Sunday, December 19, 2010

most silently

Good morning.

Another deep sigh...

The sun is shining, yes- I see it. 
 The bright-glow moon out last night- will I convey where it found me?

I hear the guineas
knee deep in cold-white,frozen fluffy powder- still calling, still alive.  The one leader always taking the first treacherous risks/steps so that the others might follow.  Ah, yes- I see that too. 

In time, I get it.

I see where someone plowed our drive as we were a bit unable for awhile.  All the hopeless moments I spent seething, wondering "where is the kindness, where are the friends, the others, the..." just like me, they take a bit to catch on maybe.  And then- there they were...helping; silently sweetly anonymously- lending a hand.
And we worry about so much, his job.  Our savings.  But we wonder too, more than worry- we wonder.

 The folks back home who struggle too, who lose too- their sure footing because someone hurt them in word or deed, right when they most needed assurance, a gentle strong kindness to see them through....
And then we see this morning, in the form of green carnations and bowed heads came griefs shared, sorrows carried for a time so the family who lost more than any of them can ever say, at least, at least they know that many have risen so that they do not have to. For now- the hearts of mankind are thawed, open, beating one tick at a time together, as the black limo passes.

  A kind act in snow removal, or a tiny, green tinged petal of a flower that lands at one's window at least, at least!  I can finally see what my eyes have painfully adjusted to- love bears all.

When others reveal to the one's who are suffering an out and out down-in-the-dirt-too raw empathy- that is compassion; the necessary ingredient in healing.  Without it, scars form over wounds that will not heal.  

And so it is at this time of year, the darkest days soon revealing more light- I pray for you and I pray for me, that we may find within ourselves deep wells of compassion. 
 And if you think it is not within you, I pray you think again- for even the most lowly among us have it there in that invisible dimension although no one ever knows this until it is shared.

 That's how it works and many, many times- most silently.  No words are necessary- green carnations, a bowed head, tears,sobs, a hand upon a shoulder, a nod of understanding, a squeeze of fingers... 
  A freshly plowed drive, by a black truck that no one seems to know who it's owner is.... 

Peace to you and yours.  And snow bright joy...take care-

Thursday, December 9, 2010

a little flame

One week ago today, my son's house burnt down.  Every thing lost.  I had the option to fly out to Illinois immediately, to swoop in as I am apt to do- just for support, just to hug him and let him know I was there ready to take charge.  My eldest daughter Emma reasoned that it would be better if I stayed the course here, come home on my scheduled trip later and use the money I would have spent on the ticket- to purchase some things that Mathew might need in the long and short run.  I wired her the money and she replaced his cell phone, activated it, called me on it so I'd have the number.  Hopefully now his friends can call him, and Mathew and I have certainly burnt up the wires a time or two since he can communicate again.

It has been a difficult test for him, for me.  Thankfully he was not home when an electrical short began to burn all that he had acquired in his almost twenty one years.  And thankful too, for the outpouring of love and kindness sent his way by the local folks there in Williamsville.  Mathew was the first to arrive at what use to be his home.  He could do nothing more than save the dogs and watch it burn.

"It is what it is."  His thoughts on watching it, knowing there was nothing he could do but stand there as it slowly unfolded, the fire and flames.

I have tried to put myself in his shoes, have tried to see with his eyes, feel with his heart.  I cannot.  I can only imagine what it might feel like to lose things one holds dear by no act of your own, but by a natural force.  He's been through too much for such a young man, and yet- it is what it is.  He shows signs of sadness of course...but also- such courage.  Such stand-upedness, take it on the chin and keep standing.  I hate with all my heart, these occurrences.  I pray his spirit remains intact.  I strongly disagree silently- the things that have been said to him, that he relays, that I have breaks my heart and perhaps his too, when people think with their head too much in times like these.  When they say-

"God opens a window when he closes a door...."
"God has a plan...."

I do not disagree with the sentiment, but if only one might stand there in his shoes, realize that right now- it just might feel more like a kick in the teeth or lower extremities.  See, when you're standing in an elevated place, what purpose does it serve to look down from that safe distance and offer a head shot instead of a heart thought?!

This young man has been baptized by fire all his life- his character rich, his spirit iron clad.  But that doesn't make him or anyone else in a position of great vulnerability any more able to perceive the unfolding lessons that may come from disaster.  It'll take time for him to come around to faith again, little by little- he'll get there.
God may move in mysterious ways, but in times of great suffering- it truly makes little sense to interpret the signs for one who has been momentarily blindsided.  And that's my lesson in all of this.  I cannot know the inside workings of someone's heart, the low down demons praying on their last frazzled nerve.  I have to learn to acknowledge first the burden before I can offer any kind of pardon.

In ending, Mathew is doing well with the circumstances.  He has good friends, a loving family, a job and youth on his side.  He's alive.  He has still such wonders to discover, some that just may come from the ashes, maybe when the smoke clears his level of empathy, a boundless compassion may arise for others deeply, sincerely from the low down places he has found himself in.   And found in himself, a complete and unwavering faith...I do not wish that for him.  What a terrific burden, to look at the despair in someone else's sadness, to sink into the depths in order to raise someone back up. Everything within me says please, not that.  Just let him be, let him grow- safe and in sunshine.  But that's not how it works, is it?  Life is so unfair and so fair.  What doesn't kill us, kicks us.  What doesn't heal us, hurts us.  The only thing left standing, left smoldering- is a little flame.  My hope for him, for all of us- no matter what life throws at us, it never diminishes our fire.  Mathew Martin Earl Fowler amazes me...that little spark within him just keeps glowing and glowing.  I don't see how, I don't know why- but it is so.

Mathew walking through the fog

Saturday, December 4, 2010

we already are

"It is what it is"
I have been keeping a running journal, farm news, poetry and pictorial life essay going for three years.  There were times I'd just as soon every one would quit looking at me, through me or even to me and then there were times when I found through the keyboard- a clarity that I would have never stopped to reflect upon had I not tapped it out.
Two hundred and seventy four times I have come on here and laid bare a story.  Does it matter to the universe that I do this, write a blog?
  Yes, in a way I think it does.  There have been times when my heart went out to you, when it reached out in order that someone might say- "there there now..."  When it beat excitedly with news about leaves or sprouts, sunrises- moons, mice and men, children and dogs...   Sometimes my heart was breaking, could you hear that too?  True calling is nothing but a toll, a has made a difference to me in that as I was changing, growing- hell, going to seed!  I chimed in...that's all.  This blog is the clear sound of my own music, the thing I was made to play.  I'm a little off key at times, a little flat, sometimes shrill- still it is my song you are hearing, the chord I was meant to strike as only I could.
See...I think that we all have a note to play, a chord that can be struck or strummed by no one else but us.  When we become that instrument, it is only then that we can truly sense the true rhythm of this world, of each other, of every thing.
But what do I know really?  I'm just a hayseed, and truly- I'm quite happy simply being a part of it all.  I'm glad I have my place here, though I would definitely share it if someone had the need to join the chorus...when you get right down to it, we all do have that need.   To be a part of it.   Thing is- we already are.  But we all too often silence our own joy, our own belonging when we silence our stories, our songs, our parts...

Just my two cents, thanks for listening.

Take care-

(Two hundred and seventy four dollars will be distributed to my son, his father and a local charity in honor of the anniversary of True Calling.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

in Jenny's shoes

When I was young, I lived in a big house on a busy street that never stopped moving, was always noisy in a harsh way and I would lie awake at night in my second story room facing that street and wish for more peaceful surroundings some day.  There were two great pines out front and I could see the tips of them from the double windows along side my cold metal framed bed, I often would look beyond them and see what wasn't there but in my young heart- I would visualize a fantasy forest with as many trees as there were stars overhead.  A place that had little air traffic from noisy planes, no tires squealing on a bustling road- no lost children yearning for any kind of attention- the kind of children that would lure animals out into the street just to see if they were agile enough to dodge traffic.  It was an unkind place and I longed to live somewhere else.

Our neighbors next door were of Polish and German heritage.  They had two sons- both born in America, one in the service during the Viet Nam war and one who was very troubled and acted out.  Jenny was the mom and she spoke little English, she was a cold and unfriendly woman.  I often heard her sweeping, a broom in her hands consistently.  She reminds me now of the nurse in Young Frankenstein- I believe Cloris Leachman played the part.  My brothers and I avoided Jenny as best we could, there seemed to be no love in her heart whatsoever and certainly we needed that- so from her, we hid.  I recalled yesterday- while working in the wreath factory, Jenny.  I think somewhere in the back of my mind- I was still hiding from her but in an atmosphere of feeling suspect to my co-workers, I conjured her back up- now a safe distance away.  There was Jenny, sweeping, cooking, keeping clean in what must of seemed to her in America- a hostile place.

One day, she came to our back door with a letter in her hand.  I remember she knocked and the boys ran while I was left to answer her call.  I did not want to, but I'm pretty sure it must have been obvious that I was at the sink doing dishes, possibly she could see my silhouette or had seen it first from her driveway and then peered through the screen in the back door and knew where to find me.  Running would have been dishonest, I may have been young- but I was a girl scout in the making and I knew better by then, to be true- even to my scary neighbor.

"You read" she said.  Not a question- a command.

"The letter?  You want me to read your letter?" I'm pretty sure I was barely whispering and gasping for a little bit of breath as I pantomimed as best I could- the act of reading.

"You read to me, you."

 And that was that.  I followed her back to her house to a kitchen I had never been invited to before.  I remember how good it smelled, how clean it was- I felt kind of dirty just standing there, but also a bit important.  Why me?  Why now?  I was only eleven but I think she must have seen me outside often with a book anywhere I might lay my lanky Olive Oyl frame- I loved to read anything I could get my hands on, reading transported me away from North Grand Avenue.

The letter came from Jimmy who may have been the only bright spot that Jenny knew.  Even at eleven, I could sense this.  I remember the airmail red white and blue ribbon like border on the envelope. For whatever reason, Jenny did not want to share this letter with her husband or other son.  This was her secret treasure and she need an interpreter that she would have to trust.  Me.

Since she could not understand a level of English greater than basic commands, I had to act out the letter.  I needed some way to make her understand what Jimmy was writing about.  It was a very strange ordeal that I found a bit uncomfortable but also I felt like I was performing some service that only I could.  I remember looking around the room for props, picking something up that might resemble a feeling or word to Jenny.  It was certainly slow going at first but eventually everything became clearer and  I could make Jenny understand most of what the letter said.

And it was only yesterday, in what seemed like such a foreign and far off land- that I remembered all of this.  I have struggled greatly with finding my footing here in my new home.  I have been here for one year and home is not really the word I would give this place.  The road leading to my door doesn't feel like "coming home".  The grocery store, the gas station even the post office is so unfamiliar still that I wonder if I'll ever take hold.  But these are just places, it's the post mistress that makes me feel a bit less foreign.  It's the station attendant who remembers me and always says- "Have a good evening deah."  And it's the gals there at the wreath place that smile at me, sometimes and barely it seems to my fearful heart- that help me lighten up a bit.  I think that's why I thought of Jenny.  It wasn't enough to know that Jimmy thought of her, it wasn't near enough to just carry those love letters around- she really had to trust another to communicate the contents.

I read more letters for Jenny, I can't recall how many- and it remained a secret then and up until now.  Some time in that window back to then- she showed me a few of her things, once she even took me into her bedroom to share with me pictures of her family and a jewelry box.  There was mostly silence between us besides the vocal reading of the letters- we communicated more with our eyes than anything, and in hers during the show and tell- I really saw her, how scared she was- how little she had in this world when it came to relationships, friendship.  I wonder now if I was her only friend.  She never really said so or even touched me ever- but I did feel special, even from a cold fish like her- because I knew in possibly all the world and certainly on that block- I was the one soul she could trust.  I think when someone puts their trust in you, especially when they come from a most vulnerable, terrifying place- it is something of a blessing.

I heard her sweeping the driveway one day, nothing particularly special about that as she did it at least once a day-but it had become a sound of reassurance and I found myself looking forward to it.  The next sounds I heard haunted me for quite some time- I heard her gasp,  the sweeping stop and then I heard her body and broom drop.  I could not go to her, I was only by then twelve- but as I looked out the window I could see her laying there, cold and alone.  Her eyes were open, but not to me or anything any more. I called to the next door neighbor, an ambulance came and that is all I ever knew, ever more- about Jenny.

Now in my grown up head- I wished I could have gone out to her, sat with her- maybe hoped her soul up and away.  She lived alone surrounded by family.  She died in the same way- I am sorry now that I did not know better, could not reach out to her as I certainly would have if she had allowed it.  But that's just the thing- it has taken me these many years to see clearly the story there, it's meaning to me now.  Jenny graced me with her tiniest trust.  It's all she had, all she could let go of in order to survive but I think when she did do that, maybe just maybe- it warmed her up a bit.  Maybe she didn't die alone, I wonder if the little seed I planted in her made it's way with her to where she is now.  I certainly hope so.

I'll walk in Jenny's shoes then, here.  That's the seed she planted in me and it has only just begun slowly to grow.
Funny isn't it, how these things we keep inside shore up on our horizons we have forgotten that surface just when we really need them.

Take care-

Monday, November 8, 2010

work on our hands

Pitch from the Pine

I am working seasonally now.  At the end of the day, I look at my hands and I see the work still there- resin from the greenery that I've snipped all day long, slits tiny and puffy from the pruners that caught skin instead of pine tips.  The work still lingers in my muscles- my neck, stiff and tired, my back tight and inflexible.  Black under my fingernails and needles in my hair- and I smell, even after a good long soaking in Epsom salts and lavender steaming from the bathwater, I stink of evergreen.  Physically exhausted by 8:00 PM, emotionally numb sooner and spiritually averted all the live long day until I sink into sweet dreams almost immediately upon retiring.  By 5:00 AM, I am up and ready to do better, go longer- make more centerpieces.  I breathe deep in and deep out, forty times if necessary to calm my nerves down by the time I pull into the parking lot where many more workers just like me come and work to do better, give better, fill their heating oil tanks up to get through the longest, harshest hardest winters here in Maine.  And now I know my neighbors better.  Now I listen more to what is unspoken and less to what is said.  I see the hands, just like mine- busy and blackened by the thankful work of the season.

And I wonder, do they have an inkling too of the joy that attends these pieces that go all over the world, here from Maine?  Do they wonder if the recipients take to heart the hands, the many many hands that build a bit of Christmas in each and every piece, do those recipients realize the gladness of doing something that puts money in pockets that go for far too long empty here in this Downeast county?  When they pull the fragrant objects from the shipping bags out onto their dining table or mantle- do they realize the effort of so many that have so little, from the snippers at the tables to the cutters in the forests that tip the trees that barely notice the pruning that is but a little healthy take of overgrowth?
I didn't know all of this.  Didn't realize a wreath I purchased through L.L. Bean served so many hands of hands and heated homes, and had it not been for this seasonal labor opportunity, so many would go without.
I see now that folks around here are not lazy, no- far from it.  They are hard workers, the hardest I've seen- ever.  But there is so little employment opportunity, so little educational opportunities, but not so little spirit in loving any and seemingly all positions of employment.  Work is a blessing to these folks, they count it as such.
I recall my first visit to Maine- I hit the nail on the head when I reckoned that Mainers celebrate the slightest win.  They do.  And they laugh all along and anyway, and tell stories while standing for hours on end, cutting, snipping away the dread of little Christmas and heat- this year with this wreath comes Christmas, comes heat, comes relief to the spirit- a temporary improvement but improvement none the less.
I am not one of them, I am from away.  But I do see now how much the same we are, when the going gets tough, the tough get snipping.  We do not make ends meet so much for comfort- but to comfort all and who we love by this work on our hands.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Taking a breath

I was terrified.  I knew no one.  The dark gray halls surrounding me matched my mood.  There were bumps to my left side, then elbows to my right- every time I turned towards the taunters I was met with down turned eyes in concealment.  I clutched my books tighter, hugging them into my  belly, and kept on walking.  There were many moving feet in front of me, perhaps as many behind- everyone scurrying like little mice through the maze of hallways before that next shrill bell sounded..  Back then, I didn't know how to assert myself, I was doomed as a relocated Freshman from an inner city big school to a small time hick farm school.  The country kids hated me and I let them.  That is until I met Mrs. Cardoni.

I was stuck in Spanish class, Spanish!  As if I'd ever cross the border...this was back in the 70's and America was tops- in our speech, our dress and in our vacation destinations.   If it wasn't bad enough being hated the moment you walked through entrance doors that were open but only in a very narrow way, it got even bleaker with  involuntary  enrollment in Spanish class.  And then to be made to sit in the front row.  Long legs, little desks, blushing easily- probably a little gassy too, nerves do that you know.  

"Hola Senorita!"  Cardoni was on it the minute I sat down.

I wanted to say to the teacher, "Please leave me alone, draw no attention to me- can't you see I'm a wounded animal here!  Caged with no where to run and everyone ready to pounce, oh please senorita hola someone else!!!"

Of course I didn't say that, hell I couldn't speak Spanish and I sure as heck wasn't getting much out in English either...I was terrified.  I did feel caged.  And now this little statured, tussled haired teacher was taunting me too.  I made eye contact, for just a split second- surely she could see the burn down in my soul.

"Hola Senorrri-ta!" she said again,  rolling her rr's off of her tongue like a dart and delivering the poison with ta.

I tried to open my mouth to speak then, I would just mimic her like a parrot- I did not want to die on top of everything else, surely later I might slither out of there, maybe not intact but still alive enough to crawl on my belly- like a reptile.

But then an unacceptable error was made, someone took up where Mrs. Cardoni left off-

"Hola Senorita!  What's wrong with you, you deaf?"  said a rather stupid guy.  Then the whole stupid class, well maybe not all of them- started to tease and taunt too.  They proved themselves even more stupid when Cardoni turned and gave them all an evil sweet look, thinking she was on their side they took it up a peg, with laughing and howling mixed in.
Wham!  A tiny hand from that smallish woman slammed down on my desk- I knew it had to hurt, but her face showed no suffering.  She had a look of complete resolve while her hand lay flat and still.  Not once did her voice raise but she  managed to put emphasis on NEVER IN MY CLASS IDIOTS by spitting and slamming that hand down again.
I really thought I was in trouble then,  I started all slithering away for me, she must be ready to chop me up in a little pieces.  She faced the class, still with her fingers lightly touching my desk- as if a connection had been made and this was her charging station, she lifted up her other hand and pointed.
Cardoni's pointing tactic was much like the Wicked Witch of the West's way....remember how she squinted her eyes, and she stated more quietly though with utmost certainty-
 "Ill get you my pretty..."  
The kind of finger pointing that draws you into target range instead of leading your eyes to the safe distance away.
She sneered, orbiting the room with that finger while not saying another word.  She looked like a gypsy delivering quiet curses.  The kids knew that a spell had been cast and all were doomed, surely they hated me even more.  The bell went off but she was still pointing, leering and and no one knew whether to rise or fall.   Finally, she dropped her arm and everyone got up to leave.  Mrs. Cardoni was not through with me yet, she gently raised the same finger towards me and winked.
"Sit Senorita" she said.
After everyone had left the class, I sat there- silent and sick.  Cardoni traveled up towards her desk, twisted herself around so she was half leaning against it, with her short feisty legs extend fully in front of her and her arms folded serenely across her chest.
"Hola Senorita."  She said.
I thought I was going to cry if I opened my mouth, my lips must have trembled- although I was not going to allow myself to cry, I sincerely could not help it.  I made no sound  as a few silent tears trickled over and down my cheeks before I could swipe  them off.  My resolve must have showed too, Mrs. Cardoni caved and cared enough to give me a pep talk that turned the tide for me, the foreigner.   She became my first real friend that day.  It only took that secret wink from her to renew my spirit as I shuffled through my high school daze.
(Incidentally, she was my journalism teacher- the one subject I excelled at personally in school.  She gave us all great freedom in that class, though it could be revoked immediately if you did not appreciate it and act accordingly.)

I tell that story because it has so many similarities in relocating from one's home state to one's new home in a state that is erroneously  known for keeping outsiders outside.  I believed all that, even though I reasoned beforehand that it would be OK after all, because I love my solitude.  In time, I would make friends- I was not all that eager to do anything other than to just settle in, find some peace.  I needed peace.  I needed beauty.  I needed Maine because it offered all of that in it's very own natural way.  The Big Fish and I were already the best of friends and certainly acted upon it with our walks and drives, star gazing and lake cruising.  But shopping at grocery stores and local restaurants- I began to go back to my Freshman days, expecting cruelty, unkindness and in part, I received it.
I was in that maze again of  gray hallways, I didn't know my way and  held close to my chest- everything.  I reasoned that they'd never accept me, they're not friendly so I'd just stick close to me and mine, protecting my spirit once again by not asserting it.
I often struggle with being fearful.   It has taken me a very long time to let my spirit take control- when allowed to soar, the spirit's potential goes beyond measure.  Mrs. Cardoni taught me that, her's was a fierce and assertive spirit.  She never left it at the door like so many other teachers had- I believe that woman was all spirit in the classroom.  She was fully aware of  where her source of power came from.  The woman never lost her humanity, she connected by fingers on a desk, glares across the room- but always on the other side of those tactics was love.  She never let up, never backed down because she also realized the potential in each of us and never let us forget it.  It took me many years right on up to this point to realize her nature, to remember what she taught me.  It is fine and well and good to come to those realizations, but 30 years to count a forgotten blessing?  Life is short, this minute, this very second- the time is at hand to do better.  Here.  Now.
So....with all that said, I am not living up to my full potential here.  In Maine, in blogging, in anything really.  I am kind yes, I try to be the best possible human I can be, but at the cost of my spirit taking a back seat to where my head and heart want to drive.  I am where I am because I needed to be here...I don't know why, I truly don't know how- but on that day several years back, when I was struck alive by these very words-

." is a true wonder I breathe at all."

I still have that remarkable wonder, or it has me.  It is the way I want to live and/or be.  My spirit is authentic, my head and heart- not so much.   It is good to be alive, it is wondrous to take breath in, let it out.  Living, leafs, rain, seasons changing- all profound.
It is not enough to write about it, anyone can do that, say that.  To begin living it more fully with much work to do is on my plate and this blog will just have to take a back seat.  Once a week it seems I feel more of an obligation  in writing content than enjoying it as I use to.  Which is absolutely no reflection what so ever on the friends I have made through it- I will continue to read you as I can. I learn  and have learned so much from people I have never met yet who are openly and abundantly kind to all.

Life is school,  learn your lessons and then- graduate.  

Where I frequently find myself these days is out there- not in here.  In being still, first I remember then I give it up or over to what I am sensing, living in that moment.  And I can only assume that will bore the hell out of say over and over "I am in awe".  Every day- awe.  At rest each night- thankful.

I will post from time to time, but according to no schedules.  I am coming up on three years of blogging- the true calling I found led me up to this point, in so many words and pictures.  I thank you for appreciating my take, I have invited guest writers here who have a deep yearning to share a bit of their lives and experiences.  I hope for every one's sake- they take me up on it.

Take care-

Saturday, October 16, 2010

sputtering away

Apple butter is sputtering away on the stove, canner at the ready to take it all in and preserve it through a boiling water bath.  The weather here in deep east Maine has been so beautiful, the roadsides washed in blazing colors- the likes I've never seen before.  Wherever I go, in my lap rests my old rickety camera- as some misguided soul stole my new one on my last trip to Illinois.  My zoom now is more like a sputter, my wide angle seems more like a key hole and there is no eye piece, which I really don't like.  I have my heart set on a new Canon but am waiting for some matching funds to come through.  I still take pictures and  have even been trying my hand at videos.  Luckily, the Big Fish and I have encountered three moose in the last week and have video taped with hilarious results.  He grunts like a moose and I laugh...all caught on audio.  I have shared one film with my friends and family, the others are damning...though when friends and family visit, maybe the shameful flicks will be just the ice breaker most needed to loosen things up a bit...hopefully, their curiosity getting them in gear to explore.

"See how foolish we are?  And you can be too...C'mon, let's go for a drive!"

 When my kids come to visit, even though what is going on outside is far more interesting than what's being played on the mind numb-er, they still spend too much time in front of the set and have made all the necessary adjustments to bring about the best programming and picture.  I always have work for them to do on our communication devices- so, I can't complain too much.

"Can you change the ink in the printer?"  "How do I upload this?" "Burn this CD for me...please?!"

We are nontechnical savvy folks...we can't for the life of us figure out our Wii, and how we might stream movies right to our television set.  I truly don't like TV and mainly watch PBS and documentaries.  Netflix has proven to be a great source of entertainment though the man and I do not see eye to eye on which films are best, so out of two choices- we have agreed to sit through each other's movies, out of love and respect I tell myself.  (Though I usually read a book while he watches his History and SyFy stuff.)  Is it just me or have times really gotten rotten when the life of a hokey haired exterminator is entertaining?  OK, it's just me...and reason enough not to watch what passes as entertainment these days.  Thank goodness for the library!

Times up...the canner calls.  Have a great weekend, may these pictures of "the season of fullness" inspire you to get out and wander.
Take care-

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fall keeps within us

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge

How lovely is this Autumn!  I hope I don't ever take for granted these colors...never have I seen such enormity of  beauty in the change of a season.  At first I found myself a bit melancholy, I recall the Big Fish wondering what the heck was up with me-

"I don't know...maybe it's the change of seasons.  I get like this...."

Good enough explanation for the man, although he avoided me in wide-walking-around circles for the rest of that day.  Smart man.

My fella works in the local paper mill, an economic anchor here in this area.  He's been employed by the mill for over thirty years.  He just got through and over a two week 12 hour day, no time off run...I missed him a bit.  This past week and still counting today- he has been on vacation.  Wood splitting, stacking, yard clean up, installing a new wench so we don't wrench our backs so much, and he's suggesting I clear out the gardens for fall tilling...

"What?!  It hasn't even frosted yet, I like to keep the sunflower stands for winter feeds for the birds and the marigolds and cosmos are still beautifully vibrant and ever blooming...."

"Yes deah, I understand that (his stock reply to my long winded explanations for why I do the things I do...), but we've got to clear the ground and get ready..."

"AAARRRGGHHH!!! Don't say it, please- I know what's coming, I do!  But, but, but..."

So into the hoophouse upon a drying table the sunflower heads went, and all along the chicken wire walls the hydrangeas did go, drying perfectly mounded and the herbs are hanging here and there and all across the garage.  Apples are piled high in a work area, I've only attended half of them, putting away enough apple sauce to feed a small army, still have the apple butter to work out.  Pears have been pickled in a crock and fruit flies are gathering like a buzzing congregation around the blueberry liqueur vessel.  This preservation time is a time of experimenting with new recipes, improving old modes of storing and restoring old ways I loved doing but over the last several years, had no time for.  I am as busy as the bees I see still gathering pollen, I am as happy as the fat blue jays stealing and storing all the sunflower seeds that they can jam into their cheeks, I am as silent at times, in the splendid solitude I find out by the old camp- as the yellow gilled mushrooms appearing seemingly out of nowhere.

I marvel at the once shy trees along the roadways, never before have they had their say as they do now- standing as if in a cotillion, all decked out in their finest finery- keeping time just as well as their seasoned evergreen boastful neighbors.

And I am thankful once again, for the preservation of this time.  Fall keeps within us- a chain of memories.  We add to it, link by link- a charm from each successive year and the one at hand.  Winter puts to sleep all growth, Spring is fine for newness, Summer keeps us on our toes, but it is Autumn truly, that reflects every deed done by the sun and rain, storm and ice- manifesting brilliance!

Yes- I know what is to come.  But for now, the gathering continues, the momentum- almost at it's peak- slows like tires on a gravel road and I...well- I make haste in viewing the thickness of a time that soon will thin into the bare branched limbs of winter.  My memory made rosary of Fall bears witness to yet another sustainable harvest.

Take care-

Monday, October 4, 2010

In our most vulnerable hours


I read the paper yesterday, something I often do on Sundays while drinking tea, sitting in a big comfy recliner catching up on current events.  There was an article on page 8 that upset me tremendously.  The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reported on funeral picketers testing the limits of free speech.  What caught my eye, as I preferred not to read the article yet, I just knew how I would react to it- was the photo that accompanied the report.
A solemn soldier, Retired Army Maj. Gen. Bill Branson standing at salute in front of a group of hate-filled-in-God's-name picketers.  His steadfast stance in the face of adversity was very reassuring and encouraged me to digest the article as best I could.  It was very difficult to read and still this morning, I am affected.   How can it be, I am left to wonder- that in our most vulnerable hours, we can no longer expect peace at a funeral?
   Mourning, grieving becomes as the experts say "complicated" when a life ends suddenly, when a young person dies before their time, their natural end.  The ceremony then becomes more than just a rite of passage, it is a life line of support.  The burden of learning that your child will never walk through your door again, will never sit at your table, will never come home from war, will never have children, will too much to bear alone.  It is then when you realize you need your community, your friends and family to help bear the weight of the burden for you, until one day- on borrowed strength, you can stand again on your own and go on with life.

I cannot imagine what the hundreds of families who have lost their soldier sons and daughters must have felt, when on top of all their grief and unbearable pain- they had to bear as well, cruelty from a group who are motivated by fear and hate, who felt safe and well within the law and their rights to freedom of speech to desecrate a soldier's ceremony of honor.

Freedom of speech goes too far when it is allowed to dishonor another's right to bury with honor- their dead.
  When freedom of speech inflicts physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain on the overtly vulnerable grievers- it is no longer a freedom; it is a weapon that should be lawfully taken away from the assailants.

.  In peace, in war time, all throughout history- we honor our dead by our ceremonies, it is a human right that should be upheld by the highest court.

(I realize I probably made the same point over and over- I tried to write this just like I would say it, but...I couldn't. I wrote and re-wrote too many times... In my time of great need, when Taps was played and made me know there was a sanctity all among us and echoing from the past, at the very least I was allowed that somber solitude, the stillness of every tongue in the moment of silence before the guns went off and even after- I was allowed a ceremony to bury someone that wore a uniform for you, but was a son to me.  It was a deeply respectful and moving honor to his service and his life.  That article made me realize what a blessing the funeral was, I never thought I'd be thankful for it, but it does and did somewhat , give me and mine- peace, I pray we all speak up.  I had to say something, it is simply not right to deny a family peace at the time of it's last ceremony with their loved one.  )


Monday, September 20, 2010

renewed as the dew

"I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter...."

Do you remember the night, a few days back- when you walked through the gardens and the sunflowers cast moon shadows behind them?  Remember how it gave you pause, as if their down turned faces were shyly smiling still- through their yellow petaled bangs?  And do you recall how it made you stop, steadfast and look back at your own shadow?  And in that moment, did not all the world seem aglow with moonlight, which is more tender and forgiving...perhaps making all walking the street, lost out in the great world- feel a bit as though we are all so much alike in our shadows?  The same color, softened edges- the moon light ardently shining on our heads, faces- forgiving us our days missteps?  Is it not a blessing to be cast in that gentle light, as all and everything is, in September?

 How you wondered out loud- where the summer went too?  Autumn coming  on the heels of a very dry spell, watering was worrisome as the well might be made to run dry, so the tomatoes in the hoop house had to learn to survive without constant watering and monitoring and still, they grew red and lovely, the recollection now saw concern back then when there was no real cause to worry.  Things grow as they are apt to do.  With or without intervention from a concerned mustn't worry so.  Every year, about this time- September, it is as though your perception becomes keener, you are more willing to let things be as they are.

It is cool enough at night that bugs no longer burden you, it is only the sliver of light over head that guides you into the following days of compressed wonder.  The lighted hours shortening, the plants bursting with what energy they have left, in their final and full regard for life.  Bees weighed down gleefully with pollen so thick on their legs that it is a wonder they can still fly on to more collection sites, yet they set off again and again-seemingly unburdened.

 Ah, sweet September- the summer brought so much to handle, to work through, heating up the compost- but what has come of it?

  All that my eyes see now, are prayers answered.  I look to heaven in the web, in the golden rod and flower beds.  I see the pearly gates in the glistening of dew on the trellises, heavy with morning glories.  And there, an angel- praying before it's precise movement towards a meal of a tiny moth- unaware of the mantis warrior camouflaged as the very stem they both share.  And in the evening, the cool blue heavy evenings- comes a mist now that blankets the shadows, the sunflowers, the soul's misgivings- a sweet forgiveness shrouds all and I will sleep renewed as the dew.

Dew Notice

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

That Which Perpetuates Good

Sometimes I wonder why people do what they do in terms of a living.  Some I suspect just do what they have to - to get by, feed their families, make the payments.  I know this farming thing is a tough gig, but it's a workout all the same and keeps me plenty busy, meeting just about every need I have- spiritual, physical, emotional.  I have worked many jobs in my lifetime, most of those meeting the first criteria of doing what I had to do just to get by, but I always grew something.  I felt immense pride and joy in putting food on the table that I grew.  The kids would always roll their eyes after every exclamation-"Came from the garden kids!"  Or at the winter table-"These pickles were grown right here, by golly- last July, aren't they good?"  More eye rolling, more sense of embarrassment when their friend happened to be eating with us.  "Mom is such a hippy!"  (I'm too young to be a hippy....)  I think now though, the kids are happy with the jams that come their way, via the postal service these days.  I dream that they sit at their tables, buttering their bread and smiling big as they glob on big spoons of homemade goodness from Mom's are kind of reluctant to let you know when something as soft and gooey as jelly touches their heart.  My aim is always there, past their stomach and through to their tickers.

I have always encouraged my children to vote, taking them to the booths with me, explaining the process was a big deal, something when they were little they boasted about at school, displaying proudly the flag sticker that went along with vote casting.  I know Emma is a registered voter, not sure on the other two- I recall hearing of Em's first vote, the memory recalled by her with pride.  But I also hope I instilled something just as important as that vote- which, in all honesty does not carry the weight it once did.  Nowadays- I vote with my bucks.  I try to perpetuate the good being done by those who take from the land and give more back.  Those who handmake  clothing and use resources close to home which helps their local economy out.  I try to buy from the guy that makes pillowcases and donates a dollar of every sale to a program that offers shoes to children who don't have any.  I buy glasses upon glasses of lemonade from the local 4-H who are trying to get needed funds for camps and learning excursions.  Imported stuff does not get my vote.  If the catalog business imports everything, I recycle their rag and purchase nothing from them.  I shop at Goodwill- apt name.  I'm a shopaholic for good will.  Buy USA gets my vote, if only more folks would vote-perpetuate with their bucks local shops and American made- the white washed big box stores might cease to send out all our "votes" to overseas corporations where the workers are treated inhumanely, I do not wish to perpetuate that.  Now there are some who'll say-"but those workers need that job!"  That may be so, but if the workers here are barely hanging on- my "vote" may just help them to get a better hold and gain solvency which perpetuates more jobs here....and so on and so on.

Perpetuates gets a bad image these days.  It does not necessarrily mean a negative.  It has only been reported as such- when a story needs the loudest vibe,  news people abuse the term- "Hitler perpetuates...", "KKK perpetuates....",  etc.  And I can definitely see why it was used, it is a looking through a smoky, scary lens until all the awe and mayhem can come into complete cloudy focus.  But there is another view, a deeper, hopeful and clearer lens- that which perpetuates good, positive and powerful change.  Seeing like that begins with our vote, our buck, our relationship with money that might truly turn the tide, little by little.
I ask you to deeply consider your wallet, the votes in it- what does that next purchase perpetuate?

Take care-

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kindle No Fires

The season of plenty is upon us.

Oh my, it's getting a bit dusty here ...Maine has grabbed ahold of me again, making me see all of the wildflowers and an earlier than what I'm use to- autumn.  We certainly lack the rain these days, but the colors and coolness and fruit ripening too soon on the vine...well, whew!!!  I have been busy taking it all in.  (That'd be the views and the fruit.)  And just to add a bit of a pickle to the large volume of going's on lately, myself and a small core group of history, farming, spiritual lovers are trying to restart and revamp a pre-civil war Grange hall.
....lest it rains.

Which, may I say- is very much to my liking, one of those labors of love I've gotten involved in.  The old building caused me to fall in love with it at first sight two years ago upon my first visit to Maine.  And now I've attended a few meetings, have actually been inside and felt the years embrace me.  The old place has no bathrooms except, except oh my yes, heaven to be found in a little two-holer out back.  His and Hers.  The building is exactly as it should be except it is not on the historical register...yet.  So for my winter work, I will be historian, interviewer, photographer AND part time traveler...oh, and one more hike in late September to Cutler Maine, once again.  I must see the views there, take the long way around- this time with a hiker friend.  All in all, I'd say I've got some experiencing to do, and you dear reader will be filled in on all the details coming soon.
(The bright yellow chairs over there...............................................>>>>>>>
caught my eye on a recent trip around the Bay of Fundy- marvelous yellow, bright seats sitting atop a rocky ridge and they said to me-"To sit one must first strive a bit...)

Enjoy these threshold days, these deeper hued, richer yellowed  fragrant last blossoms on the vine, sunny eyed sunflower times.  We know what waits to blanket us, all too soon to come...take care-
Busy bees can't decide between the intoxicating buckwheat or the deep red sunflowers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

the black with the blue


The world is busy with itself, creating more than destroying, loving more- I say, than hating...oil in places that keep the whole circle going, but there is a lube job going on- the oil spill that needed not ever be that should have been backed up with every viable back up system in place, with people at the ready to hold accountable every back up with more of a back up system.   I do hold accountable the BPs and the EPA and the governing authorities for not having those safeguards, from A to Z- protecting our oceans and seashores and human life and all of nature.  There is no reason in it- my Granny always said- to allow such things to happen.
  Ah, but the blackberries need picking...

And they are free...

For all...

To take...

While there is still time...

And nature is in it's place...

Safe and wild...

The Blackberry is on the vine, plump and full...

Thorny and oh so ready...

To be picked.

So with a sigh and a surrender, I will take up this bucket- this very homemade bucket and do all I can do today to be grateful for this wild freedom I know here in Maine, that I lay claim to.  And when I put my head down tonight, I will be thankful for the blackberry.  And I'll ask for only- more faith so that I may take the black with the blue, that I might not be so ladened with trouble that I cannot see the good here still, in this world.  I'll remember how it was to walk down that sunny road, dusty and desperate to fill a bucket full of goodness, freedom and all this and all for the taking.  

 In the winter time, my sunny days remembered when others may forget- I will share the jars of jam.  And you might say-"Is it seedless?" and of course I will remark, "No, never...there is always a seed, no matter the process."  And in a way- you'll know what I mean and you won't mind anyway- the jam being free and good.  

And oil spills, being a thing of the past if all the cover ups convey all the lies in the truth...the powers that be will have us believe we were in a bind but the bigiwigs got us out of it by buying more bigwig bonanza, and people will quickly forget about BP and Blackberries and freedom...until those seeds sprout again.  

Take care-

Friday, August 13, 2010

12 states to get here

Watching the shooting stars last night gliding easily, invisibly edging out the dark...oh how I wondered.  And thought.  And recalled...

To infinity and beyond....
The last week of visiting and traveling with three young ladies to the beaches and mountains and fields aplenty of Maine.  That's three young ladies with Facebook pages mind you...meaning- little time for me to post to the blog.
There was bed swapping and cooking, cuddling, adventures!!!  Oh the week went too fast, the time spent- something of an eternal quality in all of it.  These girls, little girls I call them, have always called them...but oh how fast they have grown and evolved into "Amelia" of Earhart fame, "Bess" my own sweet, now redheaded child and "HK" the truly luminous imp who came to know me and I her through her mama, but now completely- I see her as her own, what a joy- this trio.  "HK" had never been to the ocean.  "Bess" became smitten with a pen-pal, holding hands and being beautiful in a way I had never seen before... and- "Amelia" the bold, brazen yet calmest of the three appeared also serene.  Each brought here their stories yet I suspect- each left here with an inkling of a life changing adventure into the heart of Maine while hand in hand into the heart core of young adults.  Wide eyed adventurers with texting ability, yikes!  I was so sure, so very mama-adult-assured-you'll-miss-so-much-while-keeping-tabs-on-the-memoryless-cell phones.  When I'm wrong, I back down.  When I'm right, I stand firmly on sure footed ground...these gals moved me, not so much back but very certainly over a bit.  While texting, talking, giggling, arguing,smiling- they truly saw it all and I, well- I looked too at what they saw.   And yes, I believed it all possible too, the anything goes of youth.  My little girls have wowed me, left me with more and less of concern for their paths.  They may not know completely where they're going (they took on 12 states to get oh my, now that's another story altogether!) but I think they'll get there in the grandest style of their own choosing, my little girls so completely their own.

I miss that door creaking open and shut so much...they- often out on the deck, talking in their circles while under the great circle of sky and stars and wonder...did they take it all in, I wonder...  Did they believe so much in all they encountered or am I hopelessly, romantically dreaming they did and am affected  thus so- hmmmmm, hard to say.
I miss that bathroom brigade, make up artist and blow drying nonsense since the ocean's winds would discourage all that...

I miss the lumpy bumps on the Futon and in the Queen sized bed while the Big Fish and I hunkered down wherever a bed was free...sometimes caving in the old decrepit mattresses in the guest rooms, his old bones and mine- while the youthful ladies spent dreamlike hours upon the comfiest beds.

I miss gathering from the gardens all the fresh herbs and vittles fit for little Queens and paupers such as us too.

I miss most, now hear this- mostly I miss the laughter, the lightness of it all that floated here and there and all around for one week.
Rainbow end to end
My Illinois girls, Hk, Bess and Amelia- ahhhh, your wings so strong yet pliable like soft fresh feathers not yet fully formed.
Illinois Girls
Take care!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

in a pickle

Wanda Wood's Secret Elixir

Good morning, it is August already...but for this Illinois girl in Maine- it feels as though it is September... and September is the finest month ever made.
My garden is plum full of beautiful and wonderful and nourishing things...let me take you on a bit of a pictorial journey with me through a bounty day, and what to do, what to do- with it.

One should get a basket, preferably a homemade, recycled or dump picking treasure.  Place it in between the rows, get a feel for what should be included in it's innards.  Hmmmm....the beans are surely do for some dill and new potatoes but I can't pick too many of them just yet, Calais Farmer's Market Food Club members come first in the harvest there.

Then on to the heirlooms, the Italian Romanos or maybe perhaps the lovely Ruby Red Chard, alas- there are lovers out there of the single most reddest leafed vitamin K packed vegetable, no- I won't pick too much this day as there is one lady in line who is quite fond of all that I can grow for her.  With joy, I do.  Maybe I'll just pick a few leaves, for the vibrant colored veins running through it, to dress up some old drab Fordhook Giant type chard, although in it's crinkly, wrinkly way- it shares it's own fortifying beauty.

Oh the cukes...slicers and canners and European long, elegant eaters to boot.  Why yes, I believe it may be the pickers day for cucumbers.  The coolness of them, the shyness too...cucumbers are such bashful veggies in single digits, but let them spread out their vines and their community becomes a chorus of pickles ready for the canner! And it seems the good time has come finally for the dill, the loveliest of herbs to my eyes- to get what's coming to it- big fat pickles adorned with the crowns of mammoth dill heads.

From my far off land of veggie ville, I heard a tinkling...again, and again- what could it be?!  A bee buzzed, Etta was barking at a snake and I came back to reality- the phone was ringing.

"Terry, this is Foster- your blueberries are ready."               
"Oh my..."
"You said you'd take two boxes...are you ready for them?"

Blueberries, thought I, new berries to me.  I have never had the honor of dealing with fresh blue orbs of pure of course I went to pick them up.  And it was only then, after using a wading pool to sort and wash and pick them all (approx. 40 lbs after all was said and done), that I realized that for three, no...make that four days, on the best of measures- I would not sleep.
I found myself in a pickle.
When it rains it pours, and cucumbers and berries don't mix usually- but for the next several days...well, they just better learn to get along.  I commenced to some serious canning people...two hands, four vegetables, one fruit and farmer's market to boot- I had better just get the old canner out and get to it.
And one must also prep well in advance with the utmost respect for sanitation and stuck caps on the bottom of the seriously hot pot that you cannot pry off, even with the best of hovering preservation angels one can get the cap off the bottom, well- never in good time enough.
(Although canning frustrates me at times, I do not is a sacred endeavor and I simply love doing it...labors of love must be handled kindly).  With somewhat neutrally gentle words such as:
"Are you freaking kidding me- shewah!"
"I-I-I-I-eeeeeeee......" that is me howling after waiting over thirty minutes for the jam to jell as it splattered on my, um....bosom.  It hurt like a fruitcake bomb.  (For lack of cussing...)

My highlight of the day, as it is always a highlight when I make

  Wanda Woods top secret cross your heart, stick a needle in your eye, holy-holy zucchini relish recipe

 The picture well above is her hand writing, I treasure this recipe as I used to grow, only for Wanda- soft yellow crookneck early summer squash (which truly aren't zukes) and help her can them.  For many years, she shared the relish with me...but never the recipe.  One year, she had to humble herself- which incidentally, she did with more grace and faith than anyone I have ever known or met since- and asked me to help her little independent soul, because she feared she no longer could get the rings on tight enough for proper sanitary canning.  I actually didn't receive the recipe until after she passed...and even then, I had to be a sleuth- first class mind you...and buy her cookbooks from her estate auction.  And inside, in her own hand- were these immortal and everlasting words-
"Real good & good keeper when opened...."
(in her little swirly way she initialed it-W.W)

So, in honor of the redeeming words of Wanda Wood, my blue eyed, blue souled neighbor- I vow to stay open.
(Even to future mass quantities of blackberries and sweet corn, which will probably happen in unison right about the time I should be saying, "AHHHHHHHHH....")

Take care-

(And as a PS~Grandma Hope's Stuffed Mango Peppers were also created, but that goes with me to my deathbed....if you're a Champaign quality kind of person, you might get some as the dearest gift I can give....)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

perennial as the grass


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

So much for my all are so kind with your concern, right neighborly I'd say.  I haven't come up with the sign, but...the one thing that has changed, the lesson here if one were to look deeply enough:

My neighbors that I don't really know, who I did not think cared much for me have been nothing but kind, all their eyes and shoulders, hands and feet- walking, talking and looking for that sign.  They have touched me in a well worn space with their kindness.

Signs can be replaced, people can't.

  For this, for the outpouring of love and concern, I am thankful.

I did take a hike on the 26th...trying to match the level of my intense emotions with the landscape...and may I say, the place of awe above did bring me joy- I wept as I came upon what found me speechless, stronger and intact.

Take care-