Saturday morning ballet~
I sat outside on the balcony with a cup of tea and a book while she hopped and skipped

a stop by the market afterwards~
she ran around with some buddies, squealing and playing like puppies
as little ones do
I bought a pastry (as usual)
and some dark chocolate (as usual)

tea and apples, the pastry
at the home of dear friends
where it was decided we should take the girls to Asheville
for a ride on the trolley

and so we did
we learned a lot about the town and afterwards
the girls rode the turkey statues and, apparently,
milked the mama pig

Sunday was some garden and yard work
aside from the peppers and okra and tomatillos,
some greens, the raspberries, and fall lettuces and baby root crops,
things are winding down for the season

and while it's sad in a way to be saying farewell to
much of the garden until spring,
there is something tidy about it as well
tidy and comfortable and timely

I'm ready for the crisp, cool air
the briskness of fall
for cider and hot tea and all things
pumpkin and apple

in another month maybe the woodstove will see some use


farm school

Wednesday mornings (9am-1pm) are now farm school mornings.  we enrolled Claire in a weekly Animal Science class for K-3 (or, almost K in her case) at the nearby Adelbert Farm.  so far, so great.  she LOVES it.  loves the pigs and piglets, the chickens, the ducks and turkeys, the baby chicks... the games, the creek, the friends.  on the first day she gave us a total stink-eye when we showed up to get her, and then she started crying.  she did not want to leave farm school.  yesterday they learned all about animal bones and she came home with a backbone made out of noodles and cotton.  very cute.

she takes her backpack and all its contents quite seriously, and I'm not allowed to forget to pack her awesome purple sunglasses.  just in case, mama.


she and him

even though sometimes it's hard having him gone for 24 hours at a time, the silver lining of his schedule is that he is also home for 24 hours at a time.  sometimes 48 hours, sometimes 96.  really, once we settled into the rhythm of the fire department shift schedule, it became clear that it is mostly wonderful.  the trickiest part is probably getting home from work with her right around dinner time on the days he is gone and I've got no dinner plans.  though in times like those there are always options like popcorn and kale chips, bean/cheese/veggie nachos, cereal..... and is that really a hardship?  nah.

probably my favorite part is how much time it gives the two of them together.  good, long chunks of time.  time in which to do things like go climb up onto the roof, stack firewood, and go for a nice long swing under the big white oaks.

all done under the caring and very watchful eye of her main man.



the tomatoes were coming on strong through last week
the melons, while pretty, didn't taste like much

fig split three ways
because sharing with your people is nice

salsa, two ways
Heather's delicious red salsa, and a tomatillo and roasted pepper salsa verde

the tomatoes starting to slow down
no longer did I need the giant wooden bowl while picking

our raspberries are back at it
not such a big problem with the spotted wing drosophila flies this fall.  yet.
or maybe I'm not looking too closely
because, you know, if I don't see them then maybe
I can just enjoy the berries and pretend they aren't there
gross, maybe.  but gosh berries are good

the last hurrah for the tomatoes
a week of cooler, rainy weather (along with late blight no doubt)
has pretty much done them in as of this weekend
a wee little cabbage, the last one
okra, still
tomatillos, still
the peppers are doing very well
beans are about done

elderberry syrup making time
(I was reminded to do so by a persistent scratchy throat since last night- boo)
a double batch, should yield a quart or so of finished syrup

next year I'd like to try my hand at growing ginger
I hear it isn't hard

the pantry is getting pretty
especially when the light hits it just right and the jewel-toned jars
sparkle and shine

it's not like it's gonna get us through the year (except for the syrup and honey, that is)
but it's something
maple syrup, honey, three kinds of jam
pickled beets, tomato jam
salsa verde, red salsa
dilly beans, curried zucchini pickles

there's pesto in the freezer,
two pints of vinegar-cured garlic in the fridge (that's working out very nicely)
more garlic on the counter

we are eating through the onions quickly
have been since July, really
next year we'll plant way more

we've got a stinky half gallon of sauerkraut brewing on the top shelf of the pantry
fingers crossed it comes out well
it's our first time
well, second, but the first was a flop...

all in all, a good year in the garden
not that it's over

there are still the peppers, more fall greens and root crops,
sweet potatoes, herbs, leeks

sometimes I daydream about what we could do with more land
more than our little quarter acre (more than half of which is the house and outbuildings
and driveway and front yard)
but honestly, this feels good for now

we play like we're farmers and yet we live in town (well, a mile away, but that's close enough)
if we keep watering the grass here, so to speak,
it'll stay green

even in the winter


time alone

alone time can be a tricky thing to navigate for women, for mothers.  for anyone, I suppose.  sometime the other morning after Mike got home from work and maybe while I was folding laundry and thinking about how the rest of the day would go, I realized I needed to claim some time for myself.  right away.  and so I told him I'd be going on a walk or a hike, by myself, before Claire and I headed out to teach art class later in the afternoon.  he was fine with it.  I am fortunate to have a partner who sincerely wants to and does play a very active role in raising our child, one who is perfectly amenable to helping me get time to myself now and again.

but here's the thing:  I have to remember to ask for it.  and usually, I don't.  because it's easy to fall into the routine and just go with it.  'no, no, it's alright, I'll just take her with me, then there won't be a fuss', or some other such words strung together that basically mean the exact same thing.  she comes with me to art class these days since it's so easy now.  gone are the days of me trying to simultaneously thread needles for a dozen kids for an art project while somewhat discreetly nursing an 18 month old Claire.  now she comes, does some art, plays with kids who each year she is getting closer to in age, and then we go back home.  there's no reason for her not to come with me, whether Mike is off that day or not.  but if I'm honest, here is where I have to admit that there is a part of me that sometimes starts knocking on bitter-and-resentful's door wanting to talk about why papa gets those afternoon art class hours to himself (home! alone!), that downtime at the fire department to himself, and I don't?  and the answer really is nothing more than because I don't make it happen.  and if I'm not going to prioritize it and make it happen, who will?

so I said 'babe, I need your help' and asked him to please encourage me to take the time, to ask for the time.  it sounds so easy.  and guys like that, right?  clear announcements of what we need and what exactly we are asking of them.  none of that 'gosh honey, I just, you know, really wish you could just kinda know what I need and intuit what I want from you when I need it- you know, like in the movies and all?' kind of man-woman interaction that happens from time to time.  you know.  or so I've heard.  not that I've ever acted in such a silly fashion. (ahem)

okay, so: prioritize my need for some time alone and clearly ask for it.  check.

I'm a thinker, a contemplator, an observer, and most certainly a reminiscer.  I want, and need, time alone to wonder and remember and ponder the world around me.  where I've been and where I may be going, all of it.  I remember happily playing alone as a child, taking long drives and solo walks by myself as a teenager, going away alone after Mike and I got together.  I went to Maine alone for a week not all that long after we got married.  and it was wonderful.  of course, I haven't done much like that in more recent years, and now there's the added need of some time alone, together for papa and I now that we are on this parenting adventure together (our first time alone, together was earlier this summer when we snuck into NYC for 36ish hours), but still I need to sneak it in when I can.

so I'm working on that.  and for starters, I went on a nice hour-and-a-half-long hike that morning.

not a hundred steps into my hike I came across a big, fat acorn.  there were lots of them, it being late summer and all, but something about that one kinda shouted out to me.  I leaned down to pick it up, then looked up to confirm that it came from a red oak, as I suspected it did.  I held it, rolled it around between my fingers, and suddenly I was back in the greenhouse at college, the final months of my senior year, tending to hundreds, maybe thousands, of red oak acorns.  babying them into sprouting and then becoming saplings that would later be handed out to each graduate.  I enjoyed that time alone in the greenhouses.  I needed it at the time.  there was lots to think about.

I pocketed the acorn and kept on walking, now thinking about myself in those years and all that came from them.  about the woman I was becoming, and the woman I already was.  I like to think of her as being fairly brave and spontaneous, comfortable to step put of her comfort zone, perhaps a bit more than I am now if I'm being honest.  and even then I knew I was stepping out of it, but something about those years fostered a certain bravery and cradled me through it.  of course I've grown a lot since then, learned a lot about defining myself on my own instead of in terms of how I think others see or perceive me.  all bits and pieces of the passage of time from then to now.  I thought about meeting Mike, about our sweet beginnings.  how fun to just walk and think and remember.

and so I was reminded of how being alone can so deeply nourish our relationships, as well as ourselves.  I needed that time to think about the beginnings of one of the most important relationships of my life.  to think about all that we've been through and done and seen together.  I needed that time to remember walking the same trails with Claire at various ages, from still-inside-mama to riding in the carrier to walking on her own two feet.  and even though what lead me to that mountain was the overwhelming feeling that at the time I needed my space away from them, needed it for me, for me, for me..... all the same it brought me closer to them.  it was just the medicine I needed.

somewhere along the way, thinking about all that, I was struck with a thought.  (possible rambling about to happen here)  that I bet this was part of the often overwhelmed feelings of motherhood- we need our stories, we need to think about them and ponder them.  yet when we are walking side by side with our little ones, how often do we get ample time to really stew on things?  had she been with me I may have still picked up the acorn and thought briefly about those times a decade and half ago, but likely within seconds I'd have been called (along with my attention) away to watch her jump off a rock or kiss a scrape or chase her up the trail.  or something.  something wonderful, possibly, but still......  I think these moments that are offered up to us in code, these moments that reach out to give us glimpses of thoughts and memories that just may be what we need more than anything else right then... well, very often those moments aren't really allowed to fully bloom and soothe.  so we are left with snippets and our minds start to feel overwhelmed with bits and pieces and could-haves and should-haves.  to such an extent that later on, when we are trying to quieten our mind and tend to our inner self and sanity, it can be, well, all too noisy in there.  too many prematurely-shushed thoughts vying for attention.  perhaps.

so simple, then.  we just need that time.  that quiet, alone time.  and not always for the reasons we think we do.  sure, I wanted to be all by myself and I craved some real exercise, I wanted to sweat and feel and hear the blood rushing and whooshing behind my eardrums.  I needed some peace and quiet and to not be asked to watch someone do something or to get anyone a(nother) snack.  but maybe I needed some of those memories to come rolling in just as much.

so thank you, big fat red oak acorn.  for all of your medicine and memories.  I hope you are enjoying your new home on my mantle, where I intend to notice you often and remember.  remember oh so many things.



friday afternoon,
ballet clothes and mama's rubber boots
pizza and leftover apple pie

saturday morning ballet class, market
complete with the obligatory apricot croissant and friendly conversation
peaches, goat cheese, chocolate, sunflower sprouts-
they found their way into our bag as well

time with a dear friend
we see each other and laugh about how we want to just run into each other's arms but
maybe that'd be kinda silly so we hold back, just a little
the girls don't though,
not usually
there was tea and cookies
pumpkin-quinoa cookies, smothered in chocolate
yes please

a birthday party and a walk
around the community garden afterwards
I accidentally popped her balloon
but zinnias so kindly gifted
from a gardener who heard her tears
helped a bit
people are good, it seems
very good

today was pancakes and bacon,
some reading on the back deck

and then we cleaned a bit next door after
the last round of visitors checked out
that was the 5th or 6th group of people so far and
I am quite enjoying this new venture
even if I'm amazed (unpleasantly surprised?) sometimes by what people will do
(use things that are clearly not cutting boards as cutting boards, smear makeup all over white pillow cases, park their cars up on the yard where baby grass is trying to grow, run the AC with the windows open......)
mostly I love cutting fresh flowers for them though
and peeking in the guestbook after they leave and taking a look around
to see what they used and did and what they tossed in the recycling
(it's not creepy, really)
seeing a coffee ring on the bedside table this morning didn't make me mad,
it made me think maybe someone brought someone else coffee in bed and isn't that a
lovely thing to do?

we had some visits with friends,
I'd intended to make two kinds of salsa today
salsa verde was started, not finished
we'll get there

Claire took us out for ice cream at dinnertime
followed by family movie night
with popcorn and kale chips (plus wine for mama)
for dessert (dinner?)

and that's the weekend~
joining Karen


what this year has taught me. so far.

If you've read my ramblings here for any length of time you probably know that I came close to losing my mom this spring.  sometimes I'm still amazed that the ending of the story was a happy one, considering the odds she was up against at times and the way the doctors were preparing us for the worst.  It has been almost four months since she left the ICU and nearly two since she got home from inpatient rehab.  and still, still, my chest gets tight and I feel my breathing get a bit shallow and restricted when I think much about those terrible months.  I feel like I allowed myself to feel what I needed to during that time- I wrote, a lot, I spoke about it, I sat by her bedside for weeks when you add it all up.  but this suffocating feeling that creeps up as soon as I start to think about it tells me maybe there are things left to deal with.

or maybe not.  maybe it's just the residual effect of months of intense worry and fear.  the physical expression of all of those feelings and anxieties welling up and demanding I acknowledge them.  so what is to be done?  I acknowledge you!  I did then, too.  no doubt I'll carry much of this with me forever.  guess it wouldn't hurt to try to figure out how to welcome the tightness and the fear, figure out how to work with them, breathe past them, morph them into a source of strength and resilience.

the friend who covered my shifts at work many, many times during my mom's hospitalization happens to be married to a man who recovered from ARDS.  funny.  (well, not funny, really- but you know, in a 'what are the odds?' sorta way)  before they were married they were on a ski trip and, if I remember the story correctly, he shattered his pelvis and ended up going into respiratory distress, being intubated, and then getting a tracheotomy and being pretty near death's door (she told me part of his body was basically wide open and packed with ice, awaiting a surgical procedure that couldn't be done until his body could handle it- !!!) and out of it for several weeks.  much like my mom, minus the shattered pelvis and ice-packed insides.  her side dishes came in the way of cardiac events and chest tubes, sepsis and organs going into panic mode.  but back to my friend.  we spoke a lot about her experience as I was going through this with my mom, about the fear and the unknowns, the statistics and preparing yourself for the worst.  I jokingly told her that after it was all over (at the time still just crossing my fingers that there would be *please please please let there be* a happy 'after it is all over' time) we should start a club for family and friends of ARDS survivors.  that it could be kinda like a book club, where we get together under some scholarly guise and end up mostly just talking and crying and drinking. (I've never been in a real book club, and no I don't imagine there's much crying involved, nor do I presume there is never any actual literary discussion, but....)

it was a joke then, but now... well, now I think I may just call her up and show up at her door with a bottle of Malbec (bourbon, maybe?) and my hospital-bedside-vigil journal, ready to hash it out a bit.  maybe that'd relieve a bit of the suffocating feeling.  perhaps.  worth a shot, anyway.

not one to just focus on the negative, or shall we say, more challenging aspects of something, I've also been trying to think about what I've gained from all of this.  what the experience has taught me, gifted me, even.  and while I feel it's a bit trite to say that I've once-and-for-all really and truly learned "we ought to all hold onto our loved ones and tell them how we feel regularly and sincerely, because you just never know....", well dammit, it's true!  we ought to!  but you know that and I know that.  so, aside from that huge and obvious truth, there are other sneakier bits I've learned/am learning.

such as:

*to be thankful for my body, despite the things I've become accustomed to complaining about.  this part is too soft or that part isn't strong enough..... wouldn't it be nice if my hair did this instead of that and I didn't have these dry patches on my face?  well screw all of that.  every last bit of it.  I can breathe.  and walk.  I can see.  my organs work properly and I'm essentially unlimited in what I'm capable of.  good grief, I'm a miracle and I'd be ridiculously shallow to complain about a little jiggle here and a wayward hair there.  I'm breathing, people!  and I'm doing it without a machine or chest tubes or any other such devices.

*not to bother, too much, with censoring what I'm feeling and wish to express, in spoken word or written.  which is not to say I plan to go about doing or saying anything unnecessary or catty or hurtful, not at all.  I'm talking about just letting flow what needs to flow.  'speaking my truth', if you will.  being okay with being vulnerable since (and maybe you've noticed this) we are all vulnerable anyway so let's just let down the shields and be okay with ourselves.  and each other.

*speaking of each other, I've learned that boundaries are good, important things.  there have been times over these last several months when I've had to do my best to politely take my leave from an exchange with someone because it was too painful and hurtful to be a part of it.  and while I can acknowledge the individual's worth and try my best to see the world from their angle, I just can't bear the immense drain and hurt that comes along with the majority of our interactions.  and therefore I will set boundaries and I will honor them.  and I will allow them to shift when it feels right.  because I'm always open to things finding their way back to right and peaceful, and I'm all about learning what exactly it is that these difficult interactions have to teach us.  (I'd like to make a little note that I wholeheartedly believe having been in the middle of reading How Yoga Works during the time that the most difficult of these interactions were taking place helped me enormously to not flip the +*&% out and to somehow be able to look at things with these rosy 'what is this crap teaching me?' glasses.  for real.  read it.)

*part of me wants to write something here about coming to a good place, or an okay place, anyway, in regards to dealing with death.  or perhaps more accurately, in my case, the expectation of it.  but I can't.  not really.  I mean, I thought I was there, dealing with it.  and with my mother, no less.  and looking back, even though I was practically hyperventilating much of the time and could barely see for all the tears streaming down my face, I feel like at times I was doing okay.  in a weird trying-my-best-to-come-to-terms-with-this-bullshit in a respectful (of her, of her life, our bond, all of it) and somewhat peaceful fashion.  I started talking about how, when it happened, we could make it the most comfortable for her, the most respectful.  I thought about those things because they were important.  even though I was sad and snotty and out of my mind, they were extremely important.  so there's that.  I can't really speak to all of that, though, because I didn't have to cross that threshold.  thank goodness for that.  thank everything for that.  but there was a glimpse enough for me to get it, just a bit.  to see what would come up, to see what was important when you get down to the mucky and very elemental core of things.  wherever and whatever they may be.

so there's a bit of the stuff that comes up for me when I think back on this spring and all that went down.  a bit of the stuff I'm working on and learning about.  a bit of what I know now.  I know treating each other right is what matters most.  I know what leaking chest tubes sound like, what an oozing tracheostomy sounds like.  I know the feel of blood-soaked gauze and the smell of hospital elevators, the feel of those damned blue gloves and plastic gowns.  I know that watching the monitors won't make the numbers get to where they need to be, but I also know you just can't help but watch them and will them all the same. I know midnight phone calls with attending physicians and an urge to cut off my mother's hair just in case.  I know where my mind and heart go in times of severe fatigue and fear, and I know that I will hold my mother close, as I will others that I love, as best I can.  for as long as I can.  I know our time here is short and it is a gift.  I want more than anything to do my best to make such great use of that gift that when the time comes I can leave this place with a smile and a lightness in my heart.  I want kindness.  and I guess I want the pain too, some of it anyway, so I can always remember, really feel-it-in-my-bones remember, to honor and be grateful for the kindness and the beauty all around.