Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Few Little Things

1.  A mom who gives: consistent and strong and loving and forgiving.  Let me learn from her.

2.  A friend who is willing to argue.

3.  A phone call from Ila as her peonies and iris and rhubarb are living gifts in my own kitchen, gifts she planted so many years ago.  (Ila is 91!)

4.  Nora's chia pet.  I am completely attached to this thing.  And, yes, I think we can make one of these ourselves.  I wondered what I would do with all those awful pantyhose things I own.

5.  The smell of peonies.  I might tape one to my nose tomorrow.  Everyday is corsage day around here!

6.  Talking about writing with another writer.

7.  A band.  A real, live band.

8.  Proverbs sinking in strong.

9.  Aprons.  If you see me at the grocery store in one, you'll know I have finally broken free.

10.  Nora's vocabulary.  (technically, dehydration, elasticity)  I'm not looking for her to do vocabulary tricks or anything like that.  I just love that she's finding so many ways to explain her world.  This is a gift, those words like tools to explain what she sees and what she knows.

11.  These summer hours are getting later and later.  I am considering going to bed early and waking at 5 to exercise, read, write, pray, clear a path for the day.  It's been on my mind.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Diary of a Farmgirl

9 AM:  What kind of farmgirl sleeps in until 9 in the morning?  I know.  The kind that stays up until 1 AM watching a documentary about Monsanto and its plan to dominate the world seed industry.  Have you ever heard of suicide seeds?  They're single use seeds meant to grow a single crop--if you try to save and plant any of the seed produced from that crop the next year, they won't grow.  That someone would even think to modify a seed in this way is beyond comprehension to me.  Who benefits from such a thing?  We tend to think land, water, and oil when it comes to power or lack of power.  But if you control the seed, then you control it all.   This monster seed could also explain why I was up again at 2:30 AM thinking about how to save seeds and teaching Nora to do the same.  Farmgirls won't tolerate someone making those kinds of design modifications to something as beautifully constructed as God's gift of seed.

9:15 AM: Coffee is brewing, Lucky the goldfish, Henrietta the Hamster and all 5-12 farm cats are fed.  Nora has her ovaltine and the compost is dumped.  Did I mention the coffee is brewing?

1:00 PM: Time to look at the garden.   Here's me telling Nora it's time to grab her hoe and stop watching so much public television.  (Pretty weak argument.)  I wish I could dress like this all the time.  I love aprons.  And boots.  And straw hats.  And dirty gloves.  And jeans.  I feel like "me" in these things.

The top layer has formed a bit of crust--not good for the delicate (and amazingly persistent) shoots appearing, but the wind is blowing (No way!  In Nebraska?!), which means I'll have to hand water instead of using the groovy irrigation system Mike installed for me.  The tomatoes are looking great--strong purple stems gaining height and circumference.  No spinach yet.  Weird.  Nora didn't want to go outside with me, so I had to lure her out with a popsicle and the promise that after she filled the bird feeders, she could play with the hose while watering flowers.  To me, these "chores" sound like some of the best fun a kid can have.  Today, Nora is just not feeling it.  We sit on the porch with our popsicles and talk it through.  I agree to get back to playing Barbie homesteader with her once we're done.

4:00 PM:  We're done and have been playing Barbie for an hour.  Barbie just planted the garden, canned some jam, flew to Australia in a rocket to bring home an egg-laying platypus.  She then taught her pigs to fly while making "jeanut putter and belly" sandwiches.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Live Ukulele Duo (Soon to be Trio) Rocks Local BBQ Joint

Through a string of events that can only be explained by the existence of God, Hope Dunbar (local songwriter, mother, writer, soldier in the army of all things growing) and I played a show tonight.  Here are the highlights:

1.  I love singing harmonies with Hope.  There's nothing better than melting into "Your Cheatin' Heart" and knowing you mean business and that you'll survive because there is a friend beside you helping you work it all out through your voice.

2.  Family and friends and some new friends.  There was a man who makes ukuleles there.  What are the chances?

3.  I can't look at the crowd yet.  I've played in bands, but I've never in my life sat with a guitar and my voice and tried to do it on my own.  And when I closed my eyes, it was home there.  And I didn't forget the words because I knew every word in my heart and I could imagine I was just sitting on the porch and the breeze would come up, and yes, I was.

4.  I got a 15 dollar gift certificate for BBQ at Chez Bubba, which is located just 4 corn fields down from me in a town so small, the houses are separated by dirt roads and gardens only.  You might think I live in the middle of nowhere, but I have everything I need within 7 miles of my house.  Everything.  (Mom, this is if you are calling me from Utica to say you are almost here.)

5.  Nora singing the first song:  "And this is my first show, so hello, and testing testing, can you hear me?"  "Okay, the next line is coming up next."

I don't know, folks.  The other night I was sitting on my couch praying and crying hard and I told God a lot about how lost I felt and how angry I was that I was where I was, this beautiful place that still seemed like something far away, something not enough.  And tonight I feel like He showed me a lot in relation to what we talked about.  Believe me, I expect to feel lost again.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't believe we are ever "fixed."  We're always growing in His love and in His gentle and challenging way.  Sometimes I feel distinctly that God is making some of the choices for me.  And for this, I am thankful.  Tonight was like that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Few Good Things

1.  I was up till almost 3 AM last night, but the bathroom is done--textured, painted, new flooring installed, dreadful mold on ceiling gone, new tub, new hooks.  Thank you, God, for helping me get a few things done.  Thank you, Mom, for helping me tear off wallpaper over a year ago, and thank you, Mike, for installing the tub.  And thank you, Menard's.  (This is like the Academy Awards speech of home remodeling.  "And I'd just like to thank my manager who convinced me that redoing the bathroom was a good idea...")  At one point in my life, simply entering the doors of a building supply store would have thrown me into a state of narcolepsy.  I would have found a place to nap, possibly in one of the tub displays.  Now, I am that kid who likes candy and goes to a place that has lots of candy.  That guy.  That's me.  

At the end of one of my favorite movies of all time (Comes a Horseman), the final image is of a house being rebuilt after it's been burned down.  I don't know.  I think a lot about how God gave us bodies and time and space to move within.  I think making things, rebuilding specifically, is part of the necessary training we all must go through.  In this sense, Menard's isn't just a building supply store--it's a potentially holy space we make with our own hands for family and friends.  This is homemaking.  I like homemaking a lot.  (Understatement.)

2.  In addition to the farm cats, I caught a gigantic raccoon, a possum who limps, and what I think was a ferret eating the cat food tonight.  I took a picture but all you can see are the raccoon's eyes glowing back at me in the distance.  I didn't get too close because he looked like a real bruiser.  If any of you are missing your wallet, I think I know who has it.

3.  I fell asleep with Nora tonight at 9 and woke up at 10 thinking "this is like gaining an extra day!"  So, I just might make some popcorn and watch a movie.  I'm so used to watching movies on a laptop with headphones now, I can't see or hear anything happening on a real TV anymore.  If it's not animated, I get confused.

4.  Speaking of good movies:  Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Sweet Land, above mentioned Comes a Horseman.  All great.  Ooo.  Jeremiah Johnson.  That one's good too.  Any other recommendations?  It's summertime and I can watch movies now.  I primarily enjoy movies with at least one horse, a waitress who makes do, or someone who can make something out of nothing, especially if there's a drought or too much snow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Quick Update Because I've Got Some Momentum Here

1.  It's almost 11 PM and I've got the bathroom ceiling painted.  I could feasibly do the rest of the walls as long as there is enough paint and enough Dolly Parton playing in the background.  Ooo.  Wait.  Loretta.  That's who.  That will turn some walls blue.   So would Crystal or even Patsy.

2.  There is a web of support here that I see in invisible and visible lines drawn by God's love and held together by honest talk, music, children, land, gardens, and a few chickens, too.

3.  While Nora sometimes doesn't say what she's really thinking, if you sit quietly enough looking into her eyes, she will eventually find the words for what ails her.  Ain't this the way with most folks?

4.  Sometimes I think the difference between book smarts and street smarts resides within the space of a couple of pages and a sidewalk or two.

5.  I just know that something good is going to happen.  I don't know when, but just saying it could even make it happen.  --Kate Bush

6.  Bluuuuuu-oooohoooo-oooo-oooo-oooo, I'm so lonesome for you.

7.  [                                                                        ]

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things I'm Grateful for Today

1.  Mike working extra hours to fix the faucet.  Mom playing with Nora while I get a bit of dangerous, don't let your kids hang out with you while you do it, weed-whacking done.

2.  Merle's Garden Center.  There are two places situated within just a few cornfields from me that I've only been to once:  Chez Bubba (outrageously good BBQ) and Merle's (greenhouse = love).  I don't go to these places for the same reason I don't eat cheesecake: It's just too good.

3.  Talking to an older gentleman today who grew up near here--was born just down the road, actually.  We talked about hard times, how dry it was, farm wives and women who prefer to drive combines over the rest of the machinery.  He gave me a great carp recipe:  Take a piece of pine and nail your carp onto it.  Put it in the oven for a spell.  Take it out, remove the carp and eat the pine.

4.  Planting flowers.  On my knees, snapdragon yellow, wet earth, bent trowel.  Peace.

5.  Nora getting "fish water" on her legs while visiting above mentioned older gentleman's koi pond.  Teasing:  telling her she'll probably turn into a mermaid now.  That's what happens when you get fish water on your legs.  And do you know how people become centaurs?  I'll let you guess.

6.  This song:  "Landfill" by Daughter.  http://ohdaughter.bandcamp.com/track/landfill
She reminds me of how much I loved Kate Bush one summer when I wanted rocket boots and read Wuthering Heights multiple times.  Girls, I'm sure you'll understand.

7. [                                                                                                 ]

8.  Holding hands with Nora.  Praying when I feel my shoulders rise up to my ears.  An exhale and release.  Peace.

9.  Strawberry Rhubarb Jam preserved and sweetness so good I licked the pot it came from.  The 5 half pints of it sitting in my cupboard and how they will spill the end of May from their hearts some snowy day in January.

10.  Barn swallows nesting in the eaves and the overhangs.  How they dive and swoop protective and fierce.  How they are cared for.  How we are cared for.

11.  A call from Dad.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hand Holding

Sea otters hold hands when they're sleeping, so they don't drift away from each other.  Here's proof.

And isn't this what we're doing anytime we reach over and take another's hand in ours?

Don't let us drift apart--not in this world of wind and speed and distance.  And while I'm sleeping, let me wake again beside you.

Feeling the bones beneath the flesh when fingers laced.  Lives woven and the work set down because the only thing you can do when you are holding hands is hold hands.  You can't type or text or swing a hammer or pick at loose threads on your sweater.  You have to put down your work, your busyness, your trajectory and just...be...close...still and stilled.

And when there is no hand to hold, you fold your own in your lap and no one can tell, but you are saying prayers.  And this is another release of your own time and motion, the hands stilled and receiving the sound of new love.  For you, I'd stop the world, lacing digits until the sum increases and anything that passes the palm from here on out is lifted in the touching, never before known prints of another's outstretched offer to keep me from drifting so far into my own life that I forget to open it up and be someone's anchor.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New Coat of Paint Would Do the Trick

I know paint.  I painted the room I "grew up" in enough times to actually decrease the overall square footage by 12 feet.  For 3 months one summer, I worked full time on a construction crew painting trim.  I have put a new coat of paint on every inch of wall in every single place I have ever rented, which is everywhere I've lived.  And I have been sitting on some painting projects here at home that have been left undone long enough to actually qualify as  "banes."  Oh, did I also mention that I have a Bachelors in Fine Arts with an emphasis in, yes, you guessed it:  painting?

So, I'm posting these pictures because by publicly acknowledging my own need to finish these projects, perhaps they will, in fact, be completed.  Write it down.  Make it happen.  That kind of thing.

And here's the real point.  There are things sitting around in our lives that weigh us down.  They could be small things:  a junk drawer full of twisty ties and milk jug caps, a loose battery terminal that you have to tap with a wrench in order to get the car to start every time you go to drive it (not that this has ever happened to me), over 120 empty toilet paper rolls that you swear you'll use in an art project one day.  I suppose the overall message I want to convey is this:  I am tired of thinking about doing the painting.  It's time to paint.  And that is that.

I need to finish tearing off the wallpaper and painting the bottom half of the walls in the mud room.

 After the new tub went in, the walls were left in need of a fresh coat.

 I inherited a 4 piece bedroom set from Great Aunt Dorothy.  They are rock solid, but they need some paint, too.

The well cover needs some love before the wood rots out.

So, tell me:  What needs paint in your life?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Same Old is Everything

I sat on the kitchen counter waiting for Nora's supper to cool enough to call her in, and I was looking out the window at the space and the orchard and the order.  All day today, it was hard not to look at the smallest things I did and know that there are families all over the nation right now who can't hang their clothes on the line, pull frozen tomatoes from the freezer, swing in a hammock or check the trees for signs of fruit, stare over fields turning green, scrub the toilet, do the dishes.  We all need a haven and the anchor of simple, reliable chores to put our hand into the design of order already made for us.  And when this disorder uproots us--cars sitting on buildings, fields underwater, trees stripped of leaves and bark standing like upright bones in the ground--it's hard to imagine and I cling to monotony because it is so good and a blessing.  Lord, be with them.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hopefully Devoted

"Is the cycle any easier to accept in the garden than in human life?  Both of them are hard to take.  In both of them there is a sense not only of obligation, but of devotion."  -- Stanley Kunitz

Obligation:  something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law.

Devotion:  profound dedication; consecration; earnest attachment to a cause, person.

You are obligated to water, obligated to weed, obligated to care for, obligated to let it leave.  And the hours you spent on you knees seem wasted at the end of the season when the plants bow down to the first cold breath whispering "sleep now."  They tuck themselves again under the dirt, forgetting they were ever alive.  Then the Spirit calls us to love them, not just serve them, and these "obligations" suddenly tremble in a profound and consecrating moment of awakening even as you watch them go.

When all seems but frozen dust, you remember, and you lift the lid of the deep freeze, let it drop and thunk with a bag of frozen green beans in one hand, and you think you've beaten death.  (Only One could do that.)  Here it is.  Cryogenics for supper.  But you haven't done anything at all.  You've only postponed the inevitable.  You will run out.  And you'll refuse to eat the canned kind because they are beyond dead, a tortured harvest.

And this is how life seems sometimes, a tortured harvest, and I swing with a guilty sense of dread into "obligations" when I yearn and spit and spoil because every inch of me yearns to live in devotion, which is as different from obligation as love is from duty.  We give it freely.  We give it because it feels graceful and easy and right, and the object of that devotion thrives because of it.  The object of obligation wilts guilty, eyes lowered in the corner crying, "I'm so sorry to have bothered you."

I have heard all the lies of late that say life is simply made of obligations.  And when I hear this voice, something real and vibrant in me crouches down, a silent tiger, and I can't spell or think or write until it pounces on every motion and breath and word and tear and sound I make so that they belong to something beyond my own self-important activity and ignite into a burning joy that has lived before me and will live through me and continue to live when I am gone.  

Little, devoted link.  Don't let go.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Some Simple Observations

1.  Depending on the color, irises smell like different flavors of kool-aid.

2.  Rhubarb, oh, rhubarb.  What will you be when you grow up?  Crisp and brownies and sauce and jam.

3.  New seeds have been purchased.

4.  Could it be the way a rhubarb plant will store its energy in order to grow again after the long freeze?   That if you strip too many of the stalks, you jeopardize it?  Could this explain it?  How do you tell when you have pulled one stalk too many?  Can you tell?  (I'm talking about people, of course.)

5.  I need new guitar strings.

6.  "This song is so 80's."  Could Nora have become a teenager overnight or is she hanging out with Cyndi Lauper again?  Those two.

7.  Maybe I have just been talking too much in my head.  This servant has an impossibly hard time actually listening.  Motormouthmind.

8.  [                                                                                                ]

9.  If there's one weed I despise, it's bindweed.  Choking, creeping, strangling, snaky.  I'm having a hard time writing tonight.  Bindweed, I'm sure.

10.  We'll try again tomorrow.   Good night, dear adventurers.  Every boat needs to just sit on the shore at times, right?  Just looking out at the water and getting ready to launch.  But not right now.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The rains hit hard last night,

and having been inside for almost 3 solid days, I needed fresh air, and I needed to know how things were looking out there after last night's show.

I was one of those lucky country mice.  I used to wander around the hills and fields and horse trails where I grew up on Silt Mesa.  These were the secret sections of time that seemed necessary in order for me to function, even as a very young person.  In short, I need alone time.  I always have.  And for it to be really useful, it needs to be in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a lot of everything that grows and gives and doesn't have a single right angle on it.

So, I saw a lot tonight.  I honestly had no idea that so much beer is consumed along this road.  Nothing you can do with a broken down can but toss it out the window, I suppose.  And the *swish*swish* of tall grass took me immediately to the fields of alfalfa at home.  I can't hear it without going somewhere farther inside to some place I need to be more responsible for, I think.  Anyway, here's the story, morning glory.

Too much rain.  Last night brought over 4 inches.  You can see my rows washed away.

I may be looking at another trip to the seed store.  It's kind of a bummer because these were the ones I saved back and threshed and put away in a jar marked "green bean."  They aren't the last seeds on earth though, and like I told Lynn and Fred, I don't plan on giving up until September.

At least my potatoes are looking good.  But why wouldn't they?  They're potatoes.  Potatoes are always good.

The peonies refuse to open, and I don't blame them.  It's been too cold.  I recently read that you want to wait to plant your starters until the peonies open.  This would explain why half my tomato plants have died, too.  I didn't take a picture because it's too hard to look at.

After a hard rain mushrooms and frogs pop up everywhere.  Literally.  They stick to your windows, the frogs do.  I don't like having all the mushrooms around for poisonous reasons.  And I don't particularly like driving over frogs either.

I have been pining to be out here cutting and filling vases full of these things and putting them all around the house.  Tomorrow.

I'm crazy about poppies and Ila planted so many on the place, I think she must have known or something.  How can you look at that color and not want to do something brave, something worth remembering?

Drat.  I accidentally let the asparagus go to seed.  That's it for the asparagus this year.

You especially want to know how to plant a straight row if it'll be there for hundreds of years.  Most of the windbreak is too overgrown to walk through but not this section, and I fell in love at first sight.  I just walked back and forth--it's a lot longer than it looks in this picture.

I had a pretty good talk with my neighbors.  Here they are staring at me.

Looks like Fred is in the same boat I am.  This section of field is always flooding.   Luckily we're at the point where I can tease him about getting fish stuck in the cornhead.  He goes out there and takes pictures of the big birds that will eventually claim this as home.  I think he actually wants it to flood just so he can watch all the wildlife move in.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he's just making use of a situation that is what it is.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


That a little one not be too uncomfortable.
That those affected by the flooding will be comforted and will receive help.
For patience when I feel like I am waiting for so much.
For gratitude and the common sense to see everything I have now.
For the friends whose own journeys are unfolding on the page, bravely.  That there be healing.
That umbrellas be opened.
That sun shines down.
That irises and rhubarb be delivered to Ila.
That my mom understand how beautiful she is, how humble she is, how much I appreciate her.
That our gardens survive.
That the seeds in the ground covering all the acres in this land survive.
For the gift of healing bodies.
For my work and the ability to commit to it fully.
That I never forget that God has flung me into a life so beautiful and wild that I can't help but whoop when the wind comes through the trees and I'm walking back from the mailbox with a letter in my hand.
That I never pray for more money.
That I remember what I've promised everyone and follow through with action.
For a heart strong as mine to share with.
For peace, dammit.
And silence and time and for remembering how much I used to love drawing and rain and writing.
That I stop worrying so much, stop trying to keep things from happening.
That I smile more because I can do that.  I can smile.
That the 435 pages of the Bible I have read so far this year continue to work in me even when I don't understand everything going on.
For enough rest and peace to remember how to spell again, what words I know and how to use them.
For patience again.  Because I'm already impatient and I just asked for patience.
That I learn not to be so hard on myself.  And that I know when I need to be hard on myself.
For the past and its flaws and perfections.
That I remember to weave it useful instead of dragging it like a chain.
For horses.  Galloping.  And the smell of hay bales breaking open in layers.
That I learn this life completely.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Over My Head

1.  All the kids at the party were busy talking New York and I hadn't learned that language yet, so I took to the sidewalk where the trees were blowing up pink and white and tipped my head up to overhear a bit of the words I understood, and I walked watching the branches move and converge until I veered off the sidewalk into a parked car, knees bruised on the bumper, bit tongue but still worth it.

2.  We drove up to the lake that night and I swear there were shooting stars all around the place but I'm pretty sure it was just the tip of your cigarette reflecting off the windshield each time you took a drag, and I kept making wishes for each one I saw and at least two of them came true but not with you.  You moved to California, and that's the last I heard of you.

3.  It was the 4th of July and I was driving over the passes alone.  I'd just left you, and I was going home at my own speed.  No one was expecting me, so when I saw the sun setting, I turned at the first town I came to and followed the parade of cars and parked.  And I sat on the hood of my little hatchback watching the fire bloom above me, and I was nowhere and with no one and it was just fine.

4.  "Get up."  "What?"  "Get up."  "Why?"  "Just come and see."  I take her hand and she leads me outside, and the sky is filled with lines streaking down, white strings on fire burning themselves to the end of their rope and I find the same sky 20 years later in the grass while my daughter sleeps inside and something in me is just waking up.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ouch, I hurt.

Let me preface this by saying that I gave birth without any drugs.  I know what pain feels like.   Today was painful.  But before I herd you into the pity pen with me, let me instead recount some of the highlights of the day:

1.  As you know, Nora has been on a hamster kick, so in an effort to leave my bed as little as possible today, we sewed a new hamster.  Meet Oxnard.  He holds onto a sunflower seed when he's afraid.  Seeds are great fear deterrents.

2.  We watched James and the Giant Peach, which is a completely different movie than I remember it being.  I think I can safely say that I finally understand symbolism.

3.  Nora fed me some watermelon, and that was nice.

4.  I refuse to let Mom come over and take care of me because I don't want her picking this up, but Mike is planning on planting beans right down the road from us tomorrow, so I have a feeling she might just pop in.  And I'm not going to lie.  I would love that.  When I was a kid, she'd do this thing where she'd brush my hair behind my ear over and over again with her finger.  It drove me nuts.  Unless I was sick.  So, just FYI, Mom.

5.   And when we made it to bed time, I took a bath hot enough to mean I wouldn't need to shave my legs for a few weeks.  And that's always good.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nothing Is Lost

1.  [                                                                                         ]  Your servant is listening.

2.  Tonight Nora informed me that she would like to do without a mommy because she gets tired of all my commands.  I thought this was a good thing.  I mean, no mom likes to hear that, but at the same time, Nora seemed to be expressing some pretty clear ideas about why she gets mad at me.  From her perspective, I boss her around at night:  go potty, brush your teeth, pick out two books...  From my perspective, I'm making sure she takes care of herself.  So, I asked her what she'd like me to do instead.  And she said, "Raise your hand, and I will call on you."   

2.  Put simply:  stomach flu.  Ug.  I am covered in many, many blankets right now.  My sisters and I used to sleep together when we were little.  The three of us shared a room in a small trailer, so I grew up sleeping foot-tangled and blanket hogged.  In the winter, we'd layer Grandma's quilts with the one with cotton backing on the bottom and then work up from there.  In a single night, we probably dreamed under 300 work shirts, 75 pairs of jeans, and 34 night gowns, all of them with their own stories and days and hours.  And the story is still unfolding and then folded again as I place them on the shelf above my own shirts hanging there in the story of their first life.

3.  Before the sick hit, we replanted some of the garden, planted seeds in the flower boxes, did laundry (beauty of hanging the line outside, birds singing, guys moving hogs, cats running free under legs, breeze that reminds me to feel), got groceries, made two passes at the "free cookie" station at the Pac N' Save deli.  Nora can hardly fit in the little police car cart now.  Crime at the Pac N' Save has increased by 23%.

4.  I wish when I woke up in the morning, my first thought was "I would really love to make some pancakes right now."  Instead, my thought process goes something like this:  "Uuuuuhhhhhh...." and then I have some coffee and by then it's lunch time.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


1.  Dumping the compost bucket, I surveyed the garden, able to walk through it now without collecting the three inch thick platform sole of mud that must be scraped off with a stick picked up from the yard, leaving chunks of black mud in the grass.  The bean seeds had been washed loose, reddish gems lying in the furrows.  I pick them up and poke them back into rows.  And I wonder about the seeds I can't see.  I'll just have to wait and see what held tight through the storm.

2.  And I'm reading that all of it begins with "Yes."  What am I willing to give back to Him, as I accept it and then hand it back, whatever it is that has passed my way, has left my life, has entered?

Yes:  Storm.

Yes:  The things in my house that belonged to others before they belonged to me.  The story is not my story is my story.  Could it be true that there are only three stories that we keep telling over and over again?  And what are they?  Broken hearts?  Or is that too specific?  Who I love.  Who I worship.  Who I am.

Yes:  Nora's love and Nora's anger, how she negotiates the language of it with her body, kisses and kicks.  How I'll figure this one out somehow.

Yes:  A body that is sacred ground and how I hate it and want to change it constantly.  How I want to see it holy.  How this hate takes too much time.  A trap.

Yes:  Being alone.

Yes:  A garden, an orchard, a farmhouse and the work they require.

Yes:  A child.

Yes:  A classroom despite how I thought I could never speak.

Yes:  Good friends and listening and grieving with them, celebrating, too.

Yes:  and as I say the list out loud I am telling it to Him straight.

I am afraid of saying Yes because I don't know if You will take what I love away from me, if this is part of the Yes.

And it is.  And it has been.  And what has been returned?  Something deep and used and made of real things that continue to lean into Him at the end of the day, at the first light.

Do you trust me?

And this is the life stripped down to its essential parts--the bones and burns and what she wrote on her skin to take it all back for herself.  Mine.  Mine.  Mine.

Then the seeds are washed clean and replanted leaving another name for her written in the path she leaves in seeded rows.  And Yes.

Teach me Yes.  (Even though I'm still afraid.)  There's no need to be afraid.  (I'm still afraid.)  There's no need to be.

...maybe the soul is the soil that holds the fallen seed...
(Sleeping at Last)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some Little Things











Friday, May 13, 2011

Hunker Down, Tornado Town

When Nora and I left York last night around 7:30, all of us thought it was strange that some of the clouds were moving in the opposite direction to the storm-- like those few low-lying clouds had forgotten something back east and would just run quick-like to get it while the other clouds continued west.  In the car, I turned on the radio and the two guys who usually banter through the local storms were running outside and coming back in panting--"those clouds.  Folks, something is kind of strange with those clouds right now.  They're moving in really strange directions right now.  You know, if you have to drive somewhere tonight, I'd say don't."

So, I do what most people do:  I drive faster and start eyeballing the size of the culverts in the area just in case I need to put Nora in one on the way home.  I wasn't really worried, actually.   We were headed away from the storm.  Until:  "There's another front moving in from the east, so be on the look-out for another tornado warning."

So, we make it home, I check the local news and satisfied that we're okay, Nora and I put on pajamas, brush teeth and dig into our bedtime stories.  The wind was picking up outside, but the weather radio hadn't gone off, so I continued reading about the hungry caterpillar.

Animals have instinct.  Moms have weather radios and watchful, weather-predicting friends who text when tornados are overhead.  "And then he had one, nice green leaf and..."

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPP.  I grab Nora.  I grab my cell phone.  It beeps, too:  "You need to be in a basement right now!"  Nora grabs one of the books we'd been reading, her pacifier (PHEW!) and I run us both downstairs.  I turn on the radio to hear:  "the hook is right over Tamora between Tamora and Goehner.   A tornado sighting."  That's above our heads.  That's where we live.  I survey the room and settle for the very center next to the supporting wall huddled next to a bass amp and the bed frame and I cover us with a mattress and Nora with my body.  I can hear the wind coming down behind us through the vent that leads from the basement to the roof, a low rumble.  And I'm shaking.  I don't want to scare Nora.  She's doing fine actually.  In fact, she seems to be enjoying the tent and cuddle time.  According to the same two guys who narrated our drive home, we have another 20 minutes until we can move.  And they're telling all of us in Tamora to seek shelter immediately.

There's not much else we can do but wait.  I've noticed that a lot of waiting is necessary in times of trouble.  You can't change the situation, but you can decide how you'll feel while you wait it out until something else happens to take the problem's place.  In some ways, it's the waiting part that takes on the focus--not so much the problem.  So I'm focussing on the small amount of time we need to live through, and I'm praying, too.  But it's funny what I'm praying--I'm praying "strong little house made of brick built on the rock stand sturdy thank you for the friends who are here with us now help me God to lead her peaceful as we pass or don't pass through this storm strong little brick house built on the rock."  My arms are around Nora's curled body and her arms are around a book.  I look down.  She's holding her Bible.  And the shape we're making here is the shape I imagine our lives being, both of us curled and protected by what we hold inside our arms--not by that which surrounds us.

"Thank you for bringing this with you, Nora."
"Do you have something in your voice, Mommy?  Do you need to cough?"
"No, I'm okay, Nora."
"Maybe we should just read this while we wait."
Me, speechless and reminded that age has nothing to do with the deep, knowing Spirit that spoke to Nora last night.

So we read, and the time passes and finally we hear: "the storm appears to be breaking up..."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Storms, Cookies, Gardens, Dirty Feet, Hamster Bites (Amen.)

1.  It hit me today while looking out the back window:  What your heart knows and what your hands are willing to do, this is what your land becomes.  Because this is a working farm (corn, beans and hogs), there's always lots of machinery coming in and out, so I wanted to be sure I had a space for Nora, one that would give me at least a 30 second lead should she decide to run.  So the original garden was split in two, turning one half into a fenced in area for Nora and the other half becoming a grand experiment I didn't know at the time would grow me into something I needed desperately to become but didn't know yet--someone who speaks little, digs a lot, and believes in small things with secrets written into them.  And when I looked out the window, there it was, my heart and my assigned work right there in a rectangle in the middle of Nebraska, in the middle of the universe.

2.  When you live in the country far from sirens, you need one of these.  Today it blinked red warning, which sent me running out to the garden with every container I could find, covering the fragile starters I'd planted earlier.  The weather moves in and out, heats up, cools down, rains and doesn't rain, hails and blows.  I usually beat myself up for saving stuff I shouldn't, but today I was glad for the two most consumed beverages in our house:  milk and coffee.

3.  And the storm passed and we pulled up the shelters and Nora ran barefoot up and down the garden singing garden songs and weather songs and songs of summer vacation.  And she picked the mud off the bottom of my shoes mixing grass to make worms and warning the cats:  "Don't hurt these, okay?  These are very special.  Don't destroy a creation.  Watch where your tail is, okay?  Okay."

4.  And we make cookies using whatever we can find plus some bad bananas and we eat them with, you guessed it, coffee and milk.

5.  Storms, mud, hamster bite to the index finger, bad bananas.  Still a good day.  A great day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Little Things = Big Things

1.  The dandelion picked for you.  Clipping it into your barrette because your bangs have been getting into your eyes lately.  How she says, "Let me take off the stem, so you don't have a flower and a stem in your hair."

2.  Mixing green things together in her kitchen.  Eating to their health.

3.  Seeds in the dirt warmed by the heat the sun leaves there before moving on to other gardens in some other land.  Always, God is generous.

4.  Purple cows and nyquil and the longest wall post I've ever seen in my life.

5.  [                                                                             ]

6.  The gift of a whole night of sleep.

7.  And then a little more...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Getting Ready to Grow Some...Stuff

Here's the plan after taking into consideration crop rotation, early and late crops, fences and blackberry bushes, and...designing a garden is pure strategy and a lot of letting go, too.  Here are a few things I'm observing/learning:

1.  The ground is tilled.  The compost box is empty again.

(Garden Secret:  God uses everything.  Everything.  Even the bad stuff.  You've made some bad choices.  Who hasn't?  Let God work with it.  Don't fear it and don't hide it.)

2.  You want to work on a 3 year cycle, so it helps to section your garden into at least 3 areas, and move things around that way--it decreases insect and disease problems because the insect larvae and residual diseases like certain plants.  When they wake up in a couple of weeks, they'll be pretty confused as to why their beloved tomatoes aren't there anymore.  It also improves the quality of your dirt because plants require different nutrients.  Rotating crops means less "anemic" soil.

(Another secret:  When something isn't working, try something else.   Get up and move.   The good things will stick with you and the bad stuff will be too lazy to follow you to your healthier location.)

3.  It's also a good idea to work your rows from north to south.  This means the whole row gets equal access to sunshine, which means each plant has the same chance to grow.

(And:  Any of you ever felt like you lived in someone else's shadow?  Yep.  You are who you are for a reason.  There's no reason to stand in someone else's dark spot in the same way there's no reason to put out someone else's light.  Move on.)

4.  Think about how much room your plants will need in 3 months, not just now.  They are going to get a lot bigger.

(This, too:  How large are you willing to let your life grow?  Are you still huddled inside yourself, crouching, shrinking, wincing?  He promises Life Abundant.  Grow into it, folks.  Swing your arms wide.  Plant your two feet as far apart as you can.  And LOVE.  Get on with it.)

5.  If you have a fence near your garden, use it as a support for your climbers--cucumbers, pole beans, sweet peas.  Whenever you can use vertical space; it increases the size of your garden.  Don't just look at the ground all day.

(Yes:  Willa Cather in O Pioneers! talking of the first people who turned Nebraska into the green place it is said something like, "When you've spent most of your day staring at the ground in front of you, it's hard to look too far into the future."  Now, I'm not one for thinking too much about the future, to be honest.  It doesn't hold much in reality.  But I do think it's always a good reminder to change your line of vision occasionally.  Put something new in your eyes everyday, and it will change your heart just a little bit, enough to remind you that there are other possibilities than the one you've been expecting.)

6.  Plant rows.  I know.  This seems...easy.  But my first garden was...abstract, a daredevil, a freedom loving riot of tomato and weeds and pumpkin and weeds and grass and cilantro and...it was impossible to hoe.  There.  I said it.  I just stood in front of it, shook my head for about 15 minutes and then walked away.

(So:  Don't be afraid to be deliberate.  You know what's right and what's wrong.  As much as possible, do that which would please Him.  Plant the row.  I hope you know how much this is a note for ME more than it is for you.  I have produced a lot of compost in my life because I didn't walk the line.  And when you don't do that, it's nearly impossible to have the power to name the difference between a good thing and a killing thing.)

And there is so much more...but gardening is hard work, and I don't want to exhaust you on the first day.

Oh!  I do have a new invention!  If I had my way, this would be made of retractible, waterproof line.  You use it to mark your rows and seed spacing while you're planting.

1.  take two dowels, 12" to 14" so you can stick them in the ground far enough that they don't move around a lot
2.  drill a hole in the top of each one and thread some yarn or whatever you have through (about 25' depending on the length of your rows)
3.  Mark the line in inches.

So, when you use this guy, you can get straight rows and get the right seed spacing, too.   It won't do your taxes.  Sorry.

God bless all of you!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tales from the Field: Real Motherhood

1.  It's happened before, so I should have been prepared for it.  A little backstory:  Nora still uses a pacifier at night to fall asleep.  It took bribery to get her off it during the day.  We're working on it.  I mean, I smoked for almost 12 years.  I understand.  So, tonight while going potty after reading stories, Nora leaned over, flushed and there it went, spinning, spinning--gone.  We both screamed.  That was the last one in the house.   It's 8:30.  I'm not driving to Walmart.  I'm wearing my fat pants and my hair is...bad.  The next two hours were like a scene from that movie The Golden Arm with Frank Sinatra.  I finally had to rock her to sleep, standing.  Nora weighs 55 pounds and I had dug and flung shovel after shovel of compost across the garden today, so I was already...arm weary.  But this was worth it.  She still looks like my baby.  And even as I write this, she is waking and crying, "I want a chicken."  It might be a long night.

2.  She also spent quite a bit of time today wanting to catch a platypus.  I'm having a hard time breaking things to her lately.  "Nora, the platypus is a native of Australia.  We won't find one out there."  "Nora, eggs from the fridge don't hatch."  "Nora, your belief astounds me.  But there are some things that just won't happen."  Should I tell her not to try?  Should I encourage her?  Distract her with a less outrageous project?  She just believes with all her heart, and I feel like I break it with all my "reality" and "rules."  Here she is in her platypus hunting outfit:


What would I want to be told?  I don't even know how to answer that tonight.  If someone supported me wholeheartedly, and I found out later that she knew it couldn't happen, would I be mad?

3.  The dirt is ready for planting, but I'm a little tired.  I am hitting that moment at the end of a hard push when your body kind of gives out and you know you should just rest, but you don't know how to do that exactly.   So, the cold lingers, God's way of slowing me down.  But the planning still happens, the soul urges the muscle.  Seed depth.  Row spacing.  Early and late crops.  Crop rotation.  Rows running north to south to catch the full arc of the sun swinging east to west.

4.  Everyone needs a place to dream and write.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

This Must Be the Place

1.  This is the number one reason I like being a mom.

2.  She'll make you turquoise bracelets because she knows you love turquoise.  (Thank you, Mom.  It's beautiful.  And I didn't technically open it early.  Well, maybe just a little bit.)

3.  The Hammock.  Crabapple blossoms.  Seed corn considering how to become seed corn.

4.  [                                                    ]

5.  At one point, a worm crawled between Nora's toes and she screamed and started kicking and flailing. I'd never actually seen her this scared of a bug.  Tonight while going to sleep, she said, "Mom, my foot is really itchy.  It's because that worm bit me."  "No, Nora, worms don't bite.  They're good.  They're basically like a drinking straw for mud."  "Then why did you tell me they bite?"  "I didn't tell you they bite."  "Yes, you did, and I can't believe you said that about worms.  I'm going to bed."