Category Archives: stress

A hard day on a hard week (Monday thanks)

pear chocolate nutmeg muffin

It’s been a big week. Count me among the devastated. But the list of things bringing me quiet solace right now feels a mile long: the perfume of the thorny olive blossoms; lingering woodsmoke in my hair and my clothes; these aching blue skies; cold nights under goose down; my first efforts at fermenting milk kefir; stolen minutes (sometimes seconds) with my book; a fridge cleanout; this trusty soup and a half dozen friends around my table; the smell of the woods as the leaf mulch thickens and begins to decay; my fierce toddler and my tender 7-year old and our Twister mat spread wide in front of the fireplace; our inherited barn cat, half feral in the year we’ve been here, now ready for ear scratches; pulling another bag of July blueberries from the freezer for pancakes; naps. Not my own, alas. But my hilarious, determined, curious, headstrong daughter…maaaaan, the girl is non-stop. (I say it like Leslie Odom Jr. so I don’t forget to laugh!)

There was an afternoon last week when we stopped at the bay, just for a minute, just to see it was still there, just to remember to breathe. I parked at the end of the road and kept both hands on the wheel. I remember the tide was quite high. Both kids begged to get out and play, and I want to be the mom who forgets her to-do list and says yes to that, and I think I am that mom really, but this was a hard day on a hard week and I was aching for an hour where no one needed anything. So instead we went home, and my daughter napped, and I pulled The Homemade Kitchen from the shelf, because what I needed was a promise that if we keep sitting down to eat and listening while we chew, then things will be okay. Alana is very good at that sort of reminder. I randomly opened to her words about the peace she finds alone in a quiet morning kitchen, and I thought, I want that. I read her master muffin recipe and thought, I want those! And then I remembered that I make a pretty mean muffin myself, a muffin that has seen me through some other hard times, so I made those instead. I found a sad pear in the crisper, pretty bruised from a day (or maybe two) in the snack bag and with a bite already taken out of it. Perfect. I grabbed some chocolate chips, I grabbed the nutmeg, I got to work.

It’s not enough, the down comforters and the woodsmoke and the muffins. But it’s how I’m getting through the week. And while I measure and stir, somewhere underneath, I am figuring out what to do next.

Pigheaded hope

dispatch

It is, almost unbelievably to me, nearing ten years since I left New York City. When I lived there I worked as part of a small anti-poverty non-profit, accompanying families as they dealt with the compounding instabilities of housing crises, school frustrations, health issues, family separation, convoluted legal and criminal justice systems, and social isolation. These situations were simultaneously acute and chronic, in ways that left me sometimes angry, sometimes overwhelmed, sometimes all fired up – but never desperate. I didn’t feel desperate because families took me in. We sat at kitchen tables drinking coffee and eating pork chops and laughing at toddlers. We read books and flew kites and made s’mores and clung to one another on ice skates and ate pie. I didn’t feel desperate because we took those struggles and worked to craft something beautiful and constructive and necessary from them: poems, speeches, books, campaigns, relationships. I didn’t feel desperate because I didn’t have a right to wallow or to pity or to sensationalize; I had a responsibility to bear witness, and not only to what was hard but also to the incredible knowledge and tenacity and resourcefulness I saw. I didn’t feel desperate because I was part of a community that shared an extraordinary ethos rooted in relationship and respect, and a vision of a world where every person is known and treated as a whole human being.

Frontinella communis 1

There’s a ghost. Mine. She’s pretty quiet these days, not too sad. But she still walks the fields of our old farm in Virginia, and I think maybe she always will. Blackberry juice stains her lips and fingertips. She crouches low in the grey half-light of dawn, studying the Frontinella communis and Florinda coccinea webs spangled with dew. She stands, puts one hand on my son’s shoulder, points out the wild persimmons ripening against a cloudless October sky. She stops to scratch my goat Lulu under her jaw, and then she’s off again, skirting a vernal pool filled with tadpoles, kicking off her sandals, crossing the creek. I keep her company sometimes, late at night usually, too late. These hours are untrustworthy. Good for writing, terrible for making decisions. These are the hours when the deep disappointment and disillusionment in articles like these (about the challenges of making a living at farming) resonate. Eventually, though, I sleep, and in the light of day, that sorrow evaporates, is replaced with a steadier, more discerning take on our story and on farming in general. My rested self finds the articles too grim, the blame too pat. My rested self is not angry. Sad about what we left behind? Sure. Probably always. Regretful? Probably not. We could have done without the financial albatross of a farm we sank a ton of money into and then struggled to sell. But what about everything those acres gave us? What about the hard-won but enduring lessons about how to (and how not to!) run a business with the person you love, efficiently and compassionately manage a crew, make sound decisions about equipment and markets and infrastructure? What about the food we coaxed from the soil to fuel our bodies and fill our baby’s belly? What about quiet nights on the back porch with a beer, listening to the CoolBot hum and the crickets sing? What about the high of a good day at market, when you’re running on four hours’ sleep and three cups of coffee and the heady potpourri of Ambrosia muskmelons and basil and the steady passing back and forth of tomatoes, cash, recipes, well wishes? What about the barter economy among food producers, our tomatoes for your strawberries and honey, our tractor to till your garden in return for a lamb shoulder from your freezer? What about the easy generosity of other farmers, the potlucks and equipment loans and shoptalk? What about trying your damnedest, getting some sleep, and trying again tomorrow? In the end, whether we’re hilling potatoes or writing grant proposals or soothing away nightmares or waiting tables or waiting on test results or teaching declensions, that’s what we all do, isn’t?

I am grateful for every bit of that. I wouldn’t unlive any of it to protect myself from the heartbreak of walking away from our farm. I do wish for: more discussion about the economics of farming, easier answers to hard questions about the costs of good health, every belly full every single night.

whelk egg case

I’ve been thinking about all this, about these places I’ve called home, about the fire inside me. In this season of my life I’m not facilitating writing workshops or speaking at the United Nations or hustling tomatoes or helping anyone cook their way through a seemingly interminable eggplant glut. I am at home, nursing my baby, roasting vegetables, learning about bivalves and monarchs and hawks with my son, thinking (and thinking and thinking) about how children learn and about what my role should be. This season is, all at once, quieter and more contained and so much deeper than everything that came before.

I have chosen not to share much about our school plans here. And maybe that’s a mistake – so much hangs in the balance of that decision, and I’m so unsettled by that knowledge sometimes. The mama hive is rich with guidance, solidarity, and reminders to take a deep breath and just put one foot in front of the other. Maybe I should be articulating my biggest doubts here and asking for your help! But something in me feels this is not the space, at least not now, to talk about the details.

Still, I think I can say this: recently I am enormously comforted to realize that my current preoccupation with this big question is rooted in a deeply familiar instinct. The place where I thrive has always been the place where people come together full of pigheaded hope. This means I am right where I need to be.

Now who wants coffee?

Three things: comfort and joy

tree top
Last night I slept terribly. My son woke briefly a little after 1 and after getting him settled again I found myself staring wide-eyed through the dark at the ceiling. I didn’t drift off again until after 4.

I can’t say for sure but I don’t think this is a rerun of last winter’s long insomnia. What I do know is that last night I was fretful about the baby. Moving late in a pregnancy is hard. I’m struggling, a lot, to surrender to some pretty enormous changes in my prenatal care and in our plans for how and where to welcome this baby.

The deep darkness of the wee small hours doesn’t do one’s fears any favors, of course. I lay there for a long time, panicky, miserable, begging for sleep, before remembering: sit up and be with this wakefulness. And so I did. I was immediately rewarded for that tiny act of surrender when I opened Pandora and this was playing. I snorted aloud before switching to a piano station and pulling The Zuni Cafe Cookbook onto my lap. A little later I slipped from under the down comforter and headed to the fridge for a big glass of milk.

I didn’t find any answers, but eventually a certain kind of peacefulness crept in and dulled the edges of my worry. With blessedly heavy eyelids I turned off the lamp and pulled the comforter back over my shoulders.

I woke a few hours later to the sweet smell of hash browns in the skillet and the sweeter sound of dishes being put away. In the muted light of early morning I felt a little better, which seems to be how morning works. I found my slippers, made my way to the kitchen, hugged my husband, and thought with delight about some things bringing me quite a bit of comfort and joy:

1) Heather of Beauty That Moves just announced her latest online workshop! Heather writes: “Hibernate is a self-paced, four week, online retreat – a place to celebrate the pause that wintertime brings. A place to linger through the dark and quiet, to welcome stillness, and allow time to enjoy home and hearth.” Each week will offer ideas to nourish, gather, refresh, create, and rest. I cannot think of something more appealing. I’ve participated in Heather’s 30 Day Vegan and Whole Food Kitchen courses, and I think what I love most is her gentle, non-dogmatic approach and her heavy focus on self care. This course begins January 13. Lots more details here.

2) Nicole of Gidget Goes Home is running The Motherhood & Jane Austen Book Club in 2014 – a chance to read or reread all six of Jane Austen’s novels though the lens of motherhood. Nicole notes that the novels are “chock full of interesting mothers, mother figures, absent mothers and young women who we imagine may become mothers later. We will discuss these characters, how they affect the plot, how they make us feel as mothers, how they relate to mothers we know, and more.” First up is Pride & Prejudice. I can’t wait.

3) Throughout all of that – and also as soon as I post this – I plan to drink a lot of chai. I’ve made a lot of versions over the years, all delicious, but my current favorite method comes from Jess at Witchin’ in the Kitchen. I like my chai spicy and not too sweet, so I’ve been reducing the honey by a smidge, upping the ginger, crushing cardamom pods, black peppercorns, and a star anise pod to add to the garam masala, and using some cardamom-flavored tea in place of straight black tea. For a decaf version I bet rooibos would be nice! Delicious, gorgeous recipe here.

 I’d love to know what’s bringing you comfort and joy these days.

The dust begins to settle.

A week ago we moved into a little green cottage by the sea.

fog

For real.

To say 2013 has been a wild ride is putting it mildly. It’s been just over a year since we announced our decision to put our Virginia farm on the market, and less than nine months since our move to the Hudson Valley. In many ways they haven’t been easy months, but for a long while we enveloped that stress in a kind of peace. Moves are difficult, we reasoned. Let’s not pretend otherwise, but do let’s try to be patient. Let’s keep digging in this good earth. Let’s have margaritas on the back deck and watch the fireflies. Let’s take the train into the city lots. Let’s make popcorn and start watching Planet Earth, and let’s go out for breakfast because hey! we finally have Saturdays off, and let’s build a sandbox. Let’s make a baby even.

We did all that, and we laughed, quite a lot, but we couldn’t really shake the feeling that some things weren’t getting better. About three months ago we realized: this is not the stress of transition – it’s the stress of a bad fit. And so we started looking, again.

I lived in Virginia for seven years. It would be dishonest to say I felt at home there right away. But love made me stay, and then a bigger kind of love kept us going, gave us the strength to marry, to buy a farm, to build a business, to bring a child into the world, to weather financial uncertainty, and then, to walk away. By the time we did that, Virginia felt very much like home indeed.

Leaving was really hard, and as I’ve said, so was adjusting to our new farm. Our new region, though, felt really good right away. Partly it was moving to a part of a the country so dense with resources. The Hudson Valley is beautiful, for one: I took to its rivers and its glaciated ridges and its mossy forests zigzagged with old stone walls with a child’s sense of wonder and delight and freedom, my own child at my side on every expedition. (Three turns out to be a pretty fantastic age for daytrips.) And so many people! Some have called the area home forever. Others came to be near New York City, and still others left the city behind – but not too far behind. They still needed to buy the things they knew, and to earn a living from making the things they knew, and to sing their songs and fill their bellies and teach their children. Which meant: Diners! Bagels! Playgrounds! Festivals! Farm markets! Creative approaches to school!

I loved it. I loved all that. Our immediate situation was not really working, but more broadly, I was settling right in. Until we moved to New York, I didn’t realize how much I missed the Northeast. And in truth, for all its riches, it’s not that it’s more special than anywhere else. It’s that I grew up there. So even as things were really very hard, I was steadied by the familiar.

It’s a funny thing, the call of home. Sometimes, when I’m feeling very out of place, it’s a high and lonesome sound, a plaintive cry I can’t soothe. But more often, it’s a lullaby. It’s the thing that takes my fears and worries and eases them back into place among all the good and hard that I am living.

feather

It has been a very strange year: unsettled, uncertain. My mind has often been with the families I grew close to during my years in New York City. Many of them were quite expert at dealing with the chronic ache of insecure housing. They said too many goodbyes to dear friends and neighbors. They dealt with the incredible red tape of transferring school records. They crowded in with relatives or friends where it was a challenge to find a pillow to call their own, let alone the quiet to take a centering breath. Or they navigated the city’s complex shelter system, where most often they were crammed into tiny apartments and where dozens of people made rules for them about when and where and what they were permitted to eat, and about where and how they could spend their time, and about who they were allowed to welcome. The shelters provide a place to sleep, and the best of them have patient and respectful staff, but none of them are easy, peaceful places to live.

What advice would the families have for me, I’ve wondered? I think they’d remind me that it’s okay to feel angry and sad. I think they’d remind me that you do get through stuff. I think they’d remind me not to go it alone – to call my mom, to have a meal with a friend, to laugh with my kid. I think they’d remind me that at some point the dust begins to settle.

morning dune

Will I miss the Hudson Valley? Badly. I will miss our long drives, fertile farmland spilling away from the open road in every direction. I will miss the dairy we drove to every three or four days – the way the new calves stretched their necks as I scratched their jaws, the no-nonsense stare of the Jerseys as they grazed, the clink of the glass jars as I wedged them between the carseat and a bag of books. I will miss mornings with a kindred spirit, frying bacon or chopping tomatoes or rendering lard as our boys squabbled and played and sorted their way to sweet companionship, and our afternoons too, foraging wild blueberries or fording creeks or talking about our midwives. I will miss living so near to one of my oldest dearest friends, and the way she’d arrive on a Friday after work with ice cream and freshly roasted coffee and (before I got pregnant) my favorite porter. I will miss the deep joy of living near my aunt and uncle and cousins – the sweet company of people who have known me all my nearly 36 years, and the reassuring rightness of seeing my boy get to know his own cousins. I will miss my kind and wise midwife, and the plans we were making to welcome this baby. I will miss cider donuts and real New York bagels. I will miss walking across the back deck and down the steps and across the backyard to pick eggplants for dinner or sun golds for now. I will miss running out of eggs and wrapping myself in a scarf even as I’m already halfway to the chicken coop.

That last one is so big. I didn’t grow up on a farm, and for close to ten years before meeting my husband I was a very content city gal. But we’ve lived on farms our whole life together. And all those even rows and freshly tilled fields and wide open spaces and cedar windbreaks and border streams became, well, how I parent. When we were grumpy from too much time inside, there was no searching for keys, for shoes, for diaper bags, for pants even! There was only opening the door and unfolding into the wide and busy world out there. When he was a baby I laid a quilt beneath the giant sycamore just east of the house, where he napped (a little) and nursed (a lot) and grabbed fistfuls of grass and clover. As he became more mobile we’d collect eggs, or look for frogs and snakes in the creek, or visit his dad and the crew as they seeded carrots or snipped garlic or dug potatoes. For someone who grew up in the suburbs, and then lived all those city years, never craving escape, the power of those fields and woods to shift our perspective and to ease open those tired and lonely hours of new motherhood was startling and deeply soothing.

And now, for the first time in eight years, we are living off-farm. When we were searching for a better spot we cast a pretty wide net, looking as far afield as Oregon and Minnesota and Georgia. Many farms didn’t offer housing – what a shift from something that had come to seem part and parcel of my definition of home. How could I give that up? It was too much.

But you know? We’ve been here a week, and already I’m reminded that a farm is hardly the only sweet environment in which to raise a happy inquisitive child, to create meals and messes and connection in the kitchen, to find peace. It’s hardly the only place to make a home.

For all its gifts, a farm can be a lonely place for someone like me. For the most part, in these last eight years, I’ve staved off the worst of it by getting out there in the middle of things – exploring with my son, hanging out with our crew, hauling the harvest back home to the kitchen – and by knowing when to get off the farm too. But it was always with me, that loneliness.

Last weekend I drove to our new town from the mountains of Western North Carolina, where I’d spent some sweet days with my family before the move. It was a long drive for a very pregnant woman and a 4-year old, but gorgeous too – the smoky blue ridges of Appalachia and then gently rolling farmland, punctuated by small towns and big cities, and then at last the broad coastal plain of our new home. There is so much to learn and say about the sea so near, and about the new farm, fifteen minutes south of our little green house. But what struck me most as night fell last Saturday, our new address at long last looming close on the GPS, was commerce, density, stoplights. It could not have felt more different from the rural expanses I have called home for so many years. But what I felt was certainly not loss. It was a giddy good cheer. Has all the open space and abundant unspoiled nature and quiet of the last near-decade profoundly impacted my parenting and been deeply restorative? Yes. Have I felt it in my bones? Yes. And do I madly love a human landscape? I do, I do, I do! Here, there are neighbors raking their yards and calling out, “Welcome to the neighborhood!” There is a 7-Eleven a mile and a half up the street, a sweet blessing indeed those first three mornings here, when I rose early for coffee and writing and searched the mountains of boxes in vain for my own beans. There are Christmas lights twinkling sleepily at me and the dog as we head to the bay for a walk every morning after my husband and son wake. I know that any given day might hold some leaf pile jumping (a brand new experience for our little guy – one does not do much raking on a farm), or a trip to the library (one mile away!!!!), or a second and perhaps third visit to the beach, or a visit to see Dad at the new farm. It’s all so close at hand.

Here’s to home.

morning flight

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.

On bright blue days delight comes easy.


bootssilofinding color where i cancattailsskunk cabbageleap

At three and a half, our son seems to be doing that “kids are adaptable” thing with aplomb as he settles in up here amongst the stone walls and glaciated ridges. At three his feelings are also acute and immediate, and this long winter of preparation and packing was not easy for him. But now that we’re here and our days have some semblance of normalcy to them again, he seems to be taking in stride the loss of so much that was familiar. He’s so here, so now, and has just gotten right to work building up a brand new familiar. Of course the move means enormous changes for my husband too. But his days here are busy and new, and he’s the first to say he’s very much looking forward to a year without his nose buried in QuickBooks.

Me? In truth I half feel like I’m still treading water. I’m not melancholy. It’s nothing like October, when the decision to leave our farm was still so raw. But it’s not July yet either.

Case in point? This Hudson Valley winter. This, friends, is going to take some getting used to. No, it’s not Arctic. It’s not even New England. But it is COLD. And brown. And icy. And long. Perhaps I’ve been coddled by too many easy Virginia winters – because I did grow up in Pennsylvania, and I did live in New York City for much of my twenties. I’m confident that in time the heady southern springs will be less the thing I yearn for come March and more just a part of how we tell our son about the place where he was born. I remember that in the first months of my pregnancy in 2009 I thought I might burst with vernal delight, that clamor of blossoming trees and all that green seeming to cheer on the tiny new life in my belly. I suppose that bit of magic did set the bar for spring pretty high.

But I’m confident too that, soon enough, the northern bellwethers will come to be just as comforting as those Virginia redbuds and dogwoods and wisteria. Look at that amazing skunk cabbage in the marsh, two photos up – do you know it makes its own heat, upwards of 60°F above air temperature, melting its way through the frozen ground, confidently and without complaint, to thrust its speckled burgundy spathe through the mud?? Geese are everywhere, filling the skies with their glorious racket. And who could’ve expected I’d come to be so enamored of mud? If our boots are crusted with it and our floors splattered and smeared, can it be too long before I linger with my coffee at sunrise on the back deck?

If I’m half homesick, missing blossoms and Kaffeeklatsches and our land, well then, I am also half drunk on my own delight in all that is new. When were those stone walls built? What kind of rock are those cliffs carved from? Those evergreens are enormous – what are they? If these hardwoods ever get leaves again, will I know them by sight or will I need to go on long walks with my Peterson guides? What’s this – oh, ouch! It’s a chestnut! Right there in the yard! And look at those marshes! And all those ponds! And those vast black dirt onion fields! Of course there are people here too. They run diners and ice cream shops, and they know how to make the kind of bagels and pizza I’ve been missing for years, and they invite us over for breakfast, and they tell us where the playgrounds are, and the good Indian lunch buffets too, and how on this sweet green earth one can procure a library card. (You might think this would be easier to procure than, say, raw milk, but you would be wrong.)

From such diverse and abundant raw material we are beginning to piece together our days. Sometimes the skies are too grey and the winds too fierce, and my resolve to get us outside in all kinds of weather just doesn’t stand a chance against my kid’s grumps. On those days we bake, or we keep unpacking our books, or we take long and winding drives. But sometimes the skies are blindingly blue and so we tug on our boots and zip our coats and off we go. I tell him about cattails and we laugh as the dogs leap the creeks and I swear one day last week we startled a pheasant up out of the rushes. We stop at luncheonettes for bagels and coffee, and the waitress at one already knows that my kid would like two crayons, one red and one blue please, and she cuts the straw down to size for him special. We are missing our own vegetables like the dickens, but we need to eat fresh vegetables just the same, and it’s lots of fun trying new cabbages and squashes from the big Asian market. There is a great spot for coffee just down the road – I have not had a lovely little luxury like that since my NYC days. We’re looking up swim classes (what with all these ponds), and while I haven’t found a great spot yet for bulk grains and spices, buying fresh milk is as easy as going to the farm and paying for it. We’re trying out a weekly parent-child class at a small Waldorf school. On weekends we sometimes stick close to home but more often, so far, we are taking advantage of what seems like unbelievable good fortune: living within easy driving distance again of family and old friends. If things work out here, my son will grow up knowing his cousins and with loads of aunties both kith and kin.

So here we are. On bright blue days delight comes easy. On harder days I am trying to take cues from the skunk cabbage, burgeoning through the frozen mud, and of course also from my resident bodhisattva, who cries when he is sad, eats when he is hungry, laughs when life is funny, and gives the best hugs.

 

Here’s to July.

I was going to write about our tractor today. I watched it disappear down our quiet country road this morning as my husband and son headed a few hours north to deliver it to the friends who are buying it from us as we liquidate our farm. Somehow, although I know melancholy to be kin to the endings of things, the fresh grief of that moment was not what I expected as I buckled the boy into his carseat and kissed them both goodbye.

And maybe I will write more about that. There’s lots on my mind. I’m reflecting a lot these days on what our ambitions looked like six or seven years ago, and on my first three years as a mother too. The tractor’s all tied up with all of that.

But right now? You know – the sun is beating down on my shoulders like it wants to be late May. My scarf is too heavy. The chickens are warbling and the dishwasher is running and my belly is full of curried sweet potato soup. I think I’m gonna chase this feeling.

Sunflower. July 2012, Virginia.

Sunflower. July 2012, Virginia.

On my drive home from the library not an hour ago, I was listening to the latest The Kitchen Hour podcast. About halfway through, Meagan and her guest, yoga teacher and coach Kate Hanley of Ms. Mindbody, speak about the retreats Kate leads. Kate mentions trying to see yourself on your best day six months from now. And damn if that wasn’t exactly what I needed to hear.

I believe very strongly that feeling more peace is not about getting to the (totally imaginary) day where all my stress is gone, that I’ve got a whole lot of tools in my stress-reduction arsenal right now. My favorites, which I employ with seriously varying degrees of frequency and skill, are: eating real food, getting sleep, taking walks, meditating, practicing gratitude, dancing in the kitchen, and drinking lots of coffee with my friends. I think even when I can’t change a dang thing about what’s going on, these things are huge. I guess that’s when they’re hugest. It’s also when they’re hardest.

Things are hard right now.

But Kate mentioned six months from now and this image popped into my head, simple and crisp. It feels so lovely that I kind of want to just quietly tuck it in my pocket. But I’ll write it down and put it out there. With footnotes, because maybe the edges of this image aren’t so clearly defined if you’re not me:

It’s maybe 4:30pm on a clear late July Tuesday. I’m on our back deck1 with my son and we’re grilling2 whatever is growing then3 and maybe also some home-raised chicken. The peach and blueberry pie we made earlier is cooling inside on the kitchen counter. I’m happy because all the financial loose ends from our old farm have been tied up for a couple months now. I’m happy because later in the week I’m taking the train into the city, solo, for a People’s University where I used to work. I’m happy because my husband will be in from the fields in another hour and we’re going to eat this food and drink some cold beer while the sun goes down and the fireflies appear4. I’m happy.

Here’s to July.

  1. We have a real deck at our new place! []
  2. It’s silly but I’m afraid of grilling; hoping this year is the year I get over that. There’s a fantastic double-page spread in Dinner: A Love Story (the book) where author Jenny Rosenstrach confesses her fear of grilling to her husband Andy in the form of a letter, and he writes back with a sweet and simple primer. You can get a taste over at this blog post on the same topic. []
  3. Zucchini and onions, maybe? []
  4. Are there fireflies in the Hudson Valley? Someone please tell me yes! []