For weeks and weeks I eagerly anticipated my time away. Alone. Traveling to see family and loved ones on the mainland. The farm in capable and caring hands. Seattle – Santa Fe – New York City. Three weeks. It was epic. My heart was full of joy seeing and spending time with people I cherish and whom I do not get to see often enough. The weather was brisk and gray mostly in Seattle, which I found to be a marvelous contrast to home. That city has a certain allure for me. Santa Fe’s glorious high desert landscapes thrilled me and spring was strutting her stuff. New York City was cold and windy, just the right climate for long city walks in my old haunts. And the tulips were everywhere and their colors psychedelic. I got to wear my favorite jeans, boots and even fleece! I ate amazing food. Drank some fabulous wines. Explored bookstores and boutiques. Laughed and even cried with the dearest of my dear ones.
When it was time to come home, I was truly ready. Pulling up in the driveway at the farm and seeing all the care that was taken while I was away was a true validation. My sons and their partners are nothing short of awesome. The sheer volume of the different shades of green was soothing to my eyes after the grey skies of Seattle, the monochromatic colors of Santa Fe and the duller hues of Manhattan. And to sleep in my own bed! That alone is worth a trip away just to experience it upon returning! And pick a salad for dinner from our gardens. Nirvana.
The first morning waking up here, I tried to not see all the work that was ahead of me. I walked the farm and attempted to just see the beauty and bounty. My mind kept wandering to making mental lists of the projects (there are always projects!) I had an internal tug of war making myself keep coming back to just how very lovely it is here. On this island. On our farm. In my home.
I have lived here for almost thirty years, just less than half my life. Raised a family here. Became single again here. Worked long and hard to continue to ground myself and my children in the intention that first created this place. That is a lot of living and loving. I thoroughly intend to travel more and see the familiar places and people I adore. And explore new ones also. But, for now, I will always come home to North Country Farms. And always be glad to.
There is no place like home.
The human touch. Vital.
Just now I had a fine and fabulous hour and half of body work. It was exquisite. There were knots I knew I had and some she found that were surprising. Time was taken with tender deep work to unravel and relax me.
What I realized at the very end of this time, as my head was being massaged and her sweet intuition realized the nirvana that I had reached, was that just being touched in such a sensitive and caring way was, in itself, healing. Not just the untying of the chunks of overworked and tense muscles, but the touch.
Having not been in a romantic relationship for years, I miss touch. Not sex, necessarily, although that might be just fine also. But, touch. Cuddling. Thankfully I have a community that treasures hugs, as does my family. We all need that loving touch.
Forgive me from quoting a commercial a ways back from some communication company —
“Reach out and touch someone.” Trust me, they will feel better.
Recently a friend sent me a beautiful and bountiful book called “Vegetable Literacy” by Deborah Madison. Aside from being a visually stunning book, it is full of wonderful recipes. The friend thought it was somewhat cheeky of him to be giving me a book about growing and serving vegetables, about which he assumed I knew more than enough. But, wrong he was and I have spent hours reading this book and even trying a recipe or two. Here is one I liked. With worlds of Swiss Chard currently in our garden, as well as cilantro, this was a natural choice!
Chard Soup with Cumin, Cilantro and Lime
8 cups trimmed chard leaves (about a pound or 20 leaves)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion sliced
1 potato sliced
1 carrot sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
cup of finely cut cilantro leaves
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
freshly ground pepper
grated zest and juice of one lime
Chop the chard coarsely. Heat oil in soup pot. Add onion, potato and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the tomato paste, smashing it into the veggies and then add the cumin, coriander, cilantro and chard leaves. Sprinkle salt, cover the pot and allow the leaves to cook down lots before adding 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, cover partially, and simmer until potato has softened. Cool slightly and then add sour cream and puree in blender until smooth. Return it all to pot over gentle heat. Taste for salt, season with pepper, and stir in the lime zest and juice. Should serve four.
While I still hold onto my own little piece of the planet and the goodness we grow here, both in the gardens and in our hearts, I find each and every day a part of my spirit wilts knowing what an abysmal man we have at the helm of our mother ship, America.
And just this morning, while I read aghast once more, the expeditious and evil things he is implementing just days after taking office, I realized that my disgust for him as a person might even exceed my distaste for his ill-guided and insidious policies.
Trump is a buffoon. But, he is also a vile man, whose continued lack of respect for women is nothing short of shocking. Selfish and seriously disturbed, the very sight of him makes me cringe.
There, I have said it. And now I can get back to the work of doing whatever I can, in my own small way, to counter the repugnant actions this repulsive man is enacting.
Today’s winter solstice — darkest day or return of the light? I truly feel that right now we so strongly need the metaphor of the return of the light. If we dwell, emotionally and spiritually, in the dark, we can become both bitter and hopeless. Acknowledging that the light exists in each of us may just assist us in bringing that forward. I cannot tell what that might mean to you, but I do know that just simple kindness can be potent. Opening up our hearts when shutting down is a normal response to the state of both our country and the world can be a powerful antidote to this darkness. Let that little light of yours shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.
I fell today. Without attempting to explain the physics of the event, suffice it to say it involved a wet tile floor, soap, scrubbing and me. I came down hard and fast onto my hip. Hard enough to see stars and utter several unladylike profanities. As I lay there for a bit gathering myself and assessing to see if any real damage had been done, I contemplated that falls like that are dangerous at any age, but no joke at 67.
I don’t know where my mind was when this occurred, but I do know it wasn’t on the task at hand. After recovering I got to thinking that I was obviously not totally present when it happened. It was a shocking and painful reminder to move more slowly and consciously. To be walking down the stairs when I am walking down the stairs, not thinking where I’m off to at the bottom. To be aware that I am getting up on a slippery tile floor when doing so, not thinking about what I have to clean next. To be lifting that hot boiling pot of pasta to the sink when I’m lifting that pot, not pondering the sauce that will be going onto the pasta once drained.
Cultivating mindfulness has so many facets and so many benefits. It can improve our lives in a myriad of ways. And in this case, could have saved me the giant lump on my hip which shall be turning so many neon colors soon enough.
Be here now.
I have waited a bit for the utter shock of this election to settle in my gut before writing. And, here I am five days later still trying to integrate this rather bizarre reality. I am, by nature, a hopeful woman. Perhaps even a bit of a Pollyanna. But, this has tested me to the limits of my trust in the “rightness” of things.
What I get easily is the discontent many people feel in their lives. Their frustration. Their feelings of helplessness. I am a fortunate woman, not as deeply ensconced in these feelings, perhaps even elite in the scheme of things. There is only one area in which I have felt totally abandoned by my current president—that of his catering to the industrial food farms and corporations. Other than that monster of an issue, I remain happy with what Obama has both accomplished and attempted to accomplish while in office.
Still, I voted for a change — Bernie Sanders. Another man with both vision and little to no baggage. This dream did not materialize. So, attempting to not waste my energy in the blame game, I looked to the next best in a candidate. I compared Bernie and Hillary’s voting records while in the Senate and they were mostly in line. I listened when he asked us to support her as a candidate. And I watched the process unfold where a dubious business man and reality television star became the other party’s candidate. His undignified and downright weird demeanor throughout the campaign simply baffled and even disgusted me. I just could not imagine him running the country I am so fortunate to call home.
Yet, here we are. With Donald Trump as our President elect. With both Trump and I shocked. No amount of wishful thinking will change this sobering fact . Not even the plethora of petitions running amok on the internet to challenge the electoral college in December. (That crazy system is a whole other issue, way over due for some tweaking!)
So, while Trump tries to figure out to actually be president, my basic hopeful nature has surfaced once more. It was just this morning, over a hot delicious cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the farm, that I pondered my personal choices. I can remain both depressed and sad about this turn of events, or I can find a state of acceptance and, yes, even hope.
But, mostly the reality is that I can just continue to do what I do, in my own small way. I can continue, with my family, to grow fine organic food. I can continue to host visitors to Kauai and model a life of clean sustainability. I can continue to treat people with open hearted kindness. I can continue to communicate clearly to the best of my ability. I can continue to make ethical consumer choices. I can continue to protect our precious environment in a myriad of small ways. I can continue to practice yoga to keep myself strong and flexible in mind, body and spirit. And I can love. I believe this is the best personal protest and political progress I can make. Oh, yes, and I can hope. Hope that my choices ripple out in some small way to counter the hate, fear and uncertainty currently so stirred up.
Still single? No man in your life yet? Don’t you miss having a partner?
These are a sampling of the questions I continue to get weekly for the past 15 years.
The answers are in order: Yes. No. Sometimes.
The fact is that my life is full and fine. I am surrounded by an inclusive and interesting community. My friends are solid and super. Those friends are just a text or call away for quick bite out, a movie or just a cup of tea or glass of wine and talk time. My sons live on the farm with their partners, giving me the unique and fabulous opportunity to live in my home alone and yet have their company and help daily. My daughter has a wonderful husband and life on the mainland and we talk constantly and visit often. I have work that both inspires and tires me. For years that work has provided ample abundance. My reading tastes are vast and varied, making the possibility of ever being bored a non-issue. Beaches for meandering are plentiful, as are the yoga classes at my favorite studio in town.
Post-divorce my sole intent was to stabilize myself and my children, both emotionally and practically. That was a worthy task which took both gumption and grace, as well as a great deal of time. As things smoothed out for us all, time ticked away, as it has a way of doing.
So, here we are. Fifteen years later. Do I miss having a partner? Sure. Sometimes. But in all honesty, not for the most part. I’m a bit set in my ways, perhaps even feisty. A man would have to be utterly and completely compelling to even consider integrating him into the scene I have created here. If you know someone up to the task, give him my number and fair warning! Otherwise, just know I remain still single and satisfied.
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 http://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!