and I have, and whom we love dearly.  It is a wonderful tradition.

And although I don’t know whether the veils really are thin between the worlds of the departed and this fully beating one at this time of year, I do know that the world around us is dying unto itself like it does every autumn and winter, and that it as natural a time as any to really give this beautiful part of the life cycle some of our loving attention.  If we look around us to a world gone quieter knowing that it is just one part of a circular pattern, we can celebrate how proper and right the design is.  We long for winter when it comes.  It was first celebrating this holiday the November after my folks passed away that brought a blanket of peace to my heavy heart.   It is a celebration that removes the fear we have of death, such a good thing to learn early on.  I don’t want to be afraid to die, and I really don’t want my children to be afraid of it either, of losing their loved ones or themselves.  It seems such a pity.  My mother was so afraid to go, it broke my heart.  And so, we talk about it lightly and matter of factly and sweetly, because it is just as true and good as the birth of a new soul.  And it is sweet, the remembering, even if it is bitter-sweet.

So even though we don’t really expect our dead to join us in the evening, and we don’t really put out treats to literally feed their wandering souls, we do keep at this to feed our own.

But this year was different.  I had my moments.  Washing vegetables outside, after dark, alone in the wash station, I couldn’t quit the impulse to look behind me.  I kept thinking about my father, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was standing there, in the shadows.  Peeking back, over my shoulder, shuddering, repeat.  And then, I would laugh at myself, because I have just started re-watching Lost with my oldest son and I kept thinking that all of that first season suspense was really going to my head.

But still.

On the night my father passed away, as I laid down in the dark to sleep, I prayed so hard that I would not be visited by him in any way, shape, or form.  I don’t know why I felt the need, I just did.  And I had the same feeling those few nights when I had that sensation to look over my shoulder.  No, no, no.  I don’t want a visit.

Some ghosts are better left buried.

And yet, I can’t bury him.  I decided sometime last winter that I was going to write a book, part childhood memoir, part philosophy of living.  I love writing, will always write, want to write more, write for a living, write, and write, and write some more–it is an important part of my journey here in this life.  But, I have always sworn that I would never write a book.  The commitment– sheesh!  I always felt too lazy to write anything that length.  The poignant creative non-fiction essay was my sweet spot.  But laying in bed one night, it came to me, clear as day, the whole thing.  And even though the work on it has been slow, it is there, and it will happen, and morph and change and one day see the light, even if that light is just the shine of my own two eyes.  I believe that.

But to write about your childhood means to write about your parents, and as I work on this, as I start to bring life to these stories, my father, much as he did for so much of my life, takes up all the space.  And I find myself wondering, why?  Why would I only consider that my father would be standing there, behind me, when the two worlds we share might be mingling?  Why isn’t my mother’s the name on my lips?  Why not her, so sweet, so angelic?  Why am I not begging for a visit from her?

I keep hearing myself tell stories about my life centered around my dad, and I keep finding myself wanting to find a way to tell the story of my mother, too.  I hate that I have to go back and find that story, that it isn’t the one that stuck.  I may have been better off if it had.  But that story is its own mess of misfortune, so it is just as complicated to get a hold of as it is hard loosening the grip of my father’s story from my fingers.  I’m not sure if I can.

They say the dead like orange.

So, after putting away our costumes this year, we picked some calendula blossoms and put them on the table in honor of our dearly departed.  But this year, I didn’t get out the many pictures of my father.   This year, I didn’t reminisce with my children about their wild and wonderful Grandpa Roger.  I didn’t do much, at all, raising of the dead.  Instead, I let the kids–well, mostly my daughter–ask questions and draw portraits and tell the stories they knew and kept it at that.   My daughter, she feels her ties to all her family, here and there, so deeply, and her boundless love felt more pure and even for this year’s celebration.  I was too in the thick of my mind to do things properly.

I had just one thing I needed to do, alone, to ease those thoughts running through the roads of my mind, one thing to quiet down the noise, to move forward this year into the dark.

I went out into the cold, November night and knelt by the fig tree where we spread my mother’s ashes, the tree that just won’t produce any fruit, and I secretly whispered into the chill, thin air, “I’m so sorry, Mom.  I hope you like the flowers.”

love flows

 

beach, love, mindfulnessthrough you, through me,

love flows and sets us free.

love, beach, mindfulnessToday, my only goal is to exhale, deeply.

Exhale back into space and time, my home, my kids.

Our last summer farmer’s market was Thursday, and although we will continue harvests for our CSA and our weekend market for another seven weeks, these last many weeks, from September until now, are the crazy-making time on the farm.  The nearly too much time of the year, the so very much food in the fields, the explosion, the reverse of the calm before the storm.  The storm, before the sweet calm.

And doubling up on markets to boot.

A friend asked me earlier this year if our work out here on the farm and in the shop felt sustainable, and I responded then, not quite in the thick of the busiest time yet, that I had come to accept that our summers were not a picture of balance.  In fact, for so long I kept trying to find balance until I finally got a clue and changed my perspective on the whole thing.  Balance, at certain times in your life story, isn’t the right word to be searching for.

But things do need to be sustainable, and I knew then, when I answered her, that it was sustainable because it wasn’t this busy all the time.  We have a little dark side of the cycle out here in the winter, a time of rest, and it regroups us, even if it is nearly impossible to remember this during the wild ride of September.

Nevertheless, we are here now, slowing down.  The summer crops are spent, the fall and winter crops are growing still, but slowly, soon to stop for the year and simply await harvest or flowering, come spring.  The leaves are changing color too, which out here means yellow.  Golden, against the ever present green and the turning to brown all around.  These colors, this time, it stirs you, in the deep parts.

I want to let go of all that intensity, and fall back into my heart, the only place that matters.  The trappings of life, even a good and happy life with days of living free, on a farm, and working hard, can oddly still detach us from the heart of the matter.  The point of this whole mysterious thing that falls between our first and our last breath.

Love.

And why this takes so much intention to hold onto, is really the mystery to me, but I know it, deep down, and I return to it as often as I can remember to.

So, today, at least, I have enough space around me, in what is to come this week, to really see these sweet faces around me, to know that I won’t have to worry about my-busy versus their-needs.  It is a relief, for me.  I am the worst multi-tasker.

You see, the truth is, I don’t want to be anything at all, really, when I grow up.  Why should we be something?  I just want to be love and be present, in this love.

That is really why I came here in the first place.

sunsets and love, medicine for mama

sunset, loveEven my tired eyes can be lifted to this, the golden, sinking sun.  Turned pink, my hands, and his, wander through the grass, the backyard apple orchard, almost fully picked but for the winesap, dark red and waiting.

A streak across the sky, my heart kind of picks up its beat.

I know no better medicine than this.

Weariness, sometimes, is part of the deal.  Today, the day, the week, it all left me slumped on the couch.  But little boys need things to do, and sometimes those things, a walk at dusk, are what the mama needs to.

sunset, love sunset, love IMG_0024Sweet dreams.