thick in the mystery of it all

loveImagine, here, the longest, sweetest, exhale of all. Every bit of tension in the shoulders, the low back, the stomach, released. Summer has gone.

Not that fall doesn’t come with its own troubles, especially when big changes take place that land you, once again, (always, I worry), under the weight of financial stress. But the fog, the cool night air, it wraps its arms around me, this house, slowly finding order from the chaos of the busy farm season, the children, all of us, it seems, and there is a comfort there. We keep moving forward, truly we do, but always in our own slow, steady way, always coming back to our center, which revolves around each other, our relationships, our duty and care for one another. It is hard, at times, when I want things to be easy, but then I remember, it probably isn’t easy for anyone, life, not if you are actively engaged in the living of it, anyway.

But it is in those tough spots we rub up against throughout our lives that we usually find the most meaning, our own meaning, if we are looking for it. I’ve answered a million questions that stalked me this summer just by facing the fire of it all. And for someone like me, that’s what I am here to do, so I can be fully present and wide open to the flow of life through and around me, so I can be of use to this world in the ways that I find laid out before me.

What am I really rambling about, anyway?

So much, and so little, I suppose.

This year, this year of the horse, has been nothing short of the wild ride I could feel it mounting to be back in January. And as challenging as it was for me, for the people in my life I love most of all, and as challenging as it continues to be, I find the ride and all of the ups and downs that come with it all worth it all.

Because I can’t imagine it another way. Static doesn’t hold much appeal over here and besides, we know and hold onto the fact that there is no arrival, it is all about the movement and what we choose to do with the moment that matters in this game. So, worry and joy live side by side, trial and bliss. We keep moving because life is moving. We live fully in the fog in the fall, we face the sun in the summer. We stand in the fire come winter, so we can rebirth ourselves each spring. We grow, wild, here on this farm. Together, apart, thick in the mystery of it all.

insight, follow your dream, mindful living, intentional living, conscious living, inner work, small farming, writing, life learning

cucumber dreams

cucumber vines, beauty in nature, love, farmingThey say time flies when you are having fun, but really, after a certain point in your life, time flies no matter if you are having fun or not. I haven’t been able to get a blog post in since the first morning yawn of April. That is a long time ago. But no, really, it was just a blink of the eye.

I had planned on keeping everything under control this farm season, my house, my writing schedule, my mama-hood-y goodness. I would still make time for us to see friends. I wouldn’t have a mountain of crazy to uncover come late autumn, I wouldn’t disappear. I wanted to keep summer from barreling over us faster than we could keep the purposeful and intentioned steps of our feet on the ground. But summer. Farming. Maybe it isn’t really possible.

I am trying to be gentle on myself. I have these four children, and we are all in this together, and no matter how much of a super-human I feel like I am supposed to be, I am not. I am super, but I am also human. I feel compelled to do all these things, but I don’t see for a minute how I can do them all well. As the children get older, they find that just being on the farm and snacking on fresh food and having life be consumed by this one thing that is such a good, good thing, such a necessity in times gone, isn’t as enough as it once was. And I think–rather, I know–that I need a few more hands in the field and in the home and that my two are not as enough as they once seemed, either. And another summer is going to be gone before I know it. Another year. I don’t like the feeling of life controlling me, but perhaps all along I was wrong to think that I could control it. I feel a bit like a rock, stuck, wondering if there is really any purpose to this madness. I wonder, too much, perhaps, about everything.

So, I try not to. Instead, I get up, I walk the fields, my fields. The plants, my loves. I marvel at the coming abundance. I sweat, I ache, I let my body do what it was made to do. Move and work, provide. I think, on the summer solstice, of winter. It isn’t that far away. I let go a little, and let those vegetables wait while I find my breath and stay present with the kids, my dear sweet children. I want to fix what I perceive to be broken, but there isn’t a fix, not at this moment, not now, midsummer. So, I surrender as best I can, not knowing what to do, but doing the best I can for now.

I eagerly await the first cucumber. I will let it be divine.

It will be, divine.

From seed to seed

spring, farm, farm life, pride, ego, letting goThe world around me is fully greening up now. It is a beautiful sight, all plant growth expanding, even though, as always, the wild plants and perennials take off infinitely faster than the wee little cultivated seedlings and transplants we have tucked into the fields ourselves. They are growing, certainly, but it is like watching the pot, so to speak. It is slow compared to our desire, and slow compared to the explosion of grass and weed that is so full of force and life in the spring by comparison.

Still, we have a good harvest coming in, the last push of the overwintered plants in the field are making florets now, giving us a whole other crop to eat, and the greenhouse bridges the gap by growing food fast enough while we wait for that same speed to issue forth out of doors. All green food, in spring, all great food. Spinach, lettuce, kale, turnip greens, and arugula. And wild harvests galore, because so much of the early spring weed growth is meant to be eaten, it’s true. Nettles, dandelion, wild mustard. I am making herbal vinegars with all these plants I need to pull up anyway, a nice way to hold onto all the goodness these wildings want to give away right now, even if they are growing in all the wrong places. Like we do, the earth and I, we are dancing together the dance of the season. Even the onions, right now, are green. And the garlic, too.

But it isn’t as easy to find that same green-ness in ourselves, not always, as we age, as life adds layer upon layer to our skin. I found myself in tears yesterday, in the wash station with this week’s spinach, because my oldest child is almost thirteen years old. That is only five years, by the books, five years, and there you have it, a childhood. And I know, I know, that it isn’t really left much, already, not truly even five years more. This slayed me, for some reason, out of the blue, while I worked, because his childhood is one of the most important things to me in the world.

It is so hard, this parenting gig, and I have done so many great things as a mother and so many things I wish I could take back. I started out thinking I would do everything right. I didn’t accept at all, on the outset, that life and love would be perfectly human, and that I too, must be.

But I know better than to let the sadness, the worry, wash me away, so I came inside and gave this young boy, on his way to young man, a hug. I let go. Letting go is all that we can do. Over and over and over again, the only way to keep moving forward. I have faith, too. That is just as important.

I never expect the earth to hold on to last season. I know, each spring, that we are on a new ride. Sure, I have lessons learned, I have new ideas, but that doesn’t mean it will be perfect this time round. And yet, I know, too, that I can just as surely count on things to grow, for food to be produced. The earth provides, every year, again and again, without any trace of growing older, without any hint of defeat. Without worry or weight, things just follow through, as best they can, from seed to seed.

So, must we.



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.


on mother love, on mother’s day

It is Mother’s Day.  The farmer left early to sell his wood craft in the city.  I was out of coffee filters and almost out of almond milk, so I had a barely passable cup of coffee to start the day.  I made breakfast, the same breakfast we have nearly every day, eggs.  I did add some well cooked sweet onion and spinach from the garden to the mix because I do love greens with my eggs, but we didn’t get dressed right away.  And because three of the children still have a lingering cough, we decided we should stay home today instead of doing anything special.  We may try to plant flowers.

I did want to do some writing, so I put on a movie right after breakfast.  My oldest son bought his very first electronic device and is now happily throwing fruit at things with it.  There is, ironically, in writing this today, an idea that all of this is somehow less than perfect.  But I don’t think so.

I am perfectly in love with these children and being their mother.  And as with all things in this life, including motherhood, I keep finding that the great and wonderful things are usually found even more so compared against their flaws.  That the silver lining shines brightest next to a puncture wound, a rusty hole.  Perspective is the thing.

Leading up to today, I saw many things written in a similar vein to the start of my own Mother’s day post–a kind of this is what it really looks and feels like to be a mother onslaught.  And I get it, I really do.  I have been thinking a lot about this heavy, hard work of being a mom, and the truth is, it is rarely easy and never picture perfect.

And yet, I can not find a bad thing to say about it.  I honestly love being a mother.  As often as I am at my wits end and ready to pull out all my hair–still, I love it.  And even in those moments, if I can only just breathe for a second, I can find in my children’s eyes the reason for it all.  It is easy, if I try, to remember what is, to me, the hallmark of feeling and being a mother–the endless and boundless and unimaginably deep love we carry in our hearts for these small humans.

All mother’s feel this, it is hard wired into us, but it isn’t always easy to stay with that feeling.  We are human, too, after all.  I made it easy on myself when I entered this job the first time around and just did nothing else at all for the first many years of my mothering journey.  Looking back, I am sure that this is what made my time with a precocious and needy and busy first born baby boy so easy.  I gave him my all, and we didn’t expand too often outside our own insular little lives back then in Nebraska, so there were rarely any squabbles, rarely any hard times.  In fact, I remember so completely the first time we ever had to come to terms with feeling upset with each other.  He was nearly three and I was nearly ready to birth his baby brother.  It was a hard moment for me, I was a little heartbroken.  I hadn’t imagined mothering would ever be hard.

But of course, many more such times have followed since.  Now that we are a family of four kids and two businesses, not to mention my own mid-life need to resume some activity related to those non-mothering dreams I once had, there are many squabbles, and many hard moments, and ever so much give and take.  I was definitely living in a kind of fantasy land back then, thankfully so.  However, I’ve found that for all the perfectness I felt in my first three years of parenting, I have eaten crow for it all a million times over as we travel further and further down the road of time together.

mothering, mother's daymothering, mother's day

But that is okay, because this is essentially the most important thing that has come to my mind as this Mother’s Day approached, the knowing that this road passes by faster and faster each year.  That those tiny feet grow into big ones and we don’t even remember the sleepless nights or the spit up and messy floors.  Believe me, we don’t.  I long to remember, really, because that would mean I could also recall the smell of the newborn better, and the way it felt to hold them in my arms when they were so little.  All of the things they said and did as they made there way out of babyhood and into toddlerhood, and then childhood and beyond.  Sigh.

Instead of being able to remember it all, we learn.  We learn that we do indeed continue to change and grow and evolve along the way, as well as devolve a little too.  We learn that we can not foresee the future, nor make any real claims about whether we did a good job or not.  We learn, hopefully, that we will all do amazingly well and that we will all fail miserably, that to say otherwise is the real fault.  And we learn, ever so humbly, that they will be there own people and that they really will be okay.

We learn that even though it is really so hard, that doesn’t mean that some of us can’t always say good things about this work, because for some of us, that is our nature.  Others, blessedly, can make us laugh about the insanity of it all–to wear your heart outside yourself so that it can constantly take a beating seems outrageous and ludicrous on the face of it.

But that is what mothers do.  And really, despite the holiday and the really wonderful way in which we kind of deservedly get our kudos on this day, this work, this loving, is for the most part, and for so long, done entirely thanklessly.  If we are doing a good job of it, we only get thanks in the form of sticky kisses and hugs.  Or from taking in the tiring but intense need those small hands have to hold ours while it lasts.  From being the one they come to at their worst.  We are meant to be taken for granted, to always be there for them, to not be thanked until they have done their growing and are happy and healthy young adults who look back in wonder at this magnificent, unending love they were given.

I don’t really remember getting all of this when I was young like my children are, but at some point, despite the many, many failings of my own parents and the fate of illness that left my own mother bound to a nursing home when I was just entering my teen years, I came away from it all seeing that both of them did have this same fierce love for me.  And that has been enough.  That has held me despite it all.

So, mother’s, today, hold onto this love and take respite in knowing it is enough.  Above all, let it guide you, day in and day out.  It is hard to do, but it is your gift to your children and to the world.  As another wise mother puts it so perfectly, “Spirituality doesn’t look like sitting down and meditating. Spirituality looks like folding the towels in a sweet way and talking kindly to the people in the family even though you’ve had a long day. ” Silvia Boorstein, from On Being.

Your Mother’s Day will probably look a lot like mine.  Even if you have others around you and you do get to go out to dinner or have a bit more of some things special, you will, all day like every day, be doing your highest work as well.  You will be mothering.  It never ends, never goes away.

And even if you are tired or cranky or sick of it all for the moment, you can, perhaps, still just fold the towel sweetly, with a nod to that special love in your heart, and they will feel it.  It will hold them through all the things near and far.  Your love will hold them, always.

Happy Mother’s Day.