Sunday, July 26, 2020

A month's worth of news!!

Wow, I knew it had been awhile but a MONTH?! Jason is doing the bedtime routine so another day doesn't go by before I share some words/photos from the last few weeks. I just commented while we were all brushing our teeth how long it had been and Alida noted, "Well you better get to some posting." So here I am!

There is just no easy way to sum up the last number of weeks, and I would be up all night if I attempted to not only share all that has happened but the array of emotions that has accompanied the various happenings. So consider this just a sampling of snippets that are each true but also potentially horribly inadequate at giving the reader a more nuanced and complex view of our lives - the "blog scrapbook" is starting to feel incredibly inadequate in those ways!

We've been listening to a fair amount of the Indigo Girls of late - good dish washing, butter shaking and/or food processing music. Recently the song "Hammer and a Nail" was stuck in my head and I finally looked at the lyrics. I was disappointed to learn that my favorite line, "gotta tend the earth if you want to grow" was actually "gotta tend the earth if you want a rose." But otherwise, I've been rolling around a lot of parts of that song as I go about my days. The second half of the song has connected the most with my emotional state:

I had a lot of good intentions
Sit around for fifty years (or 42) and then collect a pension,
Started seeing the road to hell and just where it starts.
But my life is more than a vision
The sweetest part is acting after making a decision
I started seeing the whole as a sum of its parts

My life is part of the global life
I'd found myself becoming more immobile
When I'd think a little girl in the world can't do anything.
A distant nation my community
A street person my responsibility
If I have a care in the world I have a gift to bring. 

Here and there when Jason and I have moments to talk and process (on those rare early morning walks mostly...), our conversations this past month went a lot to what reparations, mutual aid, and balancing things means for us personally. Anyone who knows us, knows well that we can process things extensively (or should I say excessively). I guess that may connect to another part of the song: "Learn how to use my hands, not just my head I think myself into jail..." 

I have found myself playing around with a cushion or pillow metaphor in some of my ponderings. What does it mean for some of us to have a lot of cushions (e.g. education, land ownership/paid mortgage, family members with resources, health insurance, car, savings, seeds and soil) and others to have very few. And add to that, what if you also have various identities that add to the cushioning you experience in life (e.g. being white, middle class, heterosexual, U.S. citizen). And what if your ancestors' wealth is attributed in large part to systems that favored them and harmed others?

There are not easy answers. But a big part of this last month for us was engaging in a process where we faced a lot of these questions together as a couple and in communication with some close to us. And we took an action that felt right to us at this time to give back some of our unearned cushions. We hope it is a first step of many - a start, not a "now we've done it" kind of step. And we will keep asking these questions and invite others to join us!

Two other major things will mark July 2020 as unique in some beautiful and some challenging ways.

A recent graduate from CJP and dear friend, Tala, joined our family here at Tangly Woods for the month of July. I cannot begin to count the ways that our time together as been life-giving, joyful, inspiring, grounding, fun, meaningful and so full of life lessons I hope will remain with me for a very long time - ideally forever! I am dreading this Friday, which marks the end of our month together. We hope to pack the week with some final games and many meals together (we have more things we want to cook for each other than we have meals for!). Tala's perspective as an indigenous woman from the Philippines has graced our home with fresh perspective and a deeper connection to land and all living things. I feel so very grateful. We have enjoyed walking together, breathing together, picking blueberries together, weeding together, pulling onions and processing garlic together, playing games, eating meals, watching fireworks and the moon rise, picking green beans and berries, sharing stories, laughing, etc... She has untangled more honeysuckle in this time than we often do in a year and has helped lower the amount of poison ivy we have around. We all have treasured this month! For the first two weeks, we attempted to stay apart physically to have a quarantine time due to COVID-19. And we all counted the days until we could interact "normally" - i.e. HUGS!! We managed to still have lovely times together - outside and physically apart...
...But we celebrated the end of those two weeks:
Right in the middle of those two weeks, I got a call from my dad one morning. When I said, "Good morning," he breathlessly replied that it was not a good morning at that moment. They had been hiking on the hill behind their home in WV when Mom had slipped and falling. They heard a crack that dad initially thought might have been her walking stick, but quickly learned it was Mom's ankle. What has transpired since: their transition to Keezletown, Mom needing to recline with her foot elevated, appointments, Mom needing to recline with her foot elevated, surgery, lots of pain, Mom needing to recline with her foot elevated... Oh, there's been lots of bean snipping, game playing, story reading, puzzling, and some butter shaking too. But this is no small challenge for my dear Mom who seldom sits still for more than a few minutes at a time. And none of us can fix it or take away the grief and loss that comes with this time. We are, however, so glad to be able to be present and it's the first time that I've felt so deeply grateful for the in-law quarters being right here and ready for them when they needed that space.

Our girls have been amazing. It has not been easy to see Grandma hurting so much - I think most especially for Terah. But even she tries to do whatever she can - being Grandma's little gopher or offering to distract her from her discomfort or decorating her toes. Alida has been a little kitchen helper, eager for any opportunity to bake something! And, of course, they are all on standby for when she wants to play games. My Mom has often repeated this quote to me, "There is no great loss without some small gain." And, for us, having Mom and Dad here is always a gain! And we have enjoyed many more meals together in this time, and I have loved that too. We will welcome Mom's healing as it comes, and her increased mobility. And we hope to support her in that healing process - which, to date, has mostly been to try to continue to remind her that her main job right now is just that.  
Sprinkled in this month have been some other special times - we have continued to try to navigate ways to connect and be together safely in person with some of those nearest and dearest to us.

On one of the nights that we had our Movement Generation class, Jonathan and Christen came over and we watched the class together outside on the lawn. We shared homemade donuts, one of the "vacation food items" that we never had a chance on our staycation to make (we had too many ideas for the meals/snacks available that week). 
Additionally, we have enjoyed meaningful conversations and amazing skies on some Tuesday evening hikes with Jonathan and Christen. 
We had a fun surprise pizza birthday party for Christen. We had learned that day that Gray Jay Provisions was closing, so savored it even more than usual (to this day, I still have not told our pigs that they will not be enjoying more of Seth's sourdough bread...). 
Just the other day, Mom and Dad's dining room became a hair salon when I chopped nearly 15 inches off of Tala's hair and packed it up to send away to Wigs4Kids (the place in Michigan that Kali, Alida, Jason and I have donated to as well). 
On a rare Saturday recently when I had committed to not checking my email, there was this chunk of time in the afternoon where I had cheddar going so had to stay inside, but wasn't going to do CJP work. I had been itching to deep clean/organize my side of our closet. The moment that wish left my mouth, I had two VERY willing helpers. Before I knew it Alida and Terah had taken off for our bedroom, with Alida stopping to get a pencil and paper. She was ready to start making marks for each item I chose to get rid of. In summary, I said goodbye to at least 50 items and the stack by the end was as tall as Terah. AND that was not the most dramatic part of that activity. Normally going through and trying on clothes leaves me feeling very grouchy and displeased with myself. It's really hard to feel that way when you have two cheerleaders who love you unconditionally and are asking you questions like, "is it comfortable?" and "do you like it?" When one particular item was a bit snug, I decided to be honest and name that my options were to hold onto that piece of clothing and try to work to have their be a little less of me so that it fit more comfortably, or to get rid of the pants and be ok with me as I am. Alida did not think about it for even a second before she offered her strong counsel: get rid of the pants! I did!! If I teach my girls even half as much as they are teaching me, I will be so pleased. They offered me a fresh perspective that I so desperately needed and I ended the time feeling lighter and freer with a huge dose of gratitude for my daughters.

Oh, and then there are the gardens. It's July, things are booming! It was a HOT and DRY month! Our well could not keep up. Thanks to raised beds, improved soils, ground covers, etc... most of our crops did ok. But we could not have been more grateful for the 1.75 inches of rain that came to us this past week over the course of 4 days. We celebrated every rainstorm!

 The garlic is harvested and processed - all 2-3 bushels of it!
Barley and rye are harvested, threshed and winnowed.
Onions and shallots are pulled and currently drying on the racks in the garage, to be processed on future rainy days or in the middle of hot ones.
We enjoyed a much shorter blueberry season (at Hickory Hill Farm next door) this year, but were so very grateful to be able to load up our freezer with some bagfuls for winter.
We are currently harvesting blackberries, cucumbers, beans, okra, trombone squash and tomatoes every other day. We are harvesting various greens, herbs, tea, and peppers as needed.
The days of chopping, chopping and more chopping are back. We are fermenting pickles and beans, canning dill pickles, freezing beans and okra, and cooking veggies about as fast as we can eat them. I feel the abundance and at times the overwhelm!
But at least there is another chopper in this house! This little gal is growing up and eager to be "helpful!" We accept! She is growing in her abilities and her height, but her popcorn is still outpacing her!
We are still anticipating the first watermelons and cantaloupes, buckwheat, squashes, potatoes, beans, etc...
And that is not all we are anticipating. We are also hoping to welcome some RedRoc piglets in less than 2 weeks! So yesterday we moved Red Rosie to the birthing area in the woods. How do we move a 5-600 lb. pig through a wooded area? Especially since she has nearly demolished the portable house we used to use by "throwing it around" (for fun?!). She seems to have a high need to rearrange her sparse furnishings! So, in the end, Jason and I "led her" with a combination of some bread and a slop bucket. It was not lost on me that she had complete power to not follow our coaxing. We were grateful it went smoothly!
And now another "work week" is upon us. As we got ready for bed, I noted what a special Sunday it has been. And wishing that Sunday would follow Sunday. I'll be trying out my new office set up tomorrow in the guest room. When I look straight ahead I'll get to enjoy a photo my Dad took of the sandhill crane migration trip he took with Jason and his Dad for Jason's 40th birthday. And, hopefully, two screens will help me be more efficient on some projects and standing will help some of the aches and pangs I'm having when sitting in chairs.

I hope that the life giving energy drawn by the color and beauty and vibrancy around us right now will sustain and inspire me for whatever this week holds!