Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sunshine and Strawberries

No more snow, huh uh. Today we have sunshine and upper 60's. Just now I caught a whiff of cool air that, to me, smelled of summer. Like a holler across the valley that she's on her way. On her way.

Some news reports are saying food may become scarce and its prices skyrocket.

I don't know if it's scare tactics, misinformation, or true.

I do know that planting our vegetable garden this weekend feels like a precious opportunity to take matters into our own hands. Cassie weeded the strawberries today, I put fresh compost around them, and Caroline helped, as you can see in the photo. Tomorrow we'll plant the new veggies next to the tomato plants Tom set into our little plot of ground.

It seems like a little thing, planting a tiny garden. Knowing we are taking steps to be independent seems pretty big, though. Encouragement. Relief. Even happiness. Connecting with the soil, the seasons, nature at her best.

The anticipation of fresh produce on the way only heightens the joy of gardening.

And knowing that we are doing something to care for ourselves, that gives a real and certain satisfaction.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Snow Storm of April 20, 2008

Feeling more comfortable presently about putting these babies in the outdoor soil of our tiny garden.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day - April 22

"Celebrate morning
The cry of a loon on a lake in the night
The dreams that are born in the dawn's early light
Celebrate morning
Celebrate living
The laughter that sings in the heart of a child
The freedom that flies at the call of the wild
Celebrate living
Celebrate evening
The stars that appear in the loss of the sun
Whispering winds, 'We are one, we are one'
Celebrate evening
Celebrate Earth day, every day
Celebrate land and sea
Celebrate you and me
Celebrate Earth day, every day"

~~Words and music by John Denver
"Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength
To that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon.

There are plenty of people who pray for peace
If praying were enough it would have come to be
Don't ever let your words enslave no one
And the heavens will hush themselves to hear
Our voices ring out clear with sounds of freedom

Come on you unbelievers
Move out of the way
There's a new army coming
And we're armed with faith
To live we must give
To live."
~~ Jewel, Life Uncommon

More Earth Day photos here.

'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed'

Tom and I just saw the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

I recommend everyone see it.

It asks good questions.

It's informative.

And challenging.

No matter what your worldview.

Any honest intelligent individual can learn something from the movie.

This blog is about celebrating.

I'm celebrating freedom of speech.

Well Done, Ben Stein!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Of Sundials and Other Beastly Instruments of Time

On July 7, 1981 my firstborn son, Ben, was born.

I called my boss and told her I wouldn't be in for work that day, or any other day. She laughed and congratulated me. She knew it was coming, my 'retirement' at twenty-four.

I took my watch off and placed in it my jewelry box with a satisfied smile playing around my mouth.

I belonged to me again - and to this baby, and to my husband. The clock would have to proceed without me. "You're not the boss of me!" I thought. And so it's been ever since - for the most part.

I've learned a little bit since then. Having a paying job doesn't demand that one becomes a slave to time. Anyone in any circumstance can fall prey. And each person has the power to lift himself out of the quicksand of time pressure. It's a choice, an outlook, and an in-look.

In 200 B.C. the Roman playwright Plautus penned this lament:

"The Gods confound the man who first found out
How to distinguish the hours - confound him, too
Who in this place set up a sundial
To cut and hack my days so wretchedly
Into small pieces!

I can't (even sit down to eat) unless the sun gives leave.
The town's so full of these confounded dials..."

In 1304, Daffyd ap Gwvilyn, a Welsh bard, wrote: "Confusion to the black-faced clock by the side of the bank that awoke me! May its head, its tongue, its pair of ropes, and its wheels moulder; likewise its weights and dullard balls, its orifices, its hammer, its ducks quacking as if anticipating day and its ever restless works."

I'm not done. Please bear with me...

1884, Charles Dudley Warner, an American editor and essayist vented this: "The chopping up of time into rigid periods is an invasion of individual freedom and makes no allowances for differences in temperament and feeling."

1908, Octave Mirbeau, a French writer observed: "Our thoughts, feelings, and loves are a whirlwind. Everywhere life is rushing insanely like a cavalry charge...Everything around a man jumps, dances, gallops in a movement out of phase with his own."

And where are we now? How do we interpret this chopping up of time, this ruling of the clock, this movement out of sync with our living? Have we learned to be master of it?

On one hand you've got Thich Nhat Hanh, the well-known Buddhist leader imploring present day Americans to slow down, to "take the time to live more deeply."

On the other hand, from his book In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore notes, "When people moan, 'Oh, I'm so busy, I'm run off my feet, my life is a blur, I haven't got time for anything,' what they often mean is, 'Look at me: I am hugely important, exciting and energetic.'"

From 200 B.C. until now what have we learned? We've become slaves to the created timepiece. We relish the squeezing and frantic filling of it. Our solution? In resignation we label this phenomenon The Tyranny of the Urgent, roll our eyes, and sigh knowingly.

Or unknowingly.

Which is it?

While our society is run by years, days, hours, and minutes, and while we have to work within the parameters of such a set-up in order to keep appointments and whatnot, we are not bound by time as much as we think we are. Though I don't wear a watch I am always on time for appointments, I'm dependable. I budget my time just like anyone else - just not down to the minute. But by chunks. By daylight and darkness. By morning, noon, evening, and night.

Like money, the clock is a wonderful servant, but a horrid master.

Let this true story be a lesson to us all in why slowing down and living deeply are not only more satisfying, but healthier than bowing to the tyranny of the urgent. From In Praise of Slowness:

In Japan "...the locals have a word - karoshi - that means 'death by overwork.' One of the most famous victims of karoshi was Kamei Shuji, a high-flying broker who routinely put in ninety-hour weeks during the Japanese stock market boom of the late 1980's. His company trumpeted his superhuman stamina in newsletters and training booklets, turning him into the gold standard to which all employees should aspire. In a rare break from Japanese protocol, Shuji was asked to coach senior colleagues in the art of salesmanship, which piled extra stress onto his pinstriped shoulders. When Japan's stock bubble burst in 1989, Shuji worked even longer hours to pick up the slack. In 1990, he died suddenly of a heart attack. He was twenty-six."

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. ~~ The Who

Friday, April 11, 2008

Seasons of the Heart

Seasons. From winter's pause comes flowing sap, come buds and soon leaves, flowers that precede fruit. Growing time. Warm, friendly, long days, sultry nights. For this I am ready, willing, and hopefully able.

A woman I know is showing the disintegration of age. Diabetes has played out in her kidneys and now her eyes. Her mind is softening. Her hands shake, her breathing is more labored than last I noticed. Her growing seasons are behind - or are they?

Who of us really knows what goes on in the minds of the elderly, as they acknowledge death's certain approach. Young people, healthy people don't really think they will die. Oh, they know it intellectually, but unless a mortal illness invades them or someone close to them, they don't live as though their number of days is finite. But the elderly watch the people they know - who know them - leave, never to return. What is that like? What goes on in the mind of one who's generation dwindles? Is is like the beauty of a faded rose, unfolded, vulnerable, its work exposed even while it shares its last perfume?

Studying children invites us to remember the joy of discovery, innocence, freedom from peer pressure.

Observing the elderly invites us to examine our personal progress in comparison to a long well-lived or poorly lived life. This week I heard a little girl say of her grandma, "Her whole life seems so sad. She hasn't done much and no one likes her because she's so mean. She's all old now. It's just sad."

It is sad. But maybe the good is that this little girl will remember her impressions and decide to live a different sort of life as far as she is able.

Yes, there is much to learn in looking backwards at youth and at the same time looking forward toward the beautiful, fragrant faded rose.

I'm finding this middle ground (should I be destined to live a long life) to be a wonderful stretch of calm sea to pause and reflect, reposition the rudder a little, smooth out the sailing, focus on the horizon's point that most appeals, sit back and enjoy the ride. Not bad, not bad at all.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Natural Relief

Three pressure-filled days.

Mental tensions press.

Their physical manifestations settle in my neck and shoulder.

A warning.

Slow down.



Take a pill?

No, a hot soak.

The ritual begins once the kids are asleep. Fill the tub.

Turn on the jets. Soothing bubbles!

Out go the lights, lit are the candles.

An hour later, relief.

A good night's sleep.

Fresh perspective this morning.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Birch Trees Three

"Trees are the best monuments that a man can erect to his own memory. They speak his praises without flattery, and they are blessings to children yet unborn." ~~Lord Orrery, 1749
"Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets.
To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel." ~~Aldo Leopold
"A tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself.  By sinking its roots deeply into the earth, by accepting the rain that flows towards it, by reaching out to the sun, the tree perfects its character and becomes great.  ...  Absorb, absorb, absorb. That is the secret of the tree." ~~Deng Ming-Dao ( Everyday Tao, 1996)
We planted three birch trees this weekend to replace three Thundercloud Plum trees we had to remove before building the addition. The plum trees were old and rotting and ready to enter the wood pile. Trees comfort me. Thank you, Tom, for all the work you've done to make these beautiful trees a part of our family's environment!

"They are beautiful in their peace, they are wise in their silence. They will stand after we are dust.  They teach us, and we tend them." ~~Galeain ip Altiem MacDunelmor
“He who plants a tree plants hope.” ~~Lucy Larcom
“Speak to the Earth, and it shall teach thee.” ~~Job 12.8

Friday, April 4, 2008

Robert Frost Speaks

"Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill."

~~Robert Frost, A Prayer in Spring

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Instinctive Ways of Geese

Geese are fascinating. Moving together in a ballet of form and grace.

Calm at the water's edge, somehow they know when to take-off together...

...and off they go! Feet kicking at the water, powerful wings flapping furiously.

Then...calm once again, in formation, flying into the sunset.

Upon observing these two geese last night at the river I thought, "Like the symmetry of a man and a woman living, working, loving in sync."


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Havasupai Indian Waterfall Relaxation

Three minutes and nine seconds of serene music and scenery.

If you can take the time...

Leaves me relaxed all over.


Compost for Earth Day

For twenty years we've had a compost pile in our backyard. Kitchen produce scraps and certain yard debris are tossed on the heap. Time and weather change those scraps into rich organic matter which breathe vitality into our gardens.Tom and Joe built this new compost bin last week to replace our tired original construction. Snow, hail, rain, and sunshine pelted the men's shoulders and heads but they creatively worked on, enjoying the task immensely.

Two compartments add efficiency to the process.

Removable slats spare a person's back when it comes time to turn the pile or remove some of its treasure.

We never have to buy soil or compost. Our garbage fees are low for we generate less garbage - recycling helps here as well. Our gardens are lush and prolific, completely organic, and beautiful. As we generate more compost than we need our friends and neighbors gladly shovel up the life-giving matter for their gardens. A win/win situation!

Tom brought the notion of composting into our lives early on. It's been one of his brightest ideas. A connection with the earth and its life cycles is understood and celebrated. Our place in the God-given responsibility as stewards is honored. We respectfully give to the earth and it returns our labors with blessings from the hands of the Creator.

Friendly Reminder: April 22nd is Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Of Painting, Music, and Writing

"I think of painting and music as subcutaneous arts. They get under your skin. They may get deeper than that eventually, but it takes a while, and they get there to some extent tinged by if not diluted by the conditions under which you saw them or heard them. Writing on the other hand strikes me as intravenous. As you sit there only a few inches from the printed page, the words you read go directly into the bloodstream and go into it at full strength. More than the painting you see or the music you hear, the words you read become in the very act of reading them part of who you are, especially if they are the words of exceptionally promising writers. If there is poison in the words, you are poisoned; if there is nourishment, you are nourished; if there is beauty, you are made a little more beautiful. In Hebrew, the word dabar means both word and also deed. A word doesn't merely say something, it does something. It brings something into being. It makes something happen." ~~Frederick Buechner