Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leaving Marks

Lately I've been thinking about how lucky we are to be surrounded by a real wealth of parks. For as built up as our region is (and more so all the time), there are a surprising amount of parks, and really good parks at that. But as much as we love nature and being out in it and as much as we are, there are few of the parks that we've actually visited. We have our favorite spots that we end up going back to, but also we just tend to stay home, and head outside our back door. Which is actually pretty great – that we have the space to do that, and because with every time spent outside playing or working or walking we are learning more about where we live and it is becoming more a part of us, and that is the most important of all.

But at any rate, I've been thinking about how little we know of the parks closest to us, and decided to take a go at seeing if I could find any other homeschoolers around here who would like to go on a hike every so often. I figured it could only be good (except for the part of me that would find it so much easier and comfortable to just go it alone...) - we could meet some more homeschooling folks, and have an excuse to get out and explore some more.

Last week was the first hike, and it was a great success. (Insert sigh of relief.) The park we went to has a small river running through it, and after we did our hike, the kids naturally all ended up in the river, and then following D & G's example, climbing up and sliding down the steep, high bank. Standing, talking with the other moms, and watching the kids play, I was feeling really good: the weather was wonderful, we were outside, it felt good to have gotten moving, and the kids were having a blast. We went back the next day, just G & D and me, and walked in the river skipping stones, then inevitably, they ended up back at the steep bank (the “climbing wall”), while I took the chance to try carding some wool a friend had given me. Good times.

The more I think about it, though, the more conflicted I feel. Not about meeting some new families, or the time spent outside & exploring a new place. But about the marks we left behind. The bank was steep, and there wasn't much growing on it (though the second day G did find a few white flowers, I think bloodroot) – it was mostly covered in fallen leaves and sticks and such. But: where they climbed and slid was skimmed down to the bare dirt, in stark contrast to the rest of the bank, and this is what makes me feel so uneasy.

I like to think that we are mindful of nature, mindful of how we interact with it, and respectful of it. Conscious not to go bashing our way through leaving an undue degree of disturbance in our wake. But I'm afraid that's what we did and I feel responsible, having not realized the impact until it was too late.

In the big scheme of things it's really not a big deal, and I wonder if I'm making too much of it. It's not realistic, I don't think, to take kids into the woods and expect them to leave no trace; I think that would be a way to teach them to fear being in nature, piling on the “don'ts”. It was a small patch of the bank and given a bit of time, the bare dirt will be covered with more forest debris. And yet. I've been pondering what to say to D & G when we do go back and they want to visit their climbing hill again. One part of me wants to just let them have at it, knowing their enthusiasm and earnestness – qualities I so want to encourage. Not wanting to have to explain how their fun wasn't really so good for Mother Nature. Yet I can't in good conscience let them keep digging that mark in deeper, well intentioned and innocent though their digging may be.

And so here is yet another line to walk: allowing them the freedom to move and explore and be in nature (and by that freedom to really take it in and have it become a part of themselves – to learn from it and understand it in a whole body way), but also knowing how and when to reign in that freedom with a sense of our responsibility to care for and protect nature, to keep from bashing about and leaving marks that may take time to heal behind us. Or maybe it's more of finding the intersection, working toward that golden space where our need and ability to learn from nature meshes with the responsibility to respect and protect it. (Which is really what we're trying to find in so many areas of our life, come to think of it...)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

While Earth Slumbers

A couple years ago I learned to play the dulcimer – or at least well enough to be a part of the recorder~dulcimer ensemble at our church (the existence of which was just one more confirmation for me that we had found the right place). At any rate, one of the songs we'll be playing this Sunday for Easter is named “Christ Has Risen While Earth Slumbers”. I love the words, “while Earth slumbers” - the sound of them, but also it makes me think about all that is rising here: an eruption of life just in the last week, it seems. Plants appearing in their new bright green: chives, nettle, yarrow, daffodils, tiny jewel weed seedlings carpeting the ground beneath the trees and under the decaying leaves. And animals: a garter snake slithering across our path, a leech out of the creek, soft and naked mole babies in the compost pile with tiny little back feet and huge spades for the front, summer birds returning, and migrants stopping by on their way back home.

While Earth slumbers: the world above the ground can seem static, when looking at it with a wide, preoccupied, lens – a forest of bare trees, brown, gray, black. The evergreen green that no longer catches the eye, just fading into the background. Snow, then mud [repeat], olive grass imperceptibly turning to kelly green. But while Earth slumbers, there must also be so much happening beneath the ground, unseen life and movement, in seeds and trunks, roots and burrows. It borders on unfathomable, or maybe crosses the line.

And there is reassurance in all that activity, I think: a reminder of certain things (so many important things) which will happen in their time with absolutely no orchestration from me. I have been burned out. I have been - I am - exhausted and a bit blinded and numbed by all those little and not as little things that sometimes work together to feel so very heavy and just never ending. But all the this new life rising, all the unseen workings that brought it to this point: it is good. It breaks through the heaviness and takes a bit of the load, slipping – lightly – into its place, little by little.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


There is always some sort of making going on: projects done in bits and pieces, started and left to languish in piles for months on end, or steadily worked on from start to finish. Today I was helping the boys with some sewing, and decided to see all the bits of time waiting for them to be ready for my help as a chance to pick up part of a project I started last fall. Before we went on our road trip in October, I had the great idea to make cases for their colored pencils & crayons to take with us. When that (somehow...) didn't happen, they were folded up into a small pile and closed up with my sewing machine. Today I finished the pencil cases. Just in time for another short trip we'll be taking later this month.

Earlier this week I also dug out a project I had started and then abandoned last September. The little bag I made for myself a few years ago is starting to show it's use, and I'm not sure how long the strap will stay attached. So, I'm hoping to work in some time to do the last few steps on this new bag pretty soon. The star square is from a whole batch of blocks I made years ago thinking I'd make into some sort of a quilt. I also cut pieces to make myself a new little wallet, at the same time I cut the pieces for the bag, but I'm not sure if that will ever be finished... I tend to start a project with some sort of plan figured out, but then as I get into it realize all the things I didn't think of originally, and find errors in measuring or find that the way it works in my head is not quite the same as it does in actuality. That – maybe – being the case here, as I think in my desire to make it small and compact, I might have made it too small to function... But, we'll see. Bag first, then maybe a second look.

And – the fingerless gloves! I finished knitting these over the weekend (just in time for the warm spring weather!), using the first yarn that I spun. The fit of them didn't turn out quite how I hoped – the top opening is a little floppy – but the fact that I was able to make something from yarn I spun more than makes up for it. (The pattern is this one.)

As for spinning, I haven't been doing as much as I'd like, but have worked in little bits here and there. I'm almost done with the plying for some undyed yarn that I'll use for some dying experiments later this year. (I'm very excited about the prospect of eventually ending up with something that I have spun, dyed, and knit myself...) Then on to some pretty purple wool I was gifted recently, that keeps catching my eye where it's waiting next to the wheel. I like the rhythm of spinning and plying and winding. Each process in its time, and always something new to look forward to, usually just about the time I'm ready for a little change.

I was thinking earlier today, how I don't feel like I've been making much lately. But: here is proof of the opposite. That's nice to stumble upon every now and then.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

More Bits and Pieces

 Morning light late last week.
I've been meaning to make bean bags for a while now... Last Tuesday the boys were invited to a kids-only birthday party, so I had a couple hours to myself, so I made a set from some leftover/salvaged corduroy.  We're doing some basic math, so I had the boys write out the numbers from 1-10, then gave them some addition problems and their goal was then to throw the bean bags onto the right number.  Yes, in jammies.  New bike helmet optional.
We also tried painting, which I've been putting off out of intimidation of not knowing how to do it the "right" way... But it was just fine, right way or not.  Nice, actually.
The boys have been doing a bit of making lately... G started copying a map from an atlas he was given recently, I helped them make some "mud and worms" April Fools treats to trick Grandpa, and they set up a pizza shop over the weekend, and have been busily cutting out dough and making pizzas ~ all profits to go toward caring for the three stink bugs they recently adopted as pets.
Peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, a few herbs, and some sunflowers are growing happily in our living room.
After an unexpected snowstorm Saturday night, laying down another 5 or 7 inches of snow, today the weather is bright and sunny ~ and windy ~ again, somewhere around the middle 60s.  The daffodils are poking up in the (someday) orchard.  Hope.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Struggles & Gratitude

It's been a while since I took the time to stop and be intentional in noticing where I'm struggling and what I'm feeling grateful for in this moment.

I am struggling...
...with weariness ~ whether it is the time change, the end of the long winter, allergies or   
   something else, I just feel weary to the bone, and it has felt impossible to keep up with my 
   goal of getting up earlier (let alone on time)
with patience (see above)
...with questioning my ability to do all the work of my days and the insecurity that comes
   with that questioning, rightfully or not
...with the worry that others' judgments of how capable I am, really, for the task of
   homeschooling will be colored by my (perceived) inability to keep it all together
   (especially given a certain incident involving a dumped pan of fresh granola at the end of
   a particularly long day and the ensuing melt down)
...with writers block and second-guessing
...with the seeds that I need to be planting in order to grow the herbs I am hoping to grow ~  
   trying to step over that hurdle and move forward with some momentum.

I am grateful...
...for a night to myself, and the quiet peace of some time alone
...for the time when, after having a fight, D came, of his own accord, to G to apologize and 
   give him a big hug
...for warm enough weather to air out some blankets outside, and the joy of crawling 
   exhausted into a soft, clean bed that smelled like fresh air
...for the nature walks that are making their way back into our days here and there, and
   how good it is to be outside
...for hearing the boys talking about all the things they are doing well, writing and drawing
   in their lesson books lately
...for stubbornness that keeps me going and won't actually let me give up (for long)
...for small wonders like finding deer rubs in our woods
...for the nuthatch and tufted titmouse that made brief appearances at our bird feeders ~ birds
   who I've been looking for all winter long
...and for the feel of a book in my hand, boys beside me, or, also, in those scattered
   moments I find to read to myself.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Some Bits and Pieces

Our days have been full - they always are - the sum of so many little bits and pieces of work and play; smooth going and rocky ground that leaves toes bruised, steady comforts and new things to discover.

We've gotten back to taking some nature walks around the path through the woods.  D's taken to singing and skipping along whenever we go out on these warm days in between the snow "It's such a lovely day!"  And he's right.  We've had some bad weather and some cold, but also more days with that achingly blue kind of sky that makes you want to skip around to your own little happy song.  As we've walked, we've been noticing the tracks - squirrels, maybe some rabbits, and lots of deer.  There is a portion of the path that is now known as "deer highway".  It's pretty neat to walk along and see evidence of all the activity that is going on unbeknownst to us in the night.  We've also found three or
four deer rubs, and today a place with lots of deer hair scattered about.  Our guess being that maybe it was a deer's bed.  Or a "ground rub", as G suggested.

D feels things so deeply ~ he takes after me, I'm afraid.  So deeply that sometimes all that will do is to stop the car, and get out into the fresh air and work it out with crying and then hugs and spotty jackets soaking up the tears.

I decided it was ok if we didn't go big on St. Patrick's Day this year.  And (remember this, I keep reminding myself) they were so happy with the quick sign on the chalkboard, a shamrock hunt (treasure hunts subsequently becoming the thing) and a leprechaun story or two.

Outside, our wood supply is rapidly dwindling, all of a sudden.  Though today Jim added to the stack, and if we hold ourselves to some moderation, we should make it through the cold.  Today I didn't manage to get a load of laundry up on the line (it's funny how after a winter of relying on the dryer, it seems so much more daunting to get back to the clothesline), but I did get our quilt (made by my mom) washed and hung, and the comforter up to air out.  That quilt makes me so happy blowing about on the line.
We have ten taps this year, and have been boiling sap for maybe a week or so.  It's not a rush, but it's steadily dripping, hopefully for a little while yet.  Our system may not be pretty, but it works, and it feels good to be in the midst of replenishing our stores.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Yes :: No :: Maybe

Of course it is to be expected, any less would be strange:
muddy blue sky 60s;
freezing rain whiteout traffic jams and single digits;
and the aftermath,
bathed in such bright sunshine it hurts your eyes. 
Back up into the 50s tomorrow:
Winter's grip is loosening.