Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Loving the Questions

Question:  What will you do when you're alone?

Answer:  Mom appeared at the Spur today, bought me a cup of coffee, and distracted me from my work.  We walked around Utica for a bit, down the middle of the streets.  I found a nail, picked it up and twirled it as the gravel crunched under my flip-flops eventually throwing it away and dreaming of the day someone had without a flat tire.  That person is going to love that day.  I like the surprise of seeing my mom sitting across from me sharing some forbidden gas station nachos with too many jalapenos when I had planned to be alone.

Question:  What happens when Nora rolls herself up in your exercise mat and you take one end and pull really hard?

Answer:  Nora spins down the length of the living room laughing hysterically, and you, of course ask her if she minds doing that again.

Question:  When do you know you are ready to teach a class?

Answer:  When you remember it's not about you.

Question:  What do you do when you write something you don't understand?

Answer:  Keep writing.  If it doesn't surprise you, why bother?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Piano in Knots

You know when you find the song, listening over and again because some knot in you came undone with the notes expanding, mapping the unravel, the denouement, the untying of the knot, and you let it do its work at the end of the day when all you can think is:  could I have done more?  Ah.

Song.  Song.  I need you to sing to me.  Your effort is enough.  I'm making peace from war.  

And you ask:  how you grew, how I loved you, how I found you surprised on a four-track cassette recorder I got for my 17th birthday, so I could hear the songs in wholeness and I turned it up loud enough I couldn't hear myself think through myself.

You were given love to love with.  You were given voice to sing, fingers on the keyboard stretching secret threads around the house when everyone had gone to the movies because you didn't want anyone to hear and when the house is empty, then go down basement stairs, the humid turning to chill and sit still on the bench and you know the notes by the ivory missing from the keys.  A visual player.

And thread binds heart and song works medicine in the kitchen when dinner plans are set aside for the place you found with your head resting between the corner cabinets so you can hear your voice and dream into the corn fields for something you've been missing to come down the road and pull in the drive and tell you how the song called the thread that led the question to you.

What is it you will do with this one wild and precious life?  You come back to this question, addicted to something good and terrified of what you are.

In class, we talk about the things we won't talk about and there is triumph in the speaking heart that jumps the gap to meet you there, holding hand and reaching:  the possibility that we can respond with generosity, even with ourselves, which we have a tendency to descend upon like a noose lowered around the horse thief, the one that stole your voice, that wild horse.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Woman Who Took Herself Too Seriously or Who has two thumbs and was trying to get everything right again?

What you need you haven't written yet, but you're working on it, so keep up with the work, good lady.  You're doing just fine don't give up don't give up don't give up.

Watch that sun set and walk around the house and notice the weeds and flowers are all doing just fine and know you are as prepared as you can be, sweetheart, for everything, because He said He'd carry you, and He will.  Sometimes I watch you staying up too late or waking too early trying to "get it right" or "make sure you know enough" to do what the day requires, but did you know that you've got everything you need when you look out and you see those around you not as something to be afraid of but as people who all need a little love?  So get out of your way and open up that hand and that heart and get on with your work, lady, because these few days of belly-aching and feeling sorry for yourself are a chance for you to approach this issue aggressively, gently, with courage.

What's the issue?:  Ah, you know.  Just your basic fearworrydoubtanxiety thing, that creepy-crawly life sucking bindweed.  Makes me want to be perfect because it knows how much I want that, out of my own EFFORT.  Oh, good grief.  Give your best, surely, but mercy me, if you keep up with this thinking you have to know it all or do it perfectly or that you can't make a fool of yourself then you have a lot of lessons coming your way, honey.  Listen.  Whatever you've got, give it.  Unashamed.  I mean, let it go.  What are you so afraid of?  Being laughed at.  Heck, you've been through that.  Easy as pie.  

A lady flipped me off today while I was driving because I went the speed limit and slowed down for a bus that had stopped.  She wanted to ride in my trunk.  I could have taken it personally.  An older version of myself would have thought about my driving for a good 2 hours.  But, whatever.

Whatever, lady.  Whatever to you in your car.  I pray you feel better soon.  I've been there before, so caught up in it all that all I can see is how other people are in my way.  I've been there.  I've used that finger before.  Yeah.  I have.  And, sugar, that ain't the answer.  Not always.  Not ever, right?  I mean, there's whatever and then there's the other angrier whatever, which just seems to cut someone off rather than set you free.  

And I want to be free.  And this isn't perfect, and this is just right.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Can Tell

1.  A day at home cleaning the house after church while listening to Sufjan Stevens.

2.  Peach and jalapeno jam.  Sugar.  Vinegar.  Sweet and spicy.  I can tell 7 half-pints won't last longer than a week.

3.  I can tell something is brewing.  Turned inward.  Thinking stuff.

4.  The sunflowers behind the house are as tall as I am, yellow heads so heavy they droop in midday narcoleptic postures, and the bees come up from below, tell them to lift their chins another day for their sake.

5.  A garden hose wrapped up for the last time.  The tomatoes, I am hoping, still have another month in them.

6.  I will admit that the end of the season is sometimes hard to accept.  This is a gentle way of saying it.  I can tell you that I need the pull of weed, hope of seed, obvious growth, rhythm and silence and movement and talking to God while I work.  I'll find another thing to do for the time being.  Crochet, most likely.  Hands require movement.

7.  Pastor's sermon this morning doing some heavy work in me, the kind that's made me inward turned.  And as soon as it has cleared out some of this "doggy doo" (Pastor's words), I'll have a lot to say about the poison of perfectionism and how the effort to simply move toward something right makes Him happy.

8.  I thank all of you for reading.  I can tell you are here because you give me courage.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


1.  This is post number 300.  Ha!  And I can't think of a single thing to say!  Well, I guess my limit is 300 thoughts.  Now I know.

2.  In a bed, she will go to sleep knowing that her job is simply this:  to extend the reach of hope.  

3.  When I say this, I want you to picture me standing on a cliff yelling at lung's capacity:  I WANT TO LIVE!

4.  Over the last 3 days I have discovered something extraordinary:  I like getting older.  I think that saying about things getting better with age is actually true.  This isn't me bragging here.  I'm just saying, I feel a lot more mature, but strangely, I don't feel like living out the rest of my life in this safe little "mature" place--I think now, I can finally just...get on with things being me, this person God made me.  Now, what am I going to do first?

300.  Yes.  Habit prepares one to receive the gift.  Sending my love to you and hoping you are getting older, too.

Friday, August 26, 2011


A Smurfette puzzle at Et. Cetera
4 "new" butter knives for .35
Playing animal surgery/remove the tag with Nora this morning before school
How quickly the flowers recover after drinking a gallon of water.
How the cats lounge on the concrete slab until I bring them the leftovers from the day before.
Tossing lost and found items between cars in the preschool parking lot.
Frog stickers for jobs well done.
Nora's hug and kiss as she leaves her friend Daniel, "See you next time we're at school!"
Difficult revelations and sitting in the rocking chair at the end of the day letting go when no one can hear me.
A first week at school.  How exhausted I am.  How good it is to work even though it's hard.
Nachos and reading at the Bronco Spur.  Her company and listening heart.
Mom telling me she loves me.  I need this daily.
Plans to be in the garden tomorrow.
Salsa to freeze.  Rhubarb crisp to make.  Banana bread.
Being able to buy what I need.
Vintage push mowers.
Friends writing dissertations and songs and blogs and taking pictures and publishing poems.
Prayer.  Constantly.  Who is He?  A boat in which I sail through life, carried, rocked to sleep.
Being able to answer caller questions on the Backyard Farmer correctly.  "Well, that looks like your everyday garden spider...ah!  Yep.  Erratic watering.  You can hand weed anything but you'd be better off..."
A picture of my friend from a long, long time ago.  She's got a ten gallon hat, sitting on a horse, wearing a Western shirt, a gold trophy in one hand that's almost as tall as she is.  Suddenly remembering how we would play on the horse walker at her house, hooking the cinch on, riding around and around on our bellies as if we were flying.
Sitting on the couch.  I like that.  It's simple.
Friends telling me to rest.  I like having an excuse to sit still.  (See above mention of couch.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One of the Reasons to Write

"Her eye, her ear, were tuning forks, burning glasses, which caught the minutest refraction or echo of a thought or feeling…She heard a deeper vibration, a kind of composite echo, of all that the writer said, and did not say."                    -Willa Cather

To write is to be thankful even when we are demolished.  To write is to continue searching for a true relationship between who we think we are and who the author of our lives made us to be. We put our marks on the page as a way of creating the map, outlining the traces of a life composed of a past we don't always want to claim, a future we have never even seen and a present that seems to slip away too quickly to claim, to hold.

Literature (the act of reading it) and writing (the act of creating it) are maps that help us navigate the intense terrain of this human experience.  Strangely, we learn through fictional characters that have never set foot on freshly mown grass, never once inhaled the apple colored light of Fall, we learn through people who have never actually existed that we aren't alone.  With them, we no longer fear our solitude because our solitude is met and demolished the moment we crack open the cover of a book or the blank, white page, allowing it to yawn and stretch until we too are more awake, more alive and less alone.

God gave us language and literature, the ability to create whole worlds with a series of sounds placed in the right order, so we might record the gift of this life, so we might say, "I was here, and it was good." 

Through the story, we are awakened, reminded that this is it, this one day, this one hour, this one chance to live, to REALLY live and, even better, to share this gift with some lonely reader somewhere with a broken heart and a silent tongue.

This semester (and always), let our pens be tuning forks that vibrate with courage, our hearts burning glasses that capture the layers of this life in radiant clarity as we encounter the gift of the story.

"Every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need."
---Parker Palmer

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Leaning In

We want to be moved.  We resist moving.

To be moved:  to become what we would not allow ourselves be.

My worry is a form of resistance, a fear of being moved.

"Out of control."  Taken.

I am afraid of what I do not know, can't imagine.  Won't imagine.


To resist change: one can not call this "living."

Conflict creates movement.
Antagonist:  the thing that inspires the change.

Why we must suffer.  To move into Him.

Tonight I would like to be a child.

There is a difference between suffering and bitterness, one open, the other closed off.

It is a good sign if it still hurts.

In gratitude and movement. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Today's List

1.  At the end of the day, supper at 9 pm after Nora is asleep, a pile of pickles, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, chips and salsa.  Headphones and the Mary Tyler Moore show because I need Mary, how she goes to a big city and finds an apartment and a job and she rebuilds.  And, yeah, I love 70's fashion.  I'm not going to lie.

2.  Coming home from the first classes and Mom and Nora have made chickens and a book, which Nora reads to me.  She has drawn a watch on her arm in marker and asks what time it is.  "It's 3:00."  She goes to the sink, washes the watch off, redraws:  "Will you write a 3 on it now and I'll make the arms?"

3.  Realizing that 5 classes in a day is a lot, each composed of hour and 15 minute blocks and I find myself dipping and rising and leaning, praying in the car before I get out, "I know this is the work you've given me, and I trust that you'll carry me through."

4.  Loving, open, ready students.

5.  Chapel and Pastor "The Voice" Jurchen telling it like it is.  We suffer.  Yes.  We tell the story of our suffering.  Yes.  We do not suffer alone.

6.  Laughing.  How it shakes the shoulders loose, opens us, releases, lifts us out of our burdens, and we are present, joyfully responding.

7.  Me eyeing the garden as I climb out of the car with the book bag and I am thinking of when I'll see it next.  This weekend, perhaps.

8.  A woman dreaming of sailing.

9.  [                                                                          ]

10.  Messages and notes and cookbooks and hugs and "you did a great job this morning" and I know how much I rely on the love of others to lift me, and this seems more like a strength than a weakness.  We need each other.  Let us get on with the business of leaning into this love.

11.  Sometimes I think the acoustic guitar is the sweetest sound God ever thought of.

12.  Determined to be present, to not let the busy days become overwhelming--moving toward fullness and trust and holding on, holding on, holding on.  Like Mary Tyler Moore.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Days of School

Like last year, Nora stood beside the St. Paul sign before she entered the building, her mom snapping a couple of photos on her ancient, silver camera.  So much has changed in a year, yet here we are in the same place.  Isn't that miraculous?  It isn't the place that changes.  WE change.  And in our transformation, we are given new eyes and the familiar world is renewed and reawakened.  Yes, you have been here before, and no, you've never been here before.  God has made for each one of us such a complex "self" with which to see  this glowing life.  We are, in fact, deep people because that is how were were made, made to reflect the Creator who loves without end, beyond depth, infinitely deep.

So here are the pictures from last year and this year:

I love her.

My first day of classes is tomorrow.  I have written something I will share with each of my classes this semester. (I have five!  Please pray for me!)  But, I will save it for tomorrow night because many of you reading may actually be in class tomorrow, and I wouldn't want to repeat myself.  (Haha!  I'm always repeating myself, but that's okay.  There are simply obvious patterns that develop, rhythms we seem to gravitate toward.  I, for instance, love 5/8.  So does Paul Simon.  In that sense, we are one and the same.)

Here's to seeing the new in the old.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Left With 24 Hours Before School Starts, Mother Daughter Team Avoid End of Summer by Rearranging Furniture, Building "Volcano of Love," Sewing Smurfette Doll

A Farm, Nebraska--With only a few sweet hours left in summer vacation, local mom and daughter "Mommy and Nora" teamed up today to blow caution to the wind, shirking all school-related responsibilities and avoiding any school related worries in a 10 hour home remodeling, human science experiment, doll sewing frenzy.  While the two are exhausted (and though "Mommy" did actually complete the final stages of planning for the first day of classes this Tuesday at Concordia), they don't regret a single moment spent being pajamas-all-day wearing, two-dessert-eating TLC wannabe hombodies.

When asked how she feels about the upcoming school year, Nora replied, "It's fine."  Her mom had a few more words to share, explaining that "it's easy to think this is going to end once school starts, but Nora and I both enjoy the different seasons we encounter during the year, especially Nacho Season.  That's coming soon, right?"

Nora builds a human "volcano of love" while rearranging furniture.

Mother and daughter were able to move a cumulative total of over 857 pounds of furniture today.  While Nora is a bit on the "wimpy" side (she's only four, after all) she did help by riding on top of anything her mom was moving and pointing in the direction the piece of furniture had to go while yelling, "I'm on a boat!  I'm on a boat!  Paddle faster, Mommy!"

In short, today was smurfy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recently In the Garden: Hail, Surprise Green Beans, Tomatoes Cracking Due to Erratic Watering

A few notes:  The hail hit for about 3 minutes a couple of nights ago.  And despite the hail being dime-sized for the most part, it still managed to do quite a bit of damage to the softer stuff.  The decorative gourd patch was hit the hardest. (Drat!  I LOVE decorative gourds.)  Despite the damage, I'm still expecting a pretty good amount of food to come out of there.  I'm hoping Mike and the other fellas out here will pull out of it okay, too.

I staggered my green bean plantings and forgot that I'd done that, so I was surprised to find another couple of pounds of green beans hiding in there.  Dilly beans.  I've got 5 pints sitting on my counter as I type.

Many of my tomatoes are cracking on the tops.  "The reason?" you ask.  July was hot and dry.  During that month, these guys were just starting to fill in.  When August hit with cooler weather and lots of rain (we had 3.2 inches one night), the tomatoes went into hyper-growth mode, sucking up the water and expanding too quickly.  If there are any pregnant women in the house tonight, I apologize for the graphic nature of this explanation.  Excessive growth and water retention aren't laughing matters.

I've been up too late trying to can and get ready for classes.  I'll just say I'm not sad about the hail.  I suppose it's part of this garden's particular story.  If they turned out the same every time and if there wasn't some risk or adventure involved, it just wouldn't be the same kind of work.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's the Rematch of the Century: Hope vs. Expectation

Expectations for the Day (Expectations Prohibit the Presence of Mindful Thankfulness):

The blackberry jam would jell, the tops would pop as the jars were removed from the boiling water where they would sit on the purple-splattered dishtowel to cool.

The peaches would dance suspended in their syrup, golden orbs of summer.

I would pick up the laptop from school on time while Nora looked at the stuffed birds in the basement of the science building.

I would feel at peace all day long, confident, brave and hilarious.

I would have a salad for supper.

I would decorate my office and talk to Anna about her work while hanging pictures.

Nora and I would head off to sleep by 8:00, the quiet Nebraska night filled with the soft song of crickets, the night breeze filling the house.

What Actually Happened (Hope Is That Which Refuses to Define the Outcome Leaving One Open to the Possibility of Gratitude No Matter What Happens):

The jam did not jell.  I may be looking at 3 pints of blackberry syrup.  Additionally, I grabbed one of the jars hoping to test if it had sealed, the seal popped off and purple jam exploded all over the kitchen floor, my feet, Nora's fancy dress, her hair, her arms and legs and her happiness.  This happened right before we were supposed to walk out the door for my appointment at 4.  The two of us cleaned up and abided.

The peaches did not "dance."  They turned to mush in my hands as I brought them from the boiling water and attempted to remove their skin.  I waited a day too long to tackle the lug I bought earlier this week.  I still have 5 pints of peaches though, and while they might not look that pretty, they taste like sweet gold dancing on your tongue.  I will also reevaluate purchasing discounted peaches for canning purposes.

I picked up my laptop, heard encouraging words from colleagues, and took Nora to look at the salt water fish in the science building.  We were then greeted by a gentleman who took us into the room behind the fish tank and we entered a world of wonder:  turtle and cat skeletons, live mice with a pile of pink, blind baby mice, a leaping lizard, a gecko, a red and black snake, a shrimp who does a dance with his tentacles to entice fish to pass by so he can clean them.  We were astounded, blown away, reminded of the miracle of the natural world.  Nora was...well, unable to speak.  Our generous host mentioned trips to the ocean and the rain forest and Nora and I were no longer sitting on the couch watching Diego rescue animals, we WERE Diego.  Yes, God, thank you.  We would love to go on these adventures in the future.  Thank you for asking.

I had a mushroom and swiss runza with frings and an ice tea.  I'll eat salad later.

My office looks great, and I read Anna's work and cried all through the proposal scene using a fast food napkin to blow my nose.  I'm one classy lady.  And this is one amazing story.

Nora and I got in bed and the weather radio started blowing up with all kinds of alerts.  The hail started coming down and we prayed for Grandpa's beans and our little garden and our friends without electricity.  Nora took my hand and rubbed my back.  "It will be okay, Mom.  The hail will stop soon."  And it did.

The "real" day:  messy, exciting, revealing, scary, surprisingly emotional, a day that challenged me to submit, abide, remain calm.

The other day:  Completely lacking in imagination and risk.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Something Simmering

Something striking in the cookbook, handwritten in the margin:

The difference between




I will let this simmer for the evening and write more tomorrow.  These things take time.

Be well and happy.  Live in hope.  Of this I am sure.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Canning: Why Our Food is a Memory Of What We Can Expect to Be

And some frozen day in February when I don't believe summer ever existed, that Nora and I ever ran wild and barefoot for 3 months while the tops of our feet turned brown and the bottoms grew calloused enough to withstand the mown weeds under the mulberry tree, that the green world ever grew into some glorious maze of sweat and reward that would remind us of what a work accomplished in us would reveal in its bloom and fruit, when I doubt I will ever see the sun again, I will open one of these jars and I will see what my heart was dreaming on this day in August:  letting go and giving in and taking in and loving even in the spaces I'm afraid of loving for one reason or another.  And it had better be so hot that I break into a sweat, and this too will remind me of July when the tomatoes finally appeared and it was one million degrees outside.  Let what we eat be what we know and love.  I understand now that gardening isn't about making food, but I don't want to say in words what it is either because that was a moment I had leaning back on my knees, hands resting palm up on my lap after pulling the last of the yellowing leaves from the base of the tomato plants and the sky was mottled with clouds and silver and peace.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Day in the Life: Nora

Watching Pingu in bed while drinking Ovalteen (aka Kid Coffee).

Putting cover-up on the bottoms of her feet so they wouldn't be so pink.  Agreeing to wear socks so as not to leave footprints around the house.

Another refrigerator magnet poem written.

Helping her mom clean the gutters and unbend the pieces using "real pliers" while wearing a tutu.

Swinging.  Lots of swinging.

Pizza for lunch (at least 4 slices)

Negotiating for a lunch in front of the TV if she promises to eat supper at the table.  Documents signed.

Making an airplane to take Zoobles from their home to the tiny pony land on the other side of the living room.  "Why, you're little ponies!"

Climbing up the steps on the outside of the rail while yelling to her mom to stop hanging laundry and come inside and put on that video about how markers are made.

Standing in the middle of the garden and yelling, "You have enough blackberries.  Come inside and help me build a little pony land!"

Watching Diego with her mom and eating chocolate chip cocoa cookies, wiping hands on couch cushion and sweeping crumbs into crack.  Mom ignores sudden disappearance of crumbs, secretly relieved that some future version of herself would have to clean up the mess.  But not this version.

Tickling.  "I LOVE tickling!"

Blowing kisses out the screen door at Teagan as she walks away to her car.

Sitting on pretend eggs.  Cheeping.  Making chicken arms.

Bedtime stories:  The Ernie and Bert Book, Mama Cat Has Three Kittens, Petunia, When is Saturday?, Story of God's Love

Snuggling until she falls asleep.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Roll With It, Baby

I said two prayers this morning.  The first started with a list of things I was pretty sure I couldn't do by myself.  In typical fashion, the entire theme of the prayer revolved around how worried I am about...well, everything.  I mean, my "worry spectrum" runs from one end (the weird processed cheese I use to make Nora's mac and whether or not it was created by humans and if so, what kind of humans) to whether or not I've chosen just about every wrong turn available to humans (including using processed cheese).  I was listing my worries and finding myself growing increasingly more anxious as I went on.  I stopped.  I started again.  "God, to all this not knowing about the future, Yes.  Yes to being alone.  Yes to my fear of teaching.  Yes to not knowing whether or not I am helping Nora in the right way when she has meltdowns and  nightmares.  Yes to decorative gourds.  Yes to getting older..."  I could go on, and I did.  I said yes to every single thing on my list of "I am afraid of [blank] happening or now that [blank] has happened, I don't know how to manage the reverberations."  I stood up feeling less like that image we've all seen of a colt trying to stand for the first time, all knock-kneed and shaky, to someone who could at least pull her boots up and stand upright.  I'm not saying I felt happy about my fears.  I just verbally acknowledged them, through Him, as being necessary somehow.  I suppose the simplest way of saying it is that I said Yes to the trial.  Honestly, I'm tired of thinking of my life as a trial, and would like to somehow crawl out on the other side of this worry habit with the capacity to abide, remain, commence peacefully like Paul who says he's fine in all circumstances.  Whoa.

So, tonight I happened upon James 1:2-3: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

I'm still a long way from feeling joy when I experience a trial.  On the other hand, if I hadn't noticed that the west side of the basement had flooded, I wouldn't have seen books hanging from a clothesline, and I know for certain that Nora and I wouldn't have read the "Charlie Brown Christmas" book tonight.  I wouldn't have fallen in love tonight when Linus takes the stage and tells us, "Glory to God; Peace on earth; Good will towards men."

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Green World

Garden: The point in the season when the secret code of the seed finally spells out its message and there are full baskets brought in, one after another until the house speaks of this green world: cucumber, basil, tomato, pepper.  Life.

Branch and Leaf:  Going to center of lilac bush to remove the mulberry tree, rose bush and oak, cherry overtaken.  The right, sharp tool soft slicing through the intruder branch, blue tarp that drags them to the pile.  Lynn comes with his tractor to take it all to the burn pile, teaching me:  "Next time, if you'll lay all the branches facing one direction, it'll be easier for us to pick up with the lift."  I can choose to feel admonished or soak it in like all the other lessons he's taught me, that I can use should I ever try this kind of thing on my own one day.

How Yellow is Brighter:  Against this green world, five-pointed bee seduction.

Fruit of the Leaf's Labor:  And I am learning again.  "Those blackberries you picked for us the other day, they were good."  He remembers the first time I picked a pint three years ago and brought it too sour to eat.  I am learning.

The Yellow Eye:  Watches over garden, accidental (dropped from apron pocket full of birdseed?) sentinel.  And the ferny asparagus, the third year watching it mature, repayment for Ila's bed, half of which I pulled out my first summer here thinking it was better to pull the entire plant once it had gone to seed.  I am learning.

Green Tomato: Pulled from the vine once reaching its perfect circumference, knowing they'll ripen here while the plant can turn its attention to the small yellow blossoms growing full and dreaming of this windowsill.

Tractor:  Moving the limb from the dead apple tree that fell in the orchard during the storm this week.  "I had it on my list to get that tree down somehow.  Looks like I can cross that one off."  "Would you mind if I planted one there next Spring?  I'd love to leave a tree here."  "Sure.  I'll tell you where we should plant it."

Bulb:  Just when you think the green world will end, the surprise lilies appear speaking 1987 and the bulbs dropped in dark soil, the flower writing, "I'm the same flower blooming 100 years."

Morning Glory: How they began to climb the rail and beams and roses, tendrils reaching into space looking to touch something solid with open green heart.

In our Secret Garden:  Cucumbers vining, butterfly garden, Nora and Bekah catching 3 dollar ball won at the fair today.  The catapult Nora invented.  We are always thinking of new ways to move and grow.  This is the only explanation for the color I dream at night and when I wake.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Today In Retrospect

Chocolate chip cocoa oatmeal cookies
Banana bread
Green beans steamed and bagged
Mac n' Cheese
The gift of enjoying cooking and eating with a friend
A hot iron and a chick and egg bead project
Tipped over tomatoes and peppers up-righted
Milkweed cut down
Sunflowers tipped back up and encouraged
More tree trimming
Rescuers Down Under with Nora
Kittens cuddled
A lawnmower!  Watch me now.
The good, long silent drive
Technicians at the Walmart singing along to the greatest hits of the 70's and 80's
Dogs chasing projectiles
Pickups and back roads and setting suns and places where good people live and the moon and the grass and the red outbuildings
Cheap, comfortable furniture.
Free, comfortable conversation
Not getting lost somewhere in Nebraska
Good directions
Singing at the top of my lungs "Just like the white winged dove..."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

We talk

and every sentence reveals.

A friend's visit.
More kitten love.
More blackberries.

How He gives us more gifts than we could ever use, but never more than we can thank Him for.  How I am learning to slow down enough to see them.

I pray you are also finding some moment to sit and receive because He loves you, child.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Little Things

Persistence of mother love searching out haven beneath blackberry bush and propane tank to give birth to four new farm cats with healthy eyes and sweet dispositions.

Volunteer cantaloupe, everything I need to make eggplant parmesan for Bekah's visit, the last few green beans before they dry out under invasion of grasshopper, the close of the season.

(One day I will document this in more detail.)  Recycled Barbie house created by Aunt Dottie and Grandma and Grandpa Smith.  I've had it over 25 years now.  All handmade clothes.  We've been playing a lot.  Nora's egg is nearby.

Mud pie daughter with muddy nose names her Puss n' Boots.

What your fingers should look like if the blackberries are ripe.  You should see the knees of my jeans.  I accidentally kneeled on a cluster of fruit reaching for a kitten.  Purple jeans are nice.

Okay: so when I found the kittens, I called for Nora who was busy with mud pies.  She ran over and sat on my lap as she held the kitten.  Her swimsuit was wet, so when she got up, I had a wet spot on the front of my jeans.  Not thinking twice about it, I walked out a few minutes later to hand Lynn a bag of cucumbers, blackberries and a few of the things I've canned.  There was a funny look on his face, and I realized it looked like...well, he was very polite and didn't say anything.  For awhile, I thought about calling him and explaining, but then I thought my wanting to explain would be a sure sign that it was in fact "an accident."  So, I'll just let it be.  You know, at the end of the day, I'm covered in so many different things, I didn't even think twice about wet jeans.  I suppose it's good to be embarrassed every once in awhile, yeah?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Bench Beside the Corn Fields

One week ago I was complaining about carrying boxes and eating in a parking lot.  I'm embarrassed about it now.  So tonight I carried the last two boxes to my office and was smart enough to use the elevator this time.

You know, sometimes I think I make things harder just so I can feel sorry for myself.  This is probably more honest than anything I could say.  I've thought this before, but I've never admitted it to anyone.

After unloading the boxes, I picked up a couple things I needed from the store (more vinegar, some small rocks to put on top of my cactus plants--not ON them, like, AROUND them--and a giant parlor palm tree they had marked half off.)  I need to stop listening to plants in grocery stores.  My sister has the same problem.  She rescued 5 or 6 orchids from a grocery store once.  They are blooming in her kitchen window now, happy.  I suppose it's a good thing after all.

Nora and I treated all the houseplants for mealy bugs today.  I found a great recipe in the gardening book that was in that gift basket someone left at the door--dish soap, oil, water.  Have you ever seen a mealy bug before?  They're kind of beautiful and gross at the same time--like miniature albino trilobites.  They will seriously damage your plants though.  Anyway...

I still had over an hour to kill before picking Nora up and wasn't really hungry, so I decided to take a walk around Plum Creek.  I rarely walk anymore.  This is a problem, not so much for my health as it is for my need to move and think at the same time.

You know, I think I'm starting to realize that I need to try to do one "completely worthless" activity a day.  I'm not talking about eating bowls of cheese while watching cooking videos on youtube.  (Not that I have ever used this as a way to forget my troubles...but, uh...)  I guess I'm talking about how I need to remember what good there is in beautiful things again.  After survival comes the still, radiating moment of seeing God's strong presence in all that He made, all that is good.  I've been "hands on the wheel, eyes on the road" for awhile now, and this "drive until you get somewhere better" way of living, well, I don't need to tell you.  You also need beauty in your life.  You've driven that other car before, too.

God made beauty to show us His love.  Pastor told me this:  wonder is a form of thanksgiving.

I sat on a bench halfway through the walk, corn high on each side, sound of insects, trees and weeds everywhere, sky, big sky and clouds, space and space and space and waited until I was past the urge to move, past my need to do something, and just listened.

What I heard:

cool breeze skin cicada green world multi-shaped leaves taking me

Closed my eyes for a long time so I could see it better forever.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Blackberry Jam Bandit and Other Stories from the Farm

Whelp.  We made that blackberry jam, and I was relieved to have some company--Jaimie stopped by and volunteered to work, so I had her fixing tomato plants that had fallen over in the wind, picking blackberries and cherry tomatoes, taking laundry in, making jam, and playing Barbies with Nora all afternoon.  I'd hire her in an instant.  We did a lot and had fun doing it.  Girls, we should do more of our work together.  (Thank you so much, Jaimie.)

So, the jam is extraordinary.  Have you ever seen a blackberry in the sun?  Cluster of black, glossy globes.  Luminous.  The first time I ate one, warm and sweet from the vine, fingers purple, I about fell over.  "So this is how food is supposed to taste!  It has so much...taste!"  I probably shouldn't mention that 5 minutes later I was screaming because I'd reached out and accidentally grabbed a giant praying mantis who had dibs on one of the blackberries I was reaching for.  He actually turned his head and looked at me. I think he said a bad word.  So did I, honestly.

There are benefits associated with growing and eating your own food.  There are also risks:  perpetually muddy feet, giant bugs, grasshoppers that fly at you like you've just stepped into a giant popcorn maker only the popcorn is...gross.  Snakes, slugs.  Oh!  This reminds me.  I accidentally brought in a slug with some of the garden the other day, and I showed it to Nora who ran screaming from the room.  "What!?  You'll hold a frog but you won't even look at a slug?!"  "It's not that.  Those peppers you brought in are spicy!"

Yesterday while I was unloading the recycling, I heard Nora yell, "There's a frog in the car!"  "What?  A frog?  Did you just say there's a frog in the car?"  "Yeah!"  Sure enough.  Some little tree frog had bummed a ride all the way from our house to York.  I'm just glad he didn't jump on my face while I was driving.  Ah, country livin' is so...slimy.  But back to the jam:

1.  You'll need 3 quarts of blackberries, which you've collected a little bit at a time, each day picking the ripe ones and keeping them in the freezer until you've gathered enough (they ripen at intervals).  Don't rinse them.  Yeah, there might be a spider's web or two on them.  Worry about this later.  If you see a praying mantis with a switchblade comb fixing his hair, just leave him alone.  He means business.  He'll slash your tires.

2.  The night before you want to make jam, get in some pajamas and pull out the berries and rinse them, cover them, and leave them to thaw in your fridge overnight while you relax watching "View It Now" BBC period pieces involving unrequited love and cotton mills.

3.  The next day, call Jaimie and ask her to come help you.  Dump the berries in a big pot and heat them slowly, stirring until all the juice is released.  If you're impatient (who, me?) you can use a potato masher to speed the process up a bit, but you will lose valuable "stir and stare" time if you do it this way.  (Working women of the world, take a vacation as often as you can--even if it means dreaming you're on a game show that will pay 1 million, billion dollars for anyone who can match and fold 35 pairs of socks in under 68 seconds.  You can be anyone while stirring jam.  If you need inspiration, see allusion to BBC TV series involving unrequited love in number 2 above.)

4.  Add 6 cups of sugar.  Don't fear the sugar.  It only has one ingredient, and that ingredient is so, so sweet.  You'll just love it.

6.  Bring to a boil and stir for 20 minutes.  I'm thinking of BBC period pieces again.  I just found out I'm related to Jane Austen.  My cousin had the family tree mapped out, and there was Jane.  My Grandma Smith is to blame for my literary bent in more ways than one, apparently.  Anyway, I was talking about jam.  Quit getting me off topic here.

7.  Pour the jam into 4 pint jars and water bath can for 15 minutes.  Nora loved it.  She still has a little purple ring around her mouth as I look at her sleeping.

8.  Oh, there was a blackberry jam bandit, but I broke his leg when he tried to make off with one of the jars.  Don't mess with the jam.