Saturday, April 23, 2016

solace


It's a hard time of year. My late mentor's birthday is less than two weeks away; it's also the anniversary of his death. He's only been gone three years. Grief has been surprisingly durable. I hate the way late April casts a shadow over everything now - as we get closer to the date, the events of that morning suddenly spring to mind: how I looked out the kitchen window as I got the news and wondered - hoped - if he'd seen that beautiful sunrise. How thin and airless the atmosphere felt in the days and weeks after, a sort of surreal unmooring from gravity. How, for many weeks, it still didn't seem possible. The flowers I'd brought over 2 days earlier. How I'd asked him to eat one of them - a sacrament. How I refused to say farewell, and instead offered love and gratitude.

Any one of these memories - to say nothing of a flood of them - and I'm suddenly weeping. It happened to me this morning during my workout! It's very hard to finish an aerobic workout on an elliptical when your breathing suddenly becomes gusty with sobbing.

But I finished. I stepped out into the morning and sat on the porch step to cool off, my feet on the concrete, still wet from last night's rain. I looked to my left and saw this: one of the Giant Solomon's Seal plants we just added to the garden, sparkling with raindrops. And my tears stopped, just like that. I grabbed the camera so I could share it with you.

I don't understand this strange power that the natural world has over me, but I also remember that when I finally said, "Enough!" and demanded a weekend off to grieve (my mentor died just weeks before my dissertation defense, during the final editing push and my advisor had insisted I could NOT stop to grieve until it was done - fearing, I'm certain, that I would lose momentum and miss my deadline), I spent that weekend in my garden. And it was the first time in weeks that didn't cry - not once. I just worked, quietly and steadily, in the sunshine - weeding, watering, pruning, tending.

I don't understand it, but the natural world makes me whole - even when I am most broken.

Friday, April 22, 2016

two of a kind



Uf, this month. I still feel like I'm shaking off some kind of fog called too much work. But on the upside, I think things are settling down for the summer season (which is quieter for me), and the good weather is helping me feel like I can get more done.
 
Lots of pink and coral and orange in my world right now: from peony tulips ("wedding gift") opening up and making me realize that yes, there is a tulip out there that excites me (most tulips just don't wow me, to be honest - I love the big fields of them, but I find them unsatisfying except en masse like that. THESE, however, are different!) to a pinky-coral-apricot quilt of cute little fox-faces for friends who are about to have their first child.

I'll get you a better picture of the full quilt top when the sun come back - or maybe even if it doesn't; the only shot I have of it right now was taken quite late at night (just as I finished it, of course, and was oh-so-eager to document and share IMMEDIATELY).

 

It's supposed to rain this weekend. Ho-hum. I don't quite know what to do with myself. Perhaps we'll go about setting up the garage - FINALLY - and getting closer to wrapping up the end of the moving-in. (I'd say "I can't believe we haven't completed this process yet!" but that would be an outright lie! I knew we were going to drag our heels on this final stage - oh well. We do need to just get it done, though. We really do.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

treasure


On Monday we went for a walk north of our neighborhood for several miles. On the way we came across a Little Free Library. I was curious and peeked in, and found this gem! It's a hardcover facsimile of an English naturalist's journal from the year 1906.


It's just beautiful; look at these illustrations and hand-written observations. The whole year's in here, too; I think I'll ration it out month by month, working through it over the course of a year.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Finally


Ah, it's been awhile. Wish I had an excuse, but I don't - not really, nothing other than the standard: life got in the way. I've been terribly tired lately. So terribly tired. Falling asleep on the bus ride home, dragging myself through the motions of a workout, then eating and crashing on the couch each night. Finally, sometime last week I had an idea: maybe I was low on iron. I petitioned Cass (who was in the middle of making a salad dinner) to head out and get me a steak from the local grocery store; he did - and I ate the entire thing (after a cherry smoothie), then curled up and went to sleep.


The next morning, I finally felt like myself again for the first time in weeks. What a relief. I'm trying to make sure I'm eating a bit more protein (plant and animal) now, just so I don't dip back into exhaustion.


I also gave myself a three-day weekend this weekend, taking some vacation time today to get a break from the workplace. That freed up my weekend (from the usual routine of housework - recovering from the past week and prepping for the next work week) so we could go on some lovely long walks in the spring sunshine, and see everything abloom.


It is finally, really, the full flush of spring here in the north. Thank goodness. Oh, thank goodness. Our wettest winter on record had even me (who normally doesn't really notice these things) grousing about the rain by the end of February. And then, even as it began to finally taper down, it still seemed the temperature would never rise. Some years it's harder than others, getting through those last weeks of winter. I'm always itchy, anticipating next season, but this year it was more difficult than normal - perhaps because I haven't yet established a mature garden, and so I was missing those early plants (salad burnet, sorrel) that help get me through 'til the rhubarb and morels arrive.


Of course, now we've had a few sunny days (even one gloriously sunny week!), I want nothing but summer warmth all the time. I keep reminding myself how sick I was of the heat by the end of last summer, to temper the cravings a bit - but it doesn't help much. I want to wear sandals and lightweight skirts and feel warm breezes brush my skin.


Soon. Already the cool days have something of a round softness to them; the edge has come off the cold. The hillsides and ravines are flush with the most brilliant new greens - of big leaf maple blossoms, of fiddleheads, of bright, immature leaves that have yet to settle down into the fullness of their summer emerald. Everything is new, and I am giddy with it all. Spring! Come again! At last!!

Monday, March 28, 2016

the laundress



I worked a 6:30-2:30 shift at work today, because my husband went skiing with his dad and so my morning ride in needed to be a bit ... early. I managed to get home around 4, hand-wash a bunch of sweaters and hang them out to dry (this one just needs to be aired; I snagged it on ebay and it's awesome but it smells like a used clothing store - it's febreze, right, that smells like that?), sow some foxgloves and then squeeze in a good 45-minute workout on the elliptical before Cass got home and we made dinner.

We're supposed to have a whole week of sunny weather here. Remember my blues? So ready for a break from the rain! I was shooting photos of the hellebores in the garden tonight; they were so gorgeous in the dappled evening sunlight. I suppose just about anything looks gorgeous in sunlight by now. 


And now I'm so tired that I think I'll shower and hit the sack - I thought I'd get some drawing time tonight, but I just don't think I can hack it. Oh well. We're drinking some SoCal pinot and watching Flaked, that new Netflix series - it reminds me of when we lived in SoCal, in a charmingly nostalgic way. I pretty much just feel like drinking California wine and curling up in bed!


Sunday, March 27, 2016

respite


Ah, yes. Finally. A day at home. Pouring rain kept us indoors (except for a very brief 15-minute planting stint between showers this afternoon). A dinner party last night meant we finished cleaning the house yesterday. And no freelancing this weekend. At least - no immediate deadlines.

So today there was time. Time to roast beets for dinner in a couple days; time to mix up yogurt and salt and start it fermenting and straining on the table to make labneh for dinner another night; time to sew.


Twenty-five foxes and counting. Just about two-thirds of the way through this quilt top; it'll be a photo finish to complete it before the birth, though. Now, to make some oatmeal breakfast bars for the week, hit the elliptical, eat dinner, and head to bed - we have an extra-early morning tomorrow. What a lovely day it's been!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Recalibrating


You know how I said in my last post that I'd been working a lot lately? Yeah, phew! Finally caught up with all the freelancing and have a little time to rest and recenter.

Tonight we have friends coming over to eat dinner and play board games - a little low-key fun. We're keeping things simple, with some marinated shrimp tacos and an orange-and-avocado salad. To add a little special touch, I decided to make a rhubarb elixir for cocktails and/or mocktails (or just to drink warm, as tea).

I've posted this rhubarb tea before; today I'm riffing on it with blood orange zest instead of lemon (because, to be honest, I started the pot then noticed that we were out of lemons), and with the addition of some dried rosehips, dried hibiscus, and lavender. For those who have missed the previous post, this is just 10-12 stalks of rhubarb, washed and sliced up, thrown in a pot with fresh rosemary and the aforementioned ingredients. I'll simmer until the rhubarb is absolutely falling apart (about 30-60 minutes), then will strain out all the solids, and sweeten the resulting elixir with good honey (the best you've got - I'm using some Scottish heather honey to layer in extra floral notes). If the flavor is weak, you can return it to the pan and slowly simmer it to reduce and concentrate it. The resulting brew is wonderful as a flavorful herbal tea, or added to sparkling water or sparkling wine for a fun drink (we'll pair it with a brut champagne-method rose tonight). And as the spruce and doug firs come into leaf, substitute young evergreen tips for the rosemary!

Try it sometime - it's a beautiful little bit of kitchen magic!