all tucked in

winter, farmDecember is the sweetest.

We are all tucked in.  Cozy, warm.  Together.

Harvests are on hiatus.  We have a minimum of morning chores to tend to.  Feed and water the hens and the growing pigs.  Feed and water–and play–with the small chicks in the greenhouse.

Mostly, we sit by the fire and play games and read stories.  In this down time, we reweave the strings that hold us together that we inevitably stretch thin in the hay days of summer, all of us throwing ourselves outward, even as we are always all here, on this farm and in these days, with each other.  Because summer is its own wild beast of living.

And so winter.

We take this time and use it to tend to each other in our winter ways, and the whole, wonderful cycle works, for us.

This winter we have been simultaneously blessed and cursed with clear skies and cold temps.  Without our covering of grey skies and Pacific Northwest rain, we are getting full on that metallic tasting winter air that so many others hold on their tongues always through this season.  I love it.  I hate it.  I can step outside and feel like I am, for a moment, tucked away in the mountains of Colorado or out in the wide open countryside or quiet plains town of Nebraska.  This kind of winter feels like home to me, as much as I am ultimately a part of this lush, temperate valley now.

It was single digit cold here last night.  That is more cold than we are used to.  We all are weathering this fine, although we have used more wood than ever for this time of year and the water to our house is frozen.

No matter the temperature, though, these cold, slow days are so full of time, there is the feeling one could get so much done.    I could get a lot of things done.  Things that would make me happy, things I have been waiting all summer to get to.  On top of that, there is all the extra things one could do, to celebrate.  But instead, in December, I sit.  I wait.

I have learned so much about letting go, it is ridiculous.  Every day, we must wake up in the morning and remember what matters, and so much of it, doesn’t.

I have learned that the sweetness of this month isn’t in the doing, that it is in the waiting.  In the quiet and the stillness.

In our home, there are all the inevitable squabbles of four children inside so much, the eruption of bodies needing to move more that turns our small home into a wrestling ring or race track every evening before bedtime.   The frequent sighs of boredom, the excited as well as impatient expectancy of Christmastime.

But there is a softer side to all of this too.  There is more skin time, more snuggles on the couch.  There are news ways of playing, discovered.  There are knitting needles in my lap, slowly working again towards the only gift worth giving my dear husband, my heart poured into some thing to keep him warm while he works.

I do get itchy, who doesn’t?  I want the new year to start, all fresh and full of promise.  As always, as everyone, I have big plans.

But this last beautiful month on the calender is for the waiting.  Expectantly, hopefully.  Equal parts joy at the dusting of snow and ice to play on as well as trembling and fear, the desperate desire for the return of the sun.

All the work of December is done on the inside.  There is only the barest perception that it’s there, but it is some of the most important work we do of the year.

Fueling our lights for the new. 

All tucked in.  Warm, cozy.

Together.

thanksgiving gold

thankful, thanksgiving, farm, farm life, gratitude, simple lifem life, gratitude, simple lifem life, gratitude, simple lifem life, gratitude, simple life

“There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen

Today, the farm is quiet.  It is clear, frosty, and golden out there.  Inside, the fire is kindled, the coffee made.  It will be a slow day.  Tonight, we will have a small feast with the grandfolks.  Simple.  Wonderful.

I love Thanksgiving a whole lot.  I love that it is on the eve of advent, of deep winter.  That we are done with harvest for a bit, that I can wish for snow and not worry about trying to gather vegetables from under it.  That magic fills the cold air.  But more than anything, I love it because I love giving thanks.  Whenever I slip into meditation or deep relaxation in a yoga class, this is the feeling that floods my veins.  I am so damn grateful, for it all.

All the wonderful, obvious things, sure.

But perhaps even stronger still is the gratitude for the rest of it.  All my mistakes–and there are plenty.  All the hard times–and there are plenty of these too.  Every good and bad part, mixed together into the story of this life.  For all of that, I am thankful.

I haven’t always felt this way.  Most of us, probably, start our journey into adulthood with some notion of a happily ever after that is all “good”.  But one of the blessings, in my mind, of growing older is the hazy way the good and bad start to blur into a deep, vibrant hue that is all its own and that is far richer and more complex than any of our youthful black and whites.  Everything begins to shine golden, not just the sparkly parts.

And since I’ve been at this for a while now, and because it is now my second nature, I come to this day easily, gracefully.  I like that.  But I get that it isn’t like that for all of us all the time, so please forgive my gushing, I am sure it can be annoying at times.  Because the truth is this, it is all a mess, for all of us, I just happen to think that it is a beautiful mess.

But, it did take time.  Honesty.  Forgiveness, of all kinds.  Open eyes.  An open heart.  Trust me, with these, the thankfulness will come.

But for me, now, this is my practice, my breath, each day.  And so, each year, on this day, I find myself with lots to write about.  Just for fun, this year, I rounded them all up–2008, 2009, 2010, 2011(1, 2, 3), 2012 (1,2,3).  If you look through them, you will see that there is both a progression and a sameness.  So is life.

Today, my list is short and sweet.  I also find that the tiniest element of humor is there, which for my serious, somber self is a good sign.  I think that as I get older, in this regard, I am getting younger.  And lightening is nice.

So 2013! Let’s get something down, for the record!

Right now, I am thankful for:

  • time to write, whenever and whatever, even on Thanksgiving morning!
  • phone cameras, instagram filters, and an easy, quick way to satisfy the creative impulse in my busy farmer-mama days
  • three year olds, for perspective (and for keeping me humble)
  • the smell of three year old nurslings, like the pheromones of a man, which have been shown to calm and bring a sense of well being to a woman when she is held, putting my nose to my son’s head and holding him in my arms still regulates my nervous system instantly, just like when he was a babe–I think this is related to the circularly perfect nursing relationship.  So, whenever I get a little worked up, all I have to do is pick up this boy and inhale.
  • acorn squash–a seriously fine replacement for former fave, delicata squash
  • the always forgiving and in love man that is my husband
  • AjjA Wood, taking off beyond our dreams
  • all of the members of our farm family for their continued support and participation in our farming and eating adventure
  • good food–that feeds my body and my soul and keeps my family healthy–from our land and the land of our neighbors and this valley, a veritable garden of eden
  • the most perfect growing season on (our) record–I am more than imaginably thankful for this one (farmers live and die by the weather)
  • three “big” kids–this one is bittersweet, but it is also a lot of fun to see these sweet little ones grow up, and it makes having just one “little” one seem so stinking easy!
  • a home, we owe a lot of this to the grandfolks, and I hope they know how thankful we are for that
  • plant medicine and learning new things
  • McMinnville Community Accupunture, for taking care of me when I don’t take care of myself, and always working miracles
  • deepening friendships and creative collaboration
  • my brave brother whom I am missing a lot today
  • the golden, frosty, dry weather we are having, the kind of weather that reminds of November back home in Nebraska, reminds me of Thanksgivings from my past, and mingles my loves for these two places in the sweetest way this holiday
  • you, all of you, humans, reading this or not, I am thankful to share my world with you and all of your golden human-ness

And now, it is time for a mimosa with my love, the cook today, and some games with the kids by the fire.  Bliss!

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

 

 

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.

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.”

filled up, full moon

full moon, october, farm, sunset, life learning, gratitude, mindfulness, loveYou wouldn’t believe, the sky here, is so blue this October.

A new color scape for my eyes–a perfect, clear blue sky mingling with those browns and yellows and greens–I feel like I’ve never seen it before, like it is brand new.   And even though I can’t paint, I wish I could.

All my paintings right now would be of the bright green grass and the dark, green evergreens that from afar, look like someone’s quick sketch against the sky, aglow with golden light and foiled so perfectly in this autumn story against the turning leaves of those trees shedding their skin, shaking off the summer in brown and yellow.  Wondering, what parts of us are deciduous, which, ever staying?

I want to find these exact four colors and paint them like swaths next to each other and hang it on my wall so I never forget how beautiful they were, together, this fall.  The perfect combination.

By the middle of the day, if I am harvesting, I can strip down to bare my arms to this warm enough, October sun.  It is all kinds of glorious.  But in the morning,now, I must layer.  Wool, warmth, to protect me from the quick intake, the cold breath.  It takes time for me to expect, and to want, that kind of greeting from the morning air.  But it signals the season, a must.

I watch a rotund, Autumn moon rise, and know that the fields are not so full any more, but that I am, filled.

There is still a brink, but I am no longer tottering.  The kids and I are nearly in our fall groove.  It is nice.

Moving through life, things change, always.  Nothing is static.  Every three months, the world here turns itself inside out, a brand new season.  And for us, on this farm, that means a brand new rhythm.  It is good practice for living, so much change, over and over again, throughout the year.  Always moving forward, always changing, but blessed be, always in a circle.

Each time around, we know some things, and some things, we don’t.

But all this movement, all this circling, it teaches us.  We learn the big truth, that we can never just stay put.  That life is flux.

We know that all we can do at any moment in time is fill ourselves up on whatever is around us, whatever that is.  And that we can’t hold onto any of it, that we have to let things keep moving, no matter if we are ready to or want to, or even if we feel like we can”t live with all the letting go.  And we learn that even if we want to move on, that adjusting takes a lot of time and energy and is no simple thing.  We learn, really, necessity.

We know, deep in our bones now, that the deal we make with life is this, forward, forward, around, around, until eventually, we fly off the wheel.  No one moment in time contains us.  Keeping on is all we can do.

We know that holding on and digging deep, that these things only serve us if we accept them as fleeting.

That all we have is this.

Folding into a warm embrace when we can.

Laying down, and deeply tending, roots, that will and can, never hold us.