Saturday, December 26, 2009

quest

I hope that Adam and I will be able to find the life that we feel must be out there...yet we have no guarantees that it is there.

The clearest promise that it exists is my growing longing for it within. Another is that I know we are not the only two who seem to need to live in a different way. However, it seems like many more people were choosing this lifestyle in the 60's and 70's. Are there fewer today? Did those who set out on that path leave it eventually? I know some have stayed the course and been happy in it.

(image from here)
What is this life? A life where not much money is needed, where we can live in a house built mostly with our own hands, and eat food, much of which we grow ourselves. A life where we are not slaves to constant employment and the panic of needing a paycheck constantly.

A life in which integrity and inspiration motivate us to work, rather than the fear of destitution and the next rent or mortgage payment. A life where right livelihood is more of a concern than income.

I am stubbornly convinced that we can find this life. In fact, I would dedicate my life to finding it if it takes that long. I believe it is my life's work to discover a way of life that makes sense.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

 


this was taken a day after the picture in the last post.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a very high tide

 


yesterday afternoon the high tide coincided with lots of rain, and the water rose steadily all around the house, coming up the driveway until we were basically a little island. we thought it would be fun to brave the water in our rubber boots, until i discovered a hole in mine. we stayed in, out of the wind and cold. the house has stayed dry so far.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


from here

this caught my eye...because i'm currently re-quilting my childhood "blankie" that is falling apart. there is something so beautiful about hand stitching. it takes a very long time, but it's kind of fun, especially since i'm using my favorite pink thread.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

roots



this is a basil plant that grew in a tomato sauce can this year. later in the summer, i set the can in some soil in my in-law's tomato garden, so it would get watered while we were away. at the end of the summer, i picked up the can. i should not have been surprised to see that it had sent roots out through the bottom of the can.

rooting is so natural for plants. even people can't help rooting, if they stay in a place for a while.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

in search of simplicity


image from here

I've always been drawn to idealistic extremes. As a young adult, I made many embarassing bold proclamations that may have gotten me a bit of a reputation. Mostly, they earned me the merciless mocking of my younger sister.

I wanted radical simplicity. I thought that bread, apples, and cheese would be the perfect diet. I wanted to eat nothing else.

I wanted to live in a spartan dwelling, like the apartment prepared for the prophet elijah, a small room with "a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp" (2 Kings 4:8).

And perhaps a bowl, a spoon, and a book.

Books about thoughtful people in prison appealed to me probably because it seemed great to be in a very austere, minimal environment. You could read, or write your thoughts. Besides your meals, there was little else to consider.

In high school I took to wearing jeans and white t-shirts every day (or most days). Even today, I love the idea of not really having to think about what to wear. I have a couple pairs of pants, a tall stack of white t-shirts, and maybe 3 sweaters that I rotate among (I do have more clothes than that, but those are what I wear most days). In summer, I usually have one or two pairs of shorts that I wear pretty much all summer.

Indulge me a little longer on this reflection.

A couple of years ago, I read a book that inspired me to embrace this minimalism with regard to my diet. Not the bread, apples, and cheese diet, but a diet that inspired me to eliminate foods not in their natural state. Butter, not margarine. No prepackaged, processed, complicated foods with long illegible labels. Rather, fresh produce, milk, eggs. Jars of rice, lentils, beans. Homemade bread, biscuits. Honey, olive oil.

A diet that perhaps a 15th century monk would recognize. With some exceptions of course.

In the area of home furnishings, Adam influenced me to move towards glass, metal, and wood, rather than plastics, in the kitchen. And I sold my ikea pressboard shelves and made some of my own rustic, quirky creations to take their place. I realized that I preferred fabrics of cotton and wool and linen rather than synthetic blends for curtains, sheets, or towels.

In all of this, I've had a lot of fun discovering old fashioned, minimal ways.

But my biggest challenge is the middle path, something that has never been my strong point.

Shaving my head and throwing everything away is not a good thing. Holding onto bits of string, rubber bands, found paper, found wood, miscellaneous glues, tape, old letters, tools for various handcrafts and hobbies and cooking, old wine corks, bottles of various sizes...it drove me crazy. Adam's clutter...well, I eyed it with fantasies of donating things to the goodwill.

Then I realized that his collection of stuff is valuable, and time and time again he has the little gadget or tool that is exactly what i need, and chances are it dates back to when he was in high school or before. Which is pretty awesome.

I guess the austerity of a monk's cell is not exactly what my life's destiny is. But there is an austerity that I do think is right, for me. I think it's the choice to buy less, and try to make more, to patch old things, buy old or used things whenever I can. To have fewer things in order to have less mental clutter.

I guess this quest for the perfect formula for a simple, mindful life is my life's journey. And letting go of easy, extreme answers is not easy but it's part of my learning to be balanced.

Also, being kind and accepting of others is far more important than achieving that pure, simple, and somewhat intolerant art form that I have a weakness for.

Monday, November 09, 2009

homemade shelves



i waste/spend a lot of time looking at pictures like these online. there is something so great about imperfection and handmade objects.

i think this winter may involve some book-making, but there's nothing wrong with doing a little research for when i return to some furniture making.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

movie recommendations

I'm super excited to be going to see "Where the Wild Things Are" tomorrow. I just get the idea that it will be magical and fairy feeling, somehow.



Adam & I have watched lots of movies and along the way we've come across some that are just wonderful. From time to time I think about sharing a list of my favorites, because some of them are just really inspiring and uplifting and make you feel good about being alive. Of course they're most helpful for someone with access to a great library or netflix, as they're not all very mainstream.

The Fall

I picked this one up because it had a really visually arresting cover, with lots of beautiful bold colors. The movie really was amazing visually, with intense reds and greens and blues from nature and from ethnic settings. But it also was heartwarming to the point of tears, and it was about love in unexpected places. And about not losing hope, even when all hope seems lost. This is probably one movie that I could watch over and over again, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Etre et Avoir

We are in the middle of this one, but it's so heartwarming to watch this kid's eye view of what school is like, for little french children (in a one-room school) learning to draw their sevens, and count, and struggling to focus long enough to finish coloring a picture. Am I saying heartwarming on all of these? I guess maybe that's what I like in a movie.

The Decalogue

This is a series of 10 movies based loosely on the 10 commandments, but the interpretations are surprising. The movies are an hour each and in Polish, if I remember correctly. But the writing is so good, and there is such an amazing exploration of challenging human experiences, from a little child asking what happens to a dog when it dies, to brothers inheriting their father's stamp collection and fighting over it. Small issues explored really deeply. Very enjoyable. Not just a movie you watch because you know you should.

That's all for now. My memory is prodigiously bad, so there are probably many more amazing movies I've forgotten. I'll try to remember more. But I'd love to hear if anyone else has seen these, or has their own movie recommendation to share.

Monday, October 19, 2009

rules and self-imposed limitations

Adam & I were talking last night about the limits people make for themselves and how it actually helps their creative process. I have been struggling lately with too many ideas and it strikes me that I need to have rules for my life in order to focus and be productive.

Back when I was making furniture, I gradually came up with rules for myself based on what I liked and thought beautiful and practical.

1. Only use found wood. I would find discarded wood on the side of the road or in construction dumpsters. I even found and used some wood that washed up on the beach. I never spent a penny for any wood. (I did buy screws and sandpaper, though.) The fact that the wood I used was already sort of banged up and imperfect was actually very freeing. I think I would have been more nervous using perfect lumber from the store.

2. The wood must be in good condition, and not varnished. After a while I realized I preferred working with bare, unfinished wood.

3. Finish with linseed oil or leave wood untreated. Linseed oil is a less toxic finish to work with than varnish or polyurethane. It leaves the furniture looking more natural and allows a nice weathering to happen when the wood gets dinged or scratched, rather that the upsetting way that perfectly varnished furniture looks when "damaged".

4. Stick to tables and benches. By making only one basic type of furniture, I learned from mistakes and got better at designing pieces. Some of my tables have awkward heights and ungainly dimensions but at least I can stare at them and try to figure out what it is that bothers me about them.

5. Use screws, not nails. This was hard to arrive at because aesthetically I prefer nails, but using screws makes the furniture easier to take apart if anyone wanted to re-use the wood for something else someday.

6. Design the furniture to be taken apart and reassembled. This way when you move you can make a table flat. It is also helpful when one's furniture is being stored in a garage.


I'm looking forward to winnowing down my interests gradually with rules that enable me to know what I REALLY want. I also think it would be interesting to find out rules that others have used in order to focus. Anyone?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

a stubborn stone



this was taken on our cross-country trip in 2007. i think it is called haystack rock, on the beautiful oregon coast. we ate a delicious fish and chips dinner and enjoyed the pub's own brew while watching the sunset.

there's something about that rock, as i look at it right now, that looks to me like a thought, looming large in the landscape of the mind. it's a difficult thought, one that the waves crash against over and over again, with little change. i'm not sure what one can do with such a thought, except maybe to accept it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

(updated)



from the archives

in 2007, adam & i drove cross country together. i never got any prints from that trip, partly because when i looked at the images, i felt that these pictures couldn't really compare to the memories of the trip anyway. during the 23 day experience, we aquired a huge collection of anecdotes, and formed our own shared history, a library of strange and fun stories to draw from.

before the trip, we had dated for about 4 months. after the trip, the volume of our shared experience had become much larger. somehow, the fact that we didn't drive each other crazy, that we survived the adventure together, gave our relationship weight and solidity. i guess that's what they mean when they talk about a "make or break" situation.

this picture i'm guessing was taken from the car window somewhere in south dakota.

about a year later, just after we were married, the computer that had these files on it died, and it wasn't until a year after that that i managed to get someone to retrieve all our files off of it. now i'm revisiting them and appreciating them, after a long separation.

maybe i'll post a few more in the next few days.

inspiring

I saw this in a shop recently. I think we already do many of these things and they make our lives richer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

joy

Sometimes I think of this blog as a scrapbook, and I like take a page and glue related scraps that I come across in life. Tonight's page is themed Joy.

I picked up Rolling Stone magazine the other day, because it had a picture of Stephen Colbert on the cover looking humorously like a homeless guy.



(I didn't notice until just now that the article is titled "The Joy of Stephen Colbert".)

Anyway somewhere in the interview he says that he calls his show "the joy machine". And he also says that if there is joy, God must be present. It's an interesting position for a practicing Roman Catholic whose irreverent humor will go just about anywhere.

But when I read what he said about joy (I wish I'd copied the actual quote), I realized that I believed him, that somehow God is present in his show. There is something really profound, more than just silly, in his grin.

___


The morning after I read that article, Adam was playing some music on the computer, which it turns out was from a new Phish album, "JOY".


___


Later that morning I read the following in Anna Deavere Smith's book, "Letters to a Young Artist":

I think that tapping into the sheer joy of whatever it is that you do--that is, when I go onstage, when you enter the studio to paint, when your cousin goes to a ballet class--the sheer joy is what liberates us, opens the senses, the heart, the arteries, so that we feel that strong will to communicate that is greater than any chains we may have.


___

There is something deep and strong and pure in real joy. C. S. Lewis wrote about this elusive experience that was a strange blend of longing and bliss. He wrote:

"The very nature of Joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting."
--Surprised by Joy

"All joy...emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings."
--from an unknown letter

"Joy is the serious business of Heaven."
--Letters to Malcolm

It seems to me that following one's bliss (advice from Joseph Campbell) or joy isn't really about a life of self-indulgence.

Reflecting on this seems to be teaching me about being truthful with myself and my nature, stripping away unnecessary activities, and sincerely following what I was created to be.

Almost like searching to find a clear cold stream in a forest, then following it to the source.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.

Juan Ramon Jimenez
(found in Anne Lamott's Blue Shoe)

Monday, August 17, 2009

returning

so, just about a month ago, we moved out of our place, put everything in storage, and took off on a camping trip to explore some places that we thought might be right for us to set up on a new life.

we drove into virginia, north carolina, and returned through west virginia and pennsylvania. we checked out charlottesville, staunton, blacksburg, asheville, the north carolina coast, chapel hill, and morgantown, wv.

we found out that many wonderful things are happening in those communities. we visited natural food coops, farmer's markets, listened to live music all over asheville, talked to people who shared their stories of relocating and finding a home. we watched people dance at sunset at a bluegrass concert (and i watched and ached to be a part of a community sharing summer and music and that moment). we swam in lakes and streams and waterfalls and rivers and oceans. we dealt with many sudden cloudbursts and dried ourselves out and packed and unpacked and kept going.

we got exhausted from the constant camping and got a hotel room one night which was such a relief.

one day as we started out driving our car started making a terrible noise and we were filled with dread. but only an hour later, we were all ready to go again. we met a man checked the problem, and then gave us directions to a muffler shop. there we met another man formerly from nj who welded back the exhaust pipe (right behind the catalytic converter) where it had rusted right through. for a mere $20.

and we were filled with the joy of being helped by such friendly folks.

the funny thing is...that i don't think we found our home.

and it's hard not to give in to fear and dread, to come to the end of the trip and not have it turn out like we wanted it to. i envisioned our transition period being short and neat and soon having a new little apartment to call home, in a perfect town where we'd both work satisfying jobs in artistically supportive or community conscious businesses.

but i think maybe we want to not move as far from our roots (here) as we originally thought.

and i'm holding onto faith and hope that we can find what we both need to flourish. for now, the exercise is expressing what it is that we both desire for ourselves, what live we would like to be living. it's something that can only become clear with time. and there is a part of me that feels relieved at not uprooting myself completely from this area, which i've called home for 6 years now.

so for now we are living with family and starting a new round of research and looking and also lots of talking about what it is we would like to build together.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

struggling with evil

adam pulled "the meaning of happiness" by alan watts off the bookshelf. a friend loaned it to me several years ago, but i never could get into it. recently, i opened it at random and was just blown away by this passage:

The exaggeration of the power of temptation can hardly be a positive means of overcoming it.... As long as in our struggle against evil we regard it as strong and enticing, and at the same time both awe-inspiring and forbidden, we are not going to achieve any radical or final victory over it...it will remain invincible as long as it is so regarded.... the attraction of evil is a lie and an illusion.... Only the knowledge of its absolute emptiness and tedium can give us victory over it.

This states perfectly something that has gradually dawned on me over the years, but had never quite put into words for myself.

There is a great deception in the world on this subject. It quite possibly has been fed by well-meaning sermons, which insist that we must never let down our guard, and always renew our strength to battle temptation.

Trying to be strong and rigid against an enemy that we perceive as relentless is exhausting, and eventually one must break.

The alternative is seeing the enemy as who he really is, a deceiver, who tricks us into thinking that extramarital affairs are fun or fulfilling, that lies will make our lives easier, that stealing is worth it, that we are entitled to hold grudges. We simply must see the lies for what they are.

Faithfulness, truth, integrity, and humility are what we want in our lives. Each of these leads to peace. There is no need for an endless struggle.

I'm going to start at the beginning and see what other gems this book has to offer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

road trip research

we're using maps, the internet, and travel books from the library (along with another i just bought) to research and plan for our road trip. i decided to make a little book to write things in.


each town has a page, where i can write information about things we're interested in. colleges, the population of the town, any food co-ops or farmer's markets, camping, and local attractions to check out. or whatever else the guidebooks say that interests us.



the book was really quite easy to make. i folded and ripped some large pieces of paper to size, then clipped them together and drilled two holes (with a carpenter drill and normal bit). i covered two pieces of cardboard with pretty pictures and punched holes in them. then i used the two rings i still had left from a long time ago and there it is. i love it.



it's like having our own personalized guide book. hopefully the book will be not only a guide but filled with memories from the trip, too. i guess i'd better go work on writing more things down. this warm weather is making me lazy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

magical appearing of cherry tomatoes



I was overcome with excitement when i first spotted these pea-sized tomatoes. First of the season!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

mushrooms and squirrels

maybe it's all the rain we've had around here, or maybe i'm just paying attention where i didn't before, but there have been SO many mushrooms this year!

with thinking about wild foods, my curiousity definitely drifts into the mushroom department too.

i'm looking at some books on mushrooms. it's a little scary, with all the warnings on "this could be fatal!!!" and disclaimers. but still, a fascinating world to explore, especially in the future when hopefully we'll have even more time to spend learning about all the varied life forms around us.

----

a tiny anecdote: don't know if its heartwarming or heartbreaking--i think both.

yesterday morning adam spotted a dead squirrel in our parking lot. it was pretty clear it was flattened by a car.

as we watched, other squirrels kept running over to it, getting very agitated and twitching their tails a lot, and then running away.

there were probably at least 5 squirrels in the close vicinity, going back and forth.

were they all brothers? cousins? i think they were in shock or grief over the loss of one of their buddies.

i felt like crying, but i was also overcome with the feeling of love and caring and connectedness that these little guys were exhibiting for each other.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

voluntary poverty

"...if your purpose in life is to remain relatively free by remaining relatively poor, you can’t lose."
-Gene Logsdon, in the responses to comments on his latest post here.

I don't know if I'd say our purpose is to remain free & poor, but it seems to be a good path to our goals.

Certain types of poverty make life stressful, I know. Poverty that leaves you without choices, and quite desperate just to survive.

But I think there is another type of poverty. Voluntary poverty is choosing to live with as little as possible in order to be as free as possible.

I find this type of poverty to be a constant learning experience, and full of promise and fulfillment.

I also believe that nature is full of generosity and bounty, and that being poor in money gives you more time to enjoy the free riches growing in the sunshine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

my fire escape garden



the tomatoes plants are huge, and blooming. we've eaten several salads with the lettuce. basil is a treat, and cilantro and parsely too. peppers and tomatoes will take time. radishes have been eaten one at a time. they are tiny but a treat. i never really ate a radish before. spinach and kale are doing fine. we eat them in salads or sandwiches often.

the weird tuft of growth between the two tomato plants are a handful of wild onions i picked and then never did anything with. they are still alive somehow. poor things. i watered them one and i think the frequent rain and the dirt on their roots is keeping them alive.

i guess i'll be giving these containers away when we move, to someone who can care for then and enjoy them for the rest of the season. i have no regrets, though. i learned a lot and next year i'll have another garden, i'm sure of it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

stepping out

We are setting out soon on a journey to find a place to live. We don't know exactly how to find what we are looking for. We know some of the things we'd like to be close to:

a good library
a college
a food co-op
organic farms and farmer's markets
a raw milk source
big natural parks or other wild areas
lots of greenness and quiet

One thing we have going for us is that we've saved up enough money to be able to take some time for this. We'll be moving out of our place, storing our things, and camping for up to 2 months. We have a region in mind.

As we've given notice at our jobs, people have asked us what our plans are. It is hard for people to understand that we don't know where we are moving, and we don't have jobs lined up.

I found it very assuring to read Dan Price's words:

"Choosing where you would really like to live and finding your true home seem to be of paramount importance, and not choosing just because you happen to have a job there. It needs to be the place on earth that fulfills your needs and desires in many ways. That one place on earth that you feel connected to. A place you could spend the rest of your life."

"Yet in these fast paced times I often wonder how many people take a gamble and move to a new place just because it makes their heart sing."

I feel a little vulnerable putting this here. We're stepping out with no guarantees. But taking risks can make you feel alive. And we do have a plan. We think it will work. So we're trying it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

another sunset



i miss most sunrises and we have a limited view of sunsets from our apartment. so being by the water, it is very special to enjoy the quiet progression of color and movement and darkness. this is from a recent trip to the beach.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

ducklings

tiny, soft, hurrying and clustering together. little irresistible balls of fluff. so adorable, and i could just feel one in my hand, even though i don't dare touch one. their soft cheeps as they paddle their two little feet in the water. soft little bills search for goodies in the sand. we saw mommie and her nine babies again today. i was enchanted, and relieved. one time we counted only eight, and felt so sad.




the truth i'd rather spare you is that two male ducks were attacking the little group. they charged the mother several times, and once even chased and nipped at a small baby. why?? i can't understand. but nobody was hurt and after mother hissed and charged back, they retreated.

Friday, June 05, 2009


corn gripping and rooting down into soil.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

me learning about edible wild plants

today we went for a walk not far from where we live. after getting over a fight about where to park the car, we enjoyed the rest of the hike thoroughly.

i've been doing quite a bit of browsing in books about edible wild plants. but i'm terrible at retaining information. so i get very excited if i make an identification of any plant. a while ago, i spotted a stinging nettle growing at the side of the path down by the river. i even rubbed the leaf on my thumb and was strangely elated to feel the sting that lingered for the rest of the day.

i've learned that if you cook nettles, their stinging goes away, and they are a very nutritious green to add to a soup or other dish. i haven't tried this yet. i got a little discouraged when i read that the leaves are best gathered earlier in the spring before they become more tough and bitter.

the other very interesting use for nettles is as an alternative to rennet. i understand that in the making of cheese, a substance from the stomach of a young cow is used to digest the milk. this is called rennet. however, nettles can be used to make an vegetarian alternative to rennet. so cool!

anyway, back to today's hike. i was eager to try to identify more plants, even though i forgot to bring the books with me. before too long, i saw nettles growing by the river. i didn't sting myself this time.

most of the hike i looked at plants and observed their details more closely, figuring i could look them up when i got home. i think i may have successfully identified curled or yellow dock as well. i thought it was amaranth, looked it up, and realized it wasn't. then a few pages over in the book i realized maybe that it was dock. i'm pretty sure it's right.

the interesting thing is that if you touch nettles and are stung, you can often find dock growing near by. by crushing the dock leaves in your hands, (maybe even spit on it to add some moisture), you can create a salve that will ease the stinging. (I read this in Euell Gibbon's book, Stalking the Healthful Herbs.)

[i was just looking for a picture of dock online and am now starting to doubt whether i actually found dock. never mind. i'll find it eventually.]

finally: dandelion greens. well, we took our bowls of food outside to eat on the grass, and afterwards, i realized we were sitting on some. adam tried some, and said these are bitter! and they were. but we picked a bowlful anyway, and i washed and boiled them. apparently, you can still eat them as the season progresses, but you compensate by boiling them and changing the water they are boiled in. i cooked them for 5 minutes, changed the water, then 10 more minutes (in very little water), and drained them. with a little butter i thought they were quite good. adam didn't think they were that exciting, but the fact that they weren't gross is exciting to me. i think next time i'll pick more and actually include them in a dish. or maybe with our eggs in the morning.

p.s. we saw so many different animals today! lots of turtles swimming and sunning by the river. a snake in the weeds by the path. minnows, and an enormous fish. probably 4 feet long and almost a foot in diameter--it appeared only momentarily as we sat and snacked by the river. i watched for a long time for it to reappear but it didn't. but wow! later, a snake swimming on the surface, but when it saw us it disappeared into the depths. a groundhog grazing by the road. a swarm of ants on our sidewalk. a solitary little rabbit munching in the grass. and finally a racoon raiding a dumpster. and blackbirds swearing at him and divebombing him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

more photos

two things have really made me feel inclined to take more pictures lately.


i got back my old camera, which actually holds a charge for weeks at a time. the one i'd been using for some reason needed me to recharge the batteries pretty much every day. there's nothing like having to stop and recharge the batteries to stop you from documenting a plate of food when you really just want to eat it.


also, i downloaded picasa to this laptop. now i can go through, edit, and organize so much more quickly.


i can't believe the months ticking by since august 1, 2008 when we were married. i guess i want to have a record of what our daily life looks like. who knows, maybe it will be very different next year.


one question for you please, though. is there any problem with me posting these photos in large format? i like how they look but am curious. thank you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

excerpt from Lloyd Alexander's "The Black Cauldron"

The other day I remembered the books by Lloyd Alexander that our teacher read to us in grade school. The series begins with "The Book of Three" and is followed by "The Black Cauldron". I believe there are six in all.

They are kids books, but I recently checked the first two out of the library and lost myself in them. The author researched and based his writing on Welsh mythology. The books are beautifully written, full of depth and human struggle and growth.

These are the types of books I would love to read to my children one day. The characters in these books struggle with self doubt and difficult people as well as true villains. Self-discipline and integrity are not just values of the "nice guys" but are traits of the heroes that you admire and love.

here's a little excerpt.

"I am troubled," [Taran] said in a low voice, "and I wonder now if we should not turn back. I fear you have kept something from me, and had I known what it was, I would have chosen otherwise."

If Adaon shared Taran's doubts, he showed no sign. In the saddle, he rode unbowed, as though he had gained new strength and the weariness of the journey could no longer touch him. On his face was a look Taran had never seen before and could not fathom. In it was pride, yet more than that; for it held, as well, a light that seemed almost joyous.

After a long pause Adaon said, "There is a destiny laid on us to do what we must do, though it is not always given to us to see it."



I think there's an important attitude in books like these and maybe also the Lord of the Rings books/movies. I'm not sure if I can put my finger on it entirely but maybe it's that they show that goodness isn't just boring and nice. The battle of good against evil is a very difficult struggle, and only the most valiant and brave can truly succeed, and then only with the help and love of their friends and their family.

I think lots of today's stories take a really disturbing approach towards evil. They are fascinated with bad people, or laugh along at them. And at the same time, those who concern themselves with the challenge to be good and true are never taken very seriously.

But the quest to be honest to yourself, to be loving and generous, to be faithful to those you love--this quest is a long and difficult one of mindful self examination and committment to truth. The end result of such a life is not dramatic until you look more closely and see a deep peace and trust that can only be built over many years.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

beets, spinach, sunflower seeds, etc.



i never used to be very into salads but adam makes very good ones with garlicy dressings that give us very strong breath.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

tall trees

video

we went to some woods on a very windy day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

wheat, beets, and carrots



here's the picture of that salad. it's delicious warm, with salt & pepper and oil & vinegar.

the beets take over and make everything pink, even the carrots. but the beets have a nice mellow flavor.

be sure to soak the wheat overnight before cooking it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

april showers

walked home from tutoring in the light rain. lovely gray day today, following a beautiful sunny weekend.

i have a picture of the beet recipe below now, as we made it again today. i'll get it to the computer and onto this blog eventually. i don't like fussing with all that technology.

my garden has made some slow progress, although it seems my soil is pretty bad, and i have been terribly blocked as to how to address it. yesterday i finally bought a bag of soil marked organic, as most others seem to have built in fertilizers. i'm hoping to use it to get some more seedlings going a little more healthily.

i've had many ponderings of late. i could write about any one of them, but sometimes they seem more like lessons i need to learn and less essays to be written.

today i was thinking:

anything that makes it seem like life is easy is an illusion, because the truth is that life is complicated and messy and difficult, even if there are moments of stunning beauty almost every day.

i feel like lots of tv and advertising and fake stories show this fantasy that things should be neat and easy and clean and orderly and predictable. and we struggle because our experience just isn't so, no matter how hard we try.

i've also been struggling with my attitude towards daily tasks. cooking, washing dishes, sweeping up dust bunnies, tending to finances, chopping vegetables, making bread, laundry. some of these jobs i like, others i want to get out of my way as quickly as possible.

but the truth is that each of these tasks is part of the fabric of my life. and i have to re-think my approach that just wants them to be gone, forever, and out of my mind..

ever so slowly i'm learning to savor the moments of some little task that i used to rush through. maybe not savor, but be mindful in it. and know that these pieces ARE my life, not holding me back from my life.

the art of contentment, of a slow savoring of a life that is actually full of the richest blessings as well as daily challenges--this is what i must learn. even if my old self would like to focus on large, ambitious projects.

1. figuring out which state and which town and what land we might re-locate to
2. building our yurt
3. raising lots of vegetables and
4. learning how to can and preserve them

while i'm at it i'll make this list longer, because the truth is that all of these are good ambitions, and i do value them, and i know eventually we'll get to them.

5. communicating more effectively and kindly in conflict with my husband
6. learning to knit (and possibly spin yarn myself)
7. sew more clothes
8. make a hand-made quilt
9. weave a basket from found twigs
10. make writing a more regular part of my life, and perhaps writing a book someday
11. eventually return to teaching, once i have something more inspiring than algebra to share with students
12. return to woodworking and making bowls, once we are settled in a place and can make workshops
13. learn some german, since it is the language of at least one branch of my ancestry
14. (wow, i should have had this way up my list) find a way to keep our extended families central and close in our lives, even though they are distant geographically.
15. learn about edible wild foods
16. continue to read about natural medicine

so...each day...to practice contentment and yet to make small steps towards some of these ambitions.

Friday, April 03, 2009

yum

i have a huge jar of wheat berries (berries are just wheat grains). we sometimes sprout them and then eat them raw in salads. they are pretty sweet, so they benefit from a vinegary dressing to balance the flavor.

a couple of days ago i put about a cup of them in a bowl with some water and set them on top of the fridge.

today i checked on them and they smelled vaguely fermented (this is actually good). i rinsed them and put them in a pot with diced beets, green peppers, yellow peppers, and carrots. they boiled for a while.

i just learned this trick, where, to save energy, you can get a pot boiling and then cover it, turn it off, and cover it with a couple of dish towels so that it can continue to cook with its own heat.

however today i was hungry and wanted it to cook as quickly as possible so i bailed on that technique, and before it was totally done, i drizzled olive oil, salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar over it.

chewy wheat berries, really a delicious warm salad is what i guess it was.

it's all gone now ;)

Monday, March 30, 2009

three little things



1.
the image above is of a tomato seedling. i bought heirloom seeds from seeds of change. i forget the variety, but i loved the surprising purple stems on these little guys.

2.
when i excitedly wrote about finding out how to harvest the little seeds from the flowers of my basil plants, i didn't know that those seeds would never germinate. i imagine it's because the dried, dead plants sat out on the fire escape all winter before i got around to harvesting the seeds. next year, i'll have to do it in the fall. fortunately i still have the seeds that i bought last year, and they have sprouted nicely and are working on leaves 3 and 4 now.

3.
so here's the latest update...who knows how successful it will be, but yesterday, we took a walk, and it had rained the night before, so in damp spots and puddles we could see earthworms. we ended up picking up quite a few, and then discovering that you could find the mother lode by turning over clumps of leaves that were sitting at the edge of the (paved) road. we ended up filling a small styrofoam coffee cup found sitting by the road. quite the mass of worms! it was so fun.

so we brought them back, and i dumped them out on the box of dirt that is supposed to be sprouting lettuce and spinach. i thought that 10 minutes later they might all have buried themselves, but they hadn't...although some had found their way in. i helped them to untangle themselves from each other and put some into the other pots where hopefuly radishes and kale will soon be sprouting. then i decided they needed a little help and i dumped extra dirt on top of them. i was afraid they'd get chilled and die before they summoned the energy to burrow. after all, we were responsible for pulling them out of their damp, leafy hiding places.

i love my pet worms! may they thrive in my lettuce patch.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Defense Of The Family Farm - by Wendell Berry

the article is here.

here is the eloquent first paragraph:

With industrialization has come a general depreciation of work. As the price of work has gone up, the value of it has gone down, until it is now so depressed that people simply do not want to do it anymore. We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive sites as on the assembly lines. One works, not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit—a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation. This is explained, of course, by the dullness of the work, by the loss of responsibility for, or credit for, or knowledge of the thing made.

and here I paraphrase some of his recommendations:

1. preserve families and communities
2. maintain the practices of neighborhood
3. maintain the domestic arts of kitchen and garden, household and homestead
4. limit use of technology so as not to displace or alienate available human labor or available free sources of power (the sun, wind, water, and so on)
5. limit farms to a scale that is compatible both with the practice of neighborhood and with the optimum use of low-power technology
6. limit costs by the practices and limits already mentioned
7. educate children to live at home and serve their communities
8. esteem farming as both a practical art and a spiritual discipline

thoughts on vegetarianism and our relationship to animals

I've been reading a book that has raised many questions for me about some of the foods I eat.

I know it's more polite for people who make certain choices to keep quiet and not judge those who don't act similarly. I certainly don't think that I would have responded well to any pressure from guilt-tripping vegans or vegetarians or radical environmentalists or global poverty activists or other viewpoint pushers. I'm thankful I had the opportunity for my views to develop naturally and gradually, and I don't really want to put that pressure on anyone else. However, I have been thinking about this, and the writer in me needs to write in order to process these ideas. So please don't be offended.

I'm not one of those people who became vegetarian as a child when they realized they were eating animals. I knew very well where my meat came from. I saw a cow that was to be killed when I was maybe 5 years old, and I don't know if I heard it killed or just imagine that I heard it. I saw carcasses hanging in the markets in Bolivia. When we moved to rural Illinois I saw cows and pigs being raised in small and large farms. I saw the dairies. It didn't really bother me; I actually enjoyed learning about farming. (One exception: I do recall once being appalled when I saw the tiny pen that a sow was kept in when she was having piglets. It was only a bit larger than she was. She could move less than a foot in any direction, and couldn't turn around.)

I gradually transitioned to a less-meat diet because I was obsessed with cutting my expenses so I could save money and quit the job I was no longer able to believe in. Lentils are much more affordable than meat.

It wasn't squeamishness about eating animal flesh. It's been some time since I ate meat, I don't know yet if I would rule it out permanently. Yet some questions have come up as we think more and more seriously about becoming self-reliant, and looking closely at what is involved in "producing" our own eggs and milk (which we still consume at this point).

Then recently, I've been reading "The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter" by Peter Singer. And I'm learning about how the majority of meat, eggs and milk are raised: on enormous factory farms. I understand the market constraints that push good people to take on these huge operations. I know some of these people personally and I believe that it may have been the only way they saw to make a living at farming.

The entire efficiency and profit obsessed food industry is flawed, and blaming any individual without examining the root of the problem is unfair (and that would be a whole other essay). Finding the sources of the problem and crafting a solution is an enormous task. My overly simplistic anti-capitalist position may not be the right way, although it sure is tempting to just run away from the whole greedy profit driven mess.

After thinking this over more, I'm realizing that my objections with commercial milk, egg, or meat production is that besides being cruel, wasteful, and enviromentally dangerous, it's just so far away from what the natural life cycle of the animal would be.

A few examples:

Egg farmers either dump or kill and sell male chicks after they hatch. They are the offspring of a bird that is bred to produce large numbers of eggs. The males are not considered financially worth raising to sell as meat. Other birds are bred for the kind of body that is considered desirable for meat.

Dairy farmers must keep their cows producing milk almost constantly, which requires them to get the cow pregnant 4-6 weeks after it gives birth to a cow. A cow's gestation period is like a human's, 9 months. By getting the cow pregnant shortly after birth, they ensure that the cow will resume milk production shortly after its milk supply dries up from the previous pregnancy. The strain of being pregnant and maintaining unnaturally high levels of milk production takes it toll on a cow. While a cow living a natural life could live to be 15 to 25 years old, the average dairy cow only lives 3-4 years before it fails to produce the level of milk that is profitable to the farm. It then is killed for meat.

What about the calves that are born to these cows? The females may be raised to become dairy cattle. The males are either killed young as veal, or raised to become beef.

..................................................................

I think that there is such a thing as ethically raising animals. However, I would prefer to let the animal be part of a system of life, rather than just used as a food production unit.

A chicken that wanders around a yard, eating insects, creating poo/fertilizer, and laying eggs, some of which actually hatch and are nurtured to become chickens...that chicken is living a whole life. [We've read that ducks are a little more pleasant to have around than chickens. I always thought chickens were too high strung and cranky. Ducks have gentle, musical voices, and their beaks aren't pointy.]

I don't have a problem with eating the eggs of birds. I don't really see myself having the guts to kill a duck to roast, though. Especially once I knew its unique personality. And this raises the dilemma, what do you do about the males? Do you just let them be a part of your menagerie? For now, I think I would. Apparently ducks do well foraging for themselves, so they aren't an expense to feed. And I'd build a coop or shelter from scraps of wood, if necessary.

If we raised ducks for eggs, I'd like part of our plan to be to take advantage of their propensity to eat slugs and bugs that are hungry for the garden plants.

....................................................................

In the same way, I don't think I'd want to have cows on a farm, unless they had a "job" other than producing milk and offspring. Making them get pregnant all the time, just so that we can have milk, seems unnatural. And what to do with the calves? Wouldn't the mother want to have its calf around for a while? I can't imagine it not being sad if it was separated from its calf. I would rather let it nurse the calf, and then take the rest of the milk, rather than separating the mother from its calf.

What do you do when your herd grows? Sell the cows to be butchered? It's something you'd have to be ok with. I think it would be cool to use the cows to plow a field or pull a cart. That way the male cows could earn their keep, too.

We could raise sheep for their wool. Then we could shear them and they'd be earning their keep without needing to be killed. They fertilize pastures, too. And I'd have to learn to spin yarn and take up knitting in the winter.

....................................

Where does all this lead to? I want to know what is a natural relationship between humans and "our" animals. What is a balanced, natural way to raise animals kindly, to allow them to live full, healthy lives. How can we as humans benefit from the animals, but care for them at the same time.

I think I need to spend more time learning about this. But I know that the meat, milk, and eggs sold in our stores does not represent the type of relationship that I am looking for.

Which is why I'm really longing to get some land, even just a bit, for a few ducks and sheep to roam on.

Friday, March 06, 2009

it's not too late

they are comforting words.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

bailout musings (warning. content is kind of radical)

BAILOUT: when a corporation use the state's power to forcibly extract money from taxpayers.

I'm no economist, but I'm starting to see this as the last act of a dying monster.

They started by making us want things we don't need. An endless parade of products that the human race lived without for millenia passes before our eyes. Many of these things are actually bad for us, hurt our health, and make us sick. Then we need medicine, which they also want to sell.

The things they make to sell to us also produce terrible by-products that they dumped into our streams. They did it until we noticed, and protested. Sometimes, they paid us, but by then, many of us had gotten very sick from the water we drank, the air we breathed.

We made laws to protect our water and our air, but the companies spent more money to weaken these laws.

They did this while spending lots more money on advertising that presented their products as wholesome, necessary, delicious, and fun. They painted themselves as benign, caring for us, producing the products we love and need. These advertisements are everywhere. They are aimed at us and at our children.

Endlessly creative, they seduce customers into unbearable levels of debt. They make money off the debts. And then, when the miserable debtors cannot pay, and when our banks are failing as a result...what then? Is it over? Oh, no.

These crafty, endlessly evil corporations have already bought their way into our government. Suddenly our representatives are breathlessly telling us that we must bailout these huge corporations. If we don't, we'll have an economic collapse.

.....

The truth is, the collapse will happen anyway. And I'm not really sure what good all the money will do those corporations.

I wish we could all team up to starve the monster. Just stop buying everything. Except maybe organic vegetables, handmade goods, and thrift store products.

For now, I'm paying attention to each dollar I spend. I want to give as little as I can to the evil corporations. I want to give as much as I can to support causes that I feel good about. (I don't mean charity, I mean businesses that are actually sort of good.)

Oh, and one more thing. I'd love to one day to live off of maybe $5000 or so per year. Or whatever amount makes me tax-exempt. Because then I won't be paying for this ridiculous bailout. I don't know if it will work. But I just want out of this economic system. Maybe I sound like a nut job. But I feel like I'm starting to see it all for what it is.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

weight

i've been feeling the weight of the world lately...the heaviness in what i've been reading about so many different types of problems.

today adam & i talked about whether it's good to know, or not know. it's a tough one.

sometimes you can take on more information that your spirit can bear. and yet, we are one planet, and one people, and what one suffers, all suffer.

i've been thinking that maybe this was the lesson that jesus showed us with his life. he shared in the suffering.

not that there isn't joy. life is still here. spring is around the corner. the birds sing, crocuses bloom.

it's amazing that life continues and joy continues even amid such problems. it's inspiring, actually.

here's to awareness mixed with the courage of joy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

baking bread

finally, after many crumbly, dense loaves, i've had one victorious, fluffy, delicious loaf. a second batch is on the way to rising perfectly, thanks to the heater in the kitchen.

the recipe is from a bag of king arthur whole wheat flour. i think i actually misunderstood the recipe, though, and didn't mix the yeast with water prior to starting. and it works! and is less messy.

This is my version, which makes 2 loaves.

first, mix the dry ingredients:
5 t of yeast (2 packets)
7 cups of flour (I use mostly wheat, some white. however, the original recipe says all wheat)
2 t of salt (i use slightly less than 2)

mix them together, then pour the wet ingredients on top:
2 2/3 cups of lukewarm water
1/2 c of vegetable oil (i think the coconut oil i've been using makes extra delicious bread)
about 1/4 c of honey, with some molasses in there too

mix it all together, then knead for 6-8 minutes.

set it to rise. i put the bowl of dough on a chair next to the heater, and then use a towel to trap the heat and bring it to the dough. it rises in half the time.

punch down.

re-rise in greased loaf pans.

bake at 350.


I love this because it makes very little mess, and I just threw it together in about 15 minutes! unreal.

Of course, more experimentation will be required in order to incorporate sprouted wheat, but for now we are eating our sprouts in other ways, so I won't worry about that for now.

Get the butter ready.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

contentment

inspired by reading this article:

economic stimulus. economic growth. but is growth really a good thing?

it seems to me that the whole idea of investments is that we put our money somewhere and it grows into more money than we had before.

i can understand not wanting ones money to decrease in value, and inflation would inevitably make money buried in the ground 50 years ago worth less than when the hole was dug.

but when growth must come at the expense of the health of our planet, the health of individuals, the quality of food, the quality of life...can having more money really make up for the incredible losses we as human beings, creatures of this planet, have sustained?

the markets have demanded: more must be made, more efficiently, faster, cheaper, for greater profits. the desire to squeeze money out of each square inch of soil is desperate; eventually there will be no value left in the soil to squeeze. the growth is not sustainable. our land is dying. and our lives are suffering.

there is an alternative.

contentment. having enough, and being happy to live a little land and have enough to eat, warmth, shelter. making a profit is great, but how much of a profit does one need? perhaps enough to buy certain necessities, small luxuries.

i have been reading much on this subject, and i am thrilled to discover that others can express these ideas much more poetically and thoughtfully than i.

Wendell Berry in his book "The Art of the Common Place: The Agrarian Essays" speaks well and profoundly about our relationship with the land, the history of our country, and why we have not cared for the land as we ought. He gives stories about people who were content with less, and as a result they were able to treat the land with observant gentleness.



We don't need more money, more stuff, faster. All of that more & faster philosophy actually makes us unhealthy and unhappy.

LESS, and more slowly. Taking time for contemplating nature, family, the spiritual world.

It's great to learn sprouting, baking, book binding, gardening. This morning I picked the dead flowers from my basil plant and harvested seeds. What joy!! I compared them to the seeds that I bought & planted last spring. Similar. Now I have my own seeds, with a year's experience living in this place.

I guess I am greedy to do so many things. I wish I could help start a million community gardens. I wish I could teach poor people to sprout grains so they'd have low-cost, nutritious food available to them. I want to build a house, just to show that it can be done and it doesn't have to be so confoundedly complicated as modern houses are. Finish sewing that dress. Write letters to my friends. Learn how to make kombucha and yogurt and cheese and soap and candles. Knit. Write more. Learn natural healing techniques.

It's pretty clear that I'm bringing my characteristic intensity even to my desire to live a slow life. And clearly my biggest challenge will be to simply enjoy the present, and to find contentment exactly where I am.

Monday, February 09, 2009

the man who created paradise, by gene logsdon

what an amazing story. fiction, unfortunately. yet it's the not the first time i've read of someone who was inspired to buy devastated land with a view to restoring to it some of the beauty and health it had lost. and since ravaged lands would be far more affordable, perhaps that is the most accessible way to own land. not to mention the most satisfying.

wendell berry speaks of caring for the land, of being a steward, of helping it to heal, and letting it heal us.

wouldn't it be wonderful to heal just one little piece of our sad, wounded planet?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

timeless dwellings


there is a gentleness to these homes, their inhabitants are connected to the earth. they are worn, softened, and cozy. warm, too. also, i believe that one of these could be built by a couple who is starting out in life together.


while these buildings look like they've been abandoned, the article i lifted the picture from here discusses earth roofs and their advantanges. the yurts, on the other hand, have the advantage of being temporary structures and thus less restricted by building codes and property taxes.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I just finished reading a novel by Frank Schaeffer, "Baby Jack". It's so well written. The author is the son of a prominent evangelical intellectual, Francis Schaeffer, which is why i was interested in it in the first place. The writing did not disappoint, but rather revealed the author to be a very thoughtful observer of human nature and spiritual truths.

During the course of the novel, one of the characters dies. He continues to narrate and is able to be anywhere and read the feelings and thoughts of people he chooses to follow. He tells us about his family and friends, but also about God, and how God responds to things. The way this is described is full of surprises. Sometimes God uses language that most of us would find un-God-like. Sometimes God doesn't want to answer people's requests, tells them to forget it, then changes his mind. Other times he gets mad and uses the f-word.

The characterization God gets in this book could be called irreverent, but I ended up finding it incredibly challenging.

"Why did you create humans?" I ask God.
"The Brooklyn Botanic Garden."
"That's it?!"
"And I like William Wegman's large format Polaroids of his dogs."


'...that sinking feeling all religious fanatics get as soon as it hits them that they've more or less wasted their lives trying to please God and he not only doesn't give a sh*t but doesn't even like them.
It's a really nasty surprise to wake up and find you're in paradise with a bunch of infidels and they got here without even trying. The born-again Christians get that same sinking feeling. Eternal life turns out to be such a disappointment for true believers.
Sometimes the dead are so bummed they even argue theology with God. A few days ago a newly arrived Southern Baptist was so shocked by God's profanity that he told God that he thought God needed to repent and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal savior.'

'God doesn't give a rat's ass one way or another, at least not about the things people think are a big deal, destiny, the rise and fall of nations, and all. To God, countries, nations, peoples and tribes come and go, are no more important than leaves swirling on a driveway. He does have likes and dislikes, though, but it's nothing to do with any rules. With God it's all personal. Take Gaughin. God is very angry about how he treated Van Gogh. He says Gaughin "drove Van Gogh to suicide" and he says Gaughin is overrated. "Muddy" is how God describes his paintings.'


The idea that after people die, they are able to see the thoughts and experiences, both past and present, of the people they knew and interacted with in life--this really challenged me.

I believe that my thoughts are known to God, but for some reason thinking about other people knowing my thoughts jolted me a little more. Memories of thinking nasty thoughts about people, sometimes even people who have not harmed me. I can be very critical.

The novel goes on to describe a person that many of the dead, as well as God, love to spend time around. And this person was not a religious leader, but rather a marine drill instructor. A person without guile.

Damn, I thought. Does God like to spend time around me? Probably not. I am boringly obsessed with organizing my stuff, washing dishes, and crossing things off my to-do list. Somewhere along the line, it seems that my concept of what is important must have gotten skewed.

Could I be inspired to be a more honest, kind person? A person of warmth and truth, of integrity and compassion? Someone who people would choose to spend time with, even if they knew my thoughts?

Another observation:

'The amazing thing about Jessica is that what she says and what she's thinking is usually the same thing. With most people there's an internal conversation that's different than what they're saying. Swimming in them [observing them] is like watching a 3-D movie without the glasses. Thoughts and words overlap but not exactly. But with Jessica her thoughts and words are in sync.'

I can't do this book justice, or even really give you a good sense of it but it's a gem, and I really look forward to reading more from this author.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009



cranberry pie with orange rind.

handmade projects


i've been on a little gift-to-myself vacation, with adam's encouragement, before i get back to tutoring again.

i have the problem of wanting to clear my to-do list completely before i sit down to fun projects.

but i'm gradually learning the art of letting things go for a few days, because they'll eventually get done.

so i baked some sprouted grain bread. picked up a sewing project that had been lingering for over a year (turning a favorite old skirt into a dress). sewed some stray buttons onto clothes. and one of the most fun things has been making blank books from some really wonderful paper adam got for free. i'm in the middle of sewing ten bundles of ten pages each into a book. we poked holes where the paper is folded, and the stitching is going pretty easily, now that i figured out a system.

then i will have to figure out how to put a cover on the books. i'm leaning towards a fabric cover stitched over cardboard for stiffness. it's kind of nice not to use glue, i think. not sure why.

there is something really amazing about hand stitching (aside from the backache i get). it's a very scuptural process, much more versatile than machine stitching.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

gratefulness

just before we left on our vacation, we had no heat in our apartment for 5 days.

temperatures were very low, and our ability to do anything was severly impaired as we packed basic necessities and camped out at a friend's house one day, a sister in law's another. we spent three nights here in the cold, one with no heat, another with the oven on intermittently, and the last night using an electric space heater finally provided by the apartment complex (we were too stubborn to buy one).

---

we just returned from our trip. last night i got up to get a cup of water in the night. standing in the again warm kitchen i mused on how wretched we can feel if only one thing that we rely on is not working.

and now that the heat is back on, i want to be grateful for it, instead of taking it for granted. so many other things ARE working. water, electricity, gas, the computer, our cars, the internet connection (most of the time). adam's cellphone doesn't work for now, that's an aggravation.

the same goes for the body. so many things ARE working. i am basically in good health...all systems go. the hairs on my head are graying, the intestines were a little slow on the trip. i have been experiencing some light flashes in my peripheral vision, but i had them checked thoroughly, and have a doctor's word that while it's happening a little earlier than usual, it's just the deterioration of the eye that comes with age.

something i'd like to implement this year is a daily noting of things i am thankful for. i know that practicing seeing the events of my life through a lens of gratitude can alter my experience, and give me joy.