Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Retreat Farm

We went to The Retreat Farm today for the first time. What a lovely place! There was a laid back welcoming atmosphere and plenty of animals to pet. Even the enormous oxen were friendly
Georgia was beside herself with excitement about the chickens. She chased them with supreme focus until she caught them.

I loved the donkeys. Lately I have been wanting some donkeys of my own. There is a pair on my vision board. I'm not sure what I'd do with them, but they seem so sweet and hardy. I read recently that if you have sheep; donkeys keep the wolves at bay. Maybe I need some sheep so then I need donkeys........

The empty corn silo looked like a space ship. Inside was a big pile of corn for the children to play with. Lily made a corn angel and she and her friend Brian pretended to swim in it.

Here's Julie and Sam with the
gorgeous ox who was very sweet.

The piglets slept through getting their back's scratched.

It was a lovely place and Georgia has asked to go back to the "treat fawm" throughout the day and she wanted us to promise we would go back first thing when she wakes up (but alas we could not.)

Lily should have had a bath to get the corn out of her hair, but I forgot until just now. Oh well.....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wellspring House

Writing writing.

Going through all my files.

Finding what I want to work on sending out, writing and revising.

Discovering stuff I really like that I had dismissed or forgotten

Finding tons of stuff that is repetitive and incoherent from my newly postpartum days

“I need more money. I love my babies. Why do I have to go to work?” over and over.....I know, not really that different from now.

I am missing the girls and Rob, but so thankful to have this time to toss out the crap and focus on the next phase of my writing life.

Time is flying, but it is so nice not to have to obsessively look at the clock.

Hooray to my mother for watching the girls and being so supportive.

Cheers to Rob and the girls for grudgingly letting me go..

It is a lovely serene home. There is so much freedom to do as you like: eat anytime, sleep anytime, shower anytime; whatever it takes to get your creative work done. What an amazing place.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

12 hours in bed!!

It’s already afternoon! I slept until 12:30pm! I woke up on and off but kept drifting back into sleep. Heavenly!

I used to do that alot. Sleeping in is a deep and satisfying pleasure that my current family situation does not allow. It felt healing and wonderful.

I got up (after 12 hours in bed! Incredible!) peed a very large amount, took a shower, made my lunch (a hamburger and broccoli in the kitchen, thank goodness they have a fan on their stove so everyone didn’t have to smell me cooking my grass-fed beef. I would hate to gross out some vegetarian. When I was packing up at home, I just grabbed what we had in the fridge. Rob and I are still doing the primal blueprint diet and I didn’t want to fall off the wagon and eat a pizza or calzone from the pizza place down the block here.)

Yesterday Preston, the elderly man who owns and runs this place, welcomed me; gave me a towel and a tour and told me where my room was. He lives in an apartment off the house. He told me his wife is not well and is in a nursing home. There seem to be at least two other people staying in the rooms around me. I see cars with NY plates and I hear people’s alarms going off and flushing of toilets. I haven’t run into anybody, yet, which is fine with me. I spend so much of my time being social that I am happy to just pretend to be here alone. That’s part of why I used to love the 10 day silent meditation retreats. There were other meditators around and kindly people caring for you but you didn’t have to spend energy getting to know everyone. While I’m sure they’re wonderful people, sometimes I just want a break.

I called the family and said goodnight. Georgia had peed on the dining room floor and pooped in the tub. Oh my.

I took a walk in the quiet little town. I know my way around because Rob and I used to dog-sit for a friend of a friend here 15 years ago. I brought my camera and a ten dollar bill to buy chocolate or seltzer but everywhere was closed. I made it all the way back and realized I had dropped my ten-spot so I had to re-trace my steps and go back to the farthest point of my walk. I found the bill lying on the ground in the dark and was very pleased. Then I snacked in the large quiet kitchen and went to bed.

I lolled around in bed reading what I felt like reading, time just passed and I didn’t mind. In usual life I am always rushing, looking at the clock, reading for just 20 minutes in bed before I need to turn in so I’m not tired the next day. It felt so indulgent to just read for a bit and then read something else. I always pack tons of books and never have time to read them, well last night I read:

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block – (so funny and helpful. I laughed out loud a few times)

Goddesses and Angels by Doreen Virtue (I finally finished it)

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (Such different and interesting language to what I had just been reading)

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave by Marianna Mayer illustrated by KY Craft (one of my favorite children’s book. The illustrations are so marvelous; I love to stare at each page and find the tiny details. I first heard the story told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes on a tape from the library and it has really stayed with me.)

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Rob gave this to me for Christmas last year even though his idiot friend at work said, “Oh be careful! Every girl I know who read that went crazy and became a lesbian” Rob works with some real winners. The book is so powerful it almost burns in your hands. Her language is so intelligent and soulful at the same time. I can only take in so much at a time it is so profound and transforming. You can almost hear its muffled singing as it sits in the pile by the bed. Magical.)

and The Body in Action by Sarah Key (My back was starting to hurt.) The nurse from the girl's pedi office recommended this book when I told her about my back. She is older than me and very fit and lively. She said this book helped her heal her back. It gives stretches and exercises for strengthen the back or whatever joint you’ve injured.

Then I went to sleep, thinking of my sleeping family.

Heading out

It took forever to get out of the house (probably because part of me didn’t want to leave.) My mother and the girls were having fun in the other room and I was organizing and paying bills, packing up, cleaning up and eating lunch.

I finally got on the road at around 2pm.

It was so odd to drop my bills at the post office and then be a free woman, with no responsibilities.

Last minute, I had called Wellspring House for directions. Preston had generously given them to me, then asked curiously, “You’re not coming today are you?”

(And I had been worrying they were wondering where I was!)

“Yes.” I said, thinking “Ugggg I’ve already packed the car!”

He responded, “Oh all right, when are you leaving?

“Twenty minutes.” I answered.

“OK, we’ll see you in and hour and a half then.”

Off I went.

The drive was pleasing.

I listened to Carolyn Myss on a library CD talking about spiritual self esteem. She wondered, "Can you afford to hear the highest voltage guidance and DO something about it? Can you afford to have an intimate relationship with God without jamming your circuits?" I was struck by her humor and her bossiness, laughing as I drove. "Well, I don't know, really." I answered as I drove along.

And then there was a bear in the road.

A big black bear ambling across the road!

It was like a huge dog, a beast! But it’s gait had a jolly and goofy spirit to it.

It happened so fast there was no time to take a photo or do anything but just watch.

The people in the car going the other way looked as delighted as I felt.

I waved to them in shared appreciation and they waved back.

What a sign!

What a sight!

I called home and told the girls who seemed a bit apprehensive but my mother was thrilled (once she knew I was in a car.)

“That’s a good omen for your trip.” she said.

Yes, I think it is.

(look to the post from 8/25 for a different bear story!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A bucket of flowers

Here are some shots of this week's flowers from our share at Picadilly Farm. They are gorgeous! The zinnias are unbelievable. The fields are filled with rows and rows of bright flowers.

I put them around the house and seeing them makes me feel civilized and bountiful.

Today, I'm heading to Wellspring House for a writer's retreat I'll be there 3 days and 2 nights! I'm going to bring the laptop and write, sleep, eat and take walks.

Early in the summer Rob said, "I'm going to be doing cyclocross bicycle races every weekend in the fall; if you want some time to yourself, summer would be a good time."

I put it off. I didn't really want to leave him and the kids, but last month I mentioned it to a group of moms and they were appalled I hadn't planned something for myself. One of them said, "If my husband ever said I could take a break, the next thing you'd hear is the door closing behind me as I bolted! Do something! Are you crazy!?" They were right. I looked around. Before kids, I did Insight and Vipassana meditation retreats a couple times a year and loved them, but they were all booked and pretty expensive. I looked up Kripalu in Lenox but, again, way too pricey for my budget. I really just wanted to sleep and write alone, so someone suggested I go to a cheap hotel, but that seemed lonely. I didn't want to wake up at 4am and look out at my view of the parking lot.
Finally, I remembered, in the way- back of my memory; there was a place, nearby, in Ashfield Mass. I had heard it mentioned several times over the years. I googled and found Wellspring House. It was perfect! A quiet peaceful homey place to write and sleep. I can make my own meals, take walks and write. It is run by a married couple, who write. They created a place for fellow writers to go and do their work. It is in their lovely home and costs 45$ a night!
I leave in a few hours!

My mother is coming to watch the girls for two days and they are thrilled to have her come and sleep here. Rob is taking a vacation day at work to cover Friday. I can't believe it's really happening.

It sort of snuck up on us all. We've been busy getting Georgia back to school and gearing up for fall and my part time teaching job. Anyway, I've got to pack up, clean the stinky rat cage and put out the trash before I head out. Lily woke me with a note laid on my chest this morning.

"To Mama
I will miss you so
Don't go!
stay Georgia and I
will miss you so bad!"

It is difficult to leave them and the cozy nest of home but I feel a stirring of excitement at the idea of being alone and getting to write for more than just a stolen few minutes.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bear visits when dreams are spoken

Talking to my friend today about my plan to become a millionaire. (Finances are a strain lately and I want our current situation to be our bottom!) She asked how selling my book on becoming a nurse was doing. "I'm sending it out, but nothing really, yet." But then I told her about children's books I'd written years ago and how I sent out a query for one of them titled I am a Crow yesterday with Barry Moser's name mentioned because he said he might be interested in doing the illustrations.

I told her, I paused before I said it, "My true crazy secret dream is I want to be a children's book author and illustrator. There I said it, that's what I want to do."

My friend won't laugh, which is why I tell her these things I can barely tell me, (but that Rob has known for years.) We talked for a minute about if I painted or drew (uggh barely!) She was being curious and supportive and then she said something like, "oh sorry, I saw something. Did you see that?" and I said no I didn't think so.

Then she told me she saw a bear out of the corner of her eye, rambling towards us, not threatening or scary, just a bear.

She said she has these visions or sees things but she doesn't tell people. She's been seeing the bear alot. She laughed it off, but I protested, "I think it's very exciting that you saw a power animal, an animal I just placed centrally on my altar, a gift from my sister. It appeared as I was telling you my deep almost scary and shameful dream. I think that's powerful and awesome!

We talked about it for a while and I tried to convince her I thought it was a very cool gift and not a worry. (I yearn for visions and all I get are boring numbers!)

Here is a photo of my bear on my altar I did last night and here is what the little paper that came with it says:

Bear Fetish

Guardian of the West

Strength introspections,

the power of the soul,

healing solitude,


strength in the face of adversity.

I ask for protection and wisdom from bear.

I ask for the strength to create abundance and the life I am meant to live.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Feeling sad this evening

I found this photo of Azalea and the girls having a tea party in 2006. They all look so young.

It broke my heart.

I miss Azalea on and off throughout the days, but the nighttime is when I really notice it. It has been a month now and that terrible physical realization that she is not coming back and (what a horror of death!) her physical presence is fading from my consciousness. When she was here I never thought that could happen. How could it ever be difficult to conjure her smell, her even breathing, the wet firmness of her black gumdrop nose, but she has grown distant, already a memory.
I fought the permanence of her death for a while, so it is creepy when the dreadful reality seeps in.
She really is gone.
Even if she is a dog angel, here with me now, wings folded sweetly against her invisible brown body.
Even if she is the one who will be waiting for me on the other side whenever I make that journey myself.

She is still gone from this life, the one we are in now.

Her ashes came the other day.
The vet dropped them off in a pretty maroon bag when no one was home. I thought the babysitter had left me a gift and I opened it eagerly when I got home from work at 1am.

"What is this? What could be so heavy?"
Then I saw the word cemetery on the bag and I got it. I got, suddenly, that I was holding the remains of my dear furry dog in a hard wooden box.

I put them up on my altar and have ignored them for a while.
Not sure how to explain it to the girls, it is a difficult story to sit with, to imagine and then explain....something you love dearly was put into a fire, burned up into ash, cooled and then eventually knocked and swept into a tiny wooden box and locked tight.
None of it makes any sense. Really. Does it?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Waning summer

Here is our summer list we made just after school got out.
We've done everything except go to the Eric Carl museum and "minicher" golf. Maybe we'll do those next week. Georgia starts her school (she'll go 1 full day and 2 half days at the nearby pre-school) in three days on Monday. She's excited to see her friends but we're all appalled that this must mean summer is over! Lily goes back a week and a half later.
I'm so glad we've had some really hot sticky days so that my body actually knows that summer has come before it's gone. Last night the crickets were chirping and the stars were bright when I went out to pick a peach for an nighttime snack. I felt my way up the branch in the dark, testing peaches until I found a ripe one. I cut it up and put it in plain Greek yogurt with pine nuts and a touch of maple syrup. Yum!

Anyway. Rob had the day off Wednesday and we went to Perry pond which is a nearby frog-catching pond that's a little too slimy to swim in. Georgia loves it there. she really is besot by slimy living things. She's the one who put it on our summer list. This was our second time there this summer and things were muckier.

Here is Georgia's hairdo done exclusively by Lily! I think it's time for her to take over the girl's grooming!

Rob and the girls caught 2 fish (pumpkin seeds) 6 newts and I caught a little frog (leopard, I think)

Georgia paced around with glee.
Rob was a focused hunter. Pouncing with the net.
We both tried for the sneaky bullfrogs with their gold rimmed eyes, but they jumped and croaked loudly just before the net landed.

Here's a fish jumping right into the bucket!
And below a wriggly frog with collected lily pads and pine cones.

Some lovely pond lilies blooming. I wanted to get closer, but decided not to plunge in. The pond is rumored to be teeming with snapping turtles.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Harvesting Hops

Here's Lily picking hops from the back porch this morning. They are so vigorous and sturdy; growing up the trellis that blocks our annoying neighbors. We're going to dry them and make sleep pillows for Christmas presents.

Canning peaches this morning

from our sweet 4 year old peach tree that is bending under the weight of all the ripe ready peaches.

It was fun to pick off the ripe ones and see the branch lift a bit as some weight was released.

I realized it IS hard to can food because you have to balance the fickle nature of fruit being ready and abundant with creating a time to focus as well as the time and ability to pre-organize and collect everything you will need in a very particular manner.

I did my best this time, with much less swearing and a bit more awareness of what step would be next. I was feeling proud and accomplished, calling Lily to come witness my Laura Ingalls Wilder triumph as I set the 6 quart jars of peaches with syrup into the huge canning pot filled with boiling water. I hadn't predicted that the jars would displace so much water or that the wave of it would splash menacingly, making Lily question my canning competence (rightly) and jump up the stairs. The tidal wave also put out the gas stove so I had to turn everything off, try and re-start the burner and then, after filling the kitchen with gas, I had to move the million pound searingly hot pan to another burner and get that one to light. Somehow the water had cooled enough during this fiasco for it to take 10 minutes for the water in the pot to boil again, meaning my peaches sat wilting in their hot syrup even longer while waiting for their 30 minute official and preserving boil bath.
When I finally pulled the jars from the pot the house was 115 degrees from hours of boiling. The peaches were a bit shriveled and floaty, but damnit; I did it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yelling Mom

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Lily and I had a blowout today. I don't think we've ever had such a blowout before....
She and Georgia were screaming at the top of their lungs about something foolish as I was trying to talk to Rob on the phone. I kept trying to escape them and finish my conversation about dinner, but they followed me out to the porch and then back into the kitchen. It ended with them both just screaming one note at the top of their lungs. Then Rob hung up! I was so frustrated at the inability to have a simple conversation without being hounded, that I yelled, which I usually don't do. I threw the paper Lily had handed me in the midst of the chaos, onto the ground as I yelled, "Enough! Enough! Stop it! Stop yelling!'

Nice modeling Mom. But I lost it.

I didn't know the paper I threw down was a precious drawing she had done of owls sitting on a branch in the moonlight.
She was so upset she yelled, "I hate you! You are the worst Mama ever!" and ran out.
I almost chased her out on the porch and grabbed her by the arm; I had a vision of pointing my finger close in her face and yelling, "Don't you every say that to me again!"
But, I took a moment. Maybe because I was glad to finally have quiet. I thought, "She doesn't even know what that means. She just said it to hurt me; to have impact."
I tried to get a little space and get away from them, but when I went dump the compost, Lily mumbled from the stairs, "I feel like you hate me." Uggh. It made all the fury and the unjustness of the situation fizzle out of me. I went and sat with her on the stairs and we had a talk, a "I will never hate you. No matter what." talk.
I then processed what had happened: hungry rushed family, no one feeling listened to, me demanding space and not getting it, Lily feeling fury and not knowing what to do with it. But I don't think it helped Lily.
I suggested, "How about next time you are so angry you yell, "I am so angry!!!"? She looked up from her sniffly dejected stance and said, "No, I don't think that would help. I feel more comfortable saying I hate you." Hmmm. I figured we hadn't gotten too far and we'd better stop talking.
I don't want to have a relationship where my kid says "I hate you!" but I also know I'm pretty uncomfortable with anger in general. I've been feeling other mothers out about this one since yesterday and most are reporting their kids say it to them sometimes......
Except for Nancy at work tonight who said, "No oh no, she can never say that again. She'll say it so much it will come true. That's what happened to my sister and her daughter!" Hmmmm
That is what I feared someone would say.
But I don't think that's true.
I think it will be fine.
But it did make me want to read a book like Your seven year old from that series I never bothered to read before.

And it did remind me again that sometimes a mother needs time, space and quiet and she just doesn't get it. But she has to be a kind mom anyway. Hard.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pickles and Toadstools

Finally we made pickles.

Canning food is very important to me; it symbolizes many intangible things made tangible in a glowing jar: providing, caretaking, making beautiful things out of fruits and veggies, being independent, honoring the Little House on the Prairie series of books I grew up on, being an organized, practical sturdy mother and weirdly, somehow, surviving even if the world goes to hell.
(I can just see me clutching a jar of homemade jam as I run to the basement and seal the family in, using duct tape and plastic as the nearby nuclear plant's informative calander tells me to do. Ugggg. More on that in another post, I guess)

I bought all the supplies and had my first go at it last year. All I did was make a batch of dilly beans (pickled green beans) although I had bought tons of jars in many sizes.

During last year's canning episode, the family was kicked out of the kitchen and I could be heard swearing from the steamy room. I had some questions, "Why do the jars tip over and fall on top of one another? Why does boiling hot water sneak down this canning-specific tool I have bought and scald me when I try to move the jars that have fallen? Why are the beans floating and making it difficult to assess my 1/4 inch headspace? Will I kill the people who eat these at Christmas time? Will it be a slow death in the ER or will they just be found sitting around my jar at their kitchen table, cold and stiff?" After I finished the process I emerged, hot and burned onto the porch. Rob asked one of those questions you sometimes ask your spouse when they are totally crazy but you can't directly mention it. He looked at me seriously and wondered "Was that fun for you?" I swore at him.

He was not looking forward to canning season this year.

Tragically, my dilly beans failed last year. Salt somehow appeared on the outside of the jars after they had cooled. My canning friend called her expert canning mother in Alaska . She gently told me the verdict; I had to refrigerate them and eat them all in the next week. I was frustrated; it took time, precision (well, a goal of precision), sweat, and lots of beans to make dilly beans and I ended up throwing most of them out.

Thankfully, yesterday I talked to Jenny, the farmer at our CSA (as I was greedily packing pickling cukes into a plastic bag to make pickles, wondering when I could steal 3 hours of kitchen swearing time during the busy coming week) She said, "Oh you don't want to do all that work and have mushy pickles. Make sun pickles. We've got the recipe on this week's website." She was right. I did not want mushy pickles. (That horror had never occurred to me.) I made sun pickles with the children. We did not burn each other. They look gorgeous on the windowsill where they are to sit for 2 days in the sun. Rob said, upon entering the kitchen after work, "Those are beautiful. Did you get a picture?" Why, thank you, yes I did.
I'll let you know how they taste!

SUN PICKLES1 gallon jar
sliced cukes to fill it
Two thirds water to one third vinegar (6 1/2 C water, 3 1/4 C vinegar)
1/2 C - 2/3 C pickling salt
garlic - one clove, or more
dill heads or fresh dill
other spices you like

Fill the jar with cukes, top with other ingredients, Then leave it in the sun for 2 days, 3 if cloudy. Refrigerate and eat for up to 2 weeks.

Feeling fresh after our quick and painless pickle experience we all headed out to do "trail maintenance" on a trail Rob had discovered. (He is training for an intense cylocross seaon come fall and he needs a place to ride in the woods and I'd like somewhere to jog off-pavement.)

We were all astonished by the mushrooms. They were amazing; all over the place. I took photos of only a tiny fraction of what we saw growing.

Lily spray painted the roots that stuck out in odd places. Rob had a hatchet and clippers to cut branches that had overgrown the trail. Georgia and I spotted and admired mushrooms.

It was lovely and quiet; I felt a tiny bit of trepidation. Although I have deep cravings to spend time in the woods, I usually don't. It is the same hushed woods where I saw the Luna Moth and the Scarlet Tanager earlier in the summer (that I wrote about in here). It has a feeling of deep thrumming energy. I kept looking up to see if there was something there, moving behind the tress, just past where we stood. Georgia was also was reticent to enter and demanded I hold her hand the entire time, but again, we don't spend much time in the woods when evening is coming....

The mushrooms were bright and welcoming and made me think of the mushroom researcher who believes all the interconnected fungi beneath the ground has its own sort of consciousness.

His name is Paul Stamets and his book is: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. The article I read in The Sun about him was really crazy and cool.

There was a quote from it I liked:

"Biological systems are so complex that they far exceed our cognitive abilities and our linear logic. We are essentially children when it comes to our understanding of the natural world."

Anyway, we had a good time outside and enjoyed the mushroom's company. The mosquitos finally swarmed and we all ran for the car and the creamie.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mass MOCA outing

My parents, the girls and I went to Mass MOCA in North Adams today for a belated Mother's Day gift to my mother.
We saw the Sol LeWitt's wall drawing retrospective.

The girls were mighty unruly in the exhibit. A child's instinct is to sprint around the open bright rooms, running their hand along the colorful walls, which, of course, is not allowed. So there wasn't that much contemplative gazing. I didn't read any of the information provided, we just moved quickly through the rooms and between the decorated walls.
It was beautiful, odd and interesting
It will be there for 20 years so we'll go again someday when writhing has decreased as a frequent behavior.

Here they are at the end of the day, finally eating the ice cream I held over their heads the whole time. They are not in the best of moods. The ride home with all of us squished into my CRV was taxing.
But once we got home and I saw the photos, I was happy wed had an adventure.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Tiny Plum

from our tiny plum tree. Georgia really likes plums right now so she sneaks down there and picks them while they're still sour.