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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here and There

A bit of randomness from our days:  I think that I must be getting a bit unconsciously claustrophobic in this last bit of winter, because somehow our days these past few weeks have been spent more away from home than is usual.  Most weeks we're out and about a few times for various reasons, but the bulk of our time is spent at home, and contentedly.  Lately I've been feeling antsy when the time at home stretches out.  Maybe it has something to do with not wanting to think about all there is to do, or will be to do.  Maybe it's just too long inside these four walls.  At any rate, our weeks have been more full than usual with trips here and there - around our town or the next town over, and farther away, to visit a "castle", and to the art museum (the armor was by far the biggest hit, though there was lots of excitement all around).  Soon we'll need to come back to being more focused here, but for now I'm feeling grateful for all the interesting places to explore around us.

This weekend something shifted, and while I wouldn't say I'm ready for Spring, now, it felt like some little gears clicked into place; some invisible curtains inside were pulled back to the corners to let in some light.  And I was grateful.  It was a weekend of successes and getting things done, which was needed.  We replaced our woodstove, which we use for the bulk of our heat.  The old one came with the house and despite our efforts (Jim's efforts) to fix it up, it was falling apart, and we were having to lean on the oil furnace more and more, which we don't want to do for several reasons.  So, we decided to replace it with one in good functioning shape and that will be better able to keep up with the demand, even in the extra cold winters like this one, letting us keep the furnace off for the most part.  The weather cooperated so Jim could sweep the chimney Friday, then Saturday with some good help he got the new one installed and fired up so smoothly we were amazed. 

A couple years ago, Jim found an old copper stovetop oven that we tucked behind the woodstove and (as we do) forgot about.  In cleaning out the hearth and making way for the new stove, out it came, and with some prompting from the boys, Jim tried it for the first time (that's it, on the stove above).  It actually worked - really well!  So that's very exciting.  We've been doing more and more cooking on the woodstove, and now we can do some baking there also.  It seems like a small thing, and it is, but there is also some bit of freedom in the fact of being able - capable - of cooking our own food without needing to be connected to an outside source of power - to be able to cut and lug in our own wood, build a fire, put some ingredients together, and create food to sustain us, that is basic and real.

I also got up the nerve and the forethought to make the pizza recipe a friend gave me a month or so ago.  Because it requires refrigerating the dough overnight, and I'm not so good at planning ahead, it was a small victory to have made it happen.  And delicious.

Oh, and we now have our seed starting shelves set up, and potting soil thawing by the stove.  This was Jim's progress.  I must admit I look at them with a bit of sideways glace - a little leery - when I walk by.  But: small steps.  It's funny how easy it is to build things up in your mind - tasks that in reality are manageable become gigantic, daunting.

I'm sure that's enough randomness for now ~ Here's hoping for eyes to see the good, and courage to face the daunting tasks (and success when we try).