Time On My Hands

I see by the date of my last post in July that many moons have passed since I posted. Indeed, the act of writing itself has become foreign to me while my hands were used to weed, water and plant seeds. The cultivated earth mistress that demanded most of my attention this year has finally been put to bed, all 5,000 square feet of her. I look at my hands beat up by countless days of cuts from the soil knife or spines off the squash vines, and can actually see clean fingernails as familiar calluses fade into the paleness of my skin.

For the first time in months, I have time on my hands and I find myself a bit lost. The house cries out for attention–closets full of items tossed in randomly for lack of space or safety from sharp kitten teeth, floors that need a good scrubbing to rid them of ground-in garden soil, receipts piled in a drawer with budgets long neglected, paintings and craft projects waiting to be finished before spring. (I could go on, but it’s too early in the day to start drinking.)

I look around in amazement and wonder what happened to that obsessive-compulsive overachieving minimalist who used to inhabit this body sitting here on another dreary mideast morning, the sun that I used to curse for heatstroke by midmorning in the summer, now nowhere to be seen. Wild birds huddle at the feeders outside my insulated windows and the nearly full-grown cat I rescued is squeezed into her favorite cardboard box that’s now three sizes too small for her.

Like a growing child who puts on last year’s winter clothes, I find that my old ways and concerns no longer fit me in this new life of organic gardening, rural living and community consciousness. I’ve learned so much beyond what not to plant next year, or how to manage when the power goes out. I’ve tested my physical limits and personal boundaries this year, and found out when to say no. I’ve become more of a realist and less of a dreamer, although my imagination is still sparked by the light glinting off of dewy spiderwebs and ice-encased red berries.

I’m back to long walks on the wild trails down by the river with my spouse, a patient man who has put up with my obsessions and depressions for over 30 years. Finally, we have the luxury of staying home on snow days without the guilt or grueling commute on dangerous roads. And because of the little community we live in, we can avoid the isolation that rural life often demands in the winter. Gathering together on cold, dark nights before solstice for food, music and laughter, or organizing a trip to the college town close by, are perfect anecdotes to the winter blues.

Meanwhile, there’s still some kale sleeping under its winter blanket, pale parsnips waiting to be harvested from frozen ground, and plenty of sweet potatoes to last us through the holidays. It’s been a good year and time to celebrate.

Maybe I’ll even paint my fingernails.

Advertisements

Where Has All the Rain Gone?


Naturally, or unnaturally it seems, we’re experiencing a drought where I live just when I’ve started to garden again. Community members scour the skies, and hunker down in front of the computer weather sites while keeping their phones tuned to weather apps. Time and again I have watched a promising storm split within a mile or two and circle around us. We water incessantly, nearly every plant has already peaked before June, new temperature records are set daily.

This is life in the new climate, I fear. The art of growing food becomes more than a practice in sustenance, it becomes a leap of faith. I can only plant the seeds, and hope our well doesn’t run dry. Water becomes more precious than gold. The guidelines set by local county extension offices are now meaningless. A seismic shift in seasons sends us all reeling — even the wild ones who are frantically trying to raise their young feel fast-forwarded by weather extremes.

And yet, I wake early every morning anticipating what I will find growing in the garden and what has pushed itself up from darkness, not caring whether it was watered from a hose or the sky, the will to live overriding all.

Going Up the Country


With the earthy tones of Canned Heat’s signature song humming in our ears, my husband and I are headed back to rural living after nearly 15 years in the suburbs and city.

As quickly as our last move transpired three years ago, this particular transition is paced as leisurely as the river that meanders through lands that we’ll soon call home. In fact, each hour-long trip with a car load of possessions is a kind of moving therapy, a decompression if you will from the stresses carried along city sidewalks that we can exhale into the long shadows cast on an evening walk next to fields stripped of their summer splendor.

The ground’s stalky quilts are bedded down, ready for winter winds, snow and solitude, and so are we, anticipating the longest night of deep rest and introspection away from the world’s flashing beacons and whirling distractions, all its fussin’ and fightin’.

Now more than ever, we’ve got to get away.

Thinning of the Veil


Last year, I was preoccupied with all the fearmongering and polarization going on in my neck of the woods, and my nation. This year, after some of those fears have been realized (or threatened), I feel the presence of the ancestors, and take solace in their company.

As mankind’s old wounds are reopened and exhumed, they are waiting with us while the sins of past human horrors fly screeching from tombs of our denial to join with present atrocities. Just when you think all are accounted for, yet another evil pops out of the Pandora’s box to be addressed in brazen light of day.

Last year, I talked about being afraid of the dark, but this year I welcome it. Limiting my vision within velvety shadow shields me from the glaring justifications and blinding boasts by a narcissistic chorus of cons and culprits, criminal in their actions while they preen themselves with angelic posturing and shameless self-promotion.

Meanwhile, since last Halloween and the apocalyptic national election that followed my ancestors have been nudging me back to life, whispering those long-forgotten lullabies, breathing deserted dreams and destiny back into my heart, resuscitating the inner child pulled from a deep pool of adult despair.

Instead of the anticipated fear, I’ve been surprised by a spooky joy, one that jumps out from the country hayloft or city parking lot. Hope and possibility reveal themselves in the swallow’s swoop and stranger’s smile, the clasp of a trusting child’s hand and the brush of a cat’s whiskers.

I’ve witnessed in wonder the gathering of all ages to make art, and had my breath taken away by the incredible beauty that is birthed every living moment by reawakened creators surprised with what takes flight from their hands.

There is no doubt that this has been a hard year of endings, of death, of an inconsolable loss for what we used to believe and know with absolute certainty. And we have a right to lament what has been lost while grieving the absence of many who have recently left this path for other worlds.

But still, in starlit moments on inky-black nights, I’ve seen that they haven’t deserted us. They are still there, at the end and along the way.

From Where the Sidewalk Ends


Somehow, February got away from me. And then March. The days just slipped away through a hole in the floor, the grate, the ground, the sidewalk and ultimately, my soul. So, I search for them along the loop I walk most mornings that harbors mature oaks, maples and evergreens that have been around since this former army fort was established in the early 1900s. And some trees have been here long before that.

The other day, I noticed that a tree company had shown up and marked many long-standing sentries with ominous red x’s spray-painted on their trunks, or orange tape throttling their worn bark. There were too many to ignore, and some choices were downright puzzling. Sure, there were those that were mostly dead, or lopsided. But quite a few looked perfectly fine.

One morning before I left on a long trip, my walking partner and I marched around the loop saying a quiet goodbye and blessing to each of the doomed ones. The rumblings of the chainsaw and shrieks from a chipper could already be heard at the other end of the long parade, seemingly lined up like good soldiers waiting to be struck down by an enemy who claimed friendly fire, as if fire was ever friendly for a tree.

By the time I returned in mid-March, the sadly singled out were all gone, and in their places stood mounds of chips, where their very roots had been sought and ground out of existence. The innocent smell of freshly cut wood wafted in the breeze.

I still feel their ghosts as I walk, searching the sidewalks for a glimpse of the bottomless holes with their shimmering deceptions of days that are no longer there.

Reflections

img_0886
I could say that 2016 was a strange year, but then most of them have been strange lately in this modern mixed-up world we live in. I could declare that it’s been challenging, but so is life in general. I could lament that it’s flown by too quickly, but this is the price of growing older. I want to say that 2016 has been happy, and I did find many bright spots among the dark days.

But what I will say is that 2016 gave me permission to let go, to start over, and to find my joy through intentional living, my reason to exist. May 2017 be a continuation of this journey. And to all of you, dear readers, may the new year bring you fulfillment in whatever way you wish to take.

Happy New Year!

As Above

img_0483
While I really enjoy the month-long photo prompts that are prolifically offered on Instagram throughout the year, sometimes you just have to go maverick and wander off on your own. All the storms and fast-moving weather fronts during the past two months in my neck of the woods have led to plenty of drama in the skies, so I’ve found my camera tilting upward daily (when I’m not cowering in a first-floor hallway while the tornado sirens wail nearby).

After the first two days of sky photos in September, I said what the heck, why not a month of skies, unfiltered, shown just as they are, or as much as my limited but convenient iPhone camera can capture. I wasn’t sure whether thirty days of sky shots was sustainable, but I found ways to incorporate them as reflections on water (or car hood), and as metaphors for a mood to match the front-page antics of the country I live in.

Indeed, with all the drama manifested this month in both sky and earth, I can’t help but think that the ancient adage “As above, so below” is still a very relevant one.