I have an electric toothbrush. I bought it for just the reason that it has prompted this blog post —- it makes me brush my teeth for two minutes. And last night those two minutes seemed like two hours. So did the tea kettle’s time spent coming to a boil this morning so I could do my pour-over coffee before heading out in the just-dawn light to harvest our produce. And, the dryer I set for 45 minutes on that rainy afternoon this week, instead of the usual clothesline, seemingly took twice that long, as I counted the dollars it was adding to my gas bill. What about the damn red light at the Safeway parking lot in Kapaa, huh? That thing is hours and hours long, or at least feels like it. And yet, wasn’t it just a bit ago that I was nursing a baby to sleep? And just a year or two that I kissed a wee one good-bye as they headed to kindergarten? Oh, and the time I walked to mass with my father just to make him happy—wasn’t that just recently? And shared a cocktail and a giggle with my mom?—that could not have been more than 20 years ago!!!
The moments can stretch out interminably. The days can be long. The weeks just whiz by and surely the years are short. And getting shorter every year. Time. So elusive.
For as long as I can remember, I have found solace and even some surprises in writing. As a teenager, I thought I just might be the next e.e.cummings. In a move many years ago, my mother inadvertently threw away a box of all my teenage journals. I’m not sure if I wanted to thank her or thwack her. Maybe they would be abysmally crafted and embarrassingly trite, but I’d surely be curious about that teenage girl and her thoughts, dreams and nightmares.
In my first year of college with an eye towards a major in creative writing and a career in magazine writing/editing or something of the sort, I had Mary Cheever, an author in her own right, as well as the wife of the more celebrated author, John Cheever, as a professor. She managed to squelch any imaginings I might have had about my talents as a composer of prose. She ridiculed my writing and raged on about just how corny and calculated my poetry and short stories were. Hurt and disheartened, it was years before I put pen to paper again.
Looking back on that now, I feel while her criticism may have been warranted I only wish it had been delivered to my young blossoming self in a more kind and open-hearted way. Perhaps I could have actually heard and integrated it then and used it to create finer work, to actually improve my skills and techniques, instead of shutting down. And while I did move to New York City, I never did pursue working at a magazine.
The next time I really have any record of writing again is a journal I started when I found out I was pregnant with my firstborn son, Sky. He has that now–I gifted it to him on his 18th birthday. When I reread it, I was enthralled by the ecstasy I was feeling and the energy I put into growing and birthing that baby boy and in birthing myself as a mother. The journal ends shortly after he was born, surely a result of the sheer overwhelming and joyful task of having a newborn.
From that point onward, right up until today, my writing has been sporadic. I did newsletters from 1993-2009 for our weekly produce customers with thoughts on sustainability and organics, recipes for our vegetables and fruits and the like. My mental meanderings have another peak after my divorce, when it seemed a perfect place to purge the full range of emotions I was working through. I sent home long descriptive emails to loved ones when I traveled. Then in 2010, I launched this blog www.northcountryfarms.wordpress.com. Here I saunter through a range of topics that I find therapeutic to me to get into writing and hopefully interesting to others who might read them. But, mostly I write for me. Just to say what I need to say. Just to put into words what my often scattered thoughts and fragmented feelings present to me.
Recently, I reconnected with a person I have had no contact with in about 50 years. Yes, 50 years. For reasons I cannot fathom, he saved letters I had written to him while he was in the Navy in the late 60s. When he found them, he dove down the internet rabbit hole and found me and my blog. In subsequent emails, phone calls and texts, he reminded me that we both had spoken all those years ago about our passion for writing. It sparked me into realizing that expressing ourselves in words and sharing them can be powerful. For ourselves or for others. And it reminded me to just keep at it. I think it’s good for my soul.
Here it is again —- the fourth of July. And I wonder just what it means to me. Great memories of family times as a little girl, for sure. And some wonderful times here with my children when they were younger (although I admit to a certain relief that we no longer have to either buy those fireworks made in China nor do I have to watch nervously as they are set off in the yard!!)
But, what does it really mean to me? I thought about it this morning, as social media was abuzz with patriotic images and ramblings. And I realized that for all its foibles, and surely I am all-too-aware of a plethora of them which I bemoan often, I am hugely grateful to live in the United States.
In a world where freedom has been grossly eroded and wild numbers of people desire nothing more than personal peace for themselves and their loved ones, we are indeed fortunate. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency the number of refugees is a staggering 21 million. Imagine a future like that. It is virtually unfathomable.
And for me, it goes even deeper — as in our own imperfect country, and estimated 45 million people live in poverty. I have a solid and happy home, an income, a steady supply of fine food, and a clean consistent water supply.
So, yes, our country provides far more freedom than a huge portion of this world. But, within that, my world is even more blessed. So, today I will give a gracious nod to our country and bow my head to my own blessings within it.
Summertime here on my island home of 29 years is not my favorite season. The heat can be brutal. The gardens suffer from it and so do I. And to add insult to injury, it is hurricane season, which is enough to nauseate me at the mere thought. Yes, the ocean on Kauai’s north shore is delectable and I make every effort to immerse myself in it often, which surely takes the edge off. But, what I was reminiscing about this afternoon as I picked and peeled scallions and harvested and washed beets was the summers of my youth. And here is some of what I remember and hold so dear this first day of summer . .
Lake Waccabuc, Westchester, NY
Fourth of July picnics on the golf course of our small country club, with families all gathered sharing picnics and at dark the local fire department’s glorious display of fireworks over the lake. Swimming in that same lake often–racing each other out to the float in the middle. Exploring the shores of that lake for tadpoles. Family tennis games with an edge of competition, but worlds of laughter. Eating corn on the cob fresh from the farm at the end of our country road, dripping in butter. Sitting on the back stoop with watermelon from that same farm and spitting seeds at my brothers and sister. Going barefoot as soon as possible and seeing who got the best calluses. Playing outside after dinner until it was dark, all the while listening for the ice cream truck’s jingle — the promise of a fudgesicle on my mind. Catching fireflies in mayonnaise jars. Our yearly drive from Connecticut down to Pawley’s Island, South Carolina for our week at the beach. The endless games of Clue and Monopoly and Go Fish played there at the little seaside inn we stayed in year after year. My daddy teaching each of us to body surf and how to catch crabs. Reading each and every Nancy Drew book and Archie Love Comic.
Tip Top Inn, Pawley’s Island, South Carolina
It was an idyllic childhood which reached its pinnacle of perfection on those long lazy summer days. I smile to remember. This is my tribute to this first day of summer. May our tradewinds blow gently to keep us cool, the weather gods favor us with no hurricanes and the garden devas bless our gardens with abundance. Happy Summer Solstice!
Ever find yourself watching the clock for that appointment that is in 30 minutes or so and wondering what to do in the meantime that might make sense.
I had a 9:00AM meeting here on the farm today with a roofer to look at our tractor shed for re-roofing. I found myself at about 8:20AM having arisen at 6:00AM, made my bed and straightened up my bedroom, fed the animals, made my coffee, checked and responded to emails, goofed around on FaceBook, did a quick ten minute yoga routine, scrambled some eggs, juiced some oranges and sat enjoying both. Forty minutes to kill. Not enough time to get involved in one of the myriad of projects I have on a list. But surely enough time to do something that needs doing.
Here are some thoughts as to how to spend those random times— and I’ll let you guess which one or ones I did . . .
- go through one shelf of books and chose 10 to take to the thrift store
- use a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol and clean your computer keyboard
- clean the glass on all the artwork in your living room
- scour the kitchen sink
- read a few chapters in the book you are into
- pre-treat the stains on that tee shirt you have in a pile in your room
- go around your foundation planting and pick up debris
- call your mother or friend from far away
- write three postcards to loved ones
- clear the lousy photos off your phone
- straighten two kitchen drawers
- take every pillow off of couch and chairs — go outside and fluff them–hard!
- update your apps
- soak some beans for a future meal
- boil some water and sterilize your water bottles
I often look around my home and life and become a tad overwhelmed at all there is to do. Taking those random times and turning them into something constructive for your home or yourself or both is a way to chip away at the massive amount of work and energy it takes to keep our home and lives cleaned and organized.
Just this Virgo’s thoughts for the day!
Coming up is the holiday Hallmark invented to celebrate love. Today I am positing that we need, on each and every day, to celebrate love. To spread it around in massive doses. To remind those dear to us how deeply we love them. To let go of petty grievances and forgive easily and often. To touch each other, physically in huge hugs, and emotionally in deep ways. To nourish and treasure our relationships.
This week has brought much loss to me personally and to our caring community. Someone who battled cancer like a true warrior and who finally lay down his sword and passed peacefully with family and friends surrounding him. And another precious someone who was young, vibrant and beautiful and who has moved to the spirit world way way too soon. Their faces are before me as I type this and if my grief is this raw, it boggles my mind and heart how their loved ones must be feeling.
I have nary a notion about what happens to our souls when they are no longer in our earthly bodies. Sometimes I wish I did. Perhaps it would make grasping the great unknown of the ‘afterlife’ more reachable. I do know one thing though . . .that the love we have shared with those we lose does live on in our hearts. Of this I am certain. It is all we have to accompany the memories we hold so dearly.
For this reason, the song “How We Love” by Beth Nielson Chapman has always moved me. And today, thinking about love and loss, I hear the refrain over and over again in my mind as I ponder the great questions.
Every day is new
And if anything is true
All that matters
When we’re through
Is how we love
Some things fall apart
But from the ashes new dreams start
All that matters to the heart
Is how we loveHow we love
How we love
From the smallest act of kindness
In a word, a smile, a touch
In spite of our mistakes
Chances come again
If we lose or if we win
All that matter in the end
Is how we love
How we love
How we love
I will not forget your kindness
When I needed it so much
Sometimes we forget
Trying to be so strong
In this world of right and wrong
All that matters when we’ve gone
All that mattered all along
All we have that carries on
Is how we love
If Halloween for you is a fright night, this post is not for you. If you think it is appropriate for children to be dressed as zombies or some other blood dripping creature, this post may even offend you. If you see All Hallows Eve as a magical night when children get a chance to stay up and out in the dark and dress up in costumes, bob for apples and perhaps indulge in sweets they usually are not eating, then we are on the same page.
My children’s experiences when they were little was an enchanting evening put on by their Waldorf School. The school playground was lit with a luminario path which the children followed, guided by adults dressed as angels. They were taken to different “stations” where teachers, community members, or parents were dressed as Robin Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Johnny Appleseed, dwarfs dressed as miners, Mother Earth and many more, all imaginative and inventive . Each of the stations had a creative and expressive “skit” to perform, always engaging the children in some way. Treats were handed out, with an emphasis on healthier choices, and then the children wandered to the next station. At the end of the adventure, there was apple bobbing, live music and a seasonal puppet show. Believe it or not, this tradition kept my children enthralled through about fourth grade. After that, they opted out of trick or treating in our village in order to be one of the people doing a skit, continuing to create the magic for the younger ones. They never missed the scene that Halloween has become, in my eyes. To this day, not one of the three of them, now 25-32 years old, enjoys the horror that seems to captivate so many at this time of year.
I was so very disheartened in town yesterday when I had to shop in our marts for a barbecue for my farm stay cottage. There were aisles and aisles of cheap, made-in-China costumes, virtually all of them themed on either Disney or the macabre. And in the check-out lines were families, all spending upwards of $50 for these crappy costumes. (Mind you, these Halloween aisles were side-by-side with more revolting plastic for Christmas, but that is another rant altogether!)
Below I offer a sample of what I personally see as appropriate and inappropriate costumes for young children. Actually, the grisly and ghoulish never appeals to me at any age, but for the tender wee ones, it seems wildly bizarre.
This comes up for me each and every year and I suppose my own blog is the place to express it. However you spend your Halloween this evening, here are some facts for you about the holiday. . . .
- Halloween goes by multiple names: All Hallows’ Eve, Witches Night, Lamswool Snap-Apple Night, Samhaim and Summer’s End.
- There’s a reason broomstick became associated with witches! Old women accused of witchcraft were typically poor. Since they couldn’t afford horses, they used a walking stick, which was replaced by a broom to help them travel.
- Just like broomsticks and witches are synonymous, so are black cats and witches. This is because it was once believed the felines protected the powers of witches.
- Harry Houdini (1874-1926) is one of the most famous and mysterious magicians. He eerily died on Halloween night in 1926 from appendicitis after he suffered three stomach punches.
- Samhain, which is an Irish Celtic festival, inspired Halloween. It celebrates the end of the harvest season. The tradition spread to the rest of the world after the Irish fled Ireland because of the potato famine.
- Jack-o’-lanterns started in Ireland, too. Candles were placed inside of hallowed-out-turnips to keep away evil spirits on Samhain.
- Ever wonder why orange and black are traditional Halloween colors? Orange represents the harvest and black represents the death of summer.
- Trick-or-treating might have started from the superstition that ghosts could disguise themselves as humans and knock on doors for food or money. If they were denied, the spirit could haunt the person who refused it.
- It was believed that the boundary between the living and dead was blurred on Halloween. Since the living were allowed to walk among the dead, human would wear ghoulish masks and dress up so the spirits would not recognized them.
- Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween.
- Halloween might have originated 4,000 B.C.
- Salem, Massachusetts, and Anoka, Minnesota, claim to be the Halloween capitals of the world, even though the holiday originated in Ireland.
- Halloween only precedes Christmas as the highest grossing commercial holiday.
If you think Sunday is a day of rest, you have never owned a farm with rental cottages! Mind you, this is not a complaint, as my life is rich and robust . . . and busy. (Especially busy as my son and his new wife of a couple of weeks are currently off exploring New Zealand for a month-long honeymoon.)
After rising with the sun, I went out on the farm to feed the chickens, ducks, cats and rabbits. This is a quiet time, chatting with the animals as the sun slowly bathes the farm in that magical dawn light
I then made my weekly trek to the market to get the Sunday New York Times, which out here on this tiny island in the Pacific costs a small fortune. I know. I know. I can read it online. And I do — every day but Sunday. This is my treat. My East Coast girl habit.
Coffee finished and a decent stab at the crossword puzzle and it was outside to plant seed trays. Each and every week I plant over 1,000 little cells. Today I did so while listening to NPR, my other news source. I mixed a big tub with potting mix and some new granular soil amendment my farmer friend promised me will boost our gardens, which have been slow to recover from the 2015 summer from hell. While we have a formula for what vegetables to plant each week, it is pleasurable to decide just what combination to select this week. Shall I do 10 rows of magenta lettuce or 12 this week? Red oakleaf or red romaine? Tuscan kale or curly kale? Ah, the little things. All the while I’m planting, I am rotating the watering of the gardens, turning this sprinkler on, that one off. Setting my phone’s timer, as I have in the past spaced out on changing them and gotten small creeks down the aisles between beds!
After tucking all those seeds into the trays and watering them in, my dear nephew shows up to help with a project I have had on the never-ending list for over a year!!! —- a new top for the start table. Together we remove the old one and set the new one in place, marveling that the old one held up for over 20 years! It is as testimony to the art of prioritizing that this relatively simple job, which took maybe an hour and a half, kept getting moved around on the massive to-do list for so long. Other things just took priority.
Onward to laundry— two loads of laundry from the farm stay cottages washed and hung on the laundry line. Somehow, seeing laundry hanging on the line makes me smile. I often wonder if the guests appreciate the fresh smell of their sheets and towels or do they bemoan the fact that the towels are crisp and not fluffy?
The shed was then swept out and emails checked and responses composed. I think it is time for a quick dip in the ocean. Then back to take that laundry off the line, fold it and put it away, late afternoon round of feeding the animals and then . . . lucky me – it’s off to dinner at a dear friends house.
Not a day of rest exactly, but a full and fine one, all the same.
It is still hot this late summer afternoon, but the promise of evening and a slight cooling off is in the air. Everyone on the farm has returned to their tasks at hand, having spent the heat of the day out of the sun. My youngest son, Bay, is weed whacking, polishing the edges of the land he so beautifully mowed just a bit ago. My almost-daughter-in-law, Danelle, complete with her ever-present sun hat, is feeding the ducks and chickens and gathering the eggs. My oldest son, Sky, has just harvested bananas for tomorrow’s market and is now gathering fresh organic greens for the rabbits, filling their water bottles and settling them in for the night. I stand on the front porch feeling pensive while looking over this land we are so fortunate to own and steward in our conscious way. Our lifestyle is irreplaceable. And I simply could not do it without these grown children to help. The work is constant, dirty and often hard. But, for now we are in it together. That, in itself, is a reward I relish this late summer afternoon.
It is sweltering up here in my loft office as I come inside out of the hellish heat that is this mid-afternoon. The only place to be is the beach, but I feel almost too lethargic to motivate and go there. This has been a sizzling summer here on Kauai. Hotter than I ever recall in 28 years. I’m not digging it and neither are our gardens. Few things perform in such blazing sun, and surely lettuce and greens are not among them, excepting arugula which seems to relish it, getting spicier by the day and out performing everything else. Well, the thrips and the fungus and the aphids like it somehow —perhaps just being opportunistic and taking advantage of the stressed-out struggling plants. Bananas, lychee, and pineapples seem content enough. But, not me. I dream of cool crisp air and giant heads of lettuce alongside thriving kale and chard. Alas, it’s many months until that is a reality. Until then, you will find me slightly grumpy and inside under the ceiling fan.
I dreamed of my parents last night. I don’t often do that, but, when I do, I awake simultaneously both happy and sad. Happy that I spent time in my dreams with them, which is always joyous and interesting. Sad that I cannot do so in my waking life any more. My parents were fun and smart and mostly really easy to be around. Since I’ve lived on Kauai, they were always far away geographically, living on the East Coast of the mainland. But, never far from my heart. In my dream last night, we were trying to get somewhere in my car. My dad was trying to bring up directions on my iPad, which is amusing in itself as he never even saw an iPad. This became obvious as he tried in vain to find the map app. I pulled over and he and my mom and I had a good laugh, as he bemoaned the lack of a ‘good old paper map.’ The morning birdsong pulled me out of my dream into the dawn and I awoke with the smile from our chuckle still on my face. Then that light melancholy perched on my shoulder as I swam into consciousness remembering that today, like all days in the past several years, I cannot be with them. Just in my dreams. That shall have to be enough. I eagerly await the next time they accompany me in my sleep.
Another Mother’s Day has passed. Being a mother I find the holiday a bit overdone and commercialized. Yet I relish celebrating the fact that being a mama is the most fully fantastic aspect of my life. Truly. I live my life with every intention of being a conscious and good person. No where is that more challenging than in the realm of mothering. When my children were little, sheer exhaustion made being present and aware often second to just getting through the day with them fed and bathed without a meltdown – theirs or mine. Now, the challenge with young adult children is to let them forge their own paths with simple support and a minimum of interference. I have never been able to control them, babies or adults, I can only hope for appropriate modeling or a modicum of influence. Things shift with older children–mine are 31, 28 and 24–and it is in ways that, for me, have been about reaping the rewards of those years invested when they were wee ones. It is a source of wonder to me that all three are sensitive, smart, caring, loving individuals with contributions they share willingly with the world. Just as they openly and sweetly share their love and affection with me. I’ve said it before and I shall say it again—my children are the best part of me.