View from the back door

Motion

 

Who Has Seen the Wind?

By Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
 

There is something about the wind in a wheat field…it is irresistible, fluid deliciousness. So happy to say the field out back is in wheat this year, rather than dependable, utilitarian but not very pretty potatoes.

Vacation, anyone?

There is one naîve moment in the day when I get home from work and think “Ah, now I can make a nice cup of tension tamer tea, put my feet up and read a magazine for an hour.”

That does not last. When I get home, there seems to be more work than ever to do, and somehow I just never find the time to flake out on the couch because there is supper to prep, garden to weed, children seeking attention, laundry to sort (since the man of the house can’t tell the difference between anyone’s clothes except his own) and bills to pay. Oh yes, and there is also more work to do, as there are many streams of work going on that don’t necessarily take place in a “workplace.”

Part of me has that old sense of entitlement, that voice that says “HEY! You deserve a break.” But you know what? Sometimes that just does not fly when you’ve got a family. There are times when I tell the girls that I just need a time out. Five minutes later I hear a soft little voice at the door asking “Mama, is your time out over yet? Mama, why do you need quiet time, Mama?” OH, it is tough to turn that little voice away.

So, the only way to really take a break is to BREAK from everything, the house, the yard, the jobs, the sidelines, the blog, the email, everything. We pack up the children and stuff the old car full of gear and take off. And this is what we seek.

In the forest deep…

We are always on the lookout for the greatest playground of all time…actually, we could write a guidebook on playgrounds of eastern Canada, complete with ratings. This one, in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia gets a “10.” Can you believe this is their elementary school?

One of our favourite discoveries. Best playground!

On camping trips, we even sit still on occasion. Although not very often.

Taking it all in.

Sometimes, we just pretend to be pirates. But in exciting new places.

Aaaargh. Ahoy.

Mostly, we just hang out together. No distractions, no work, no chores, just fun and being outdoors all day and all night, too, all of us sleeping in the big tent together, nothing to do but just BE together. It is the best time-out ever.

Glorious green in Fundy National Park.

Glass dreams

on the beach

Do you ever notice how driven you are to be DOING something?

It takes huge conscious effort on my part to just stop trying to tidy or check email or just multitask all the day long. After a while I notice that my children start to get that way, too, always needing an activity to keep them occupied. But as you may have heard before, I am a big proponent of letting kids get bored, and perhaps I should try this approach on myself as well. If I just stop and sit and stare out the window, who KNOWS what realms of creativity I might stumble into? The mind reels.

In the meantime, this past weekend I was reminded of a few totally pointless activities I love to do. My older daughter and I were on our own for a few days, and I worried she might be bored without her built-in playmate/entertainer sister. We went to the beach, where she spent literally hours doing one of three things: talking to herself, jumping waves, and building sand piles. We should all do those things more often.

We also spent hours walking on the shore, staring down at the sand in search of treasured bits of sea glass. There is nothing more relaxing and satisfying, and really, you could almost call it a meditation of sorts.  The rush of the waves in our ears, the wind in our hair, the gulls crying overhead. The sheer pleasure of finding the oh-so-rare colours of beach glass is just ridiculous. OK, it is not like “jumping in ecstatic joy” satisfaction, but it is quietly joyous when you find a small piece of indigo blue or jade or red. I always wonder where those shards came from…was it from a vase that sunk along with the schooner it was carried on? Did it come from an old pioneer dumping ground that has since eroded away with the red cliff into the sea? Was it from a broken plate tossed overboard by an irate chef as the ship sailed upstream?

Shades of the sea

Well, maybe  I get carried away but it is part of the whole sea glass-hunting meditation. When I find a piece, I rub it between my fingers as I continue down the shore, brushing off the grains of sand and relishing in the smooth/rough finish of the finely-sanded glass, the edges worn down to softer curves by who knows how many years of rushing salt waves and smashing rock. It is just one of those things I love.

And what do we do with all these treasures? Mostly I hoard it, put in mason jars in the window and look at it when the winter winds are  howling outside and I need to go to that beach-y place in my mind. Sometimes we twist it in silver and make it into jewellery, which by far gets more comments from strangers than any store-bought trinkets ever do. There is something about old stuff that speaks to me, even if I know nothing about it. Deep down I know I have just as many shards of 1980s Sprite and Mountain Dew bottles (not to mention the brown of the classic stubby beer bottle) as I do of some long-adrift century-old crockery, but it doesn’t matter. The cobalt blue probably comes from plain old Noxema jars that we all had in the 70s and 80s but in the process of being sea-tossed and sanded to silky smoothness, it takes on a unique patina of beauty and sophistication. And who doesn’t want to wear that?

Anyhow, that was my mindfulness activity this glorious Victoria Day weekend. The glass is scattered on my counter, having been rinsed and set out to dry. The girls will love to sort it by colour and shape into jars, another wonderfully senseless and strangely soothing action. I will keep adding to the collection, while silently cursing Noxema for switching to boring cobalt plastic jars. I feel fairly sure they will never be a treasure tossed, shaped and finally relinquished by the seas. Oh well, such is the modern age.

The morning walk

This morning I figured since I was outside already at 8 taking Kat out to the bus, I might as well just keep going out the driveway and go for a walk.

I headed up our rural road, trying to walk fast without actually breaking a sweat, trying to listen to music without totally drowning out the birdsong. You know, trying to be mindful and get a workout at the same time, if that is possible. The fields are like rusty red corduroy right now, as the farmers prepare for planting. The potato trucks and tractors are out in the fields starting early, and their breaks will be few and far between for a while. I walk towards the bay, where the waves sparkle and the oyster fishermen are already out on the water. I’ve got the Wailin’ Jennys on my iPod. The song, appropriately, is called “Birdsong,” and I am thinking how mellow their music makes me feel. Sure, there are songs that make me walk faster but this morning mellow is where I am at.

Oh, yes, if you’re not “from here,” here is a bit of what our fields look like :

Rusty fields shot by Dan

As I walk, I get a whole lot of thinking done, which you might think would motivate me to do it more often. Apparently clear thought is not a priority in my day.

What crossed my mind was a whole lot of nonsense about the bad news that seems to be everywhere at the moment. Economies are grim, and the news is filled with job cuts and worries about the debt loads of people and nations alike. Our home is no different, as good jobs seem few. As always, talk turns in many circles to going out west.

It is fascinating, really. How many generations has it been where “going out west” is always on the horizon? Here on the east coast past generations have also gone to “The States,” to Boston or somewhere in the New England states to find work, but that is not quite as simple as it once was.

I have been one of those going out west, and someday I may be again. Honestly, I did love it there although I was young and terribly homesick, feeling like I had landed on a different planet or at the very least a different country. The motivation to head west is the same now as it always has been: jobs, work, and a need to forge your own way in a totally new place where everyone doesn’t know you and your father and your grandfather and your uncle and…well, you get the picture.

The potato farmers and the oyster fishermen are assured their work will never be done. What will be on the horizon for others? How can we adapt to the changes that surely seem to be coming for all? Is the answer to be flexible, to diversify how we make a living, to work harder at self-sufficiency? Alarmist is not a word anyone would use to describe me (except perhaps my children, who think I am making a big deal out of the messy play room). I do find that I am drawn to books about sustainable living and self-sufficiency. It is a fascinating genre, written by a mix of those authors who believe the oil is going to run out any minute and chaos will break out in the world, and those who just want to grow their own food and cut energy costs.

Here are a few I found:

Sufficent: a modern guide to sustainable living by Tom Petherick: I like what this author is saying about what is “sufficient,” meaning simply what we need for our own family’s consumption. He speaks out against the extreme consumerism of today’s society, where so much food and other things go to waste. This book is beautifully photographed and illustrated.

The self-sufficientish bible by Andy and Dave Hamilton: This book just looks really good, and is quite common-sense in its approach to gardening, recycling and such.

Time to eat the dog? : the real guide to sustainable living by Robert Vale: Heavy, heavy, serious stuff. Perhaps a little TOO serious.

Less is more : embracing simplicity for a healthy planet, a caring economy and lasting happiness by Cecile Andrews: This is a really good little read, filled with essays that get you thinking about what you need and what you just WANT, and how we can live more simply with what we have.

The everything guide to living off the grid: We have no plans to get off the grid, but this book is also a good choice for people who just want to save energy and be more self-sufficient.

Independence days: A guide to sustainable food storage and preservation by Sharon Astyk: A good guide to canning and preserving food, and a lot of interesting stuff on creating our own food security (and that does not mean eating more comfort foods).

Ecological gardening by Marjorie Harris: One of Canada’s best-known gardening experts, she packs a LOT of information on everything from beneficial insects to composting to natural lawn care into this slim little volume.  No pictures, but makes up for it with simple, no-nonsense facts.

How do you focus on what is important in the face of all the bad-news stories? We keep our eye on the beautiful horizon.

on the horizon

To have no limits

Flying

Children can do absolutely anything. They can be ballerinas and space scientists, at the same time. They can excel at any sport, any style of dance, any subject at school. They can turn cartwheels and create mind-bending art and win any competition in the world in any skill. They are superheroes.

It is forever amazing to us grownups that our girls seem to see no barriers to success, no restrictions on what they can achieve, and no one who can do more than they can. OH, how I wish that invincible confidence could last forever! Already I see a difference in our older child, as the pressures of school and classmates start to take a toll on invincibility.

JUMP!

I admit, sometimes that confidence is frustrating, like when I suggest they take swimming lessons and Kat informs me, “I don’t need to, Mummy, I already know how to swim.” Which, of course, she doesn’t REALLY but she does paddle and dunk very nicely. I remind myself that you really have to respect that attitude of complete and total belief in yourself and your own abilities. Like today, for example. The girls watched a bit of the world championship figure skating, which they were really loving. During a break, they ran upstairs, put on figure skating “costumes”, came down and started recreating the skaters’ routines on the kitchen floor, sliding around in their socks. Kat’s reenactment of the medal-winning woman’s sit-spin was especially moving. This is fairly typical for us…we watch a dance show, the girls recreate it. They hear a Taylor Swift song, and become rock star girls, dressed in what they think rock star girls wear. Usually jeans and a sparkly shirt. Or they read a fairy tale and become the heroine.

Little Red Riding Hood in genie pants

We have often said that our older daughter hurtles through life at full-speed, fearing nothing and slowing for no one. I admire that so much. I don’t recall being that way even as a child, and certainly it is not my style now. I sometimes wish I could borrow just a bit of her fearlessness. As I get older I have learned to care less about what others might think of me, but through my teens, 20s and early 30s I cared, OH, I cared. When I think of the time wasted in dwelling on others’ perceptions of me, it is frankly exhausting.

So what can we do  to keep that spirit of fearlessness alive in our girls? None of us can control what other people say or do or see, so we can only work on our own family unit. Here are a few things we are trying.

1. Explore different sports and activities to discover strengths and find what they love to do.

It’s not about competition for us. It is about having strong bodies that do amazing things, and having healthy outlets for all that energy. Neither Dan nor I were ever sporty (if there is such a thing as anti-sporty, I was that) in the least, but we try to encourage the girls by being active as a family. I believe that having a strong, healthy body that dances and cartwheels and plays soccer will go a long way to boosting confidence as they get older.

2. Don’t get hung up on the “Oh, you look so pretty/you are a princess today/what a nice frilly outfit you have on” kind of feedback.

We try to focus on ability, and love and respect for each other, and what makes them unique. The girls have selected their own wardrobes since they were old enough to talk, and it is so fun to see what they come up with. There are times when they may look a little bit eccentric, but those are just the times when my heart surges with love for their little individualist souls. Let your freak flag fly!! (Sorry, but I always was a bit of a geek.)

3. Talk to them like people, not just kids.

I think, and I hope, that even with all the whining that goes on at times (“You NEVERRRRRR let me do what I want!”) our children feel respected and valued as members of our family, and just as important people in the world. If they ask me a question, like “Mummy, did I have any clothes on when I came out of your belly? And how DID I get out of there?” then I answer as honestly and sincerely as I can without over-sharing. Since they were babies, we’ve used the mantra “they’re just little people.” Little people with their own specific agendas and opinions.

4. Let them get bored.

The most amazing play comes out of being bored. We limit television to a couple of hours a week, which leaves lots of time for other stuff. Television has its place for sure, but it is mostly an imagination-killer. Who needs to come up with a new game to play when you can pretend to be Dora, or a Disney Princess, or Strawberry Shortcake? I would much rather have them make up a game out of whatever household materials they can scrounge up and what’s in the dress-up trunk. There are no limits in a child’s imagination, but sometimes we place limits on them inadvertently by what kinds of toys we buy or what entertainment we provide. That’s not preachy, I hope. Not meant that way.

Anyhow, this is all to say that children have no limits. What a beautiful quality that is, to believe that all things are possible. If we as adults could learn a little of that, or remember when once we felt that way, wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing?

All things are possible.

Springing

Image

The line of laundry...and bears.

First speck of green in the yard...the primula.

 

And a wee bit of purple from the columbine.

The true sign of spring...Taz comes out to bask.

So many things to love about today.

I could let the pictures do all the talking, but I am always full of words waiting to get out.

The sun shone all day long, and the girls ran around in their bare feet, giggling and screaming, getting muddy and filling up on warmth after the winter’s end.

Raking the flower beds, which never really got properly put to bed for the winter. And, in removing all the dead leaves and vines, I uncover new growth. Green is always so much more brilliant and enchanting when you have not seen it in a while.

Smelling raisin bread baking, cinnamony warmth greeting us at the door. Eating it outside in the sun.

Having finished the second of two really good reads in a row. I don’t remember when last that happened. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins I gulped in the course of two days. I wonder if I could be Katniss Everdeen, and I hope my girls will be more like her than like Bella Swan. OH, yes, just finished Winter Bloom by Tara Heavey, also very satisfying.

Thinking of what we are going to grow in our very first cold frame. Some radishes, greens, maybe green onions? Wishing we could get it built and planted NOW.

Feeling glad to be working out of doors!

Feeling the urge to pull out the lawn furniture, the bikes, the sun umbrella, but just managing to rein it in. It is still March in Prince Edward Island, after all, and snow is not quite a thing of the past. But it certainly isn’t here today.

Tomorrow is meant to be even warmer, and we will soak up every minute of it.

Feeling grateful today. Beauty is everywhere, to give our minds a place to rest.

My youngest is using the word “hate” a lot lately, as in “I hate potatoes,” and “I HATE that book!” Today I heard her older sister saying to her, “You know, Ava, you shouldn’t talk so much about hate because then you just hate more and more.”

Wow. The wisdom of seven-year-olds, another reason to love this day.

 

 

 

Breath of summer

ImageImageImageImageThe Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia is a food-lover’s paradise. We try to get back there at least once a year, and sometimes it seems we end up there several times in the summer, just because we always enjoy it so much. The vineyards, the farms, the markets, the amazing coffee…well, it is the kind of place to which you must return. I took these photographs in September, probably under the influence of a combination of wine, fresh raspberries, apples and the best corn we have ever had the pleasure to taste.

Yes, we must live in the NOW, but it is, once in a while, a wonderful thing to leave the snow behind and be reminded of green, growing things, warm sunshine and the buzz of bees.