Sing While Soothed and Smoothed

A favorite beach we visit occasionally has a rocky section of what I call “singing stones.”  The waves crash repeatedly over them, and then as the water pulls back to the ocean, a burbling song arises as the stones are turned over and over, rolling against each other as if in a natural rock tumbler.  Eons of tides have smoothed them to a perfectly round or oval finish with few defects.

Depending on where I walk on this beach, the stones can be several inches across, or can be reduced to tiny pebbles.  They tend to keep company with those the same size.

The smoother the surface, the more easily the stones roll as the wave turns them over and the louder they “sing” as they clink against each other when the wave pulls back. 

Over the years, I’ve brought home a few stones as tangible memories of my time on this beach.  For now my smooth stones lie immobile, no longer singing, no longer rolling, no longer tossed one against the other thousands of times daily.  I’ve stopped their inexorable transformation to seek comfort in their steadfast permanence.  Maybe I will add them to my aquarium or to the koi pond in the yard.

So too I cry out when I’m rolled over and over by life’s wave action, my rough edges worn down over the years.  Each day smooths me a little bit more, rounds my corners to a gloss, until such time I’m picked up and pocketed, perhaps on to a new adventure.

Then I will sing a new song.

Blooming Where Planted

I have always hoped to be a serious gardener, and over the years have made not-very-serious efforts at it.   During college and medical school I owned so many house plants that walking into my room felt like a botanical excursion, then we grew the flowers from seed that we used at our wedding, and before we had children we kept a truly ambitious vegetable garden.  Each seed catalog was studied and varieties surveyed, seedlings started in a sun room, each plant nurtured and protected, the harvest preserved with great care, shared and eaten with appreciation.

Then life happened.  I’m not sure exactly what intervened but it had something to do with raising children, a demanding job, a full barn of four legged critters, and aging parents.  Despite a move to a good size farm with an orchard, large garden spot and plenty of room for flower beds, we couldn’t muster the energy to do what needed to be done to create blooms.   Flowers took a back seat in our lives, with only a few predictable bulbs and perennials showing up year after year.

But I’m the granddaughter of a woman who had a large greenhouse full of hanging fuschia baskets that she tended and sold, and the daughter of a woman who left no side of her house or fence line without a border of carefully planned and managed flower gardens.  The colorful blooms have always called to me from the florist shops and gardening centers.

Now we have the time and energy to return to the nurturing of the soil, to make things beautiful and productive, to someday feed our grandchildren’s souls and stomachs as I was fed as a child.  I’m filled with gratitude for the loveliness I see hanging outside my windows.  

I’m simply blooming with happiness at being planted here.

One Hen’s Special Effort

One of the joys of living on a farm is walking out the back door to harvest what is needed for a meal right out of the ground, or the orchard, or the berry patch, or from within the hen house. 

“Eat local” is nothing compared to “Eat from the Backyard”.

So over the years on the farm, we’ve owned chickens -starting with the chicks under a hot lamp, watching the growing pullets start laying little miniature eggs which,  over several months of hen development,  become full size oval jumbo AA eggs, found warm in a cozy nest under a hen’s breast.   There is distinct satisfaction of a “eureka!” moment anytime a new egg is gathered.  It is even more gratifying when the egg is broken in the pan and two yolks pour out instead of one, a symbol of that hen’s special effort that day.

When our hens were free range, the finding of the nest and gathering of the eggs was definitely a greater challenge than simply opening a chicken coop door.  It required investment of time and ingenuity to think like a hen trying to hide her brood.  I would remind myself that a hen’s brain is smaller than a walnut and mine is, well…. bigger, so this should not have been such a difficult task.

So I keep my ear tuned to the cackle of a hen as she is about to lay, the musical hum she makes when she is happily brooding on the nest, and the feel of her plump fluffiness as I reach underneath her to wrap my hand around that smooth perfect surface.

I break one of those fresh eggs, into the pan, and it is a double yolker.  A hen has made a special effort, just for me.

There’s No Place Like Gnome

There are at least ten gnomes who live in our garden at last count. I think there are more but they are very shy and stay hiding.

Our bravest gnome, David, swings on the swing set that I grew up using when I was a kid and he prefers to be outside swinging in all weather, day and night. He smiles all the time, but especially since he just got a new set of clothes.

I like that our farm is a gnome refuge where they feel safe and wanted. If you ever meet a gnome who is homeless, let them know where to go to feel welcomed.

There’s no place like gnome.

For Someone to Ride Along

Why do you think birds would be riding the horses our farm? Have they forgotten how to fly? Do their wings and feet get tired so they need to hitch a ride instead?

These are called cowbirds. Not like cowboys and cowgirls but usually they ride the backs of cows, searching for bugs and flies to eat. But since there aren’t any cows on our farm (yet) they ride the horses instead. And the horses like them to eat the flies on their back because flies are itchy and tend to “bug” the horses!

So our horses like giving rides to cowbirds, even if they aren’t called horsebirds!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have someone along for the ride as you go about your day?

A Rainbow Story

Why does God make a rainbow in the sky?

You would guess he uses a paintbrush as you see seven beautiful colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. God’s paintbrush uses sunlight and raindrops together to make the visible color spectrum.

God paints a rainbow to remind us of His promise to us that floods will never cover the earth again. It is God’s covenant with His people that He loves us even through very hard times.

This is His sign that His love will last for always and for ever. When you see a rainbow in the sky, remember all the promises you hold in your hand!

The Witness

“All day the blanket snapped and swelled on the line, roused by a hot spring wind….
From there it witnessed the first sparrow, early flies lifting their sticky feet, and a green haze on the south-sloping hills.
Clouds rose over the mountain….At dusk I took the blanket in, and we slept, restless, under its fragrant weight. “
–Jane Kenyon

It is spring and soon time to empty the beds of blankets and quilts for their day of renewal by clothesline hanging in the sun.  The airing of bedding is a May tradition from generations past, allowing the wind to buff all fresh again with scent of ambient apple and lilac blossoms.

This quilted veil covers our dreams, our fevers, our loving, our deep sleep, our wakeful tossing; now allowed flapping freedom for a day before returning to the weighty responsibility of becoming comfort and protection, tucked, folded, smoothed and ordered.  As we climb back into the realm of the dark, burrowing beneath its weight, breathing deeply from the fragrant breeze of freedom in the fabric, we see through closed eyes the snowy mountains in the distance, smell clouds of pink-white orchard bloom just up the hill,  feel the tousling wind in our hair.  All this from the safety of our bed.

Our dreams, each deep and rhythmic breath, sleep shrouded by the blanketing of spring.

Potato Weather

photo by Tim McCord in Entiat, Washington

“Look at that moon. Potato weather for sure.”
Mrs. Gibb― Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Tonight is super moon night –the full moon combined with the annual closest approach to the earth and it did not disappoint.  The orb was orange and optically oversized on the horizon, looking ever so much like a search light trained over the landscape, creating moon shadows and moon worshippers everywhere.  The moon was made for hankerings of all kinds and in my case, I’m hankering for a new crop of potatoes.  I’ve cooked up the last dug up 7 months ago.

The garden is ready for the spuds, just newly rotatilled with worm-happy compost.  The dirt feels fluffy in the hand, and the air is still cool on the face.  Between a full moon waning and brisk spring weather, it is time to plant potatoes, eyes up, anxious to sprout through to the surface and reach for the sky and the moon.

I have no idea what the moon has to do with potato planting.  I only know that back when people paid close to attention to such things, it mattered when they planted.  Maybe the search light moonbeams brought those sprouts out of the ground just a little faster, with due haste and God speed.   Maybe the accelerando tidal pull of a close super moon brings
us all a little nearer to the surface: to grow, to flourish, to howl moonward from the safety of the evanescent shadows that vanish, dissolved by the sun, at daybreak.

They danced by the light of the moon,
          The moon,
          The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
Edward Lear–The Owl and the PussyCat

For a Day to Stay In and Make Soup

There has been no real snow for us yet this winter down at sea level although the mountains surrounding us have had plentiful snowfall, making for happy skiers and snowboarders.  So last night, the clouds did try.  The temperature was 32 degrees, the southerly winds brought in moisture and the precipitation fell.  Some of it came in snowflakes.  Some of it came in raindrops.  Most of it came down in tiny little shards of ice that cracked against the windows.

The ground was covered in slush and ice this morning while the skies still were confused about what exactly to exude.  As the temperature slowly rose, raindrops reigned.

I have always been inept at walking on slippery surfaces, probably since my first traumatic roller skating fiasco where most of the hour in the rink was spent on my butt, or pulling friends down with me as they tried to keep me upright.  I’ve skied once and that was once too much–I barely made it home.  I’ve never ice skated–simply walking down the slope to the barn on surfaces like today is adventure enough, Yak Traks and all.   I’ll confess.  My body hates sliding in any form.   My feet betray me, my balance is nonexistent, and my brain panics.  Some of us have nervous systems that can’t handle it and we will crash no matter what we do or the defensive postures we assume. If we are going to have snow, at least let it be enough to crunch through up to my knees so that if I lose my balance, I face plant into a nice drift, thank you very much.

So a skiff of snow with ice quite undid me this morning.  I managed to finish my chores after sliding gracelessly down to the barn, and defying all the laws of physics, I slid my way back up to the house, if it is possible to slide uphill.  And here I sit, looking out at it all, wishing for the mud of spring, something I feel much more at home with.

What do I do with a Saturday like this?

Make soup and hunker down.  Pull everything still edible out of the refrigerator and cut, dice, stir and simmer into something wonderful to last several days, in case I’m stranded that long.  If I can’t walk outside with confidence, I’ll at least have something inside to show for it.

Oh, and take a nap.  Maybe several.

For a Nest That Empties and Fills Again

Eagles return to the same nest year after year–a steadfast marriage of life long partners and domicile that is both touching and practical.  Generations of offspring are raised in the same tree, hatched upon the same branches lined with the same dirt and down and moss and foliage, then the soiled lining removed by the parents after the fledglings fly.  After being washed clean in the winter rains, the parents return in the spring to replace the soft bedding for the next crop of eggs.  It is a cycle of comfort, of familiarity, and of commitment.

Many see an empty nest as sad and forlorn–a symbol of what was and is no longer.   Others see it as the gateway to freedom from responsibility and the daily cares of parenting worries.  I’m not so sure it is either.

Our children left us to fend for ourselves last August.  It was a distinct adjustment, knocking about in this empty nest without the usual crowd of flying feathers, hungry mouths and busy bathrooms.  When they recently came home for a few weeks at Christmas, it was a joyful reunion with great conversations, singing and music, wonderful meals and memories.  It felt like it always had.

As of today, the nest has emptied again–the house quiet, the refrigerator bare, the bathrooms always available with enough hot water, the calendar suddenly unfilled.  The adjustment again.

I will set to work cleaning, and laundering, and putting away what will be pulled out again in four to five months as they flock home briefly once again.  I know just how to line the nest, making it welcome and familiar to my family who are off to make their own nests elsewhere.   It is important that this home be here for them to land when they need to, to refresh, to relax and to belong and be loved.

There is nothing empty about it.  It is lined with comfort, is chock full of memories, and sits ready with unlimited potential for future gatherings.

And most of all, we’re still here, my husband and I.  There is absolutely nothing empty about that.