Growing Season

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There are four cars in the driveway now — if I get too close to the edge as I pull in, my tires inevitably slip off and sink deeply into the the mud. The slimy ruts fill with water.
Action item:
• Haul in stone to extend driveway.

The grass is greening and the birds have grown loud, as they always do in the Spring.
As I look out the window of the hearth room, I catch a glimpse of a bluebird darting in to build it’s nest in the box on the back porch.

I scan the changing landscape and wonder when it will be dry enough to till.
Never it seems.
Spring always comes in with a soaking that lasts for weeks.
We’ll have to watch for the one weekend that comes — there’s only one.
On that weekend, the ground will be dry enough to till.
Miss it and lose.
Of course, last year, and the year before, and the one before that, and so on,
we were watching soccer games on that one dry weekend.
Hm. Not this year.
No Spring soccer for the boy.

I dig into the cold dirt in one of my garden boxes- it’s full of worms, and I smile.
There is a constant rhythm — I believe I hear the beat.
It’s time for another growing season.

Time for my son to graduate.

One day soon, he will leave and take his contagious laughter with him.
He will pack up his crazy shrieks and silly songs and the kisses he plants on the top of my head.
Gone will be the thud of his giant, plodding feet.
My cupboards will no longer suffer the wrath of his vacuum powered appetite.

The halls will grow quiet and hollow with the lack of him.

It’s Saturday and he’s in Nicaragua. He will return and we will begin the final countdown.
And while he’s not leaving immediately, it seems the whole world is about to change.

But for today, it’s time to plant seeds,
for in spite of the mud and the muck, and the fact that I can’t till —
the ground is warming and it’s time for another growing season.
The grass is greening and the birds are growing louder,
and the ruts along my driveway are full of water.

What do you come home for?

While this video is two years old, and while it has been viewed nearly a million times, and while it may present a few opinions that not all would agree with, and while this may not be everyone — I find that it haunts and astounds me in it’s presentation of reality.
As I prepare to grow vegetables in my garden, I am struck by the lack of dirt— the lack of the organic — that I see in the video. It makes me think of how, in the suburbs, we press the button on our automatic garage door openers, glide in, and close the door behind us —  sealing ourselves off in our homes for the night.
For me, the video captures some kind of collective groan.

 

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I saw the video: What is Wrong with Our Culture, Alan Watts, on the Collective Evolution Facebook page.

Stories Matter

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The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
― John Banville, The Sea

We are swimming in a sea of selfies and Instagram photos. Our history is being recorded on cell phones and our stories are being told in clever hashtags. Pictures are rarely printed- we simply release them into the cloud with zillions of bits, perhaps never to be seen again.

Our fine moments run together like ingredients in a recipe. At first, it is easy to see that the egg is separate from the flour and the milk from the oil – but with a few quick turns of the wooden spoon, a gloppy mass forms in the bowl- and it goes in the oven- come what may.
We bake the batter of life.

Pictures, journals and stories help us to extract the ingredients and understand the flavors — they unravel the mystery and tell us why one loaf tears like leather and the other like cotton.
Why one loaf is savory and the other sweet.
Why one loaf is dry and the other is doughy.

Stories matters. As mothers and fathers in the digital age, we must do something old fashioned and print the photos stored on our phones and in our hard drives. We must scribble a few sentences about our moments. Not “Children’s Museum, 2015″, but rather, “He never wanted to leave the water table- he played with the dam system for hours,”

Because lo and behold, he is now an engineer.

“Experience had taught me that even the most precious memories fade with the passage of time.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding

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Quotes from: Goodreads
I
mage from JoAnne Ouellette, The New Curriculum Arithmetics, Copyright 1935

Doesn’t matter how tall they get…

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A mother’s love – doesn’t matter how tall they get …

 

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Photo credit: Weheartit.com

City Spring ~ Country Spring

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I like to read the words of my friends who walk over grates on city streets. I hear the flack-flack-flacking of the train and the whirring of the subway. I smell the city and open my eyes into another world. There is a mass of passing faces and resign as I enter the wave. Vendors are busy and the streets are alive. The concrete is warming and I take my lunch outside. It is Spring in the city.

My friends like to read my words, as I drive the country roads with all my windows down. Old barns dot the landscape and there isn’t a face in sight. Six doe leap across the road ahead of me and I slow to watch them take long, graceful strides before ducking into the woods. The air is soft and cool and the fields hint green. The peepers have emerged from their winter hiding places and their song is the signal — it is Spring in the country.

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Subway photo: James Adamson 

Chicken Talk

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I pinch myself. It’s actually happening…
Very soon, my friends,
Very soon, there shall be fat ants and juicy worms.
Very soon, they shall throw us lettuces and kales from the garden.

Roadie Yoke, Spokeschicken
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Photo Credit: Will Whittier

Mud Balls in the Basement

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I can’t seem to let go. It’s not so much the practical things. It’s the words scrawled on little slips of paper. It’s the cement-hard mud balls that were rolled up by tiny hands. It’s the heartfelt message on a Christmas tag. It’s the smooth rock from a happy shore.

Bereft of so many of my own childhood memories, I have always clung to little things. I’m so obsessed with not losing something meaningful that I have been known to dig through my children’s trash as they purge their bedrooms. “WHAT!! You can’t throw that away,” I gasp, as I snatch it and add it to my pile.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not real big on ticket stubs or figurines.
It’s the more important things — like the little construction paper leaves we cut out at Thanksgiving time. Each of us would take one out of the basket, which sat in the center of the table, and write on it what we were thankful for. When the kids were little, they were always thankful for daddy and the dog.

Or it’s the notes — things that indicate who we have been in the world.
It’s the cards and drawings and well-used trinkets.

IMG_9839As a little girl, we moved across country and practically severed all family ties. Because the tiny fragments of family history that I could remember, were not underscored by tradition or cemented by rehearsal- they began to fade away and get buried in the intensity of the painful every day. While my propensity to collect things that bore meaning began long before I lost my mother, her sudden, violent death caused my inadvertent quest to preserve precious memories to grow more intense.

By the time we unlocked the door to Mom’s condominium, the crime had been solved and there was no one around. The bright yellow police tape, which barred the door, was the only obvious sign that anything had taken place at all. Mom had been brutally murdered and her body had been hidden in a closet in the spare bedroom. Ironically, the house was spotless. There was no sign of the argument that had led to her death. The broken statue that had crushed her skull was nowhere to be found and there was no sign of the gun. The bed was made, the cat was fed, and the dishes were done. It took us awhile to find the shadow in the chocolate brown carpet. It was just about the only clue left. Her blood.

As we began to open drawers and dig through closets, we searched desperately for something we could take away that embodied her essence — something that would allow us to keep her. Perhaps some private note that would unravel the mystery — something that was attached to her plaguing sadness. But there was nothing. No diaries. No special jewelry. No treasured trinkets. Only her smell, which was growing faint in the robe which hung on the back of the bedroom door. I tied the robe up tight in a plastic grocery bag with the hope that I could capture her fragrance there. She was a lonely woman. She had no friends that could tell the story of her heart.

Now, some 30 years later, I am thinking through a recent visit to my mother-in-law’s home. In her prime, Joyce was a proud and lovely woman — the consummate hostess, accomplished homemaker, and a keeper of treasured things. She is spending her final days waiting for heaven in the memory ward of a nursing home, unable to speak. Dad is still walking the halls of the house, but nothing is the same without her. As I ran my fingers over the things that used to mean something to her, which are still neatly arranged in her home, I realize her essence is fading. One day soon, all of the treasures that fill Joyce and Stew’s home will be disassembled and divided. If the stories aren’t told that are attached to the objects held dear, they will one day become items to be taken away in a box.

3229343087_c485ed07cf_bThen, as I sat in the middle of a heap in my own father’s basement, wading through the items he and my stepmother collected over the years, I contemplated what it all means. Sally died of breast cancer a few years ago and it’s hard for my dad to figure out what matters. What if he gives away something that could be meaningful to someone? How can he possibly muster the energy to sort through all the things that have no meaning to him without her? Cookbooks and sewing stuff, and bathroom junk, and pretty pictures, and little statues, and extra shoes, and bags, and jackets? There seems to be nothing that truly bears her essence.

In the end, we all lay in our beds and face the end of opportunity. Our piles of stuff, no matter how well pared down, gather dust and go out of style. Much of what we hold dear will be loaded into boxes and hauled to Goodwill. So how do we capture the essence of what has been? It’s not the things we keep that bear meaning. It’s not the bed or the sheets, but it’s the warm place left by the breathing person who slept there. It’s not the after-shave my husband wears, but the way the room smells after he’s gone. It’s not the swing set, but the bare spots left in the grass from all the days little feet wore away patches. It’s not the field, but the path that runs through it.

So, through the connection of many dots, I have arrived at today. I’m going to approach the pile in the basement, and write down the stories that are associated with my little things. Then, maybe, I can let them go and my children won’t have quite so many boxes to take to Goodwill. They won’t have to wonder why I saved a little wooden box full of mud balls.

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Photo Credit: Locket photo by Paula Bailey