Friday, July 17, 2009

The corners

I, Janelle, haven't had such a wonderful day in a long time as the one Kali and I enjoyed at home yesterday. I'm still trying to digest the whys of it. There was no reason for it to be a perfectly fabulous day. See, Kali has been sick most of the week (since Tuesday) with a nasty bug of some sort - the most likely culprits include an UTI, strep throat or a tick-borne disease of some sort (in that order, with a virus also still a possibility). She was pretty droopy Wednesday and Thursday and I endured two restless nights that couldn't help but remind me of our care-taking days/months with Nora. So Friday dawned and Jason left for work up the hill and we were home for the day. I went into the day with very low expectations - hmmm, that might have something to do with the fact that the day was just peppered with pleasant surprises!!

Sometimes I find myself surprised by the things that end up sustaining me or giving me new insights or perspectives. The day yesterday just felt like it stretched out before us, long and luxurious. I cleared my mental space of the zillion things I could (maybe "should") be doing and settled into to allowing the day unfold as it might. The crazy thing was that I ended up doing more than I ever intended to get done and it neatly fit in between ushering Kali to the bathroom umpteen times, reading Anne of the Island for hours (until we finished it and started on Anne of the Windy Poplars), going for a walk and admiring our budding artist's drawings. I got a double batch of yogurt made, to restock our depleted supply after making a good number of fruit smoothies this week for the sore throats in the house. I tried two new recipes, using the many zucchini that we have been blessed with (we'll never get around to growing our own if friends are so generous with us!!). I worked on some planning for our little girl who will soon be turning SIX! And had fun with Kali getting together a little package for one of her closest friends who will also soon be turning six.

But it wasn't the activities that got me thinking so much as the positive and hopeful attitude that seemed to filter through them. It didn't hurt anything to see the sparkle coming back into Kali's eyes and to be able to touch her skin without it burning. But I'd like to think it was something even more than that. The week held elements of slowing down out of sheer necessity that never cease to amaze me in their effectiveness at sharpening my perspective and helping me hold tight to what I care most about.

Even though I am apt to say "I'm not cut out for mothering" when Kali falls sick and I'm a worried mess, allowing my mind to travel down all sorts of scary paths that then follow me into my dreams during the restless nights of caring for her. Yet what the care-taking does for my soul feels priceless. It doesn't hurt either that it takes me back to lessons learned and feelings missed that it conjures up within me regarding the months we spent being present to Nora and allowing most other things to fall by the wayside. Hard and long months and yet ones that stand out as months in which I slowly was able to let go of some of the things I had held dear to allow room for other things to take root. Then in a week like this one, when I find it getting slightly easier to let go, I feel gratefulness welling up in me.

I should probably give some credit where credit is due before closing this post. I can't quite describe in words how much I've loved reading the Anne series with Kali and how silly I feel at times as she looks up at me to find me crying once again over some beautiful, romantic, sad passage. I'm a complete sap when it comes to these books, but they really connect with something deep in me. What sticks out for me is it feels like Anne and her kindred spirits seldom "cut corners" on life. The goal was not how fast, how much, how efficient... As I read the detail descriptions of home, walks, gardens, people, nature, and emotions there is no doubt that one must be fully present to the moment to absorb all the intricacies of life. And how much I feel I miss when all I can see is the never ending "to do" list that we seem to have as we continue to uncover the treasures of our 5 acres.

On our walk yesterday afternoon I found myself consciously trying to slow down rather than speed up. To breath in the air, to notice the wind, to look around. I found myself cursing the speed and shine of the cars whizzing past. My mind floated from one thing to the next, trying to clear out space to allow tidbits of wisdom to filter in on how I can add the corners back onto life. They sometimes hold the most wonderful surprises!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


It is a frequent occurrence that something in the spectacle of nature that surrounds us here at home snags my attention, and reasonably often it holds that attention long enough and with enough import or meaning to cause me to write something about it. If you were to be physically in my presence, it might be the kind of thing I would relate to you in the form of a passing mention or even spoken narration (which you may or may not rather I occupy the airwaves with). From time to time, the bits of writing accumulate, and I suppose this blog might be a suitable forum for the disgorgement of this accumulation. I'll start with just mentioning something I saw yesterday, and then include two poems written recently.

It was while I was mowing that I saw it. It was almost exactly three years ago that I last saw one of these. I don't believe in omens per se, but still the appearance of a particular creature can hold significance for me, and sometimes it can be a clue as to what the future holds, or at least something important about the present.

I am, in the background of my mental space, currently engaged in the process of preparing for the butchering of this year's extra roosters, which will take place in a few weeks. Three years ago, as I was walking down towards the chicken coops to retrieve the first chicken for butchering from that year's flock (which was our first here at Fruit Farm Lane, and the first chicken butchering I had done for nearly 8 years), I was privileged to witness a five-lined skink devouring, headfirst and whole, a large black cricket, the pondering of which sight helped ease my troubled butcher's mind. Since that sighting I do not recall having seen the skinks out and about.

This has perplexed and worried me, especially because I had previously seen them only in and around the old, decrepit solar greenhouse or along the old brick walk, both of which I have subsequently removed. I worried I had destroyed their home and would not know the satisfaction of their skittery, bug-gulping presence here again.

Because of the noise of the mower, I'm sure nobody heard my jubilant exclamation at having spotted a skink zipping along one of the siding boards on the old section of the house. I want to believe that humans can live among the other species as participants in the whole, rather than only the destroyers we are so crafty at being. And so as omens go, the re-appearance of the skink at our home seems like a good one.

The poems, then:


I am picking my sugar snaps in
the cool of the evening. It is quiet
enough that I hear the soft, familiar throb
and look around for it.

There, up on the bank, it’s the Coral Bells
that have signaled in the language of
plants and pollinators that they are open
for business, and

the dandy little red-bibbed fellow has
whirred on over. Now he is swimming
around the blooms, making them sway
with his little breeze and his licking.

Again it astounds me. All that humming
flight, all that giving away of nectar, the
feathers, the leaves, the fragile petals:
somehow—sweet somehow!—it all pays.

Jason Myers-Benner
June 16, 2009

Animated Me

If someone had been watching me
this evening, seen me tracking down
the slope to shut the chickens in, they
might have also seen the tawny form dividing
weedstalks, nearing me.

They might have seen akimbo me—my chore
accomplished—in the dimness turn my head
to face the sound of gentle hoofsteps. They might have
seen, through pulsing galaxies of firefly swoops, the velvet
buck along the treeline edge, pacing up the slope towards the

They might have seen me lift a foot, have seen him turn
to stare at me and then, deducing my ignorability,
move on. They might have seen me smile, stoop and
stalk him.

They might have seen him take deliberate steps up to
the brick walk, might have seen him turn and move
between the house and I. They would have seen
the furtive me

bolt into motion, giving chase to the extent my silly
slip-on rubber garden shoes allowed; the wheezing
snorts, the thudding hooves, the flying leaps could not
have been ignored. Would they have seen the few surprising
others, haired and breathing, which joined him in pounding up the
hill? The woods that rang their fading snorts was dark:
it’s doubtful.

But if they peer into this lighted kitchen now, they
will have seen me enter, stop, and speak.
They will have seen my child’s eyes
go wide, her smile wider. They will have seen my grinning
lover at the sink, her glancing at our faces. They will have seen
an animated me, my flailing arms, my leaps, my pointing
finger. They will have heard reverberating waves
of laughter.

Jason Myers-Benner
July 11, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ponderings from Janelle...

What a mixed bag life has been of late! The apparent contradictions: spending hours in the Critical Care Unit at the hospital sitting beside one of my students who is hooked up to a ventilator and then coming home and picking some of the first wineberries off the bushes right outside our front windows; watching someone's breath controlled uncomfortably by a machine and all nutrition coming to him via an IV, and then stepping out of my car to breath in the fresh summer evening air and see Kali running to me showing me her "leaf salad" she was making down by the garden. Such varied experiences of living.

There is one place I found these two blending more naturally for me this week and that was in the Blood Donor room at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. My own abundance going to help with what someone else is lacking for any number of reasons. And it is amazing how I find that simple act every 8 weeks to be strangely part of what sustains me right now. It was funny to find myself talking with the phlebotomist about the cookbook, Simply in Season, that my aunt coauthored (one of his all time favorites). It was our first time, but not our last, going to our local hospital to donate. I loved hearing the staff welcoming people in by their first names, obviously establishing relationships with their 'regular donors' - a status I hope to gain in the coming months. What makes the experience even more rich is that we can do it as a family. Kali, being assured that they will not accidentally stick her and not me, happily joins in the experience and absorbs every step of the process (not losing sight of the snacks that come at the end).

So my plug for the locals - come join us sometime! I learned that in the evenings they often have "groups of Mennonites" coming in and so the place gets pretty busy. :) We go in next on the evening of Monday, August 31st? Anyone want to join us?? The number for the blood bank is 433-4298.

But back to the berries... Last evening we enjoyed having M, W and their sone I over for dinner. We made pie iron sandwiches over the fire outside. The sandwiches were not nearly as enticing to I as the wineberries just feet away. He would pipe up "more berries" and start towards the patch, over time needing to resort happily to the lighter pink and even orangish, not quite ripe ones. After dinner as the daylight was waning, we strolled through the blueberry patch filling any remaining cracks in our already satisfied bellies.

The day ended late, snuggled up all three of us as we started reading Anne of Avonlea, after having finished reading Anne of Green Gables. I've gotten Kali hooked!! Clearly life in Anne's world, with moments in the "depths of despair," was not perfect. Yet it also feels that her life was sustained and enriched by her deep connection with people, nature and with herself. I love the way she experienced life to the fullest and the way small, beautiful things, like the "white way of delight" thrilled her. I feel as if I am surrounded by thrilling things most moments of most days. The challenge is to slow up enough to be fully present to them.