With my blessing, everyone who lives on the farm left for travel adventures at the same time. This is a first ever, and I am thrilled for Sky and his family and for Bay and his girlfriend to stretch themselves and take on new experiences. Getting off the island is a terrific way to gain perspective and find renewal and appreciation in our lives.
This, of course, has left me for three weeks without their help in running the farm. While I readily admit that the solo time has been lovely, I also have been working my sweet ass off!
My thoughts while I handled the myriad of tasks usually shared by my family have gelled into these observations:
Firstly, I miss them and appreciate that I am surrounded daily with my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my grandson. Their company, help and love are a constant in my life and this is deeply heartwarming and wholly appreciated.
Secondly, I am affirmed in my capabilities. Aside from running the tiller and mower, I am totally capable of handling each and every task necessary to keep things humming around here on these beautiful four acres. I am grateful for my health and my strong and somewhat lithe 73-year-old body.
Thirdly, while I can rise to the occasion, I do not wish to do it all myself. I feel just fine asking for help and for delegating to those younger and stronger than myself. This immense responsibility alone is not what I want in my daily life. I want, need and deserve more time to relish the days of my own shaping. That surely still entails working on the farm – at things I enjoy doing and do well. It also means taking quiet contemplative time, embracing my time at my favorite yoga studio and coffee shop in town. Or it can look like me and a book on the couch after lunch, dozing off for a 20-minute respite. It often can mean taking my grandson to the beach while his parents till and plant thousands of starts into the gardens. Or a long walk and talk with a friend.
I appreciate that my family takes pride in this farm, our home, our worthy endeavors and each of them is willing to contribute in such meaningful ways.
So, kudos to me for stepping up and kudos to me for stepping back.
I want to believe that coffee is good for my health. I know it is good for my psyche. My mornings would simply not offer the same satisfaction without my coffee ritual. It isn’t about the buzz—I wake up pretty ready to roll into the day. Suffice it to say I am a morning person. It is about the practice and procedure.
Recently a dear friend who knew how I enjoy my latte or flat white when I am out and about or when visiting my daughter and son-in-law, (he makes a wildly delicious latte every morning I am there!) offered me his old countertop espresso maker. Try as I did, I could not get into that rhythm on my own. It seemed like too much hassle to do before I had my coffee.
So, back to my simple fulfilling pour-over process. Grinding fresh beans in my burr grinder starts the procedure. The grind is fairly rough. The water is boiling in my precious little gooseneck pour over kettle. The grinds wait in the moistened paper filter positioned over my favorite cup in my glass funnel. Recently, on the advice of a dear friend and fellow coffee lover, I switched to a Hario funnel. (You can google that whole gig online—-it’s definitely for those who are picky about their pour over, but worth the exploration, in my opinion.)
The pour is s l o w. Takes about 3-4 minutes. The aroma smells like dawn to me. The first sip tastes like sunshine in a mug. Despite the fact that I drink decaf, this cup of carefully curated coffee makes my morning.
Are you coffee crazed? Tell me about your ritual around this delightful part of your day.
Here are some quotes from a recent New York Times article on the health benefits of coffee, which I choose to believe! . . .
A large 2017 review on coffee consumption and human health in the British Medical Journal also found that most of the time, coffee was associated with a benefit, rather than a harm. In examining more than 200 reviews of previous studies, the authors observed that moderate coffee drinkers had less cardiovascular disease, and premature death from all causes, including heart attacks and stroke, than those skipping the beverage.
“The potential benefit from coffee might be from the polyphenols, which are plant compounds that have antioxidant properties, according to Dr. Giuseppe Grosso, an assistant professor in human nutrition at University of Catania in Italy and the lead author of an umbrella review in the Annual Review of Nutrition.”
There is a concept I am massaging in comparing tending the farm to tending my children.
When the gardens are performing in epic fashion and providing produce in abundance, I can only take so much credit. The bulk of those kudos might just be showered on the moon, the sun, the rain. Of course I take pride and care in tending, but the confluence of the elements can make or break it. So, when things are not producing and we see the heat, the bugs, the birds, I can rest my weary mind and body in knowing I have done all I can.
In a similar fashion, when I see my now-grown children doing amazing and brilliant things, I can only pat myself on the back so much. Which ultimately leads to the inevitable conclusion that when they screw up, I should not take this upon myself. I have, for so many years, done all I can to insure they had a nurturing environment for their minds, bodies and souls. The rest becomes all theirs.
I love the father of my children. Perhaps usually an obvious and not monumental statement. However, the father of my children and I are divorced. For over 20 years now.
The path to this sweet spot was initially rocky, I can readily admit. But the effort was undoubtedly worth the result, which remains steady and calm all these years. While the marriage did not survive, the intention behind choosing to have children and attempt to raise these three now grown children to be good and caring people has kept our hearts and focus in the right place.
He is a fine, honest and kind man this father of my children. And I am so pleased to call him a friend. Happy Father’s Day, Chad.
In 2004, a year or so after getting divorced, I took all three of my children to Europe for four weeks. It was perhaps financially a foolhardy folly, but just what we all needed. As there were four of us, we each got to choose a place to visit. I chose Tuscany, Sky chose Paris. Bay chose skiing in La Clusaz in the French Alps and Nell chose Scotland. A week in each place. It was a trip for the memory books.
Part of our interest in Scotland was that Sky, Nell and I had each just read the first book in the Outlander series. The site of the Battle of Culloden was eerie. We also went to the Isle of Skye, of course. The myth of the fairy hills and that magic was entrancing. In Inverness, we stayed at a really quaint and cozy hostel. Our room with two bunk beds overlooked a field always filled with rabbits and rolling hills in the distance.
The common room of the hostel was a snug spot, with a fireplace and comfy seating. It also had a computer where I spent time composing our travel log that was being sent back to loved ones. The manager of the hostel was a charming and kind young Italian man named Sandro. Well, younger than me and I was 55. He took an interest in me and was friendly and flirtatious. We talked and talked. While he was keen to take it to another place, being recently divorced and traveling with three teenagers, I never followed through. But, I never forgot his flattery and sweet demeanor.
Just the other day I came across this calligraphy name plate he did for me. It took me back to lovely Inverness, that eclectic hostel and Sandro’s warmth and how it made me feel—pretty, interesting and desired.
There are so many more memories of that trip . . . Indian food in London before going to theater, the walks in the Chianti region of Tuscany and the ancient agritourismo where we stayed, the baguettes in Paris, skiing the mountains of La Clusaz and the meals at the tiny hotel there which left us catatonic nightly. But, fresh out of a marriage and being hit on in such a gentlemanly fashion is fine to recall.
November, go easy on me. This has been a tumultuous time. My emotions are all over the place. My usually grounded self can sway toward worry, anxiety and even sadness. I speak to people all the time who have experienced these same unsettling swings. You can read a plethora of articles on self-care during these uncertain times. And, I am aware of every bullet point. They are thoughtful and appropriate reminders, which I appreciate. Often I can even muster up one of the antidotes. But, even considering myself a relatively conscious individual, sometimes I just falter and fall into the abyss. But, I am writing to just make a mental note to stay centered when it all feels off-kilter. Be nice, November, I’m trying.
Years back I pondered what parenting older grown children would be like. I thought it odd when people said they could not wait for their children to be eighteen so the difficult times would be over. Well, here I am — mother to a 37 year old, a 34 year old and a 30 year old. And, guess what?— the mothering never stops. I still worry and wonder. I am still their mama. I still worry when one of them is sick or sad. I still wonder how the obstacles in their paths will mold them. I often think I have done a fine job in being their mother, embracing and guiding them. And some days I believe I have really screwed up in how I have reacted to them. I am happy that they all like me, as well as love and respect me. That feels wonderful. But each day is new. Remember how you navigated newborn life, toddler life, young child life, teenage life, life watching them become more and more separate? How each milestone was new and you had to constantly adjust? It’s still the same for me. I have never been a mother to a 37 year old. And the 34 year old is taking that chapter on differently than her brother did at that age. And the 30 year old is also, of course, a completely different kind of guy. They each require an approach designed to best meet them where they are. So, my point is — it is always new! Always challenging. Often rewarding. Often frustrating. Full of love and lots of laughter. Each age and each child unique. And the process continues. Mothering doesn’t stop because my children are grown and independent. That’s the joy. That’s the constant work in the relationships. And mostly I feel up to the task I treasure more than anything —- being their mother. It’s just that it is different now, not necessarily easier, just different.
When you drop a pebble into still water, it sinks, slowly sending out ripples from its point of entry. It is mesmerizing to watch.
The world is currently the antithesis of still water. It is chaotic, uncertain and unsettling. But, I continue to try each and every day to maintain some kind of calm amidst the crazy.
And, even more, I struggle to keep with my usual attitude of optimism. I know this will all pass. We will emerge on the other side of this staggering health crisis. We will manage to shift the current toxic political atmosphere.
I also am certain that each modicum of centered harmony I can manage is important. It is vital for my personal emotional, physical and spiritual serenity. And, I truly believe it can ripple out from me. If I can spread some kindness and awareness around me every day, it matters. I just know it does.
Some days this seems effortless to me. Other days I wrestle with the concept. But, I have promised myself that I will continue to work tirelessly to keep a radiant ripple emitting from my little self out into this wild world.
During this time of uncertainty and confusion, I continue to do what, in part, I have done for three decades on this land.
I plant seeds. I grow vegetables and flowers. I nourish them. I harvest them and I sell them. This is my supreme pleasure. This is what North Country Farms was designed to do.
But we are also fully vested in renting our guest cottage to intrepid travelers coming to our beautiful island. We share the intention behind the founding of the farm and we also share the bounty of it, much to the delight of our guests. At this time, Kauai is, appropriately, shut down to visitors. While the quiet is idyllic, blissful, and much like the Kauai I came to 33 years ago, it has crippled the economy. This is the scenario here, for me and thousands of others. And around the world for millions.
So, as the future seems unclear, I continue to do what I do. I make delicious pour-over coffee each morning. I bask in the beauty of the land that we cultivate. I treasure my lovely friends from afar. I hold my grown sons each day for long hugs. I play with my grandson. I do laundry and hang it up in the scrumptious sun. I pick flowers with dew still on them and arrange them in my home. I marvel at harvesting vegetables from right outside my house and cooking them. I relish my yoga practice. I take long thoughtful beach walks. I dip in the ocean and always feel renewed. I read, mostly novels. I watch all sorts of different streaming content from my cozy couch. I play scrabble and do crossword puzzles.
These are what I continue to do. But, also —- I read the news and attempt to remain hopeful. I see the challenges of summer’s heat and random epic rain for our gardens and attempt to find new ways to grow with climate changes. I recognize my privilege amid this shaken world and find my compassion and empathy in full gear. I ponder when our livelihood will return to robust. I cry more easily and feel more deeply.
In the thick of it, I just keep on keeping on. And trust in the future and my own and our collective resilience. Really, what other choice do I have?
There is this time coming out of sleep where it sometimes takes me a few moments to swim to the surface, fully awake. My semi-conscious mind wanders quietly. These days I have this overwhelming feeling in that place that everything is okay, but it isn’t. Then my brain touches down and I realize just where we are at this bizarre place in time.
We are fine here at the farm. Staying here and, when venturing out, being incredibly cautious and respecting all the suggested guidelines. Our gardens are producing for us and the community. Our farm stay cottage is appropriately empty. We attempt to weather that financial uncertainty like so many millions of others. Mostly we are in a state of grace. But, still, all does not feel just right. And my mind and heart feel that in that vulnerable place between sleep and awake.
The world is unsettled. People are in situations they never could have imagined. My compassion and empathy are on high alert and kindness seems the place to rest. I feel emotional, more than usual. The uncertainty is global. I wish to remain cautious, concerned, conscious and clear without being fearful. Some days that seems a reachable goal, some days not.
Everything is okay. But it isn’t.
I spoke with a friend yesterday. She is a giving and caring woman, loved and appreciated by many.
This past year she has had some health challenges. In our conversation, she admitted having a great
deal of fear surrounding this Corona Virus. We talked it through and I hope I made her feel more at
ease. But, it got me thinking. . .Why am I not fearful of this devastating virus sweeping the world? I am
not being unrealistic, nor uninformed. In fact, I am quite a news junky and certainly there is more
than enough coverage of this pandemic online and NPR radio!
I think fear is not the appropriate response. Caution perhaps. Clarity for sure. Compassion. Concern.
Cleanliness. For me fear does absolutely nothing to possibly protect myself and my loved ones from
this bizarre virus. It just sets my mind racing and my actions become ineffective. And it is a proven fact
that fear just stresses our immune systems — just what we do not want at this tenuous time.
I googled “immune system and fear” and there are several articles from medical journals on just this
So, rather than be fearful, what am I doing? Washing my hands. Eating well. Getting outside in the
fresh air. Being sure to get lots of sleep. Keeping hand sanitizer in the car for when I am out. Going to
my yoga classes with my own mat. Taking my usual supplements — an anti-inflammatory, fish oil and
just added elderberry. Breathing in deeply and exhaling a protective bubble around me and my loved
ones. Being fearful does nothing but feed anxiety and unconscious behavior.