Category Archives: weekending


inside the block

A week ago Sunday I made myself a second cup of coffee and settled myself not into my spot at the end of the couch against the bay window, and not onto a warm patch of bayside sand while my children splashed, but into a patio chair on my friend’s terrace in the East Village. It was the last day of a sweet and chockablock week in the city, and after so much time climbing slides and eating bagels and chatting with strangers and boarding ferries and buses and subway cars, it was good to exhale. My son finished up his second bowl of corn flakes inside and called out to me his plans to make Minecraft weapons from an old egg carton. My daughter stacked and unstacked and restacked flower pots. I sipped my coffee and lifted my face to the hot May sun and took in the Sunday morning sounds of the East Village (church bells, bus brakes and engines, mourning doves, my son’s spoon clanking merrily against his cereal bowl). It’s easy to forget that the city ever slows down, but it does.

My friend’s terrace looks out over the inside of the block, a motley vista of fire escapes and ivy and air conditioners and unlikely trees. It’s such a comfort to me to look out over these bones and muscles of city living. It’s not a quiet place to live, of course, and daily life with small children anywhere is full of questions and bumps and tears and fart jokes and throwing, so much throwing. But sometimes there’s a moment when the exigencies have been deftly met or benignly ignored, when your children are immersed in their own work and you are not needed. I guess that’s going to keep happening, isn’t it?

Sunday though, I didn’t fret about how fast they’re growing. I looked at bricks I’d looked at a hundred times and wondered for the first time whose hands had laid them. I noticed a pigeon in a flower pot and wondered if she had a nest there. I saw an empty six-pack on a fire escape and smiled, thinking of that passage from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn about the people who go to early mass:

Oh, what a wonderful day was Saturday in Brooklyn. Oh, how wonderful anywhere! People were paid on Saturday and it was a holiday without the rigidness of a Sunday. People had money to go out and buy things.They ate well for once, got drunk, had dates, made love and stayed up until all hours; singing, playing music, fighting and dancing because the morrow was their own free day. They could sleep late – until late mass anyhow.

On Sunday, most people crowded into the eleven o’clock mass. Well, some people, a few, went to early six o’clock mass. They were given credit for this but they deserved none for they were the ones who had stayed out so late that it was morning when they got home. So they went to this early mass, got it over with and went home and slept all day with a free conscience.

We’re home now. Horseshoe crab spawning season, one of the most magical and curious times of our year, is upon us. I wrote a post a couple weeks ago but never finished it and thus didn’t post it, in which I talked about how much I like easing past the first lusty weeks of spring, all frogsong and snowdrops and cracked open windows, and into spring proper. But in our week away another shift happened. The daffodils that were just past peak are now fully wizened on their stems. There’s a fine film of pollen on everything and we keep the windows open 24/7 except when it rains. And of course the farm goings-on are full tilt.

Here’s to spring’s wild rumpus! Here’s to my Mother’s Day breakfast in bed and a long solo morning, to our favorite beach bar opening back up, to muddy kids and hungry red knots and strawberries just around the corner. To picnic dinners at the bay and all the baby pigs and even to mosquitoes. To the familiar feeling of it all. To home!

(I may pop back in here and add some of our NYC photos, because I know I’ll be glad to look back on them. But for now: hello again!) 

(joining Karen and company)


Russian sage

There’s something restorative about waking up in a gabled room, particularly if that’s not where you usually wake up. On Saturday I woke a little before 7 to rustling woods, sunshine spilling through the small window at my feet, and the smiling brown eyes of my three-year old, who was standing next to the fairly tall bed where I’d spent the night. I grinned back at him. “Let’s eat something,” he said. So I climbed from under the heavy quilt and together we padded down the creaky stairs. I’d stayed up past 1 catching up with an old friend who was moving halfway across the country the next morning, but there was something about that sloped roof – it was the best nearly-six hours of sleep I’d gotten in months.

I made some coffee and poured the boy a bowl of cereal, and together we sat in a comfortable silence on the couch, breezes blowing the lace curtains across our shoulders. If anyone out there has a three-year old you will especially appreciate the sweetness of those quiet moments. He asked the occasional question – “Did you get a good night’s sleep, Mama?” “My footie pajamas are getting kind of small, huh?” – but mainly he stretched out with one foot on my lap and one foot on of the back of the couch and the cereal (no milk) on his belly, munching away.

A little later later the first of the others appeared in the kitchen. She poured herself a cup of coffee and together we three made our way down the back porck steps and across the yard. We paused to let the chickens out before winding on through dewy grass and gnarled apple trees, already heavy with green fruit, to the river. We’d walked the same path the night before, after a day of steady heavy rains, and found the river rushing and brown and clawing at its banks. This morning it was still fast and high, but a bit of pebbly beach was visible, and the water was clear. We sipped our coffee, and talked a bit, of crayfish and road trips and first gardens, and the boy threw sticks and stones into the wild current.

Later it was just me and the boy again. I sighed a little, feeling deeply at peace and missing our old farm. But mainly I rolled up my pants and kicked off my sandals and talked with my boy. I loaded his hands with rocks, and pointed out a slug making its way down a sycamore trunk, and tried skipping a few stones across the rapids. We stayed there an hour at least, nothing wrong in the world, not that morning. I knew it and hugged it to my chest to remember.

Later still, when three people and their luggage and a cheerful Golden Retriever had piled into one car, and we into another, and we had all pulled away from that red house in the woods, I thought about it all – running wild through a May thunderstorm in the middle of the Pacific fifteen years ago, drinking tea and dreaming big in Kyoto and Vancouver and Boston and New York and Portsmouth, that New Year’s Eve when we opened our champagne with a hammer in my parents’ driveway, that balmy May Sunday when she married us under the ash tree in front of 200 friends and family on hay bales, the graduations and jobs and relationships we’ve celebrated, the Big Decisions we’ve mulled over long distance, years too out of touch, years that brought us back together – I thought about it all, just enough to remember my own bigger picture, and I drove.

(joining Amanda at The Habit of Being)






Sweet Annie/Artemisia annua. February 2013, Virginia.

Sweet Annie/Artemisia annua. February 2013, Virginia.

So grateful for this practice of noticing and remembering some really delicious stuff, here in the thick of the move. For National Margarita Day on Friday, which brought joy to my packing, and for our whole grain waffles the next morning, which brought joy to my belly. For a child who called out gleefully from the backseat, “Turn that up, Mama!!” when this came on the radio, and then “Dance, Mama!!” when I was too still at the wheel. For a fantastic coffee date where we really did fit in a fair amount of adult conversation, even with our little ones at our sides. For the moment when I showed myself a little compassion and tossed the dry lumps of whole wheat tortilla dough into the pig scraps bucket and pulled out the tub of white flour. (I still want to talk about my seemingly Sisyphean efforts to find the perfect whole grain tortilla recipe – but not today.) For last night’s riff on our favorite new one dish meal: baked bratwurst with cabbage, carrots, and sweet potatoes, inspired by Dinner: A Love Story. For Connie Britton. For sleeping in. For this berried breakfast cobbler (two suggestions: top it with yogurt thinned with juice from the orange you’ve zested, per the recipe, and use salted butter – it does something amazing to the crust), and for the wee boy who did all the measuring and mixing himself. For the blue skies and blinding sun, and for the coffee I drank while the boy dug in the dirt and (ahem) threw dirt at the chickens. For a long midday snuggle with an under-the-weather bub who needed his mama.

And for this:


Touched by your goodness, I am like
that grand piano we found one night on Willoughby
that someone had smashed and somehow
heaved through an open window.

And you might think by this I mean I’m broken
or abandoned, or unloved. Truth is, I don’t
know exactly what I am, any more
than the wreckage in the alley knows
it’s a piano, filling with trash and yellow leaves.

Maybe I’m all that’s left of what I was.
But touching me, I know, you are the good
breeze blowing across its rusted strings.

What would you call that feeling when the wood,
even with its cracked harp, starts to sing?

Patrick Phillips

(joining Amanda at The Habit of Being)


Snow. February 2013, Virginia.

I am not a huge fan of snow. It wasn’t always this way. As a young child in Georgia, I only ever even saw the stuff once or twice, and it was pure fairytale when it happened. We moved north when I was still in elementary school, but the snow’s new commonness didn’t dull its magic. Even in my twenties, in New York City, I still fell for it hard – the way it softened the avenues, and in a way also softened us city folk to one another, as we all hunkered down with scarves and paper cups of coffee against the bitter winds on subway platforms, chastened for a spell by a force bigger than our busyness. As the thermometer dropped my first winter there, I took to walking everywhere I could; I’d had a rough winter the year before and figured the best path to a happy February was to be out there in the thick of it.

I don’t know where I lost the love. I just know that since leaving New York, when the snow falls – and here in central Virginia, sometimes that is every week or two during the winter and sometimes it is almost not at all – I am grateful for hot coffee and a blazing fire and the couch.

So. It snowed here this weekend. We were packing, furiously, and certainly I looked out the windows as I scuttled about the house with moving boxes and old letters and more coffee and more bags for Goodwill. That’s pretty I thought. Oh look I thought, it’s still coming down. But just as quickly I’d turn back to the boxes.

I don’t know what made me really see it. I was standing at a sink, drying my hands. I was looking through a west-facing window, at the giant oak near the house and at the old Paulownia and younger redbuds behind it and at the greenhouse behind them all. It was all very pleasant. But then my gaze fixed on the flakes not two feet in front of me, and then – it was all very quiet. I wasn’t thinking about how much there is to do in the next two weeks. I wasn’t wondering when the farm will sell. I wasn’t daydreaming about paint colors in the new house. There was only snow. I put down my hand towel and watched. The flakes were big and they were coming down hard, swirling just like maple seed pods.

The weekend – indeed, the whole last week – has been like that. That is: we leave in two weeks and there is much unresolved. Some of it will feel settled the minute our small caravan pulls onto the highway that first Monday morning in March. But we are months away – at best – from a truly clean start.

And yet: grace. Grace in the tireless focus and good cheer of my mother, who must have packed forty boxes of books single-handedly in addition to helping me turn all my mountains into molehills. Grace in the rusty nails and old linoleum and grace in every trip my father took to Lowe’s for more moving boxes, more plumbing supplies, more lumber. Grace in the laughter of our friends who came midweek bearing lasagna, bread, salad, and wine. Grace in the pot of soup shared with more friends the following night. Grace in the unexpected box of so-very-much-needed treats in the mail. Grace in our little guy’s sudden calm about the move. Grace in the smiling arrival of an old old friend who will farmsit for us for the next several months. Grace in Season 1 of Friday Night Lights. Grace in a pint of Newcastle and in paper trays piled high with chicken wings. Grace in the hum of the dryer, the warble of the coffee pot, the rising of the biscuits, the quiet of the snow.

(joining Amanda at The Habit of Being)


On Thursday morning I got in the car around 7am and drove away for a three-day work commitment. It was only a couple hours away, but it was the first time my son and I were separated overnight. Quite a rite of passage, for the both of us. And it was alright. He and his sweet papa held down the fort (farm) quite well without me, and I was so bone tired from the long days of work that there scarce was time to think too much about how strange it was. I think I feel proud of us both. I know that the look of joy in his eyes when we were reunited Saturday afternoon was one of the best things I have ever seen.

The weekend was full up with other gratitudes as well. The days passed so differently from my usual ones – no mothering, no cooking, no talks with my husband about our son or the move or Terriers. Just work, and lots of new and delightful faces, and many cups of coffee. I was expecting the long days and the thrill of helping to pull off a big project with many moving parts. But – I had forgotten about the perspective that can come with even just a little bit of distance. It’s a pretty special thing to get to peer through the warmly lit windows of your own life like that.

I thought about my life before farming (lots of sitting at a computer, lots of dreaming and planning and solving and trying with many kindred spirits) and I thought about my life now (lots of sun and mud and fresh air and cooking and mothering and doing, days and days of seeing just my family). I thought about working away from my family and I thought about spending every day with my family. I thought about talking for hours with adults and I thought about talking for hours with my boy. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all those thoughts, but I’m grateful for the chance to think them.

On Saturday night I was out like a light before 9pm with my boy. And on Sunday we had ourselves a city day, full of grilled cheese sandwiches and fallen nests and old stone steps and swings and skylines and skateboards and bell towers.

And now we pack.

(joining Amanda at The Habit of Being)



Well, here I am ready to reflect on the weekend and it is already the dark and cloudless end of a Monday, and only barely at that! It’s a good measure of how time has passed for me of late. Mostly, and particularly since I became a mother, our days here on the farm unfold in a way that’s not unlike our land itself: muddy sometimes, bruised knees for sure, but also rolling, green, expansive. But I’m staring down these last few weeks here like I’m shuttling through a tunnel on a high-speed train.

It’s okay. There’s a lot to do, and not much time, and there it is. But it makes me ever more grateful for the pockets of calm.

This weekend, although there was a very chilly market and furious house cleaning and showing the farm and lots of mama-has-to-work and too much Netflix for the boy, there was also: a coffee/bagels/One Morning in Maine date with the little man, pizza night for the first time in ages, dancing in the kitchen with both my boys, dreaming up the things we might grow in Orange County’s lush muck soil, chickens singing loudly at the blue skies, a long slow Sunday breakfast together, soup. And many clementines!

(joining Amanda at The Habit of Being)



There’s no denying this weekend had its share of strain. Disappointing news. Frayed nerves about the coming year. Temperatures too low for harvesting Brussels sprouts or cabbage. And two of us a bit poorly while the third was gone all day at market.

But sometimes – when we’re lucky – illness can be its own kind of nurse. Sometimes it’s life arriving with a pot of tea and a pile of blankets and firm orders to Take It Easy.

So we did. Paperwork: ignored. Gallant parenting ambitions: abandoned for Netflix, applesauce, and back rubs. The boy napped early and long. I watched three episodes of Downton Abbey and drank four cups of tea. We were both in bed before 8.

Morning found us much renewed, and Sunday was all waffles, sausage, coffee, pajamas sticky with maple syrup and fresh-squeezed-by-the-boy clementine juice, a warm fire, a slowly diminishing pile of dishes at sink’s edge, and frequent dance breaks with Frankie Valli, Bill Withers, and the Bee Gees. A few hours of work now while the boys run errands and get bagels, and then an afternoon at the bowling alley with a mess o’ friends! A bracing tonic indeed, all of it.

How was your weekend?

(joining Amanda at The Habit of Being)