Archives for category: life

“The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.” — Cornel West So, I wake up this morning, well, all night really, listening to this rain just coming down and coming down and incessantly coming down thinking we’ll be lucky if we don’t wash away. Then I climb into my car and settle in behind the windshield as I do all too often and tune in to NPR to get me going for the day – to be greeted by the weather report, it’s raining, obvious choice. And then I feel fortunate not to be in Minnesota Lake where they have received 7 inches overnight and Lord knows you don’t need a river to flash flood in conditions like that. So, it’s not so bad…. there’s not even water in the basement. And just when I think perhaps the news will get better I am verbally assaulted with this pukish notion of yet another *brilliant* (laced with sarcasm since the internet just doesn’t carry the tonal quality of voice) idea from the Republicans who are touting the Pledge to America that insists on extending tax cuts (tax cuts? really? during war time, not that I agree with the war, but seriously…we, the citizens, should continue to not sacrifice any of our way of life?!) and repealing the new health care law (even though I think sick care needs a major revamp into real health care and wellness preservation before I care to participate… movement is better than stagnation) and cutting government spending by $100 billion… even though proponents of the pledge admittedly have no clue about how the legislative branch would entertain that proposition. Disgusting. I don’t typically feel the necessity to vent my political frustrations as all who know me or even dabble in reading my entries have me pinned to the liberal front, but this was just more than I could take today. All these people who are pissed at the President – how the hell is he, one person who doesn’t hold the decision making magic wand, supposed to undue all the bullshit from eight years of an ignorant bumbling previous administration. At least he is starting conversations. Patience. No one has any damn patience. Reminds me to keep practicing to be less like them. Apple Cidering 2010. This year at George and Ann’s in Albert Lea, and you can see we had some good ATP donation – this is my nod to the fact that I really should be studying for my Anatomy & Physiology test instead of posting a blog… ATP: adenosine triphosphate, the body’s energy currency. Selina, Andy and Izzie (geesh, I apologize if I can’t spell anyone’s name), and Sam who was in on round 2 and not in this picture – they had phenomenal persistence as this beauty of an antique cider press is completely manually operated. Tom was clever enough to procure the parts we needed to keep the crank wheel from slipping off the drive shaft (watch your toes!) so that we could feel incredibly efficient in our 4 gallons in 3 hours production. Yes, it was delicious and completely worth all the sore-in-the-morning-forearm effort. 🙂 The harvest carries forth on the at least somewhat sunny days. This bounty is simply the result of having the day off from my regular one-day-a-week gig down at the garden near Kanawha due to overnight and morning rains. Butternuts and spaghetti squash in the back, vining and bush type sweet potatoes to the left and the flint corn as well as Tom’s bloody butch there in the right foreground. I think I have had spaghetti squash every night since. Man, it is deee-lish! This was my flint corn harvest helper. I was having an internal debate about how much corn to take and how much to leave, knowing that it is very important for me to share what grows with the animals I share that space with – the birds and deer and raccoons, and if they are wise they will save some of it for the winter. I don’t doubt their wisdom. It’s mine that is questionable. But the ears of corn-hosting grasshoppers were left, as that was an anything but subtle clue. Yes. This is a real sweet potato. It is really the size of my head. WOW! This behemoth came from the planting of vining sweet potatoes – it was blessed with unimpeded sunshine and apparently enough moisture. The bush type, they were planted (not too thoughtfully, but lovingly so) between the flint corn and tomatoes, so they kept cool and shaded and the tuber size was very indicative of that – I am glad I dug that row first. Nearly all of the vining plants had about four of these monsters apiece – you would be correct to assume that a little quality control ensued, as I was afraid that a potato this big would take like plywood, but it still had a reminiscent sweet and earthy quality. I must admit that I still prefer the more robust flavor of the smaller potatoes, but the Big Red takes the cake for shock value. Pumpkin harvest started Tuesday evening as well, even amongst the mosquitoes and lady beetles. Shelise and Ula came to play amongst the wildness of the garden and pick about the incredible spread of vines of the pumpkins I am firmly entrenched in believing that my father planted. I don’t care that I had to deal with the wrath of the squash beetles because to have my father’s hand in my garden humbles me and steal my heart and breath and I feel the big way we all remain connected – stretched far and wide, near or no longer tangibly present, carrying one another with every movement thoughtful or rushed for the simplicity that we have touched each other profoundly. We each impact and change the course of movement for one another in ways incalculable and unnecessarily so – challenging one another to constantly become better versions of ourselves. Even all the cynicism in the world and Pledges to America can’t spoil that for me. How undeniably important and big it was that I was able to share a few precious moments in my garden with plants that have a mind of their own and with this woman I love like a sister – it was pretty swell.

“I haven’t the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out.” — David Sedaris (Naked)

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XVII

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”
— Pablo Neruda

At a snail’s pace, these things happen. Slow Food. Longest days of the year sunsets over the prairie. Healing and moving forward and letting go. Mulching the nicolas. I am so very often reminded this season of what it means to take my time. How so many of us wrestle with the demands we pit ourselves against, and lose track of how precious and luxurious life becomes with a natural indulgence of tempered allowance – of space for one’s self, for breath, for honoring movement. In utilizing the thesaurus (the volume contiues to remain at the top of my list of all time favorite books) I return to the unfortunate connection of the embodiment of the word “slow” with so many negative associations: backward, draggy, dull, inactive, drawn-out, sluggish, stagnant, time-consuming, unintelligent, obtuse, unresponsive. It’s no wonder we are immersed in a society averse to such a philosophy – what is good about slow? On a side note, when did-time-consuming get such a bad rap? Isn’t time the one thing we are blessed with options boarding infinity in doing something with – every single one of our moments epitomizes an insatiable consumption of time with activity, inactivity, emotion, embrace, inspiration, creativity, expectation, self criticism, “delicious ambiguity” and day dreams.

Well, many of us had a good plenty of wonderful reasons to partake in slow. We were a part of the annual Slow Food Solstice event at the Dream Farm – Paul and Sarah and Lisa among others spent the day preparing the place for us in pouring rain and emboldened wind, to have the sun arrive on cue – about 5:30 that evening. It could not have been more gorgeous. So much to be said for reconnecting with the souls and smiles that remind you of why you find yourself in the space you do – even if you feel at continual odds with over-commitment and recovering from perfectionism – that this is what the granduers of life are all about. A pleasant reminder. I mean, a rich and filling me to the point of overflowing love of the oneness of this whole damn mess of life. All the trouble and pain and injustice and insecurities melt away in this space. It is nothing short of sacred. We should slow down more often.

“Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the “good life”, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.”   -Hunter S. Thompson

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” — Mary Oliver

It’s been two months; that seems like a long pause to me. Even though those two months seem to have come and gone through me like a deep breath. Each day has been long and patient and full in the living of my moments, and in looking back they have so sweetly melded into such a beautiful medley, like how lasagna gets better with time. All full of emotion, exuberance on the spread of the spectrum. Three nice days in October. One of them was the 17th and we pressed apple cider.

Charles McLaughlin, my lifetime neighbor just a quarter mile north of my Dad’s place was an absolutely wonderful host. He is 91. An agrarian his entire life, an avid conservationist and visionary – helped author the CRP program, was a founding board member of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, has walls full of plaques and awards and a life full of admirers and love – and a great many more who have never met the man, but yet hold him in the highest of regards and respect. And me, I have the dumb luck to have been raised as his neighbor. As a child we were allowed in the milking parlor on our best behavior, and we drank fresh Jersey milk out of red plastic mugs, and twenty years ago we pressed cider and it was a special event to feed the apple mush to the younger cows and Daisy and Folly, the horses.

So many wonderful people shared in that day – even some not physically present, but we carried them in spirit. Seth, Tim, Mom, Mary, Lisa, Lydia, Gabe, Sammy, Jana, Rachel, Tom, Andy, their dog Nelly, Paul, Daryl, Claude and Shelly. My close friend, Sarah, we held there – we used the paring knife she sent me for my birthday. I used a beautiful bowl that Tiffany had made to hold cinnamon and sugar for dipping apples. I wore the earings that Christen gave me for my birthday. We used the rooster plates from Dad’s. Chuck didn’t come out to press cider, but studied for his upcoming INHF board meeting, so we all took turns to visit and share our gratitude with him.

Tim and Sam recharge with hot chocolate – they were ace hopper tenders. Gabe presses. Seth took the charge of making sure all life, limbs and extremities were preserved and in tact. Andy filled jugs. Chuck, legally blind, but fervently in tune, watched Nelly fetch. Claude and Gabe climbed apple trees. Mom and Shelly caught apples. Tom and Paul brought apples with them to share. The trees we pulled apples from on Chuck’s farm have been there longer than my memory allows – they were only numbers at the time they were planted – experimental varieties from the University of Minnesota. I was again reminded of how good it is to be the “kid” even at 31, but always in Chuck’s eyes, as no one else has ever been allowed to PICK apples off the tree – it has always been off the ground, because that’s how you know their ripe… and I had forgotten this, and somehow in small towns word gets round, and counterparts to your parents pass this word on that they might be a bit (good naturedly) envious to your parents, and you get that word and fill up. With good. With pride. With love. There was so much wonderful on that day. I got to Dad’s to dump my truckload of apple mush on the compost pile and to share some of the very freshest cider with Dad, and he immediately asks me, as was his tendency for the statistics, how much? I have no real idea, as I’m not much of a numbers gal for a finance major, and I said enough for everyone, which was all I needed to know.

October was full. November started out that way. Dad’s health was failing. The garden was neglected. Potatoes. There are still potatoes frozen hard into the ground – in-garden-compost – I should find the Latin for that and coin it, use it in speeches of managed practice. I troubled to bring in sugar pumpkins and some spaghetti squash and a Garden Way cart full of potatoes – Blues, Yellow Finns, La Ratte fingerlings. Tom came to visit and brought bulbs. We planted them along the south side of the house. They will be beautiful in the coming year.

Dad passed away on the 7th of November. I couldn’t have chosen more fittingly a father who I will carry with me always. I know Seth feels the same. We are so blessed to have had so many wonderful years with a man who knew about filling his. We carry on his projects and his love of the land, his sense of good stewardship, his connection and bond with his community. His presence missed by us, but by the whole – so many kind words of condolence from friends of his, of ours, from family, but we all know we will all miss. We are all the better for having shared in this journey with him.

Yet another project inspired a bit by Dad. He planted a pumpkin patch this year – six hills – it yielded 70 pumpkins – good fertile soil in that composted cattle lot. We went out last Sunday and hacked open half of those frozen pumpkins and with equally frozen hands dug out the innards to take into the house to sort and thaw. Tuesday, before the big blizzard came to fruition I was out there with my ax and hand trowel cleaning up the rest of what was salvageable. I roasted pumpkin seeds for two straight days! Vinegar and sea salt. Cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Soy sauce and ginger. Coconut and curry. Dark chocolate and chili. Bloody mary seeds with fresh horseradish. Plus, some seeds are being saved and dried for next year’s pumpkin patch. I love this idea of saving Dad’s seeds and planting a patch in his memory and each year harvesting and saving seeds to repeat the process.

I want to say thank you to everyone. To everyone who has supported or doubted or participated or rolled their eyes, because really, the only reason you do any of these is because you care. I am constantly surround by, bathed in and overflowing from all of the love you give. My patience, my strength, my humbled moments come from this wealth of companionship, care, community. I am, for lack of a word that more fully encompasses the enormity, blessed. Endlessly. Ame de la Terre will continue postings as the garden venture evolves. I am moving to the Twin Cities in January to pursue my certification in massage therapy. I will be living with a friend who has a back yard, a small garden and a need for plants… hmmm… 🙂 I’m ordering my sweet potatoes now.

“The father wants the girl to be a weather girl on television, or to marry and have babies. She doesn’t want to be a TV weather girl. Nor does she want to marry and have babies. Not yet. Maybe later, but there are so many other things she must do in her lifetime first. Travel. Learn how to dance the tango. Publish a book. Live in other cities. Win a National Endowment for the Arts award. See the Northern Lights. Jump out of a cake.” — Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street) (my regards to Aurora, CO, to living off Colfax, to Mr. Hofsess on this one).