Friday, April 29, 2011

Starting With the Little Things

Love the earth like a mole,
fur-near. Nearsighted,
hold close the clods,
their fine-print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands—

But spades, but pink and loving:  they
break rock, nudge giants aside,
affable plow.
Fields are to touch:
each day nuzzle your way.

Tomorrow the world.

--William Stafford

After a day like yesterday, when I needed a drink by 2pm, this Stafford poem helps bring me back to Earth.  And with the weather brightening up this weekend, I certainly plan to get my hands dirty.  We all go through ups and downs living our days and for me, loving the earth like a mole is my default mode.  It's so easy to get caught up in being busy and rushing from one thing to the next and then toss in any drama with that and I can lose sight of what's important. 

Which is quite simple: love, friendship, children and chickens, shy kittens who sit on my lap now, the garden, breathing in the spring air, and lots of dirt under my nails!

As I reflected on my day last night, sitting in my quiet house, I thought of it as a collective whole, rather than individual bits of stress, annoyance, hurt, and disappointment.  And I knew that tomorrow would be better.  And it is.  It always is. 

In another Stafford poem, I don't remember which one, he says, "It was a day you could put in the bank." Well, yesterday was a day I could put in the compost bin, because even though it was a tough one, it helps remind me of what's important, which turns the garbage into gold.

"Tomorrow the world."


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ode to a Stressful Day

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
   Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
   Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!
   Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
       With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
                 And purple-stained mouth;
                            --John Keats

Isn't that just a marvelous way of saying I could seriously use a drink?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So Much Depends

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

--William Carlos Williams

I love this little poem.  I don't really know what WCW meant when he wrote it, but I have my own understanding, which works for me.  That's the thing I love about poetry:  the reader's connection to something within the poem, from the poet, that creates sort of a shared meaning.  You could use a Venn Diagram to show it all!  (I just thought of that and now I want to try it.) 

I of course connect to this poem more now that I have my sweet chickens: Fanny, Sookie, Ruby Rosamond Rebecca (guess who's responsible for that name), and Rick.  The simple happiness those chickens give me everyday is something.  I love how this poem zeroes in on the importance of this simplicity; ordinary images elevated to something beyond importance, something we depend on.  I love it. 

Owning chickens has pleased me more than I ever could have imagined.  I started loving them very quickly, too.  Who could LOVE a chicken, you may ask. Well, get some for yourself and you'll see.  Soon, you too will change the lyrics to Whitney Houson's 'Greatest Love of All' to 'Greatest Love of Fowl.' (Try it, it totally works...I believe the chickens are our future.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Innisfree, take me away!

"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee
And live alone in the bee-loud glade..." 

This morning, I had to go to a training for work that was a big ol' waste of time and led by the most obnoxious,  in-your-face, bossy-boots gal.  Most people don't get under my skin, but this woman rubs me the wrong way every time.  And she uses a lot of finger "quotes."  Sigh...
But, it's over now, I'm really no worse for the wear, and like OM says, "It all pays the same." 

"...And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings..."

The only lingering effect is on my mood. I am still trying to work my way out of the residual funk.  This Yeats poem helps.  Imagining yesterday's rainy bike ride, where I didn't see another soul on the trail, helps.  Looking forward to hanging out with a bunch of crazy 8th grade girls at track practice helps.  Anticipating a nice, regular old evening at home with J and C definitely helps.  And writing about it helps! 

"...I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core."
                                             --WB Yeats

Monday, April 25, 2011

In Pursuit of Pleasure

"There's no point in dwelling on past sorrows, not when the future can hold such pleasure." 
--Abraham Verghese

I read this quote last night in my bedtime novel, Cutting for Stone, and it made me think.  I thought of it first thing this morning and had to look it up and read it again.  I think it's easy to get bogged down sometimes by past sorrows, or present busyness, or the stress that comes along with life at times.  Sometimes we just feel all mishammi (a Umatilla Indian word that means feeling sorry for yourself).  I think it's important to acknowledge these feelings, but try not to dwell on them.  It's good to remember that right around the corner, pleasure lurks, just waiting for us to keep it company.  And like many a philosopher has said, from Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, to the 90s rapper, Rob Base, joy and pain (sunshine and rain) go together and you can't experience one without having experienced the other.

Speaking of pleasure, I had many pleasurable experiences over the weekend:
  •  Friday night after dinner, the kids and I took a walk across the valley floor to a meadow above the river where there is a swing in one of the trees, out in the middle of nowhere.  J and C loved it!  We heard hummingbirds, looked at how the river has carved out the bank very dramatically, J noticed a coyote (and it noticed us, too), and we found a conjoined dandelion with 2 heads on one thick stem.  
  • Saturday the weather was beautiful, our picnic/hike/nettle gathering day was wonderful, the nettle soup was delicious, and it turns out that nettle pesto is unbelievably tasty, too.  
  • Sunday morning, the kids found their Easter baskets that The Bunny had left, we ate a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs (thanks, Girls), and my special hash browns, this time made with purple and red potatoes, always sliced paper thin and layered in the skillet with lots of butter and a little salt.  Then the kids went to their dad's and I went for a bike ride on the trail.  It was good for Ruby Mae to stretch her legs, as I have been extremely neglectful of her for a long time.  Ruby Mae is a late 60s or early 70s Raleigh, avec fenders and vintage charm that I scored at a garage sale for $5.  I had her tuned up and she is a real gem  On the trail there were few people since it was a.Easter and b.raining; it was spectacular.  I rode that bike for the pure pleasure of it--the fresh, Spring air, everything green as far as the eye could see, the sound of my tires on gravel, and the whistle of the fenders.  I stood up and rode fast, I coasted, I pedaled slowly and looked around, rain dripped from my helmet onto my nose, and it was so much fun.  Good exercise, as a side bonus, but fun being the most important part.  I can't wait to do it again (maybe after work later), because Ruby Mae is pleasure personified, and I don't have time to dwell on my sorrows today.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hush Little Baby, Don't You Cry. Mama's Gonna Make You Some Rhubarb Pie.

Yeah, right--I wish!

I saw some beeeautiful rhubarb, blushing with lushness, growing in a farmer's garden on my way to work this morning.  And it occurred to me that I have NO idea what to do with rhubarb. I think the leaves are poisonous.  Do the stalks need to be cooked?  Is it like red celery and would it taste good with peanut butter?  Anyone interested in taking on a rhubarb apprentice?

The appeal of seasonal eating is so strong for me.  I love looking forward to what comes with each season. I love finding recipes to highlight the best of what's growing now, because nothing tastes better than in-season fruits and veggies (and extra gold stars if you grew them yourself).  This is not at all how I was raised.  My mom is an awesome cook, but we ate the same sorts of dinners all year long, and they were GOOD.  But they weren't really seasonal; my mom has put a tomato in every salad she's ever made.  Back in the 70s and 80s when I was being reared up in Pendleton, Oregon eating seasonally and locally wasn't on the radar.  And my mom is slightly picky, so we weren't introduced to foods she didn't like.  I'm sure most moms are that way, though.  You won't find me serving up yucky drumsticks, mayonnaise-laden potato salad, or deviled eggs to J and C.  Rhubarb is one of those foods I was never exposed to, but now as a grown up person, perhaps that should change. 

"In just-Spring, when the world is mud luscious..."  --E.E. Cummings

It's the time to try new things, take a new path, and use what nature is offering up.  Tomorrow, the kids and I are going on our annual nettle gathering hike.  I will recite the poem above in its entirety, and they will listen happily.  We will wear gloves and snip nettles into our bags.  We will have a picnic.  And then we'll go home and make nettle soup, and possibly nettle pesto (thank you, Gee, for the sweet link to the pesto). 

And maybe, just maybe I'll figure out rhubarb this year,

"...when the world is puddle-wonderful."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who Cried in Goose, Alas!

"...The lazy geese, like a snow cloud
Dripping their snow on the green grass,
Tricking and stopping, sleepy and proud

Who cried in goose, alas"
--from John Crowe Ransom's, Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter

I am reading a fabulous book right now by Sue Hubbell called A Country Year.  As I was walking my laps around the playground at lunch today "supervising" the kids, I read about a party she had that went pretty well except for her rooster chasing one of the kid attendees and making him cry.  This made me think about the nasty pair of geese my dad had when I was a teenager, and how scary it was when they chased me.  They were nothing at all like the geese from the poem above--not lazy, not tricking and stopping, and definitely not sleepy!  They were white like a snow cloud, I will give them that, but they were a-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e.  One time in particular, I was walking out to the pasture with my dad (they left him alone) and we got separated momentarily (it was all the time they needed) and they came after me.  It was truly terrifying--2 hissing (they hiss!) BIG, birds moving toward me with a quickness, ready to take me apart, or so it seemed.  My dad was so worried (I'm pretty sure he was LAUGHING).  I let out a few hysterical shrieks before using the only weapon I had to keep them back--my cowboy-booted foot.  That's right, I kicked one, and what a satisfying whump! it was.  After that, I stayed close to my thoughtful, concerned dad when I went outside, or else I'd make sure they were somewhere else before darting out to my destination. 

This childhood trauma continued to scar me throughout my adult life, until I got chickens of my own.  I feared large indoor birds, like Romeo, a.k.a. Flippem' my friend L's cockatoo.  I admired chickens, from a distance, but secretly feared that they were going to charge and peck at me.  Roosters are still sort of scary, but I bet if I owned one, I might feel differently.  I got my chickens in September when they were 3 weeks old, a decidedly un-scary age.  Bonding with them and watching them grow into big ol' black hens has erased the scary factor.  And this effect has shown to be transferable, too, as I have picked up other people's full grown chickens, no problemo.  So, not only are my chickens wonderful in that they give me love and 4 eggs a day, they are like therapy animals, as they've cured me from my PTSD caused by those damn geese.  I should have raised chickens years ago, alas!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Early To Bed, Early To Rise

Oh, how I wish this applied to me!  I long to be one of those early risers, drinking coffee with the rising sun and really experiencing the world waking up.  I'd love to be able to read my paper in the morning instead of after kids go to bed. And it's not that I'm not a morning person, I am.  Unfortunately, I'm also a night person.  I love staying up late reading and puttering around.  I wish I could have it both ways and not be sleep-deprived.  I would love to try the whole early to bed, early to rise program. I just have to do it, I suppose.  Tonight?  Maybe.  Or maybe over the weekend.  Or maybe wait until summertime when I'm home every day.  It's a nice idea, isn't it?  This Willam Stafford poem will be my inspiration:

Malheur Before Dawn

An owl sound wandered along the road with me.
I didn't hear it--I breathed it into my ears.

Little ones at first, the stars retired, leaving
polished little circles on the sky for awhile.

Then the sun began to shout from below the horizon.
Throngs of birds campaigned, their music a tent of sound.

From across the pond, out of the mist,
one drake made a V and said its name.

Some vast animal of air began to rouse
from the reeds and lean outward.

Frogs discovered their national anthem again.
I didn't know a ditch could hold so much joy.

So magic a time it was that I was both brave and afraid.
Some day like this might save the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Are You a Dog Person or a Cat Person?

I don't mean this in the way you're probably thinking, though.  See, we just adopted 2 kittens from a cat rescue shelter.  We've had them for almost 3 weeks now and they are still so timid they hide when I walk in their room.  They were feral kitties (well, suburban feral, which is way different than rural feral), so they are always on guard and 'spicious of us.  Despite the fact that we have so much kitty-love stored up since Capricorn (aka Mow-Mow), our 17 year old cat, died last month. Especially C--she has SO MUCH aggressive cat love to bestow upon the kittens, but they are slower in accepting it than she'd like.  I however, am loving the challenge of getting these cats to trust me.  I don't mind the slow progress, because it's still progress.  The kitties might hide out under the chair, but they now purr when I start talking to them.  I can scoop up Koa and he'll stay on my lap for a while before slowly slinking off of it.  And last night, after he slunk (is that a word?), he laid right near my leg and his kitten purr filled up the room;  I loved it. Who knows what will happen today? I am content in waiting and seeing because earning their trust is really something!

Back to my title question, now.  I think people can be categorized as cats or dogs, too.  Dogs are those real open folks who trust and gush and put it right out there for people.  Cats are more reserved, but can be friendly, too.  Happy to know you, but you know it will take a while for you to know them.  I think I'm a dog, but in others, I tend to prefer cats.  I love a shy, introverted person.  Many of my favorite cats present as dogs professionally, but they are cats through and through (OM, A, Miz I'm talking about you).  Although when 2 dogs get together, it can be real, real fun!  We could go into breeds here, but that might be taking it a bit far. Although, I think I would make a pretty good border collie.

Monday, April 18, 2011

No Hurry, No Worry

"Rivers know this:  there is no hurry.  We shall get there someday."
--Winnie the Pooh

This is going to be my mantra for the day.  After a lovely weekend in Eastern Oregon, I'm back to business, back to work, back to a pile of filthy laundry that may or may not include Eastern Oregon ticks crawling around on it.  I'm back to my commute, drivers on cell phones (ok, sometimes that's me), getting stuck behind school buses, trying to be sort of on time to work, and on and on. 

OK, breathe.  I refuse to become overwhelmed by all of this.  Why? Well, because in the wide angle view, it's really no big whoop.  What is important?  I'll tell you:  cherry trees in FULL bloom.  The 2 bald eagles I saw this morning; one guarding its nest, the other standing in the middle of NE 24th in Carnation, right in front of my car, eating a dead possum.  The dark grey sky with the intense morning sun blasting through in places to light up the spring green that's everywhere--Genesis Green my friend, AK calls it. Taking time at work to really listen to people--hearing how dear R visited her 92 year old dad this weekend with her 3 sisters, and learning that her dad has outlived 3 wives all of whom died of cancer and all of whom he took care of to the end.  It's no mystery to me now where she gets her compassion and kind heart.  These sorts of things are the worry-wipers, the reset button for me.  I even forgot my purse today in the hurry to get out of the house.  But you know what, who cares? I remembered my lunch!

I've made a real effort lately to not hurry. Of course, it can't always be avoided, but it's a good goal.  I don't speed anymore and it is freeing, surprisingly so. And I hate to rush my kids, that just sets the wrong tone for the day entirely.  So, I lay things out the night before, I make lunches, pack breakfast, calculate just how much time is needed for C to wake, get dressed and have a few minutes to pet the kittens (a huge get-up motivator for her).  J is always up and at 'em early, as he loves alarm clocks and setting alarms, and having a routine dictated by himself; he's becoming his own man. And I'm just trying to be the best, most relaxed person I can be and focus on the little, real details in this wide and swift-moving life. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Tao of Whey

It turns out, chickens love whey  Absolutely they do, yes whey!  A friend at work has a cheesemaking daughter and brings in jugs of whey for OM and me.  I haven't actually seen my chickens drink it, but it disappears fast!  OM says watching her chickens drink is one of her favorite things--like how they tip back their heads and gargle it down.  I tried to spy on my chickens and watch them down the whey, but they were too busy with the last bits of scratch and I got cold and had other chores to do.  May I just talk about the word 'chore' for a moment?  Why does it have such a negative cloud around it?  People don't really even say the word, they groan it.  To me, there is almost nothing better than a chore!  OM and I talk about this a lot during our lunchtime walks and we agree that to have something REAL to do gives a person purpose.  It matters when I feed a chicken, make a kid's lunch, wash clothes and plant seeds.  This is value, and doing something valuable feels good. I'm the Most Valuable Chicken Feeder--yay for me!  It feels good to do things with purpose and to approach chores more positively and cheerfully.  It's definitely one whey to go!