Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winter Walk

I took a walk yesterday, seeking beauty in the brown world of winter. I found it.

Palettes of color, form, and texture behind a scrim of tree trunks

Beds of moss with a hairy covering of sporophytes

Gill o' the Ground under the protection of fall leaves

LeRoy followed me like a dog.

And clawed his way up my leg like a cat.
Blooms of blue-green lichen on rotting branches
Perfect dinner-plates eaten out of oak leaves
Remember this goldenrod from a post last summer?
It is just as beautiful now
Along with the milkweed seeds
All glowing in the slant of late afternoon winter light, warming towards spring

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas is for Kids

I'm in the city, sorting through the photos from today's festivities and can't help but post a few.

Mario, looking straight into Peepaw's soul:

Maria, wearing her princess demeanor if not the clothes:

Jack, just as excited as Mario over the racing cars:

And Maria again, about fifteen minutes ago, on the couch "watching" Dora on the TV. She's spending the night with me at "the partment."

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Solstice

How fitting that the sun is shining today. It showed its face for about five minutes on Friday after the big Break Up, but went undercover again until now—Solstice Morning. It may not stay, clouds in varying sizes are moving across the sky, but to see it shine even for moments on the ice-covered trees is heart-gladdening.

I’ve been thinking about the solstice a lot this year, perhaps because I am more aware than ever of the Earth. Everywhere I look, I see earth and trees and sky and meadow. And so I wonder about it more often. I marvel how human culture is tied to the cycles of the planet. Even though we’ve forgotten the original connection of our customs to the rhythms of the earth, it is there. The Christian celebration of Christmas sprung from midwinter celebrations of all kinds. Seems that many cultures, especially those that thrived in northern climates where the winters are darkest and coldest, celebrated the winter solstice with a sense of relief and happiness, and used it as therapy for the winter blues. SAD is not a modern malaise!

I looked up solstice on Wikipedia and under a heading, “Therapeutic,” was this paragraph:

“Midwinter festivals and celebrations occurring on the longest night of the year, often calling for evergreens, bright illumination, large ongoing fires, feasting, communion with close ones, and evening physical exertion by dancing and singing are examples of cultural winter therapies that have evolved as traditions since the beginnings of civilization. Such traditions can stir the wit, stave off malaise, reset the internal clock and rekindle the human spirit. [5]
That last sentence is what gets me—oh, how we try to make the best of things. Let’s be “the glass is half-full” kind of people. I like that response. But it isn’t just blind optimism; the sun really is coming back. The days really are getting longer. We will not perish in darkness. Food will grow again, birds will sing, flowers will bloom. My calendar calls December 21 the beginning of winter, but I’m sticking with the title, Midwinter. I’m siding with the optimists.

While listening to NPR the other day, a Jesuit priest bemoaned the growing tradition of sending Christmas, or holiday, cards with pictures of your family on them. “More of the holy family and less of your family” was his complaint. Even though I haven’t been a Catholic for years, I still felt guilty. (Ah, that Catholic guilt—once instilled, it never quite leaves!) Reading and thinking about the solstice, though, has given me a new appreciation and perspective on the “holiday” season. There is something special about this time of year, and it doesn’t belong solely to followers of Jesus or any other religion. Celebrating this season is a deep part of our human nature, and a deep response to our place in the natural world. Sure, if you’re a Catholic, you may want to focus more on the holy family—but if you’re not, your participation in the festivities is just as valid. Sending and receiving pictures of loved ones is a way to connect with others when travel may be difficult. Feasting and gift giving, lighting up our homes and decorating with greenery serve to raise our spirits and give us something to do besides curl up with the covers over our head.

I love, too, how this time of the year makes us reflective. With the return of light, there is a kindling of hope and resolve deep within most people I know. The older I get, and with this move to the country, I reflect more on the planet and my involvement with it, for better and for worse. I would like to get to know my patch of land better this coming year. I would like to grow in sensitivity to it, learn to read it better. Through that process, I’m sure I will get to know myself much better—the good and the bad.

John and I have argued over which side of the bed we get to sleep on in our new bedroom. I’ve argued for my standard side, which is the left if you’re standing at the foot of the bed, looking towards the headboard. Ultimately, I’ve had to compromise—we’ll switch every month. And here is why:

That is the sunrise as seen when waking up on the left side of the bed, unfettered by the lump of your beloved under the covers.

Happy Solstice Everyone! May your view of the sunrises be lovely this year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Breaking Up

The nice thing about our view of the sky is that we can tell what kind of weather is coming our way within the next thirty minutes to an hour. It comes mostly from the west/northwest. I could have school kids out here to learn about weather fronts, it is that obvious. The front comes at us with a wall of clouds looming over our neighbor's hill. We spend some time in the middle of whatever the front holds--rain, wind, snow--and then we watch it leave us, trailing over the hills to the east. I can often see the edge of the front, like the line of a shelf, to the south. Around noon today, I was happy to see the rain clouds breaking up and trailing off in their usual pattern. Until then, a steady deluge of rain slashed at the windows and filled up the puddles in our construction zone of a front yard.
Mmm, pretty.

I used to complain about the clay soil in my Columbus yard. To that, I now say: Ha. Ha. You want clay? Come on out here, and I'll show you clay. It sticks to the bottom of your boots like cement. People have made use of it--this area is known for its pottery--but I've got some serious amending to do before I can garden.

I am looking forward to seeding the bare soil around the house this spring. This past summer was so hot and dry that we couldn't very well seed then. By the time the rains came, it was after the frost date. This spring, my goal is to get rid of opportunities for stepping in mud anywhere around the house or cabin. It has probably been a good thing to see what kind of havoc the mud can wreak this year. I'll know how to avoid it next. I am just soooo happy that we built the mudroom afterall.
The upside of all this rain? Our water tank is full. Full, I tell you! The pump is on, but not pumping because the tank won't hold anymore water. We had a head start with a second fill-up this fall, but still. I just might take a long, hot soak in my crackled up clawfoot tub this weekend. Luxury!

Happy Friday. Have a great weekend.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Well, as promised a few weeks ago, posting has been light!
We've been busy with the last leg of our move. I mentioned to John this morning that it has been one year since we began this journey. It was last year this time that I was in negotiations to go part-time at work and we started writing our to-do list for selling our Columbus home. And now, here we are, getting our last boxes from the cabin and the storage room at the Columbus apartment, and putting things in place in the home we hope to live in for many years to come.
Wow, no wonder. No wonder that we sometimes feel exhausted, physically and psychologically, but also happy down to our bones.

Yesterday we took a break, just the two of us, to explore Marietta. I had never been there before and it is only forty-five minutes from here. I love exploring the small towns around Ohio. Or, I should say, the small and smaller towns--size becomes relative when you get outside the large metropolitan areas. Heck, Quaker City is pretty darn big compared to Salesville, and Marietta is downright huge! The larger small towns ususally have a Main Street, even if it isn't called that, with historic storefronts and a courthouse. Thankfully, the Burger Kings, Wal Marts, and Radio Shacks are built along an outerbelt of sorts. I love finding antique and gift shops and restaurants along the Main Streets and marveling at the odder tenants ("Tanfastic" is my favorite shop name in Cambridge). And I love finding the mansions that always lurk in the surrounding blocks. If a town has any size or any historical significance at all, there are always these gorgeous, turn-of-the-century, gigantic homes in the few blocks right off of its Main Street.

I took the camera with me, but didn't take one photo yesterday (yay for me). However, I found the website of a wonderful photographer who has done a much better job than I could ever do. Take a look here to see some of the homes that I saw yesterday. Marietta has quite a few of these beauties, since it was the first settlement of the Northwest Territory (from the Eurocentric point of view anyway).

Along with home-ogling, we had a micro-brewed beer and locally raised buffalo burger at The Marietta Brewing Company. That was after some antique malls and a leather store where John got his Christmas Present From His Mom--always a challenge. He got a Tilley Winter Hat in which, I must say, he looks dashing.

And now it is Monday. Back to work. I've got Christmas presents to finish up and some major organizing of the desk to accomplish (so that I can find the bills). I am anticipating the solstice in just a week. Longer days, even if imperceptible at first, will be most welcome.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Moving Haikus--Sort Of

Stompin' through the snow,
up to the cabin and back again,
arms laden with clothes, books, cooking utensils,
towels--haven't I gotten it all yet?

Cheered on by bluebirds,
red barn, white snow, blue sky.

Yes, it is a leaner.
But, not that bad.

Will we be able to fix it
before it falls clean over?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Horses on the Brain

Okay, we're in the new house--now our attention can turn to what's really important, to the real reason we moved here...horses!

I got my horse nerve all agitated at Thanksgiving. My sister Mindy owns three horses and keeps them on her property north of Cincinnati. After eating our turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, we headed out to the barn for some trips around the ring with the kids.

What is it about the smell of a horse's neck that is so intoxicating? I think that the smell is one of those things that people either LOVE or don't have an opinion about one way or another. Is it genetic? Is there a marker on some gene somewhere when, if turned on, causes people to love everything about these large animals with sensitive eyes and big, fluttery nostrils? Their smell is sweet and warm. I always want to describe it as vegetarian--it reminds me of dried grasses and oats--what they eat. It is mixed with something else, though, something particularly horsey. There is nothing else in the world that smells like a horse. I think cows stink. Pigs really stink. I've never had the opportunity to smell goats or sheep.

Mindy's horses are kind and well mannered, attributes of horses that are loved and happy. She has been working towards "natural" horse care lately and it shows. I was musing about what kind of barn to build and she said that if she had to do it all over again, she'd build a run-in for the horses and a separate tack room and grooming aisle. She gave me some books on natural horse care, which includes keeping your horses barefoot. I was so excited to hear this. After building this house for three plus years, I am not ready to embark on another huge building project. Ever. The idea of a three sided run-in (with maybe a fourth half wall so that they have a corner to get into when the weather is really bad) sounds so easy and quick and less expensive. According to the books she gave me on barefooted horses (that means unshod), maintaining good hoof care includes letting horses be horses--giving them access 24/7 to the outdoors among other things. I'm devouring the books and dreaming of my future babies.

John picked up a "Farm and Dairy" monthly at the hardware store the other day. It is quite a publication! There are several columnists sprinkled throughout and they provide some entertaining reading. John browsed the auctions and I went straight to the livestock section. I will have no trouble finding my horses when the time comes next summer. Here's one in my price range (under $1,000): 8-year old bay Thoroughbred gelding, very friendly, 16 hands. And here's another: 6-year old reg. Quarter Horse gelding, very friendly, excellent ground manners, 14.3 hands. And this one might be interesting: APHA reg. (that's an American Paint Horse), 11-year old flashy sorrel and white mare, lightly ridden in the last 3 years, needs tuned up, excellent broodmare, 15 hands. Ooh, now that's got me dreaming!

Ah, it's gonna be a long winter...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Here We Are... the new house!
We are feeling exhausted from the marathon of activity, but this morning we enjoyed coffee at this table, watching the sky change outside the huge windows:

You know, back when we moved here in the summer it was one of the hottest, muggiest days of the year. For our move down here, there was a steady rain all day which equals mud-city. We know how to time it, don't we?

There is still sooo much to do. The cabin is a wreck--there is mud tracked all over the place. And everything down here at the new house is the definition of make-shift (we have to wait a week for the upstairs floor to cure before putting furniture on it). But it is so comfortable, warm, spacious, light-filled! I love it!

Right now, I am listening to the quiet swish of my new washing machine doing its job upstairs. Is it possible to be in love with an appliance? I smile everytime I look at my stacking washer and dryer.

And the kitties--LeRoy luvs the place! He walks across the beam that connects the two lofts upstairs and also walks the lower railing, balancing like a pro. Clare ran back up to the cabin as soon as she had the chance and stayed up there until I dragged her back down here. She is now sleeping on the bed with LeRoy and seems to be in a state of acceptance. (I couldn't get the two of them in the frame, and LeRoy is just so photogenic...)
John spent the day working at his real job at the temporary office set-up we put together. The wireless is working seamlessly. No more worrying about whether the barn door is open or not to get reception.

I'm resting my weary bones and muscles until heading up to the cabin for yet another trip to get stuff. It might have to wait til tomorrow, though. I'm plain tuckered out. I think it might be time for a cold beer in front of the warm fireplace. Ahhh, there's no place like home.