Wednesday, December 31, 2008

They're here...

Change always comes bearing gifts.  ~Price Pritchett

Oh my goodness, I don't know what I'm going to do with myself!  The seed and hatchery catalogs have started to arrive and it's like Christmas morning all over again.  I know that I must restrain myself and use the reasoning side of my brain in order to keep things in check. But the dreamy, romantic side of my brain is simply having a field day.  It's simply remarkable that, in the midst of a frosty winter landscape which shows no life at all, I can full well imagine our grounds bursting with green, dancing with blossoms and oozing delicious edibles.  I'm allowing myself the pleasure that pouring over the pages and pictures provides.  I'm not sure what I enjoy more, the pictures of lush vegetables in full rainbow color or the lovely descriptions of feather and fowl.  Who wouldn't want the following arriving at their doorstep??

"PURPLE PERUVIAN--A treasured, traditional variety from the Andean Highlands.  Unique purple skin and glowing purple flesh, the most extreme purple available.  This variety is ideally used for roasting, then cut open to reveal the stunning color.  Hard to find."

"ROMAN CANDLE--Spectacular smooth iridescent yellow fruits that are 2" wide by 4" long.  Very meaty with nice flavor.  One of the few pure-yellow banana-shaped fruits available to gardeners.  Great for making salsa base or tomato sauce."

"MOON & STARS--The medium-sized oval dark green fruits are covered with pea-sized bright yellow "stars" and usually one larger "moon."  The fruits have sweet pink flesh and brown seeds."

Purple potatoes!  Yellow tomatoes!  Melons whose rind looks like the night sky!  If I'm not careful, I will have to make eating a full time job once these babies are in the ground!
And then there are the chickens.
There are the Bantams, with names like Brahma, Sultan, Blue, Belgian Bearded d'Uccle...
or the the Rocks with names like Black Australorps and Rhode Island Red.  Each variety sounds better than the last and soon I find myself scheming to make fresh eggs a cash crop for this family.
And I haven't even begun my goat search in earnest, yet. 

After some of the initial excitement and euphoria begins to calm down I'm struck by the place of amazing privilege from which I pour over these catalogs.  I'm not acquiring a flock of chicks out of necessity, as if my year's supply of protein depended on it.  Rather, I'm choosing to because I can. Understand this, John and I are consciously deciding to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle within which we are more fully involved in our food production and sustenance.  But we don't have to do this.  Our culture doesn't immediately demand that we do this.  In fact, our culture looks upon such choices as "quaint" and as some necessary link to our agrarian past that others continue for the sake of posterity.  And that, my friend, is privilege. But I believe that our culture should embrace such choices in a bigger way.  Not that everyone must get "back to the land" or else.  Obviously, cities are an important part of our culture and survival.  However, it shouldn't have to be all or nothing.  If we are not in a place to pack it up and move to the country, we should be better about supporting those who are already there, growing food and raising animals in ways that honor creation and provide for numbers greater than themselves.  

Now, a confession, put forth in the spirit of full disclosure.  I am no better than anyone when it comes to this.  I talk all big about supporting the local food movement and making conscious decisions regarding our food and such but the ugly truth of the matter is this... I've been grocery shopping at WalMart.  Yes, folks, it's true.  The person who used to "consciously reject" MalWart, the place to buy useless crap, is now realizing that I was so easily able to do that because I lived in an urban setting where the WalMarts of the world were restricted to the suburbs, too far away from me to justify the savings.  

And now, here I am.  Stuck in a conundrum.  How do I adjust to a new job situation that demands strict budgetary decisions in the midst of an increasingly ugly economy?  How can I make the best choices regarding nutrition and wholistic living patterns with less money than we had previously, when we weren't as concerned with the consequences?  Seriously, what is a person to do when every food item put in the grocery cart costs, at minimum, 25% less, if not 50-75% less, than other options?  I suppose one obvious answer is--EAT LESS!  Point taken.  But when it comes to what is required, what should I do?

That is why John and I want to move towards growing more of our own food so that we aren't continually put in the situation where we are forced to compromise our values because we have no sustainable alternative.  But it won't be easy.  We don't yet know how to can or preserve food in order to make what we grow in the summer last until the next crop becomes available. Is a root cellar simply a romantic throw back to the past that would only be more trouble than it's worth?  Do I really believe that we could keep fruits and vegetables through the winter?  Am I willing to do it?

It's just so interesting that what goes around always seems to come around, again.  What is most frustrating is that we don't have any close models with whom we could  apprentice and absorb all of this information.  Sure, my mother has memories of going to her aunts' farm in the rural South, ages ago.  But she was a young city girl and those experiences were more like summer camp.  In fact, after she recalls the fondness of her memories, she then recalls the experiences via the voices of her aunts, and those stories are retold with a bit of the bite and harshness that colored those incredible women's experiences.  

As John and I attempt to move in these new directions we will, ironically, be mostly forging new ground for ourselves.  But our hope and prayer is that we will honor those that have gone before us--those who grew their own food and raised their own animals because that was the natural order of things, those who did such things from a place of necessity, not a place of privilege.

Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things…I am tempted to think…there are no little things.  Bruce Barton

Monday, December 29, 2008

Love comes in all shapes

"Childhood is the world of miracle or of magic: it is as if creation rose luminously out of the night, all new and fresh and astonishing."
Eugene Ionesco

I've just finished putting the boys to sleep.  I'm not sure what happened along the did bedtime morph into this incredibly long, drawn out routine?  When Aidan was younger, even while he was still nursing, I could place him in bed awake, whisper goodnight and walk away.  I suppose things started changing when August came along.  Putting two kids to bed is an entirely different story, especially if they are in different stages of nurturing.  So what had once been very efficient and routine suddenly became, well... not so efficient and routine.  Then, when August joined Aidan in the "Big" bed, I suddenly became a central (literally, me lying in the middle of the bed) part of the whole going to sleep thing.  Now, the boys simply don't go to sleep unless someone joins them.  

I have found that, rather than rant and rave about how it is high time that they learn to go to bed on their own or that they should be less dependent on me or whatever other argument I could put forth about how this is ridiculous, it is much better to just succumb to the arrangement.  Note that I did not say easier.  No, that would be the definition of passive parenting, in my opinion... finding the easier way through a situation rather than a better way.  No, I have not found lying down with my boys every night to be easier.  But what I have found, especially after tonight, is that it is richer.

Aidan has always been a little lover and I fear the day that I am no longer his Sun.  His deep affection and loving admiration for me knows no bounds and I am, for once, not foolish enough to let that go by without complete and utter relish.  After a day of lavish compliments and long, thoughtful looks in my direction, his day is complete just to be tucked in very deliberately and then gently snuggled.  He falls asleep in record time.

August is simply full to bursting, all of the time.  He is animated, whimsical, fully of energy and alive-- all day long.  For anyone who lives with such a person on a daily basis, you know full well that such energy doesn't simply turn off at the end of the day.  August must lull himself to sleep with varying degrees of energy expenditure, each one a bit smaller than the one before, so that eventually he simply falls asleep.  These "expenditures" range from large movements of his arms and legs to more intimate overtures, like patting my hair or cupping my face in his hands.  
And from just that loveliness is where I have just now returned.  As I lay there with Aidan quietly snoring towards my back and August caressing my face with his pudgy, yet slowly lengthening hands, I couldn't help but marvel--
marvel at the gift of darkness to hide my imperfections
marvel at the quiet that comes only at night and manages to stir my imagination
marvel at the magic that two boys can work on my heart.  

I am so much richer in heart when I leave my boys' bedroom each night.  The way that each of them choose to love me at the end of their day is so very unique and so reflective of their personalities.  And, by some miraculous twist of fate, their uniqueness is spun from some of the same fiber from which I am spun and thus, the dance goes on, day after day.  I give to them, they give to me.  I love them, they love me.  Oh, I humbly pray that this miracle of God-spun grace and loveliness that weaves anew in me everyday would never end.  I will die the richest person in the world if it be so.

"Truly wonderful the mind of a child is."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

When I get a little money, I buy books;
and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
 ~ Desiderius Erasmus 1466-1536 ~

So in the midst of all of the hullabaloo...  the new job, the crazy month of October where we lived part time in Jefferson City while we looked for a place to settle into, the acquisition of our stuff from storage that we hadn't seen in almost a year, the ceaseless unpacking and repositioning of said stuff... in the midst of all of this, the boys and I have managed to ease into a pattern of learning that does have it's more formal moments.  I hesitate, because our idea of "formal" probably still looks very much unformal to those whose school experience wasn't at home or, if it was at home, had an experience that more closely resembled a traditional school setting.  For us, our more formal moments are simply the times when we are focusing on acquiring the skills in which Aidan simply needs my help.  The current focus right now is Reading.  We are using a book titled Phonics Pathways and it is perfect for us. It is simple, straightforward and proceeds at a pace that has Aidan reading sentences early on.  My reading background was heavy on phonics and I must say, it has served me well.  I don't remember being taught phonics in terms of drills or flash cards or anything of the sort.  I just know that I know the concept.  Dictionary phonetic spellings make perfect sense to me and I wanted Aidan to have that skill.  The interesting twist in all of this is that Aidan is naturally a whole language kind of guy.  When left to his own devices, he does not naturally lean towards trying to sound out words.  Instead, he is scanning the page for clues and such, hoping to figure out the words by way of context.  I'm hoping that between his natural tendencies and the phonics training he will come out of this learning phase with a good base on which to build his reading life.  I've always believed that once Aidan could read for himself, we would never see him again.  I hope that belief holds true.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A new beginning

The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Well, it has been way too long since I last posted and so very much has changed.  I'm not quite sure why I stopped posting.  Perhaps it was because I kept feeling that maybe, just maybe, we were on the cusp of change and I wanted it all to fall into place before I did any more documenting.  But that was faulty thinking.  I now realize more clearly that life really is a culmination of all the little moments that make up the day.  And though it may seem that some of those moments are incredibly mundane or aggravating or uninteresting, they are all part of what is thrown into the mix that I eventually hope to look back on and claim as good, indeed.  So rather than belabor the point and rant on and on about how lame I am for not writing, I will simply pick up the metaphoric pen and start again.

After ten months of searching, John was offered a job with the Attorney General's Office of Missouri.  As much as we were thrilled with the opportunity and knew that we had to accept it, we were slightly disappointed at its location.  Jefferson City is where we now call home and although it is proving to be a perfectly lovely town, it is further from St. Louis than we were aiming for when looking for employment and places to settle down.  But we, and everyone who is dear to us, knew deep down that this was where we were to go.  So we took the leap and we now find ourselves the proud owners of an 1836 limestone and wood frame farm house on the outskirts of Jefferson City, Missouri.  I think its funny that it was the modern phenomenon of Craig's List that led us to this forever old house, but it only makes for an even better story in our history.  We fall in love with the house over and over again, despite its draughty corners and squirrels in the attic, and we look forward to welcoming our friends and family into its fold.  Our latest entertainment is dreaming about the Spring, seed catalogs, cold frames and greenhouses made from recycled windows, goats and chicks and geese (to scare away the fox, according to Aidan), small kitchen herb gardens and landscaping for wildlife in general.  I'll have to muse more on that later.
Anyway, I hope I will find myself meditating and composing thoughts in this space on a regular basis.  And my other hope is that it will provide another place for me to connect with folks on a deeper level than Facebook can provide.  I'm glad to be back.