Thursday, July 30, 2009

Welcome home...

I have a sweet friend, Brenda Knoll, who is one of those women. You know... the kind of woman who can do, well, absolutely everything, and do it well. She painted this beautiful watercolor as a gift to me. It is titled, "Welcome Home." She gave it to me last year when she came to visit, and I finally got it framed and hung. As you can see, the colors she chose to use in this composition are very complimentary to my decorating taste. I love everything about this painting... the way it looks, the fact that was a gift from someone dear to me, and perhaps, especially, the "Welcome Home" title.

When we moved to Maine (6 years ago this month) we looked at a dizzying 13 houses in a day and a half. Each had its charms; but this house spoke to me. I had a short list of desires in a new home, nothing cast in stone, but some things that I would really like. The list included: a sunny lot, no carpeting, a porch, two stories, some bead board paneling, at least 2 acres and a laundry room that was on the top level. This house is nestled in a meadow, with very few trees, so the sun pours in. There are two acres, two rooms with that paneling I love, only two small rooms had carpet (I yanked it up but quick!) a huge porch graces the entire front of the place, and to my joy, the laundry room is upstairs! To top the feeling of "right" off, the garden boasted one of my dad's favorite shrubs, a red barberry, one of my favorites, a Rosa rugosa, any my mom's favorite flower, Lilly of the Valley. The house suits me like a favorite pair of old jeans. Each time I walk in the door I feel... welcomed. I love my home. NOTE: I aplogize that the spacing of this post is wonky. Blogger was quirky tonight, and I did the best I could.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Defining moments...

There have been some moments in raising my daughter that have caused me to realize that she has reached a new milestone. For instance, the day she walked into preschool, with her lady bug backpack, and confidently flashed me a saucy smile and a jaunty wave, never looking back. And the first time she drove away from me behind the wheel of a car, alone. Then there was the day she left to spend a year in India, that was the apron string cut heard 'round the world! There are smaller moments, too, such as when I come home to find she has picked a vase of flowers unbidden, or washed the dishes, or cooked a meal for our family.

This week I filled out an application for a passport. There was a line to fill out that read, "responsible adult who will not be traveling with you to contact in case of emergency." I started to fill in one of my sisters names, and then realized that I should write down the name of my daughter. My responsible, adult daughter. I filled in the line. I think is official. She's grown.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Drive in the country....

We took a Sunday drive in the country... and stopped in to see my friend Carol. She fed us fresh baked lemon squares and showed us her garden and her beautiful flock of chickens. It is so nice to know other people are as nuts over their chickens as I am! When we arrived the flock was no where to be seen, but she called them and the whole gang came running out of the woods, like a group of prehistoric creatures, emerging from the rain-laden undergrowth. They are very tame, eat from her hand and allow her to pick them up and carry them about.
Chris and I love to take the occasional drive. The area we live in is beautiful- each road holds the possibility of a new stunning vista... rolling meadows, sparkling lakes, towering ridges and shadowed valleys. There are farms with cattle, horses, pigs, goats, turkey and of course, chickens to see. Sometimes we stumble upon pastures full of Alpaca or red deer. And there is wildlife... yesterday we saw several hawks, an Osprey on a nest, a weasel peeking out of the undergrowth at the side of the road, and too many birds to count. We normally find some fun topic of conversation to explore as we travel, but there is also time for companionable silence.
When I was younger, I had no concept of "companionable silence." I thought every moment together with a lover should be filled with meaningful words. I would look at old couples in restaurants, sharing a meal with few words, and feel deep pity for them. Now, after a quarter of a century of time together, I understand that sometimes just being close, sharing an experience, listening to music or to nothing at all, is enough. More than enough.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A summer first...

Tonight we had our first fresh corn of the season. It was worth the wait- sweet, tender and delicious. We bought a little extra and let the chickens and lambs have a taste. The lambs were not too interested after the first nibble, but the chickens loved it! To me, fresh picked corn embodies all the best of the taste of summer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What was old is new again...

When I was a newlywed, and setting up my first apartment, my mother paid $20. for an old wing chair at a yard sale. It had sad, coarse, faded gray/green upholstery. I wasn't exactly impressed when I first clapped eyes on it. But I knew that my mom had an eye for seeing the beauty in things that others missed. She showed me that the chair was comfortable, sturdy, had nice lines and didn't have any unpleasant odors. A new custom made slip cover and the chair became a treasured thing. We moved it with us to several apartments and then to our first house. I nursed my baby in it, read a hundred books curled in its arms, and offered its comfort to weary guests.

Fast forward a few years and we bought our second house. I had the chair upholstered in blue and it looked great until one of the dogs chewed the arm. At that point I bought an inexpensive "one size" slip cover for the old thing and relegated it to the back room.

Now, in our third house, I recently looked at the little chair with my mothers eyes. I noted its pleasing scale and shape, bought it a new slipcover and moved it to the living room. A few days later my 20 year old daughter plunked down in it. "I love this chair. Can I have it for my first apartment?"

I think I'll start looking for chairs at yard sales for her.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer's own perfume...

Hay season has been disrupted by the very wet spring and summer... but yesterday the meadow across from my house was mowed. Oh! The smell of hay drying in the sun, it is summers own perfume.

Wood lessons...

On a perfect July day I stacked wood. I am sure I dabbled a bit in wood stacking as a teen under my dad's instruction, but I didn't really know what I was doing as I started yesterdays venture.
I followed my friend Scott's simple instructions, (items #1. and 2. below.)
1. Stack wood off the ground on a pallet or something similar. This will prevent moisture from the earth from soaking into the logs.
2. Stack bark side down. The bark holds the moisture into the wood if it is on the top side.

Here is what I learned as I worked:
  • Freshly cut wood has a wonderful scent to it.
  • "Hard" (oak, maple, etc.) wood is MUCH heavier than "soft" wood (pine.)
  • Wood left in a pile during a wet summer grows an amazing array of colorful molds. From brilliant yellow to blaze orange and a whole palette in between.
  • Bugs like wood.
  • One can hear a lot of bird songs while stacking.
  • There is a pleasant rhythm to the work; bend, lift, stride, stack, repeat
  • My knees feel like they are 49 years old!
  • Ice water with a few springs of fresh mint from the herb garden is an ultra refreshing drink when working in the sun.
  • Stopping to look back at progress made is very rewarding.
  • Hearing a neighbor call out "GOOD JOB" from the window of her mini van as it whizzes by is amazingly encouraging!
  • I rather like stacking wood

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Project with a capital "P"...

This pile of wood is currently stacked haphazardly in our side yard. I will appreciate it this winter when the north winds blow, but right now it is vexing me. I tend to think of things like huge piles of wood as a being a "husband project." And indeed, the husband found the wood, and with lots of help from our friend Scott he cut and hauled the wood. Scott then spend endless hours splitting the wood. My dear husband tends to lose interest in projects before they are done, so the wood will most likely stay where it is unless I become proactive. So today's project is to haul pallets and stack wood so it will look neater and dry for better burning. Guess I'd best get to it...

Remembering Dad...

Yesterday, July 18, would have been my father's birthday. He was born in 1921, so he would have been... well, old!

After work we joined friends Scott and Marion with the intent of going to a steak supper at a Masonic Lodge in nearby Washington, Maine. I thought this was an excellent plan, as my dad had been a Mason, and I could envision him being pleased that I was supporting that organization on his birthday.

We arrived at the lodge, and there were some very impressive steaks being cooked on a huge grill. The smell of beef sizzling over charcoal permeated the summer evening air. You can imagine how sad we were when they informed us that they had just run out of steaks.

Luckily, we had driven past a public supper at a Grange hall on the way to our original destination. So, for $21 dollars all four of us were seated at a massive table, and treated to bowl after bowl of food, passed family style. There was potato salad, Cole slaw, American chop suey, biscuits, macaroni and cheese and a vast selection of pies for dessert. I chose lemon, dad's favorite.

My dad was a good man. He possessed a quick wit, a keen intellect, a serious work ethic and kept a good tan. He liked to drive white convertibles, and he typed all his correspondences in capital letters in green ink on an antique Royal typewriter, (which I inherited.) He loved my mother and his five kids, was generous and kind, and had a keen appreciation for the simple things in life. Like supper at a Grange hall with friends and a cool slice of lemon pie on a summer evening. Happy Birthday dad. I miss you.

Old time forcast...

The old timers say, "If the spiders have thrown their laundry out on the grass, it's going to be a pretty day."

Today my lawn is dotted by dew spangled webs, 4-6 inches across. Each web is home to a small spider, which has, as you can see, "thrown the laundry out." The talking meteorologists agree, it is supposed to be a beautiful day here today.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Such a treat...

A phone conversation with my daughter:
Her: Hi Mum. I'm done with work and will be home in a while. I'm going to go read for a while first. Can Addy come over for supper?
Me: Hi. I am going over to the barn. Why don't you skip reading and come home and cook dinner? (This would be a big departure from normal routines.)
Her: Ha ha.
Me: Hey, it could happen.
Her: It will happen... sometime.
Me: In my lifetime?
Her: OK! I will. Any suggestions on what I should cook?
I did, in fact have a suggestion, and she came right home. When I got back from the barn, supper was cooked, the table was set, and we had a delicious meal. Life is so worth living!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hen house meditations...

They say that meditation is important. It calms one's busy brain, encourages reduced heart rate and blood pressure, and increases creativity. I have a hard time sitting still long enough to partake in traditional meditation, but I find that quietly observing wildlife or the animals that surround me is an acceptable substitute for my busy brain.
If I take time to watch the Wyandottes, I find that as the afternoon spins towards evening, the flock moves steadily closer to the coop. They do not enter right away, but linger outside, preening their glossy feathers and snacking on a last bit of clover or an errant insect. Then, one by one, they climb the ramp to the chicken door. Once inside they eat a little from their feeder, and most get a drink of cool water. Soon they begin to cock their heads, looking upwards towards the thick cedar pole they roost on. The older hens ascend first, claiming prime spots. This years chicks are last to flap upwards, where they wobble and squawk until they find their footing.
What follows is a long span of jostling for the most comfortable spot, a little last minute preening, and a few unfriendly pecks if a neighbor gets too close. Next comes my favorite part, where they sit fairly still, clucking and crooning contentedly. Their crops are full from a day of ranging over the yard eating a wide variety of greens and bugs and seeds. As the last of the light slides below the horizon, the chickens fall silent. If I listen very carefully I can hear the rustle of their plumage as they breath in the air of the soft summer night. A row of 8 ruffle butts, sleeping in comfort and safety.
Latching the door tightly, I walk back to the house, where light and music spill from the open windows. Heart rate and blood pressure lowered, I feel relaxed and refreshed from my hen house meditation.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Still life...

When I came in from the yard this evening, the lowering sun was splashing in the front windows. I was caught by the shades of blue it illuminated on my table... the lamp,the antique bottle, the delphinium petals both on the stem and scattered, and the incredible blue eyes of my pretty daughter smiling up at me from this picture frame. Be still, life. Be still a moment while I capture this sliver of beauty.

Random art...

This fox sculpture is poised on a rock wall alongside a home not far from where I live. I am in awe of people who can capture images like this using tools, materials and some creative spark that burns brightly in their brain. I am so glad when they share the end results with people like me. And now, you.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

View from my window...

Using a long lens, through the wavy glass of the 100 year old windows on my porch, I caught this image. I feed the wild birds every morning, and a family of crows waits here, atop a craggy dead spruce tree, until I go back indoors. Then they silently swoop down for a breakfast of peanuts, corn and sunflower seeds.

I have been fascinated by crows ever since I was a little girl. My mother used to tell me a story about a man in town who found an abandoned baby crow and raised it. It would visit around the neighborhood, swiping shiny objects and pulling the clothes pins off of laundry on the line. When it wasn't causing such mischief it would ride on the shoulder of the man who raised it, a glistening, chattering companion. Oh! how I wanted to have a crow of my own.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shy guy...

It is hard to tell from the photo, but this was a HUGE toad. A good 5 inches long, and nearly as wide. Chris found him when he was splitting wood with our amazing friend, Scott. I tried to get the toad to pose for a photo, but he wanted nothing to do with me. He was very happy eating the zillions of bugs that were living happily under the mammoth log pile in our yard. And he was welcome to them!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Life Lessons...

When I was 8 or 9 years old I used to flush my mothers cigarettes down the toilet in an effort to get her to quit smoking.
And my life, since then, has been one lesson after another on how my actions do not, can not, will not, change another person. Just as I cannot stop the sun from rising, the world from turning, the plants from growing in summer, I cannot change others.
It seems to be something in my genetic makeup. My sisters are champions in the effort to bend their friends, lovers and children to march to the tune they play. We just can't seem to let it go. If we just phrase it right, or have enough of a "nutty" over something (one sisters tactic!) then surely, surely the ones we care about will see the light and do things our way. Shrinks call this, "control issues."
I mostly have my "control issues" under control. But there, in the back of my head, is a steady drone, "tell him this and he'll stop doing that." I still want to flush the things that concern me down the great, sucking, cosmic toilet. I believe it is my life lesson to practice, again and again, letting go. My mantra to quell the drone in my head? "Flushing won't fix it."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New "pony..."

Meet Peach. My friend Liz just acquired this stunningly beautiful mare. We have been so excited about her arrival from Wisconsin... and she was worth the wait! Welcome to Maine, Peach, and CONGRATULATIONS, Liz!

Sun shine!

June in Maine was cold, wet, foggy and a bit dismal. I am not the sort of person who whines about the weather, but I was starting to fret. Yesterday we had partial sun, and today I woke to brilliant blue skies. It is chilly and breezy, but sparkling bright and I am happy as can be. I plan to spend a bit of time enjoying my porch today... a yummy book, a gentle breeze, life is good!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

When I was a little kid in a small town, the 4Th was marked by watching the parade down Topsfield Road. My daddy would march with the other members of the American Legion, kids would ride bikes decorated with crepe paper, firemen would throw penny candy from their shiny trucks, sirens screaming and bells ringing. At days end we'd run on the dark lawn clutching sparklers in our sweaty mitts, rivaling the lightning bugs. The older boys would throw fire crackers and shoot bottle rockets into night sky. It was "big stuff."

I met my sweet husband, 4th of July weekend, 1983. I was sharing an ice cream cone with my dog. Chris walked up and said, "Nice dog, ever wash him?" It was a lame pick up line, but it worked. Later that night he asked me to marry him. 8 dates later we eloped. We found out we were expecting Rachel, our daughter, 4th of July four years after that. We moved to Memphis from Massachusetts 4th of July in 1989, and to Maine 4th of July 2003. Of course none of this was planned. But it was all "big stuff," our own personal sparklers and fireworks. Who knows what big stuff lies ahead?

Happy Independence Day!