"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Poetry Friday: Secret Apple Code

Happy Poetry Friday to you all! Its late at night and the house is quiet....I have had a dreamy day out with some of the best company and have wakened my mind up in a redwood forest. Its a good night for a poem and even though this one came dragged out of me in a tangled fashion, I hope it will be worth sharing with others. I liked listening to my brain stumble through the meanings and the unsnarling of the steps of the story. 

I forget how much writing poetry can feel just like meditation, like painting and like yoga when I sink in properly. Its best done in a dark house after everyone has gone to sleep, I think. You can finally get into the thick and flowing weight of the process if you have no voices left, no other presence and no one but you, even your physical self snoozing in the computer chair really while your brain and your soul work macrame with ideas and thoughts and personal truth. This is why I mean to read poetry and mean to write it. 

This week, a poem about the story of this beautiful little apple and how it came to be mine and how in the world despite its stunning beauty, I managed to have it disappoint me. 

An Apple Lesson
I wanted it to be most sweet, a tangy, juicy pleasure
Instead it punched me bitterly, a plug of sour, drying feathers. 
It was the largest on the tree, its skin all pinkly blushing
The freckles on its spherical cheek all winking at me flushly.
The children playing squirrel games had buried all the others 
A row of mole-hills neatly made, with marble apples under.
I noticed all their digging work, each stick that marked a pile. 
I heard the secret offerings arranged for deer in sylvan style. 
The meaning of each twig and heap, the messages spelled out
When every plan had been described, oblations all laid out
I told them if I was a doe, I'd be most grateful to them each
And have a secret thrill to find their message and the treats. 
Attention is a cheerful gift, a momentary pleasure
A child who is listened to grows dignified and tender
Because I entered in their world, my fingers in the dirt
My head inclined and face awake, my spirit in the work
They paused and then behind a back emerged this largest pome
The rusted ruby biggest fruit, unburied and alone
They gave it to me as a gift, a gesture peer to peer.
Their largest apple never laid in sacred mounds for deer.
I thanked the little architects who'd shared their schemes with me
And made a circuit through the park, a gleeful apple posessee
I cupped it in my hand and tossed and felt its weighty cool
With glittering eyes I breathed and rubbed it to a ruddy yule. 
The tartan flannel of my shirt my regal buffing cloth
My lucky apple, sparking bright, held vampishly aloft. 
Alas, this prize of children and my adultish greedy yen 
Had a jolting oral skirmish when I bit into the skin.
Not every beauty that we find is there to be consumed. 
Some gifts are handheld sermons made of eloquent festoons. 

Our Poetry Friday roundup being hosted this week by The Miss Rhumphius Effect. Please join in or read along any week that the urge strikes you, this friendly group of poets and poetry lovers has no limits or rules about participation and has been so welcoming to me. Please come along if you like!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Blue Belly Brilliance

The boys and I have long been nature lovers and over the past two years or so, I have been working on getting us all into nature journaling. As we have migrated West and lost our Nature Table space with a smaller home I have been working over new ways to deal with science. One way has been to work our nature journals into a more prominent place in our usage. Instead of just using them to draw assigned subjects as we studied certain topics (conifers, frogs and their life stages, snowflakes and how they form etc.) I have changed them to our identifying log.

 We try to take a walk every day in the neighborhood and we have successfully managed to work a weekend family hike into our new Western lives as well. These two venues plus just our general love of nature and honed awareness of the animals and plants around us have given us a steady way to use the journals. When we see interesting things that we don't know about (daily! everything is new!) I photograph and we observe and tell each other what we each can see about the subject. For instance, recently, Nib saw our first lizard! We were all so excited to see one in person and in one of our local parks, a short walk from our house. We all got to see it quite close up and I got some pictures with my iPhone.

Then later in the week, we got to the part where our journals came in handy. We got on the computer together and using whatever markers we could dig up from the photo we took and from our collected observations we looked up that lizard. The lovely thing about identifying things on the internet is that you can get so darn specific. We found several pages that were all just about lizard of the The Bay Area....no other creatures or regions to muddy the waters. Field guides are top notch for browsing and will work for identifying but the internet is a little like asking a noted biologist who knows your area's flora and fauna.

Turned out that Nib's lizard was a Western Fence Lizard also known as a Blue Belly. We didn't get to see our lizard's stomach and it wasn't breeding season so we had no clue they can be the dull grey brown on top and hide a streak of the most mermaidy blue-ish teal on their stomachs. Astounding that skin can be that color! We'll be looking in the spring to catch the show for sure!

The notebooks come out and we print our photo and sketch and draw it in along with a date of our entry and the date we saw the observation. Then some of us have been adding some other views or details from other photos online and we write in whatever fascinating information we read about our new discovery. For instance, this cute little lizard that Nib introduced us to in one of the reasons Lyme's disease hasn't gotten as rampant in this part of the country. A powerful protein in Blue Belly blood de-activates Lyme. When ticks feed on our new, reptile friends, these little, local lizards they are cleaned out and each tick becomes Lyme-free for life! What a wonderful thing to know about! The more I know about Nature the more laughable I think it sounds that we might map it all out and that we as humans are the truly sentient and brilliant species who hold the keys to all things in our little hands.

Nature journaling is giving us a place now to be motivated to indentify and know these know creatures and plants and the amazing stories they all have. We are learning and making dynamic, artistic record books about our unfolding knowledge. What a wonderful world!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Mama Legacy

Thinking about parenting a lot lately. I mean, obviously, its job one in my life most of the time so maybe that sounds a little contrived....but its not. Its one thing to do parenting with most of your time and another thing to consciously "think" about parenting a lot. Honestly, a lot of the time I really feel like I can't think about parenting very much. Its so personal, so weighty, so unknown and has waaaaay too many variables. I struggle, a lot, with feeling like I am accomplishing the job and with letting go of the responsibility for "making" my kids turn out. I also can be an over-processor who thinks too much about everything and forgets to actually do it so, sometimes I need to sing loudly and march in!
 Thinking today about what truly matters and trying to help myself cut through the fog of things that clamor for attention when I think about parenting my sons and focus down to what matters not just right this minute or this week or even this year....but what really matters.

There are so many things to consider in shaping up your children and teaching and training and equipping them that it can be a total head spinner. I often feel like I can't see the forest for the trees and so sometimes a little focus can be a good thing. This is kind of a parenting manifesto. If I dropped off tomorrow (God forbid), what would I want my kids to remember about their childhood with me? This seems clarifying. Might these answers be "the point" when all the rest is a little bit of extra muddle? Yes, just so.

I'd hope they'd say:

  1. They were certain I loved them dearly.
  2. They felt capable and important, they knew they were people who mattered and could make their own path. 
  3. They knew I wanted them to give love and they were trained in it often: mercy, generosity and thinking of others around them. 
  4. They saw me live in fresh wonder and learned to always be excited about the world and to avoid a useless, bitter jaded-ness. 
  5. They learned to organize, mobilize, strategize, tackle things fearlessly and be movers and shakers from their mama who was a fearless learner and maker. 

That's my list. 

Tomorrow, I may need to read this when I find another plum smashed into the drain of the bathroom sink and shredded all over the tile, or when Pom has a total meltdown on the kitchen floor while I am trying to cook dinner and A is texting me on his way home. I might need to remind myself while going over piano lessons and checking math problems and prompting along beginning readers who simply cannot remember what the letter "i" says no matter how many times I have gone over it. I will have to go and read the list of five things again when I find beds unmade, break up fist fights and hear the kids tell me that they think I'm the meanest mom in the world again. The point isn't any of these little annoying things....those are trees. The point is that stuff....up there. 

They are loved. They matter. They can love. The world is amazing. They can do things. 

And so can I. 


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Eating The Jack-O-Lanterns!

You mustn't be a miser with your pumpkins. I am not for stingy frugality....the kind of frugal that means you keep the plastic on your furniture and yell at people for turning in the heat. I do love a deep useful, make-do kind of a mindset, on the other hand! I think that kind of thinking is at the root of my love of thrifting, foraging and making things myself. Its capability and cleverness that saves money but also makes the impossible reachable and attainable.

Love to live that way.

As I said about the pumpkins....there's no need to skimp....get big plump ones for your kids to carve and let them sit out front with each little silhouette design glowing proudly but then.....when the candy has been gorged on and the trick-or-treaters are gone....really impress your kids! Is it over for the pumpkins? Are they ready for the trash? NO way!

Bring those suckers into the kitchen and have a go at capability yourself! Eat the jack-o-lanterns!

I cut the pumpkin into chunks with a paring knife that are about the size of my palm. Then with said knife or with a vegetable peeler (I adore this one....so sharp and efficient!) get all the rind off. Then a quick rinse if you like and chunk it up and toss it into a pot over medium low heat with three or four cups of water. Don't worry about the inside of the pumpkin being shrivelled and kind of leathery and dried out....it will rehydrate and cook down just fine. The other thing that shouldn't go into the pot of actually moldy bits or rind, besides that....it can all stew. Keep adding chunks until you fill the pot and let it simmer at a low heat (adding water any time it gets low,  until all the pieces are soft when speared with a knife and they are starting to come apart. This was kind of an all day process at our house today. Makes for a yummy smelling house! Made me happy to open the door to the piano teacher today when the kitchen was all pumpkiny and sweet.

So then....do whatever you'd like with the resulting pumpkin meat! Snack this afternoon was little ramikins of stewed pumpkin with a dollup of butter and some salt and a spoon each. Very cozy....especially with a mug of tea. You can serve it for dinner just like that in a big bowl. You can also put it in bags in the freezer for later meals, in that simple state. You can also have a homemade pumpkin pie with your own pumpkin pulp....Ru's jack-o-lantern made it to pie form at our house tonight which was a great coup for him. I used this recipe from Mommypatamus. Just remember that the pie you make won't be as dark and vibrant an orange as one you'd make from canned pumpkin....that's because canned pumpkin isn't pumpkin. Libby's packs butternut squash which has a higher sugar content, richer flavor and deeper color than your jack-o-lantern meat. Nothing to worry about, just a heads up for expectations.

Another super simple option is to make pumpkin butter. This means stirring as much sweetner as you like (I love honey or maple syrup) into the cooked pumpkin and adding cloves, ginger and cinnamon and pureeing in a food processor or with a stick blender, right in the pot. Its great on biscuits and other breads, stirred into  oatmeal or plain yogurt and or just eaten out of the spoon like you would apple sauce. Hope your Halloween was fun and that the holiday stress ahead of you keeps its distance for a while. May the pumpkin simmering on your stove slow down time and give you some sweetly scented now to carry you through.