Monthly Archives: June 2013

Summer reads


When Sylvia of Artsy Ants posted her summer reading list a few days ago, my heart went into full-on carnival mode. Or maybe county fair mode? I’m talking lights, bells, cotton candy, Whac-A-Mole, carousel horses and giant Holsteins, demolition derbies and dripping ice cream cones on hot summer nights with nowhere else to be. I guess what I’m saying is I felt happy. Things have been Oh So Serious around here. Happy sure is nice.

Like Sylvia, I used to devour books. I was the girl who had to have a book with her in the car if we were going anywhere further than the stop sign at the head of our street. When I was 12 I could think of no greater misery than making the two mile trek to the grocery store while my book sat at home on the kitchen counter. When I was 12 I could not tell my grandma how to get to said grocery store, TRUE STORY, because I didn’t make that kitchen-counter mistake often.

These days, though, I’m still figuring it out. Five books by the end of the summer sounds pretty ambitious, really. But I just finished The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times, by Jennifer Worth, and I guess I’m feeling a little cocky. I loved it, so much. It made me think about motherhood, and also about the family support work I did in Pittsburgh and Peru and New York City before coming to farming. And it was just a wonderful read. Being lost in a book is such a profound pleasure. I want more!

So here we go, in no particular order:

Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns. I actually started this one a couple months ago, but set it aside when I found The Midwife at the library. I can’t wait to get back to 14-year old Will Tweedy and his take on a family scandal in a small town in 1906 Georgia.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, by Kim John Payne, M. Ed., with Lisa M. Ross. I was reluctant at first to put a parenting book on the list. I’ve been trying pretty hard recently not to read parenting advice (exceptions made for books and articles with a Buddhist or mindfulness slant). There’s just too much of it. And while plenty of it is compelling, I’ve grown weary of all these voices who seem to think they know best. I’m ready to quiet the din. But this one has been perpetually on deck for the last couple of years, and I’d like to give it a go.

A Circle of Quiet, by Madeleine L’Engle. I do love me a memoir. And I do love me some Madeleine L’Engle. This is the first book in a 4-part series.

Revenge of the Lawn: Stories 1962-1970, by Richard Brautigan. I picked this book up a few years ago mainly because of a Brautigan quote my friend Wesley had on her (former) blog: “Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee affords.” I really think it might have been that quote that first made me sure Wesley was someone I needed in my life. (I was spot-on, by the way. She’s wonderful. My life is so much better for knowing her. Let’s talk more another day about the good stuff that happens when people we meet online come into our real lives.)

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1), by Julia Child. No, I’m not going all Julie and Julia on y’all! But I would like to know (at least some of) my (many) cookbooks better. There are so many I could pick from, but Julia seems maybe the best place to begin. She has never led me astray. And for all my confidence in the kitchen, I’m often struck by how many French basics I don’t know. I aim to try five new-to-me recipes from this book this summer.

I’ve stacked the odds at least somewhat in my favor, in that I already own all these titles, but this is a 100% guilt-free list. If I don’t make it through all five books, or if I get distracted by some other wonderful volume – so it goes.

What about y’all? Did you finish anything good recently? What are you reading now? What’s on your library hold list or bedside table?

Looking for a new stoop to sit on

robin fledglings

Three weeks ago I wrote that I was struggling to find time to write here, despite a head full of ideas. In the weeks since I have realized the truth about my not writing is a pretty tangled to-do.

Life here brims with daily blessings and wonder. For two weeks we watched three robin hatchlings grow at lightning speed, until Saturday, when they flew from their nest. There is more rhubarb here on the farm right now than you can shake a stick at. My son adores the whole farm crew and hightails it from our front porch to their back deck several times a day. I don’t know if they see him as more of an Urkel or a Kramer, but their patience and tenderness with him is a balm to my weary heart every single time. Yesterday we went out for lunch and ice cream and left the shop with two quarts of just-picked strawberries. As we did the rest of our errands I daydreamed, half drunk on their sweet perfume, about what I most wanted to do with them. Jam? Ice cream? Alice Medrich’s buckwheat shortcakes? My husband came home from work at six and we three piled onto the bench on our back deck with the box of strawberries and a bag of pistachios and together we polished off almost everything as the sun eased down the sky.

And the resources at hand here – cultural, educational, social, natural, culinary – are truly exciting. There are so many of them, and they’re so much closer than they were in Virginia. It’s really a delight to imagine the ways our life will unfold here over the years.

Still. I’m struggling. More than I thought I would. It’s partly the move from a farm where I was needed to a farm where I am not. I never felt I juggled motherhood and the work I did for our business with much aplomb, and as we prepared for the move I relished the idea of narrowing my focus to family and home for a time. But it turns out it feels good to feel necessary and quite a bit less good not to. I’m also struggling as a parent, to respond more often than I react, and to figure out what kinds of structure and rhythm we all need. And I’ve been reminded a few times in recent weeks of what an unkind place the internet can be. It has not been that way for me, but knowing that kind of heartlessness is out there makes me feel fiercely protective of my family, and perhaps also of my own pride, and leaves me wondering if I should be writing here at all. And finally, there is the small but steady voice I keep hearing, the one that says if I am going to be here in this space, perhaps it is time wrap up all this earnest talk of how difficult transitions are. Perhaps it is time to move on to something else, or at least something more.

Here’s what I know will help: time. Compassion, for myself and for the people I love. Rest. Good food. Movement. Meditation. Time. Family. Friends. Elders. Being of service. Time. Writing. Reading. Establishing rhythms and routines. Connecting. Time. A sense of belonging. A sense of purpose. Time. Moving at my son’s pace and trying to understand how he sees this new place. Staying busy, productive, and curious. Gratitude practices. Have I mentioned time?


When I was stressed in my New York City days, the surest quickest route toward well being and away from self pity was to just open my door. Sometimes I’d walk through Tompkins Square Park and toward the East River. Sometimes I’d catch the next M15 up First Avenue with no particular destination. But most often I’d just sit on our stoop and watch the city go by. For me, it was that same feeling you get staring up at a perfect and vast midsummer sky, that reminder that you matter, but only as much as the next person or tree or mosquito. “Oh yeah,” I’d think, “it’s not just me.”

So here I am, looking for a new stoop to sit on. I’ll keep you posted.