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.

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.

 

this sunrise is the only sunrise

sunrise, nature, life, gratitude, loveHappy New Year!

January is here in all its quiet and subdued glory.  After all the hoopla of the holidays, I always think it feels just right to get back to the routines, to embrace fully the structure of this first, uneventful month of the year. In our home, on this farm, this month is, like it is for so many people, completely under control.  We have lots of goals and lots of plans, and for now, we have the time, space, and energy to keep to them, the path clearly laid out.  This is a beautiful thing.

The tricky part is–and we all know this well–not all of this is likely to hold a whole year through.  Life will have its way, too.  There will be detours unforeseen.  For us, no matter the plan, there is that moment every farming season when the only control possible is to let go of control, to simply let the water pull us under, knowing that the only way to make it out alive is not to hold our breath or struggle against things, but to instead just become the fish. To let ourselves be fully immersed.  We will be there again, I know, busier than busy, lifting so much life in our arms from this ever abundant earth.  That is part of our goal, after all, even if that itself becomes its own force to be reckoned with, a force that our neat and tidy days of January can scarcely hope to keep shackled to the shape we’ve drawn for it here in this stillness.

Right now, we make lists, order seeds, plan and schedule, and it soothes our human instinct to have order, to be in control, just as much as the times of feeling out of control beautifully humble us each year when we find ourselves at the mercy–in ways both wonderful and challenging–of the natural world.

mt hood, farmscape, sunrise, beauty, life, love, gratitude, natureRight now, waking in the dark, writing every day, having the time already for a break at sunrise to watch the red sky awaken the world around me–believe me, there is a part of me that wants to stay right here.  This feels perfect.

But this isn’t how life works, and why should it?

Life is a force to be reckoned with.  All we have is this moment.  The real resolutions, each year, the ones that matter to us most, the ones we hope to keep true at their core and really want to bring to light can’t be heavy with their own stomachfuls of stone.  Sometimes, what may masquerader as strength in January can end up being a mere veneer, hiding underneath it a brittle underbelly that just can’t weather the storm.

After thirty-seven years and so much paying attention, this is one of the good lessons I know I’ve learned, but the kind that I need to always remind myself of, especially now, in sweet January.

Don’t forget to tie up those hopes and dreams and innumerable plans with the highest quality rubber bands you can buy. 

The kind of strength this ship needs is the kind found in elasticity, not rigidity.

Wrap me around this life, a million times over in any sort of direction, and I swear I won’t break.  And when I’m unwound, I’m still the same still thing I was, not bent at all.  The shape remains.

I swear this to myself, right now, in this peaceful, perfect moment, this one sunrise.  And, I’ll try, at least, to say it with each other predictable morning sunrise I get to see.

rilke, sunrise, nature, beauty, gratitude, flexibility“If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.” We have no such assurance. The best predictions are still matters of probability rather than certainty, and to the best of our knowledge every one of us is going to suffer and die. If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.”

Alan Watts.

a holiday poem

christmas, christmas tree, holidays, peace, love, joy, poetryThe smell of light at the darkest time is the smell of fir.

Of ginger, and clove.

I never knew.

For so long, I didn’t know.

Smells of love can be so dear.

Warm winter wishes to you all!  May this time find you in Love!