Live Your Romantic Life

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“It’s beautiful up here.  This is my dream: to buy a little piece of land in Worcester, put up a yurt, and raise my family,” she said.  I smiled, allowing the romance of it all to stay in her mind.  And why not?  It is romantic, isn’t it–to live up here on this hillside, sheep and chickens grazing in the pasture, an acre of food growing in the garden, our family held each night in the circle of the yurt.  It’s all so lovely.  I say this to remind myself that we are here because it was our dream, too, though truthfully, the thought that shot through my head at her declaration was the ease of a house with running water, well-insulated walls, and hard-wired electricity.  I pictured her turning on the faucet at night to make a bath for her son, then pictured myself hauling two 5-gallon buckets up the hill to the yurt, pouring water in a pot and waiting for it to heat up on the stove before pouring it again into the sink.  This is why Waylon doesn’t get daily baths–I know the weight of water.

Just as I let her, I let myself dream up a romantic picture of life in town: living in a house with big windows and light streaming through in the morning, having a clean kitchen with matching dish clothes and bowls that don’t chip from being piled on the floor of the yurt when we’ve run out of water and can’t seem to find the time to run down and refill the buckets in the greenhouse, tight walls that hold warmth, doors that keep the wind outside instead of offering cracks for it to whistle in, a small garden just for the family, the ease of keeping the car parked and walking everywhere.

But then I think, what kind of job would I have to do to have that life?  Where would the dogs run?  What about the noise of traffic?  I think about the weight of water, how I stop to rest a few times as I carry the jugs uphill, how those moments of rest are filled with breath and a view of the mountains.  I think of Waylon and the amount of dirt he eats, and the strength of his immune system thanks to it.  I think of the word easy and wonder what it really means, because I tried the life of 9:00-5:00 inside at a desk with a salary and benefits, and you know what?  It didn’t make my life easier.

What’s easy is to romanticize what we don’t have.

It’s worth remembering that we are here because we chose it.  We are here because we strive to create a life of balance, substance, and joy.  It’s worth remembering that the most challenging times are also the pivotal ones that determine our path.  It’s also worth remembering that there is actually nothing stopping me from having matching dish clothes.

I let my town-living daydream drift off in the wind and come back to this life in our yurt, with unfinished projects and sheep that escape their fence and 50 families to grow food for.  I come back to it because it brings me alive.  After all, romance is not always easy or without conflict, but it is nourishing.  And though she drove back to her home in town, to our visitor, and to you all, I say this:

Choose your path, and live your romantic life.

Waylon and Mama scything

My Labor Day, A Year Later

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July 26th.  My labor day.

Waylon popped his head up this morning and smiled at me with sleepy eyes, and I said to him, “At this time last year, you were just beginning to make your way down.”  My water broke around 6:00 am, and the day was just as I had envisioned it: sunny, warm, quiet here on the farm as Edge and I spent the morning slowly walking across the field and back, stopping every few minutes as a contraction came on.  And it was so much more than I could have envisioned–how can you ever prepare for the intensity of a child passing through you?  There is an element of mystery that no birthing class can touch upon, and it is beautiful.  Now, as I call up my memories of labor, I know it was painful, but I cannot remember the pain.

This is what I do remember: a circle of breathing, in and out, ohm; Edge’s hands always in mine; my cousin Amy’s crystal blue eyes soothing me in a moment of pain; pushing, breathing, pushing, breathing, resting; a glass of water with a straw; fresh peaches; herbs–hops, passionflower, so many nervines–and a sip of beer from the midwives; a candle in the darkness of the yurt; and that long last stretch of breathing that pulled me to a place beyond time and physicality until I heard the words put your gloves on, this baby’s coming!

And then he was here.  Cone-headed, squinted eyes, and wet.  It’s a boy, I said before anyone else could speak.  He was here, and just like that labor was over.

His head settled back into its shape, his eyes opened, and the midwives dried him off and wrapped him in blankets.  There is a picture of him looking up at me, and though it’s blurry in my memory, I like to think it was our first look into eachother’s eyes.  Even after a year of pictures, it’s my favorite one.

I’m 35 pounds lighter than I was on this day last year, and Waylon is about 16 pounds heavier.  He’s out with his Papa right now, harvesting flowers.  I’ve learned to savor these quiet morning moments alone, though sometimes when he is still sleeping, I can’t bring myself to turn away from Waylon’s perfect face as he dreams.  I thought I learned the lesson of letting go when he was born, but it’s one I must relearn each time I drop him off at his grandparents’ house, each time I say goodbye.  It’s a constant conflict, wanting time to myself and wanting to wrap Waylon up and smush my face into his plump little cheeks.  It’s a conflict I’ll take.

Today is a bit hazier than it was last year, but warm.  The birds are singing as the sun slowly heats the air, and it feels like rain is meandering its way toward us.  There is so much to do.  There is always so much to do.  But today I remember labor, and that magnificent first moment of meeting my baby, and I think, I can do anything.

first look

Zucchini and Egg Season

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We’ve entered zucchini and egg season, by which I mean we only eat zucchinis and eggs due to lack of time to make any other meal.  What else could be so fast as summer squash sauteed in butter, eggs cracked in the pan and yolks broken with a spatula, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a quick chop of parsley, folding in of some thinly sliced cheddar, and an easy transfer from pan to tortilla?  It takes maybe five minutes.  And we’ve got a lot of zucchini.  The eggs, not as many (60 layers and only our 8 oldest are laying…oh chickens, how much longer can you hold out?), but plenty for the two of us and Waylon, who has also recently discovered scrambled eggs.

I think we had the same meal three times in the same day last week, with perhaps a slight variation from rice tortilla to a romaine leaf wrap when we ran out of the real thing.  It’s high time for succession pulling and planting: the first round of kale, out.  Two rows of lettuce mix and two rows of Asian greens, gone.  Broadfork, compost, rake.  Seed, transplant.  Last night the dill finally went in, though the cilantro still waits in its trays, catching my eyes each time I walk by it, as does the next succession of summer squash.  Soon.  Soon.  If we don’t get it in, what will our quick scrambles turn into?

Despite all the work there is to be done, there are moments of reprieve: a coffee gelato cone, a dunk in the reservoir, a quiet hour after the babe and papa have gone to sleep.  I sink into these moments, these quiet breaths scattered like a trail through the day: this way now, there will be rest soon enough.

In another 6 hours the sun will rise, and we will, too.  Edge will make chai, Waylon will eat a banana, and I’ll turn on the stove to make breakfast of golden yolked eggs and zucchini.

zucchini and summer squash

One More Moment

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Fog lifts slowly today; by 9:30 we are still an island on the hill, the mountains across the valley hidden from view. An owl quietly calls hoo hoo hoo, while song birds converse among branches. More rain is on its way, but for now, despite the buzz of crickets in the field, there is a stillness in the air that lends itself to moving slow. So I sit here, eating a late breakfast after dropping Waylon off at Nana’s, and will soon join Edge trellising the tomatoes. But before I go: one more sip of chai, one more moment in this soft morning. One more moment before it evaporates and lifts away…

The Realm of Belonging

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I walk into the woods for the first time in what feels like months.  Winter is filled with snowy walks, but soft snow in late spring keeps my post-holing legs out for a while, and then comes seeding time and summer and all the work that the garden demands, and so the woods form the periphery of my days; they frame this land we live on, but it’s only now that I finally leave the open picture and venture back into the shaded and layered forest.

Before I even cross the wood line, though, I stop.  Milkweed is flowering in the neighbor’s field.  In the garden I pull it, the long straight root sliding out with a quiet, satisfying pop, but here I look.  A few years ago, while taking the Wisdom of the Herbs class, I learned to harvest milkweed flowers, saute them with some olive oil and tahini, and eat them in a wild edible stir-fry.  During harvest we took out our hand lenses and looked into the flowers, pausing to take in the shape of each petal, the insects that crawled across the flowering globe, the details that only reveal themselves when you stop to see.

It occurs to me now that life is a continual practice of seeing.  It is not so much that the world is asking me to open my eyes, but that my own soul is sending the request: stop, look.  It’s this pause that grounds me.  In her book The Backyard Parables, Margaret Roach writes:

I am fairly certain that to make a 365-day garden you must also learn all over again how to see–to see beyond the big blue Hydrangea and other obvious show-offs, right down to the shapes of buds and textural complexity of bark, and the way the play of light and shadow, sounds and smells, and even movement contribute to the living pictures…You must learn to see with your heart; the eyes won’t do in the hardest months.  You must look viscerally, not somatically; it will take you in the direction of the light.

And so it goes for the wild places beyond the garden, too–I must learn to see beyond the lilies and black-eyed susans, and look also at the milkweed, this plant I regard as a weed in the garden, but that blooms here now with quiet beauty.  We all belong here, this much I know.  Despite my attempts to clear milkweed and plantain and knotweed and grass from one rectangle of earth so I may grow spinach and lettuce and carrots and beets instead, we all belong here.  To learn to see in this way is to bring ourselves back into the realm of belonging, too.

After pausing at the milkweed, I keep walking.  My camera stays slung over my shoulder, switched off, as I follow the sounds of the dogs as they jump and race through the trees.  They have lessons to teach me, too, but also remind me this: the woods are meant for exploring, open your eyes, leap in.

Dog Days

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At the end of these hot summer days, it’s just as important for the dogs to have some fun as it is for the farmers to cool down.  The dogs (or doggers as we like to say–dogger just might be Waylon’s first word) laze around in the sun, sometimes out in the high afternoon light, other times finding refuge in the shade of the wood line or on the cool concrete floor in the farm store.  They raise their eyebrows as we walk past, noting our pace, our direction, the tones of our voices as we greet them.  They know when it’s worth getting excited.

When the words “load up!” are said, the dogs jump and wag and get into the car, ready for wherever it is we may take them.  The good car rides end at the pond, with a stick to fetch.  When we arrive, the ducks swim away, the dogs splash in, and we all relax into the coolness of water at the end of the day.

How to Feed Your Self

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How to feed your self:

1. Understand that parts of your self require food, while other parts require silence, and still other parts require adventure.  Listen to those parts of your self that are asking when was the last time you explored in the forest, or touched a rock wall?

2. When you’ve finished chores, allow your self to walk past the weeds in the garden, get in the car, and leave the farm.

3. Drive just far enough to feel the strings pulling you back begin to weaken and dissolve.  Pull over and let the dogs out.  Soak in their excitement at being here, wherever here is, and walk into the woods.

4. Swat at deer flies, inhale the sweet sticky smell of a humid forest bursting with life, listen to water bubbling between rocks.  Don’t stop to take pictures–learn to see with your whole body, to become part of the landscape.  See how the dogs run, tongues flapping, eyes bright and loud with joy.  Remember that you, too, are a wild creature.  It is okay to take off your shoes and to run.

5. Hike up, up, to the granite cliff.  Put the palms of your hands on the rock.  Climb, if you wish.  Sit, if you wish.  When the dogs come panting let them rest.  Soon it will be time to walk down.

6. When you reach the car again, eat some cheese and crackers, because by now your stomach is hungry.  Drink cold ginger water to quench your thirst.  Take the long way home, and drive slow.  Today is a day to feed your entire self.  Look out the window and allow daydreams to swirl around in your head.

7. At night, stand outside and thank the fireflies for their light.  Thank the stars.  Thank the day’s last sunlight as it kisses the horizon goodnight.

 

 

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