01.29.2020

I was almost awake this morning when I heard the power go out. That quick “click” and then the decrescendo as the background whir of modern living comes to a halt. I burrowed deeper into bed and dozed through the wind whipping the world outside awhile longer. Eventually I gave in and started the day by candlelight. The power was restored after a couple hours, about the same time the sun came up.

A few hours later, I was walking up the driveway and noticed a halo of silver catkins on one of the willows. Only those near the tips of each branch have emerged. On Sunday morning it was another omen of the season: Osoberry, always the first bright green leaves to appear. Somehow I had missed those first leaves and it is already putting out the earliest blossoms.

Spring marches nearer. And we are still deep in winter.

The steady progress of time and light are hopeful. And that onward march brings up my anxiety for all there is to do in that season and how I will get it done and how unready I feel just now.

Today, I just want to burrow deeper under the covers of winter, to doze a bit longer here in the season of unapologetic rest.

Perhaps I can learn to rest unapologetically in spring, too.

01.19.2020

Hello from deep January, when I still wake in the very dark most days and the sun doesn’t seem to rise up in the sky as much it travels along the horizon slowly brightening the world. More or less, of course, because it is January.

But the gray monotony was broken this last week by several systems moving through, bringing wind and snow and transient blue skies and a few spectacular sunrises. And a renewed sense of hope as an unexpected side benefit. Somehow the melting snow, even after it’s very short stay, stirred up some deep remembering of spring, of the softening and warming and greening and growing that is hidden latent in winter. I found myself looking at the snow-mottled ground and thinking about digging and planting and what we might grow together this year.

Yes, there is plenty of gray winter yet to come. But it doesn’t feel like a hope that spring is here, just a deep quiet confidence that it will come.

If you can’t feel it yourself just yet, I hope that my confidence is just a little bit catching.

12.31.2019

Greetings on the last day of this year. I have been feeling resistant to all the extra new year’s kerfuffle this year with the change in the decade. Maybe because I feel like I’m deep in some unknowable process of becoming and I don’t have any desire for a fresh start or a new plan right now. Maybe because I didn’t notice until Instagram pointed it out to me and I’m just contrary like that. Maybe because the whole concept of linear time feels increasingly preposterous.

So no big 10-year review or anything of that sort today, just a little catch-up from the last month and a half of unplanned time away from this space. Honestly, it’s not too big an update. Mostly lots of winter skies.

In homestead news, we cut our first christmas tree from here, which was joyous. Admittedly in part because it saved us hours of a hunting mission on a busy December weekend, but mostly just for the satisfaction of finding one more thing that this scrappy patch of land provides us. The chickens have also been free ranging which leads to all sorts of charming “is this my life” views out the window. Along with a pretty constant battle to maintain our claim on the front porch as a poop-free zone, and an extended contest with the roosters for yard dominance.

December has been gray and mild in these parts. It sort of wrapped me up in a blanket of cloud and demanded that I rest after a too-busy fall. It feels good.

And, of course, a few images from our annual late December beach trip:

Happy new year!

07.13.2019

(Yes, I’m publishing this well past the date, but that was the date I felt compelled to share these photos, when I uploaded them and created a post. But then I never got back to write any words to go with them. I’m learning that sometimes the quiet is what I have to share.

It’s not that there were no stories, but I need to catch them as they pass, or let them go and trust that they weren’t meant to be written just yet. It doesn’t work to save them up or to go back and write them later. So there you have it, a couple of moody July skies, good for pondering or inducing rib-expanding inhalations.)

05.08.2019

Woosh. Beltane arrived last week and along with it the moment of panic when I realized we are now more than halfway to the solstice. (I also remembered how many other springs I had the same thought and how I always seemed to catch up with the season somehow.) And then a fabulous spell of May weather arrived and just like that, something clicked.

In the last week, we have picnicked at our favorite spot on the bluff, I have taken my first real bike ride, a box full of chirping chicks arrived in the mail, and I discovered that with all this glorious morning light, I can fit in a five-mile walk before work. I feel like I’ve found my footing in this season.

The morning walk is probably the most exciting part of that list. It’s a sweet spot of a walk where it’s long enough that I can usually tire out the chattiest of the voices in my head and find some quiet, but it doesn’t feel like a workout. It takes me through some beautiful old forest and around a little lake in a nearby state park that feels pretty distant from the homestead, but I don’t have to drive anywhere, or even see a road. It just feels really grounding to start the day with that much time outside. Here are some signs of spring from a recent morning:

And I can’t resist because it just never gets old… chicks! in the mail!

04.23.2019

I returned home this weekend after only a week away and was shocked by how different it looked. The grass grew a foot or more. (Really. We have grass, not lawn.) The big maple trees outside the upstairs windows transformed from branches of light-filled chartreuse blossoms to green leafy canopies. The daffodils are fading and the cherries are in peak bloom.

I could keep going, but I don’t think there’s any need. It’s spring… a frenzy of growth, a riot of green, an endless transition.

Forty-seven new baby chicks are due to arrive next week. We will be ready, or ready enough. But right now… I feel a little unsteady in the sea of change. So I am huddled under a quilt inside, remembering this sky from my morning walk.

04.09.2019

A few glimpses of early April in my world…

Right in character, April has been full of showers so far, and the green seems to be rising up almost in real time. I have been watching nettles and dandelion appear and multiply, tufts of grass poking up through the colorless pale of winter pasture… all these individual bits of spring life. And then suddenly one morning walk, the ground was a sea of green, punctuated by some old husks of last year’s growth hanging on among all the new.

It was the same story with the alders and willows and such… I watched the buds swell on bare brown branches and then, seemingly overnight, all the tiny leaves sprouted and they were a sea of bright green branches, shifting the whole hue of the landscape.

It brings back memories of last spring on the trail, watching spring rise up through the layers of the deciduous forest, slowly filling in with more and more density of green week after week.

I thought those observations were the introduction to something more, but it turns out that might be all I have to say right now.

It feels like another time of transition. Nothing radical, but a few natural endings creating some space. I’ve found myself reading more than usual, watching some television, listening to a few extra podcasts. It feels like a time to just take in a lot of input and let it all stew together a bit before I can figure out how it will become output.

So hello over there. Whatever kind of internal season you find yourself in, I hope you find some delight in watching the spring come to life around you.

3.24.2019

Hello? Words feel tentative and strange after all the silence here of late… I was walking to the library yesterday, and passed these cherry trees at the primary school in full bloom. And immediately, I remembered taking photos of the cherry trees along the river in Portland five years ago, how that was the moment when the idea of this space first felt real and possible. Yesterday’s unexpected cherry blossoms felt like the nudge from the universe to come back here.

I decided back in January that it was time to let go of this space, that it didn’t quite fit me anymore and I was ready to close it up. And it felt important to me that I do that, somehow state my intention and not just trail off in the middle of a thought. But somehow, I never quite found the words or made it back here to do that.

And then, a couple weeks ago, something shifted. It occurred to me that while this space didn’t quite fit me anymore, I was free to change that. The container of the blog was a little stale, but it was really how I was showing up to it that wasn’t working for me. When I started writing here five (!!) years ago, I didn’t know what that would look like but over time, I found a groove. Since then, my life and my interests and the things that really engaged me have continued to evolve, but how I shared here didn’t so much.

I want to change that. I want to try to write about the things that feel alive for me right now, even when they feel too vague or weird. I want to reject the narrative that no one else could possible be interested in photos of the sky, because they sure seem to captivate me. Or whatever I’m fascinated by next. I really don’t know how this will go or what it might look like, but I guess that’s the sort of thing that you mostly just have to figure out by doing.

Thanks for coming along on the ride.

The ride! The most recent musical hole I’ve (happily) fallen down has been Amanda Palmer’s new album, and I highly recommend it, starting with the epic song The Ride.

decembering 2018

I took these images several weeks ago at this point, before packing up boxes for friends and family, before writing cards. Right in the midst of the hubbub of all the making and baking and everything that I’ve come to think of as “decembering”.

After all that, the holidays themselves usually feel like a deep breath, or maybe a long exhale. It didn’t go quite as planned this year. A big wind storm on the 20th knocked our power out and it stayed out for more than two days. So there were lots of candles for the solstice, but by evening number two they were feeling decidedly less charming.

The power returned, the house recovered, and after a few more days of baking and sewing and cleaning and re-stocking, christmas went on (almost) just as planned. And every afternoon, I managed to get out for a walk to actually feel those deep breaths. Without trying, I think I came back with photos of the sky every day. Sky with moon, sky with fog, sky with light playing on the clouds… it was all captivating in real time.

In retrospect, it’s a lot of photos of winter skies.

There were a few oddballs, like the winter greenery or christmas dinner.

But mostly, skies. So many glorious skies…

12.19.2018

Hello from deep December. Deep in the dark days, when sunrises like this one come well after 7a and slowly, and some days it feels like it never quite gets fully light.

And I’m sure that it has been an endless stretch of gray half-light until I look back at my photos and  I am reminded that there were a few gloriously cold and bright days a few weeks ago, and I even took a long beach walk on one of them.And then I remember it was dumping rain every chance I had to get out for a walk yesterday, so when it finally cleared after the sun had set, I went out despite the dark. And the moonlight was brilliant and I couldn’t stop marveling at my shadow and the stars and the glory of a landscape awash in night-light.

So clearly the gray has not been continuous.

But there is much gray, and I try to find the beauty in it to counter the tendency to feel oppressed by it. I find myself drawn to the shades and grades in the gray, allowing my eyes to adjust to the dimness and discovering that there is more subtlety than just “gray”. And perhaps conversely, I find beauty in the almost-monochromatic scenes, like bare branches and broad sky. Like maybe color is just beside the point in this light.

12.02.2018


Greetings from deep fall. Light is in short supply on these days of big gray skies and so I’m drawn to the half-light, wondering at how it can appear with so many subtle differences in the seemingly narrow space between gray and white.

It feels like an age since I last wrote here. I spent four weeks in retreat and have now spent another four weeks finding my way back to routine and forward into life after a seven-month-long sabbatical. Lots of reconnecting with friends and community. Lots of picking up little bits of my life and appreciating them with fresh eyes, or realizing that it’s time to set them down for good. Honestly, I’m not sure where this space fits. I feel like the things that are most interesting to me these days are things that I don’t know how to write about. Ideas that float by, ways of seeing the world just a little differently, all the feelings that are apart of this human experience.

But then I did a little rug surgery this week and snapped a few photos and thought, “I’d like to share this”. So here I am today.

In the earliest days of this blog, I finished a cotton braided rug project. It was my first go at rug braiding and it was perfectly serviceable and also a little wonky, just as you’d expect. But then at some point I washed the rug, and the “little wonky” became a persistent buckle. My best guess is that the the cotton twine I used to lace it shrunk more than the braided fabric.
I’ve been feeling motivated to do more re-making this winter. Mostly inspired by standing in front of a shelf full of hand-knit sweaters and thinking about the next one I “need” to make to have something to wear out. I want to try again on the collar that sits funny or the body I’m always tugging at to be an inch longer or whatever it is. Unravel a bit and re-make this thing I have instead of buying a pile of new yarn and getting entranced by the idea that this time I’ll pick the perfect pattern and the perfect yarn and knit the perfect sweater.

So in that spirit, I guess it’s not surprising that one evening this week I looked at the rug with the bump and grabbed a scissors and started unbraiding.


In the end, it was probably only an hour of work. I pulled out two rounds of braid, reconnected the strands with some ugly but hidden hand-sewing, and then re-laced it into the rug. The result is certainly not perfect, but it lays flat, and I’m pretty satisfied to have been able to make it better.

10.06.2018

Knitting! After being forced to concede that trail knitting was not to be, I had my longest break from yarn and needles since I first picked them up. So the local yarn store was near the top of my list of places to visit in August when we found ourselves off the trail. Especially after the realization that trail knitting wasn’t a good fit because it was too similar to walking in the way that both occupy the mind and body just enough but not too much. When I had hours of walking in my day, I wanted some other kind of diversion; but when I those hours suddenly disappeared from my days, knitting was just the right thing to pick up.

This shawl was a good post-trail project – easy but not boring, it required just one pair of needles and no fussy fitting, and it was just enough knitting to keep me busy until we got home.

And I expect it will be in heavy rotation for the next few weeks. Which would be true just given the changing fall weather, but especially true when my plan for this fall includes lots of sitting and walking. Mostly just sitting and walking, actually. Before I return to all the routines of home and life, I’m taking a few weeks of personal meditation retreat. So this space will be quiet for awhile, and in the meantime, I’ll be watching the maple leaves flutter or the raindrops splat or whatever tiny wonders appear here:

04.10.2018

The big leaf maple blossoms popped in the last few days, great canopies of chartreuse. And it is feeling a lot like spring here, sunny one minute and then raining the next, blustery wind taking all the warmth out of the sunshine.

The news from the homefront is all about trip prep and it’s all mundane as can be. Getting ready for a big trip is a project all in itself, with the level of tedium an inverse function of the excitement rating of a trip. For at least the last half a year, I’ve had timelines and spreadsheets and to-do lists whose only objective was getting us out the door.

Last week was all about one big project – resupply boxes. We spent the last 3 months making food plans and stockpiling ingredients and dehydrating and generally amassing everything. And then spent last week turning that stash into actual meals and portions that fit into neatly packed boxes to meet us at a couple dozen post offices along the trail. It’s the kind of sprawling logistical project that I excel at, but keeping track of details and anticipating each next step took my full attention until the end. And then our very good friends whisked it all away on Saturday and our house felt strangely empty (unless you count the mountain of recycling because, holy packaging, batman) and I was a little disoriented.

Suddenly, “trip prep” has been reduced to a very long list of loose ends to tie up. There’s a sense of neurosis to this week, bouncing from “pay property taxes!” to “set up tent!” to “make notes for housesitter!”

Mostly the actual trip still feels abstract, but I felt a glimpse of it today. I spent the morning at the laundromat giving my sleeping bag a fresh wash and fluff, and found myself casting onto my sock needles with my first skein of trail yarn. And sitting in the purple plastic chair amongst the smell of detergent and the bustle of folks busier than me, I felt a glimmer of trail life, of how I’d be knitting these socks on the flight to Georgia and then who knows how many miles of northbound walking, and how many more laundromats along the way.

Almost there.

03.12.2018

You can see so much blue sky through bare branches. Three straight days of sunshine and mild temperatures and it feels like spring is everywhere. My first nettle harvest, the first dandelion bloom, the honeybees out collecting pollen… I can hear the frogs nightly now, and I startled the great blue heron from the wetland near the garden two days in row. Even the fenceposts are sprouting charming new life.

The whole sense is one of waking, a little rumpled, but hopeful about what the day might bring.

2.25.2018

See the hopeful new leaves? And the spray of blossoms almost unfurled? And how it’s all covered in ice? I feel you, osoberry. I so feel you.

I started writing this post a week ago, after I woke up to discover a wet white blanket that pretty abruptly altered my weekend plans. But I just kept complaining about the weather, possibly the most uninteresting topic of my many. So I left the draft open, thinking I’d come back to it when I actually had something to say. It’s now a week later, and I’m still complaining about the weather.

In the meantime, it melted just enough to actually drive all the way up the driveway once midweek before we got another couple inches. And this morning I can see enough rock through the snow once again to seriously consider bringing the car up from the bottom of the hill. But the forecast shows rain and/or snow for the another few days and I’m not sure I’m prepared to tempt fate that directly.

February. One way or another, or every way at once, it seems to be a test of endurance.

I took an extra-long weekend last week, and with all the time I wasn’t spending outside, I did manage to crank out most all of my sewing for our hike. I snapped that photo above at one point when I was struck by the juxtaposition of my old sewing machine and the techy silnylon fabric I was working with.

Taking a closer look, there are so many things I love in that scene. First, obviously, the avocado Kenmore sewing machine, manufactured in 1969-70. The typed label on top of it with my mom’s name and phone number from when she took it in for a service after buying it from an auction for me, a few months before I finished college. The original manual, with the dated image of a young mother and daughter on the front and the “Dear Homemaker” letter inside the front cover… that is remarkably useful, sitting out because I referenced it as I was adjusting things for the slippery fabric. Behind my machine is the sewing basket that was a Christmas gift from my Grandma Axtman as a teenager. The gold stork scissors is a favorite from my sister. So many layers to these ordinary useful objects.

There was nothing too exciting in the trip sewing, mostly the pile of stuff sacks and ditty bags above, along with a rain cover for my pack and a fair few pack modifications… changing out the side pockets, rearranging straps to work with a new top lid, that sort of thing. But it’s ten more things marked off the endless list.

I can feel things shifting again as our departure draws nearer. For so long, the to-do list just grew longer and longer as things got more real and we filled in all the details. But it has started to get shorter now. Partly because we’re working every day on prepping and drying food, making or buying gear, and generally making the countless tiny decisions that go into any endeavor of planning. But perhaps more so, the list is getting shorter because it gets pruned. Seven weeks feels like a scope of time that I can wrap my head around. Seventeen working days. Three weekends when we are both home. However you measure it, our remaining prep time is finite.

And then we’ll be standing on bare ground in Georgia and whatever we managed to get done will somehow be enough. Soon.

1.28.2018

Consider the photo my nod toward truth in advertising. It’s still January here. And as good as it felt to hit 50 degrees yesterday for a few short hours yesterday, it still looks like this by four o’clock every afternoon.

I’ve been watching the light, waiting to feel that shift from the stasis of winter, the first tentative nod toward spring. We’ll reach the halfway point between solstice and equinox this week! I can see it in the afternoons, the pale light hanging on a little later but the mornings feel as dark and close as ever here. Then this afternoon, I was caught by complete surprise to find that the first soft, shimmery gray willow catkin buds have appeared, so that falls firmly in the “nod toward spring” column on my ledger.

Not surprisingly, the thoughts bouncing around my head today are awfully similar to those I wrote about a week ago.

After a few weeks of feeling overwhelmed by the increased sense of urgency around hike preparations, I’m settling into the rhythm of the daily tasks. And all those little daily steps are adding up to some real momentum. I have nearly finalized my meal recipes after a few successful trials this week. (Yes, grits can totally be cooked on an alcohol stove! And dried delicata squash is a success! Home dried brown rice was a bit toothsome, but totally palatable!) Today I cleared off an entire shelf in the pantry and loaded up the dehydrator with a big batch of blueberries… The next step is to stockpile all of the ingredients. We have a mountain of drying to do, but we are marching onward.

In the other sort of hike prep, I got out for a longer walk again yesterday. I did some more exploring from home and like last time, it was very gratifying. “The corner” is a little business hub about 3 miles from our home, with the only road option being the main highway. The shoulders are wide so it’s not bad by bike, but I have never considered walking it. Inspired by my last walk, I set out yesterday to see how I might get from here to there with as little shoulder walking as possible. And the answer turned out to be so much less than I expected –  a couple hundred yards! My route involved our neighbor’s field, some state park land, a short established way trail to the dead-end end of a residential street, then said street, service roads through the school athletic complex, and a bit more field at the end. At 45 minutes, I couldn’t have gotten there any faster taking the highway and my alternate was quieter and much more interesting. So yeah, I’m still feeling pretty motivated about changing my perception of the walkability of our little town.

I also appreciated seeing these kindreds while I was out (ironically on the brief highway shoulder section):

In knitting news, I don’t have any photographic evidence but I can report there is sweater progress. Not entirely of the sort I planned, but that should be a surprise to no one, including me. Last fall, I started working on a sweater for Dean. Here it is in mid-November:

By new year’s that scrap of a body had slowly grown to about 10 or 12 inches. And I even more slowly accepted that it was not the intended size. Gauge! The trickster of the knitting world struck again. I had knit a swatch, a big swatch even. I knit said swatch in the round, because I have learned the hard way that my gauge is different between flat and round knitting. But… my needle collection is rather hodgepodge in certain sizes, including size 2. So my 16″ circular metal needle was a different brand/style than my 36″ circular metal needle. And, no surprise to you, wise reader, they produce entirely different gauges. So my sleeve (narrow tube, 16″ circular) was just fine, but the body (large tube, 36″ circular) was not. I even put everything on waste yarn and soaked it and then blocked it out and no, it really isn’t going to grow two sizes.

All of which should mean that I need to undertake the heartbreaking (but let’s face it, entirely familiar) task of unraveling a lot of knitting and trying again. But wait! I made a fateful decision to make this sweater from a “yarn” that mostly falls apart if you try to rip it out (unspun Icelandic if you really care, but mostly, just trust me). So that sweater is in a permanent holding pattern while I decide how/if/when to proceed.

Which means that I was able to work on a sweater for me, with very little guilt and it has been zooming right along. I finished the (very plain) body up to the armpits and am currently working on the first sleeve, and feeling pretty keen to finish two sleeves and join it all up. A fine consolation prize for January (if you’re me anyway, maybe less so for Dean), and I’m off to work on it right now!

12.29.2017

I got a burst of creative inspiration this week in the midst of so much doing very little. And this particular inspiration was very specifically about extemporaneous quilting. It seemed to come from nowhere, but I can trace its roots to the sentimental clothing retirements of late and thinking about reusing scraps in rag rugs or other projects.

I wasn’t willing to use any sentimental bits on my first attempt, but the bin of fabric leftovers and irresistible thrift store finds was generous. I quickly got sucked into the piecing and cutting and just seeing what would emerge next. Of course then I decided I could turn my playing into a throw pillow and that took several times as many hours as I imagined it would… but in the end, I replaced a generic Ikea pillow and sparked all sorts of ideas for future projects. A win from the week of doing very little.

 

12.27.2017

We woke on Christmas morning to fresh snow, so I went for a walk to watch the light come up. The snow felt very congruent with my general plan for the week, which was to stay home and do very little. It’s been a good plan, the last few days filled to the brim with very little.

12.14.2017

Hello from a pale December day at 48 degrees North. I’ve been a bit of a failure at December-ing so far this year, I just keep thinking there will be time for everything as the days evaporate and I blithely putter along, making a few things here and there and then making time for another walk. Walking feels necessary these short days, especially when the sky is blue.

Tonight I did a little sewing and listened to an On Being conversation with Rebecca Solnit and collected a few flickers of candlelight for the mind on a winter night…

“People in this culture love certainty so much, and they seem to love certainty more than hope, which is why they often seize on these really bitter, despondent narratives… they know exactly what’s going to happen. And that certainty just seems so tragic to me. I want people to tell more complex stories and to acknowledge that sometimes we win, and that there are these openings. But an opening is just an opening; you have to go through it and make something happen. And you don’t always win, but if you try, you don’t always lose.”

And a reference to this quote from Michel Foucault: “People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”

Early snow

I decided at 5p Thursday that Friday would be a mental health day, a bit of compensation for all the extra hours at my desk over the last month. Without too much more thought, I determined that a day for myself meant going for a hike first thing, enough of an effort to come home tired and really enjoy settling into my couch nest for an afternoon knitting session.

I wasn’t expecting to wake up to a dusting of snow. But it was just that, a dusting on the roofs and cars. According to the Gaelic view of the seasons, winter began three whole days earlier, with Samhain. It felt like summer lasted right through September this year, so I guess I missed autumn while tethered to my desk.

I considered changing plans, but it looked like it was clearing. Maybe I’d have an extra-special view of a snowy morning from the top. Or maybe not, as it turned out. The dusting at home was a couple inches at the trailhead and gradually grew to about four up the trail. Clouds wrapped tightly around the mountain. The forest was almost utterly quiet, my breath competing with my footsteps for the loudest disturbance. At some point, the snow filling the air was coming from the tree branches above instead of the clouds. Periodically, some branch would get just heavy enough to dump it’s load with a satisfying “woosh”. Beautiful and disorienting.

And best of all, I returned home the perfect level tired where I couldn’t manage anything more than knitting and old episodes of Victorian Farm all afternoon.