Monday, August 29, 2011

When it's time to end

It seems like a mere blink ago that we were receiving these little ones into our hearts and home.  Oh, the anticipation...the excitement...the wonder and adoration when they finally arrived...
Acquiring chicks felt like we were finally, really living the "country life."  Silly to think, now, with the rise of urban chicken husbandry but, in our minds, chickens would fill out the picture of simpler living for us. 

Three years later, I don't know that I would say it was simple, but it has certainly filled out our lives.

We were complete newbies at this but we threw ourselves into the effort.  How difficult could it really be?
We managed to keep those little chicks alive, build them a coop (with almost 100% re-purposed wood), introduce them to our yard (and many neighbors' yards, as well), and to love on them daily.

In return, they provided us with beauty...



and, always, eggs...

Remember that I said we were newbies to this?  Well, the deep swoop of our learning curve has leveled out now and we have closed the first chapter of our "Chicken Experience."  Due to some ignorance, a misguided trust of dogs, the failure to ever electrify our ELECTRIC fence and several forgetful nights where we failed to close up the chicken coop, well...  we managed to whittle down our flock of 34 laying hens to one single, fluffy white, faithful, egg laying hen.  We have decided to give her to a neighbor with more chickens so that she doesn't have to be alone.  I won't pontificate on how I feel about how we got to this point.  I'll just say that I wish we had landed here by way of a different path.  But I will say this.

It has been a joy.

I highly recommend keeping chickens.  Always.

Yes, it's inconvenient when you go out of town and have to secure chicken-sitters. 

Yes, if left completely unattended, they will get in your flower beds and garden.

Yes, they can be stupid and dim witted at times (but who among us has not been described as such at some point?)

But they are also
easily contented,
make wonderful cooing sounds,
produce a miracle of nature EVERY DAY, no questions asked,
love "treats" like broccoli stems and bread crusts,
annihilate a tick population unlike anything I've ever seen,
and, if you're lucky enough to scoop one up and cuddle with it, they are like a little heater, purring under the grasp of your encircling arms, trusting you completely.

It will be strange not to see them out there in the yard.

But I tell you what, come Spring, we'll be pouring over the Hatchery catalog, sizing up the colors and attributes of every chick imaginable... because

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—

That perches in the soul—

And sings the tune without the words—

And never stops—at all—

Emily Dickinson

and so I count
--the zillions of hummingbirds, each vying for one of the feeders on our front porch as they tank up for their thousand mile journey
--the quiet of the morning when I stumble out the door to walk the dog and am bestowed with the gift of golden-laced clouds playing hide and seek with the sun
--pulling weeds..hard, back breaking work that is so very satisfying to my need for neat and tidy edges
--warm apple fritters that make boys giggle with glee
--the anticipation of friends gathering tomorrow for new adventures
--the strength and trust of a dear friend, facing major surgery with grace and peace
--the joy of another friend as she plans her small wedding ceremony and the fact that I am included among the small circle of friends and family blessed to be invited
--the promise of long needed answers to closely kept questions, despite how it might affect the future
--the abundance of food from the garden that simply must be shared
--the opportunity to serve from a place of strength and knowing that such a reality is only because of the ever flowing amount of grace of God...

Friday, August 26, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment}
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
-inspired by SouleMama

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Imperfect prose

prayer for a friend

Two hands crack open the morning with beauty
Splitting the darkness into a thousand shards of light
And there, in that place
of broken shimmering
you stand
bare and exposed

You've come, just like everyday prior
with the desire to receive the goodness, the abundance, the gifts
but there is a hesitancy
then the moment when you become aware of your nakedness
your vulnerability
and you pause

Staying and going and standing and falling
Questions born in a rabbit hole
pulling you in closer as you spiral

It's not as clear as those mornings when you woke
groggy with newborn dust and warm joy bundles rode the waves of your chest
when hours melted into days and weeks and all was full, yet light

There is a heaviness now that hinders
that makes moving rote rather than rhythmic
You can't help but think of that time you hiked for miles
pounds and pounds upon your back
all the provisions one person could possibly need, tucked safely away
And you took that offer for a ride
jumping into the bed of that pickup, feeling the wind piercing your cheeks
watching the world whiz by in a blur of color and sound
Not until you stopped in the next town did you realize that you had never bothered to take off your pack
As if the ride wasn't enough

When does it all equal out?
the good and the bad
the light and the darkness
the yes and the no?
And what ever shall you do in the inbetween time
When you've got feet on either sides of the great divide
straddling all that you want and all that you have?
Where will you land?

And then you feel two hands cracking you open with beauty
splitting darkness into a thousand shards of light
and there
in that place of broken shimmering

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... there is that late August haze that hangs heavy and low.  And despite the heat and the hypnotizing singing of the cicadas, there is still something that hints of Fall...

I am thinking... of a million things at once...of fixing dinner and tonight's meeting, of whether I can get by another day without doing laundry, of new chapter books that will capitivate and inspire, what the future holds...

I am thankful for... slow days and boys who need (and want!) hugs and a new "school year" and of all the possibilities that lie within...

From the learning rooms... is a little brother who is forging ahead with his reading lessons so that he can read along with (or maybe one day, ahead of) his older brother...

From the kitchen... are the attempts to pickle, preserve, pack up, and put away the excess from our garden that, despite its embarrassingly late start, is now kicking it into high gear...

I am wearing... shorts and a white shirt (why do I even try?), Tevas and my favorite blue beaded necklace (present from my boys)...

I am going... to planning meetings and friends' houses and...

I am reading... re-reading, that is... Jane Eyre and loving every minute of it.  Now I remember why I loved it so, years ago.

I am hoping... that the answers to my prayers for wisdom and discernment in several situations will settle on me gently, like a slow, healing rain...

I am hearing... the droning white noise of window a/c units--ones that haven't stopped whirring in weeks upon weeks.  I try, earnestly, to live in the moment but, ever so often, I indulge my weakness for crisp mornings and the smell of woodsmoke and I imagine the Autumn that is forthcoming...

Around the house... are piles of books, Nerf darts, grass clippings, lists...

One of my favorite things... is that first sip of coffee each morning.  Sometimes, I will just hold the mug right below my nostrils, taking in the aroma, reveling in that sweet, anticipatory moment of suspended revery right before I sip...

A few plans for the rest of the week... the gentle easing into some more formal learning routines (not exactly sure what that means around here but...) in order to push through some places in which we have been lingering too long...baking something just because I want to...planning meals for a friend...

A picture for a thought I am sharing...

a visual for what I want to create around here...

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Real Value of Food

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~Lewis Grizzard

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about food lately.  Not in a gluttonous way, mind you.  Rather, as a kind of spiritual practice, really.  The famine in the horn of Africa has been haunting my quiet places ever since I first saw these pictures and I can't shake the feeling I get, deep in my non-starving gut.  The never ending questions have frothed up from somewhere beyond deep within me and I've struggled to know how to move forward.  The most paralyzing question is the one that I always end up landing on and getting stuck in: "How can I continue to go on living my life of abundance here when I know that so many are suffering there?"

I mean that with all seriousness.  How can/shall/do I go on?

How do I, as a follower of Jesus, reconcile my entitled existence with the suffering of others?

What am I supposed to do?

As much as I know nothing, I do believe this... the Spirit of the Living God, the One who breathed me into existence, is breathing something else into my deepest places.  His whisper tells me that what I can do

what I must do
is this:

share what I have.

Although there are many voices within that want to say, "go there! be among them"

I know I am here, for now, and this is what I must do.  share.

We grow some of our own food.  We also had big dreams of being more self-sufficient when we first bought this place.  Those ideals have been greatly humbled by the sheer magnitude of that task, even though that is the very thing we expect those who are starving half-way around the world to do.  Be self-sufficient. 

But we lean on.  We learn more each year and we do what we can.  I know, though, that we could do more and I am living into that understanding.  To grow your own food and to divine all the multitudes of ways to store and preserve that bounty is a process.  And we are such novices.   
But then we have met others who share this desire.  Those who grow children and food and hope.  Those who knead life and prayers into their daily bread.  Those who love their animals and respect and honor the gift those animals share with the farm.  Because isn't that what all of these are, really?  Gifts.
So we enter into relationship with folks and animals and life and wonder.  We try, as much as we can, to choose the gift, rather than the trinkets offered everywhere else and as a result, we enter into a sacred place.
"You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this:
'Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.'
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions."
--Wendell Berry

We are trying to learn the real value of our food, to better understand what all went into the very food we put in our mouths. 
Understand, though...we are but novices.  We are still, very much, Americans...the majority of whom rarely think about their food, much less sit down to enjoy it.  We don't always make the virtuous choice, the humble choice, the sacred choice.  We still sometimes eat to satiate some other hunger rather than to celebrate the gift.  But we stumble on...reaching...hoping.

We strive for the relationship, the connection.  Because that's when you can't help but share.

(bread by Renee's Breads and milk fresh from a cow named Chocolate at Full Plate Farm)
And so I continue to count the gifts:
--a weekend full of being together, listening, laughing
--so many colors in the garden right now and a surprise vegetable, courtesy of that beloved compost (maybe something a chicken ate and passed on as a gift?!)
--a string of ruby peppers hanging in our kitchen, drying, waiting to add needed warmth to winter stews
--sharing the gift with our chickens...oh how they love our offerings of rinds and peels and seeds
--how the chickens give us gifts in return...beautiful eggs in varying shades of brown
--swirls of cinnamon that make the kitchen smell like home
--milk with full on cream that is living and breathing and "tastes like grass", according to August
--the hard lessons learned through chores that bend and shape and make little boys stronger
--sitting around the fire circle on a Sunday night, listening to owls and figuring out where North is and talking about what will become of the Earth
--falling asleep with a book in hand

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Imperfect Prose on Thursdays

i wake to find the world wrapped in fog

amazing how
like snow
it absorbs
all sound
holding everything
in its embrace

i marvel at how it reveals
mysteries and secrets
like the wizard boy hidden beneath his invisibility cloak
i walk

there are trails
vestiges of nocturnal meanderings
swirling in the grass like figure eights
and I can now see
the mystery
that my dog smells
every morning
in her frenetic way
she's not crazy
after all

but the greatest magic
on the spider webs
their beauty and exquisite choreography
now bejewelled with drops of
heavy and swooning

all of this
it is always there


to once be blind
but now