Lessons in Persistence, from a Toddler

P1030112There is a little elf-child walking, yes walking, around the yurt these days. He pushed himself up on Sunday, but instead of waving his hands and letting out some sort of happy announcement of a yell as I’ve come accustomed to, he put one foot forward, and then another, and through some wobbling kept coming all the way to me, a distance of perhaps 5 feet. The rest of the day, he stood and stepped and fell and stood and stepped and fell, and kept going with his little legs gaining strength and balance all the while.

I look at Waylon and wonder at the persistence he has. What would the world be like if we held onto this beyond our toddler years? This ability to fall down and get back up without a second thought, to take our falls with smiles and to stand again with determination and excitement? I’ve made the decision to follow my passions, to be fully alive and present in this life. It’s something that became even more important when Waylon was born. I want to give him the example of full living, and of creating a life that truly brings us alive. But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes being fully present and alive means being fully with uncomfortable feelings and accepting the harder moments. It takes so much persistence to keep going.

But Waylon, he keeps going, and he does it joyfully. I’m learning that he already lives the way I want to show him—that he is the one giving me the example of full living. Those hard, uncomfortable moments are simply the fall, the burn of muscles strengthening, and with persistence I can breathe through the wobble and find balance again.

Thank you, my little boy. 

Gray days aren’t always dreary


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woodsmoke The stacked branches of old an apple tree warmed our yurt this morning as Edge lit the first fire of the season.  The nights are dipping down into the low-40s and even high-30s now, and we wake snuggled in bed, bodies warm and faces cool.  Chai, though it already graced most mornings, has become a staple again, the thick milky tea warming us at dawn and lifting our eyes after lunch when we wish for a nap.

This morning the Worcester range, too, was snuggled in bed, a blanket of fog pulled all the way up to the peaks.  The last few days have been gray, though not dreary.  Instead, the cloud cover and brushes of rain make all the colors brighter.  The flowers at the top of the garden stand with a sudden brightness that almost trick me into thinking they could last all winter.  The trees are turning, too, tinging the edge of our field with the first burnt colors of autumn, and like the flowers these colors glow warmer under the gray sky.

Worcester range--tucked inRain is due this afternoon.  This morning, though, we head to the mountains for a family hike up White Rock.  I look out to see that the range, like us, has pushed off its covers, the valley fog now translucent wisps of clouds slowly lifting away.

And so we go~

The Weight of Water


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RWS_0055The weight of water.  How heavy it feels when I lug it up the hill.  And how heavy it feels when it’s gone–the sinking realization that the well has run dry.  Two years ago when we moved onto this land, we found a spring and developed it as a shallow well–10 feet down was all we dug and it has kept our thirst (and the animals and vegetables) quenched.  But when the overflow stopped a few weeks ago, Edge forgot about it and I didn’t even notice.  And we’ve had just enough single days of rain sprinkled through the last few weeks to disguise the dryness of late summer.  And then there’s this fact: we use up to 400 gallons of water per harvest day to wash the vegetables, though our well’s storage is 300 gallons.  And so we look to ourselves, at the ways we could have conserved if only we had thought to have foresight.

There have been countless times I’ve been thankful for our water, for the fact that it is gravity fed to the barn and that we don’t rely on electricity to run a pump.  I once moved into a house during a wind storm that caused a three-day power outage, and aside from what we bought, we had no water until the electricity came back on.  This kind of system has always seemed so fragile to me.  I’ve laughed with a friend who also hauls water at the reactions we get from those that can simply turn a faucet–how we each think the other is crazy.  You mean you carry all your water?!  You mean your water source is gone if the power goes out?  Now I wish for a deep well and a pump, when simplicity and a shallow well feels fragile.

I am kicking myself that we hadn’t thought of this possibility and made plans for it sooner.  If we didn’t need potable water to wash our vegetables with tomorrow, we might mull over the solution a bit longer–the animals can drink the pond water, and we have enough water reserved from Monday’s harvest to water the seedlings–but the fact is we need more than a few 5-gallon buckets of potable water by tomorrow.  So today: buy a 1000 gallon tank, pay for a bulk water delivery.

We live in a state where floods have filled the disaster headlines, where the word drought brings up images of California, not our own farms, and so perhaps I have taken it for granted that water will always flow out of the well.  For all the inconvenience of the situation, though, I am grateful that we can buy water, that the restrictions we face are nothing compared to seriously drought-stricken areas of the world.  Given the forecast is accurate, tomorrow it will rain, with a chance for more on Saturday and Sunday.  With the rain, and with patience, comes replenishment.  Until then, I’ll feel the weight of water that’s run dry.



Sunday Gratitude


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echinacea: sunday gratitude

Gratitude.  My medicine for those times when I don’t move with ease.  To think of a smile, or a friend, or the break of sun over the garden–to pull up gratitude as if it were a carrot releasing from the soil.  This is what I’ve learned as a farmer: We harvest more than food from the garden, as we must if we are to create a balanced life.

So today, my gratitude:

Sleeping in, waking slowly

Sun after a rainy day

The punctuated calls of the rooster

Zinnias, sunflowers, statice

Aster, rudbeckia, calendula

The slightest breeze, telling me, it’s okay, move slow today

There are the mainstays, of course–my family, the dogs–but these snippets lift me, too.  The small things find me in the in-between-moments, when no one else is around, and they smile at me, and I feel the corners of my mouth lift to smile back.

what are you grateful for today?



I don’t always know how


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misty morningSometimes I wish I could move as easily as the seasons change: a subtle shifting from day to day, the hot August sun giving way to cool nights, red edging on maple leaves slowly transitioning trees from the green summer to the bright and rusty shades of autumn.  It doesn’t seem to bother the trees–the wind comes and the sun goes down earlier, and they give way to the next phase as naturally as they did from winter to spring.  I look out and see them standing as sturdy as before, flexible and grounded at once.

But what of those times when the wind turns to gusts, and the weather suddenly shoves cold arctic air over us?  What of those times when the branches break and the frost comes too soon, and the dreary gray of November sets in too early?  I imagine that, unlike myself, the trees have the wisdom to let go, to get on with the season at hand as if it is like any other gift.

What I am saying is this: I don’t always know how to move with ease.  I don’t always know how to be gentle, how to soften myself, how let go of my own expectations and attachments.

But I look at the trees, at their leaves shifting in the wind, their branches bending to catch a bird, and I think, maybe I should start with breath.  To breathe deeply and ground myself in the present, and to see that this moment, too, is constantly shifting, energy either moving freely or blocked.

I choose to move freely.

And even as I write this, I feel a small stone of fear inside that I won’t always do so.  So to that stone I say: I won’t always move freely.  I forgive myself for this.  I forgive myself for the hard times and the forgetful times and the angry times.  I forgive myself for the fear.

Outside, the trees are changing colors, getting ready to shed their leaves.  Breath by breath I am shedding, too, getting ready to move into the colder nights–those nights that throw the sky open and expose everything down to our own exhalations.  It’s not always easy, but birth never is.  And that’s what this is, after all: every season an invitation to be born into the present.


For the Birds


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I used to care
about proper grammar–
well vs. good
I vs. me–
but now, what does it matter?
I know what you mean.
There are already
so many rules
what shackles need to be
on expression?
Sometimes, when I hear
birdsong in the morning
it strikes me that I don’t know
what they are saying,
but I feel their happiness.
That’s all we’re really after,
isn’t it?
To share with each other
our heart’s fire
be it sadness, or anger,
or expounding joy.


The Beautiful Moments


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This morning wisps of mist stretch up out of the valley, blue sky shines bright through layers of clouds–cirrocumulus, altocumulus, altostratus, and low stratus clouds hang here and there–and the sun lights on the patterns of white.  The air is cool and crickets chirp, an orchestra in the field.  Inside, Edge plays the ukelele while Waylon bounces and plays a toy drum to no particular beat.

It’s been a week of groggy wakings, hoping Waylon will sleep longer to make up for a bedtime that he fought against and turned from 7 to 8 to 9:00 pm.  He’s been teething.  Teething weeks are tired weeks.  But last night we all slept soundly, and at 6:00 am I wake refreshed, ready to keep my eyes open.

Now Waylon and Edge are on a walk in the woods, the chores are done, and I am here with my chai and blueberry french toast.  It’s so luxurious.  These small moments–a welcome and restful morning, a perfect breakfast, birdsong and crickets–they bring the kind of beauty I feel rather than see.  My body is lighter, the space around me is clear, and there is a feeling that everything is inviting me to expand.  “Beauty is real.  I would never deny it; the appalling thing is that I forget it,” writes Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  These moments of beauty, beauty felt and seen, do happen, though in opposite ones–the exhausted, hemmed in moments–I forget it, too.

I have not yet learned how to keep myself here, in these open and beautiful moments.  Is it inevitable to slip back into the blind ones?  Those times when my words are sharp and my chest is tied shut?  Is it inevitable only to make the beauty more vibrant, the open heart more free?  What I have learned is this: how to sink into the beauty, how to breathe deeply, how to open my eyes and remember what is real.

Hawkweed, Katie Spring

It’s important to stop.


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grasshoppers on coneflower grasshopper on coneflower grasshopper on coneflower

It’s important to stop.  To let yourself be caught in the middle of a task when you see beauty and revel in it.  Creating beauty is as simple as bearing witness; to extend the sheer joy of color and surprise to another person.

I walk by the coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, every day.  It grows just outside my door.  How long have the grasshoppers perched upon the cones?  How many evenings have I walked past as the shining green armor of their bodies illuminated in the evening sun?  It doesn’t matter, really.  What matters is that I stopped this time.

We can change our lives everyday.  It doesn’t matter where you live, or how you make money.  What matters is that you stop, you look, you see beauty sitting right in front of you, and you bear witness.

Mornings are Quiet, Time is Infinite


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I came to Maine thinking I’d write everyday.  I imagined quiet early mornings, infinite time, creativity pouring out of my fingertips.

We leave tomorrow, and what can I tell you?

The mornings have been quiet, though many I’ve spent with an early-rising one-year-old.

Time, as always, is infinite, though our days may fill up and trick us into thinking it is not.

And creativity?  My fingertips buzz, my chest wells, my mind swirls, and words still come slowly.  I remember that half of the creative process is staring into space.  A wooded lake, trees reflecting in the water, white pines rising on the shore, and in the foreground a baby crawling determinedly in circles: this is the scene filling my eyes as I stare.

And this is what I’ve learned, again: mornings are quiet, time is infinite, and creativity is within me.  It’s up to me to wake up, to be present, to pick up the pen and pour words onto the page.



this way: cairn along a Maine trail


50 Pounds of Blueberries


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Ripe blueberries Picking berriesa cluster of ripe fruit pick and eatWe cupped our hands hands and raked our fingers through the bush, producing a heaping pile of blueberries in seconds.  The 20-year old bushes were full and ripe, so heavy with fruit that we circled the same bush three times, harvesting from it as if we were coming to it anew each time around.  From bush to bucket, we worked quickly under a sky threatening rain.  We picked so fast that it didn’t matter how many berries Waylon took out of the bucket to eat–his appetite couldn’t keep up with our hands and those bushes.

Just under two hours later we finished, our buckets 50 pounds heavier, and our berry-filled bellies heavier, too.  And so we’re ready for the winter: strawberries and blueberries piled in the freezer, and canned peaches stored away.  Of course the lamb and chicken will help us through the cold months, and the vegetables, too, but summer’s sweetness is what truly brings sunshine into the yurt on cold winter nights–when the night falls early and the wind and snow blow outside, what better way to warm a home than a peach blueberry cobbler?  Berries ripen in the summer, but we pick for winter, ensuring our desserts will bring us through to another June.


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