Thursday, October 28, 2010

this barren patch of earth

It's downright nippy outside this morning and the wind is howling around the house, as I sit, tucked inside in warmth, admiring the sunshine and enjoying my morning coffee. It's just before work and everyone is fed and off to jobs and school and I have time to reflect and write. Just me, my coffee and my laptop, watching the day unfold with silent curiosity. It's this time of day when I begin to realize that no matter what I have planned, I have absolutely no idea what direction today will take. It's wait-and-see.

Looking out on my backyard, after a long and dry summer, my grass is finally vibrant and green, especially against the backdrop of the empty nakedness of the trees. It's stunning, really. Though all the world is winding down, to me this part of my corner of the earth is brimming with possibility.

When you look at this picture, you might see just a rectangle of brown or a pile of dirt. But I hope you don't. Don't be deceived. If you look really closely, with your heart and with faith, it is entirely different. When I look at it, I see sunflowers with their hairy, prickly stalks straight and tall, heads turned upward to the sky. I see deep purple eggplants and luscious crimson tomatoes handing on gnarled vines, large green leaves of bean plants and light blush of sweet pea blossoms. I can smell the moisture of the soil and feel its softness as it squishes between my toes. This is what it really looks like, all hope and promise and tasty things. I am so excited I can hardly wait.

I think I'd like to face my days like this, more with openness and eager anticipation. I want to see the possibilities that lie just past the obvious. Busyness blinds me sometimes to what isn't just inches from my face. It's depressing living that way, seeing only dirt and no flowers. I want my days to be lush and sweet-smelling.

So all day today and then tonight, when the day has darkened and the mercury dipped to nearly freezing, from inside these toasty warm walls, I will hold in my mind visions of the salad bar that my yard will become, and bear in mind that I need to practice patience to see promise.

I can almost taste the tomatoes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Muse is Plaster and Lathe

My daughter took a photograph of an old white house, a snapshot in time from a friend's homestead we visited today. I wished the walls could talk, so perhaps I'll lend them my voice...

I'm imagining in my head tonight a story of a young girl, perhaps near fourteen, who lives in the country on her family's farmstead in the 1870s- with draft horses and chickens for her companions. A gnarled old oak tree stands by the roadside, perhaps, and she is at odds with a local boy named Jacob, whose family lives near the local church.

I picture her in a two story clapboard house that's been whitewashed, but not too recently, and she sleeps on a straw mattress set atop a rope bed, with calico linens and a well-loved patchwork quilt. Her favorite patch on the quilt is a bit of chocolate brown corduroy from her grandfather. It smells faintly of grass and tobacco smoke.

There's a garden under the bedroom window with morning glories, daisies, german chamomile and black-eyed susans, and when the window is left open on cool evenings in the early summer, she can almost smell the dampness of the earth as the night air wafts through the room. Moonlight sets the wooden floor, worn smooth by the years, aglow in blue light. Her name, I think, is Rachel.

Her favorite place is the hayloft in the family's bank barn, where she spends hours hiding with her cat Clementine, who is a tortoiseshell mixture of blacks and browns, with shiny, smooth fur, other than the cockleburs that often get stuck behind her ears as she chases mice and mischief along the edge of where the wheat field meets the forest. In the loft, amongst the sweet sticky smell of the hay and the scratching sounds of mice searching for stray grains, Rachel finds a space all tucked away from the world, and it is here she imagines herself as many things, chief among them a world-famous artist.

Maybe someday soon you can meet Rachel as she comes to life in my imagination and watch her grow here on the blog...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Abundance and Antiques

I'm a bit old fashioned.

I like my buildings with character: cupolas and cornices, smooth brick and weathered siding.  I like to do things the hard way, from scratch. I bake bread for my family, (plan to) grow my own vegetables and knit all our hats and scarves. I prefer used things to new. For me, antique shops and thrift stores are like a trip back in time, and remind me a bit of an archeological dig. There's layers of history in each of those places if you know how to look.I like the cozy feel of a fireplace, the taste of homemade gingerbread, yellowed photographs of my town's history and the texture of wool.
The comfort of an tattered quilt, the smell of the pages of an old book- these things are golden to me.
Stuff you bought back then was made to last and with pride. These types of things get better with age.

Autumn also brings out in me this bizarre hoarding instinct. I feel compelled to stuff every corner of my living space with food, clothing or blankets. With all the trappings of modern convenience, I am sure my family would survive without 20 pounds of bread flour stashed in the freezer. My husband routinely reassures me that the apocalypse is probably not tomorrow and that I work next to a Walmart. Chances are I can get whatever I want fairly easily when the need arises. Thanks to a close network of friends and family, we've never lived in poverty, but yet, somewhere in my core, it's like my very soul remembers a winter without mittens and is terrified to experience it again. I think I inherited my grandmother's Depression mentality.

If I'm not anticipating my family's survival needs, I'm thinking about the upcoming Christmas holiday, and how, as an American, I'm supposed to help the economy by indulging a rabid need to consume and then giving the stuff away. With the frost on the ground in the morning as my daughter gets on the bus, it's hard to deny that winter is well on it's way. Working in retail, it feels as if I am drowning in a sea of stockings, candy canes and Santa Claus starting twenty minutes after I finished back-to-school shopping all the way through to Groundhog Day, when I simply can't take anymore consumerism and just stop paying attention. I loathe the holiday season. It's become about "stuff" and greed and it disgusts me. The holidays are certainly not eco-friendly either, as half of what we give and receive either replaces other perfectly good things that get tossed in the trash or ends up in a landfill itself after a few days of amusement. Utterly pointless.

So this autumn morning finds me thinking about all I am appreciative of and the spirit of giving. I want this Christmas season to be different when it comes. I want to share what I love with the people I love and encourage them to remember and cherish a humbler time in our history. I don't mind gifts, but they really ought to be useful. I don't want to give people "things" so much as feelings: warmth, joy, beauty, happiness and gratitude. Our world needs more of these rather than more plastic crap.

So when you find a loaf of bread, a scarf or a used book in your stocking this year, it will be from me, with a little bit of who I am and all my love and affection inside with it. Let's save the sugarplum dreams for the children and let them have theirs, but you and I, let's feel the earth sigh a bit in relief. Maybe when the kids grow up they will remember our example and appreciate the gifts they already have a little more.

My house is made up of mostly flour and yarn anyways and I can't find a path to get back outside until I give some of it away.

Share yourself with me- in the comments- tell me what you really love, want or want to give others this holiday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

evolution of progress

my eyes are heavy and
my toes cold and i
write these words for you
to show you my perception of
you just for now

i often wait so patiently to
hear you speak and then you
walk away and leave me
wondering what
just happened

what was the purpose
of it?

honestly i wonder if
you intend to do this,
treat the world as if it's
such an inconvenience
to you...

do you ever see
the sun as it
warms and lights the
faces of daisies?
do you notice other
people as they
walk past you on
the street?

i imagine that somewhere
inside you actually
might feel pleasure, love,
and pain instead of
writhing in an endless
list of things to do

what is to be lost by
letting down your guard and
being simply human to
someone other than yourself?
does outward vulnerability show
weaknesses you will not
even unto yourself
admit that you have?

i consider you a mystery my
mind cannot unravel
but want to share that i
am very saddened that you seem
to live asleep.

when your life has reached
its autumnal phase and you
lay face up wondering
in the grass just why
you were here i hope
you will not be lost and
pondering much as
you leave me

what was the purpose
of it?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Just Because

Hi everyone! My newest article is posted over at my page. Been working on little bits 'o' fiction- finding the time to write 1000 words a day is kind of a challenge! I've been getting something down though, mostly pieces of stories. Today's was about a 22 year old artist who was running from a man she had met in the city who was stalking her. She met him while sketching pigeons in charcoal pencil down near the markets and he offered her a job at his antique shop. Still working on developing the characters and setting, and will really only write it until it bores me I think. It is kind of morphing into other story lines in my head and spawning other ideas... Will share the finished product though when (and if) it arrives.
Listening to these two songs (among many) as I am writing now- just to share. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Communion at the burn pile

The night air is cool and crisp. A faint breeze carries the scents of the farms nearby: the hay, cows and the musty smell of wet leaves. The dark and stillness let me remember for a moment that in a short amount of time it will be too cold to really enjoy my yard. Soon I'll prefer mittens and cocoa to the grass and night sky. The year has passed so fast. My shoulders tense a bit as I consider all the things I still have yet to do to prepare for winter.
I can't shut off from the worries of the day sometimes. The should-haves and need-tos too often drown out the wants, wishes and dreams until they fade into the background. I know this about myself- that sometimes my focus is so deep everything turns mundane, routine and dull. I push too hard and plan too much. All fades into grayness and begins to seem so purposeful that it hardly feels like living. And yet out here the trees are so vibrant and the weather so beautiful it seems a shame to waste it. I'm surrounded by such simple beauty if I would simply open my eyes. I want to fill my lungs with it and pull the season in close around me. I want to, I need to, slow down and savor it like the gift it is. Too soon it will have left.
As the sky grows darker, the chill sets in. So does the dew, and our shoes are now wet and slick. I breathe in deep. This is my season. 
We stand silently in awe as flames lick the sky, my husband, daughter and I. All three of us are captivated for just a moment by the flicker and glow. There is a reverence in this firelight. I move in closer for warmth and am grateful for the reason to pause. So often pulled different directions by life, here we are together again, if just for tonight. I feel suddenly both safe and whole.
I just love it out here.

Friday, October 1, 2010


In crisp autumn air, my footsteps crunch
the technicolor memories now laid over grass.
Yellow and auburn gowns at their feet,
the stark trees stand, shivering and nude.

All the world seems emptier, abandoned,
a shell of its former self.
Summer's vibrancy whisked away on the wind.
There is no room for pretense here.

If I close my eyes, the rustling sounds like rain and
if I am not careful
all I pretend I am
might get washed away.

Moments have passed we cannot use any more
and, our cloaks surrendered,
the trees and I
wait for spring.