this one is a little bittersweet for me… looking through the lens of a camera leads me sometimes to observe more deeply what is happening in the world around me, and really take in realities like the deterioration of the farm i grew up on; the place where i learned that i am a product of the place in which i live and grow, the place where i learned to be a steward of the land as a matter of survival on earth. yet along with that decay is so much beauty, which i hope i have captured a tiny little slice of in this moment of time; shafts of light beaming through dusty windowpanes, the red paint that still clings to the knottiest pieces of wood, the sunset glow on snow chains and old handtools. i will refrain from ranting about subsidies, the farm bill, or corporate agriculture at this time. but i will quote wendell berry, my favorite curmudgeon/bioregionalist/envirofarmer… avoiding his rants as well…
Never forget: We are alive within mysteries.
though you have considered all the facts.
What I stand for
is what I stand on.
I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love.
Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.
if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.
other posts you may enjoy:
a sunset bonfire was lit.
folk songs were sung. roger miller, john denver, and in spite of my mom’s pleading, the very unfortunate man. country roads, take me home gets me in the ganechtagazoink every time.
cries of “expelliarmus!” and “stupefy!” could be heard as quinn directed his aunt and uncle and cousins in a rousing game of harry potter wizard dueling. at one point he assigned his aunt to be his patronus- in the form of a bunny rabbit. she graciously obliged, and chased him around the yard, bunny hopping all the way. giggling ensued.
s’mores were consumed. a good time was had by all.
other posts you may enjoy:
the first pass
quinn asked grampy as soon as he got home from work, the day we arrived, “can i come ride on the tractor with you every time you drive it while i’m here?” the timing of our trip worked out perfectly as we got to be there for both mother’s day and the plowing of the garden! here is the photo-documentary of quinn helping grampy get the garden ready for potatoes, squash, pumpkins and sweet corn.
it is always amazing to me to watch the plow blades lose their overwintered rust and turn shiny after just a few passes…
shiny plow blades
inspecting their work.
cousin luigi told me emphatically that he is not a farmer, he is a farmer’s helper! it is hard to describe what it was like for me to watch quinn and his cousins get to do something i did so often as a kid. when we were still of an age when we took naps, my brothers and i would frequently ride along on the tractor with dad and take our naps that way. i have distinct memories of the rumbling sound of the tractor throttling back, the lurch of the tractor shifting into gear, the greasy sun-baked dad smell of the worked-in sweatshirt or flannel i would lay snuggled on, the feel of being wedged between the seat and the toolbox bolted to the wheel-well, and the taste of sun-warmed well water drunk out of a 2-liter soda bottle.
oh, and the feel of dirt and rocks filling up my barn boots after walking around in a newly plowed field. it makes me want to pick a bouquet of dandelions and bring it to my mommy, but then there is a whole new generation of small people who get to fill that role now.
other posts you may enjoy:
what has NY got that we don’t got in oregon? we might have gigantic trees and the biggest ocean in our coastal bioregion, but there are some ways that new york outshines us.
woodchucks. high prevalence. not available in oregon.
snow after mother’s day. see those flakes? not gonna happen here at most times of the year, and definitely not in may.
fireflies. not pictured; our visit was too early in the season to see them- we need another pilgrimage in july some year! a much more compelling reason to love new york than snowflakes in may, i might add.
registers, otherwise known as heating vents, the perfect place for children to get dressed on mornings in may when the temperature dives under 40. see snowflakes in may, above.
burdocks. they can be grown in oregon. they cannot not be grown in new york! if i put my permaculture hat on, i see dynamic nutrient accumulation, enormous leaves for chop-and-drop mulching, and edible/medicinal roots! however, if i put my weeding the garden hat on….
ditto on stinging nettles; we have to actually look for them out here! in new york, you have to look everywhere you walk in order to avoid being stung. these happened to have sprung up in the time since my dad parked this tractor in this particular spot.
but maybe the biggest re-realization for me was that new york has rocks. in oregon, i can’t find a rock if i need one. in new york…
enough rocks to build your barn foundation
enough to provide flagstone sidewalks
and no matter how many you remove from the garden, a new crop of rocks arises every spring! new york rocks!
celebrate your bioregion in the comments! what makes your place in the world unique?
other posts you may enjoy:
surplus photos of quinn thoroughly enjoying his vacation to grammy and grampy’s house!
other posts you may enjoy:
i have a passel of posts planned for the next week or so, to share about our trip to central new york to visit my family. i took many, many photos with my new camera, and mine were not the only fingers clicking that shutter. the week flew by so quickly that a little reliving via blog is definitely in order. and of course the obvious place to start is with the reason for the pilgrimage: family.
reading to grammy and grampy
this was my first time meeting my younger nephew (we’ll call him mario; not his real name), who is two and three-quarters. my older nephew, luigi (also a pseudonym), was five months old the last time i saw him, and is now one month shy of five years. both mario and luigi had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of cousinquinn, and they were thick as thieves as soon as they got in range of one another. grammy and grampy’s house is well equipped for kids, with sandbox and playhouse, giant bin of legos and lots of toys, cabinet full of board games and puzzles, and of course boundless love for their grandsons. there was instant harmony among the boys, and all the adults had a lot of fun observing the dynamics of their individual personalities interweaving. after one of the only scuffles over a toy, i reminded the boys that they are cousins, and that cousins are more important than toys. luigi looked up at me, after months of referring to quinn as cousinquinn, and remarked, “wait, i’m a cousin?”
amusingly, i was more often than not “cousinquinn’s mom,” while cousinquinn was sometimes alternately called “aunt mary beth’s son.” they knew who rich was ahead of time as well, though in a pinch, they had no qualms about asking me for a reminder: “i need this guy. who’s this guy again? i need him to open the big lego box.”
these boys are three of the most articulate little gentlemen you could find. it was just so neat to hear their choice of words. in mario’s case, his not-yet-three voice and sayings slayed me with cuteness every time. it is very interesting to get to know small people being raised by my very own brother, and notice such similarities in our offspring. i am so grateful to my sister-in-law for making sure there was time each and every day for the cousins to spend together.
luigi seemed to regard me as an extension of his parental pool of adults right away, while little mario was more reserved for the first day or so, and kept his distance, eyeing the crazy lady with the camera a little warily, though this probation period did not apply to cousinquinn, who mario instantly adored. by the last night we were there, however, he was crawling underneath my legs ever so slowly, purposely eliciting tickles, and when i asked him after dinner if he was ready to sit with grammy for a story, he said, “no, i’m ready to flush the poop upstairs.”
“oh, do you need a diaper change?” i asked. “should i ask mommy or daddy to help you with that?” (i presented mommy or daddy as an either/or choice, assuming he’d be most comfortable with one of them.)
he replied, already on all fours halfway up the stairs to his preferred bathroom, “you can do it, mawy beth!”
thus was i accepted into mario’s inner circle of approved adults.
it was so neat to see my brother and sister-in-law employing a gentle parenting approach, and watch how their boys seem so self-aware, vibrant, engaging, emotionally intelligent, and confident in their parents’ love. one day when i had a dear friend visiting, mario again seemed a bit reserved and did not want to be spoken to directly by the new people, and turned to his mom saying, “i just got shy mommy.” his method of self-soothing is about the cutest a toddler has ever invented, and he calls for a “bop” whenever he feels nervous or tired. he defines a bop as one of his mom’s shirts- any of her already-worn shirts that carries her scent. most of the time, holding a non-specific bop up to his nose is plenty comforting for mario. on occasion, a more heightened sense of stress may lead mario to insist on a purple bop. late in the evening the last night we were there, perhaps due to a week of overstimulation, overtiredness, and family gatherings every night, i heard him exclaim, “i need three purple bops!”
mountain coaster; good for neuron organization
a week of solid grandkids takes its toll; sunday nap
although the week was bursting at the seams full of activity and we ended up a little short on sleep due to red-eye flights and time zone adjustments, i felt like i got a lot of good down time to relax. i think this has to do with the fact that quinn so thoroughly absorbed himself into the family that i barely heard from him. at home, he would never go 30 seconds awake without coming to wake me right up, but with grammy already up and about, he forgot to even think about waking me. he sat in the same seat at the table each meal, in spite of the fact that i was across the table from him, and the aunts or uncles near him revolved depending on who was over that night. he seemed to sense that they were all tripping over themselves to shower him with love, and he reveled in it. he also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the house i grew up in, again sensing it as an abundantly safe and happy place. his first night there, he slept 14 straight hours in my brothers’ old room, peaceful as can be. especially for a guy who is sensitive to changes in routine.
meanwhile, i had time to practice my photography and gardening skills. i took walks whenever i felt like it, and strolled outside to weed around the blueberry plants without needing to notify quinn whatsoever. (this is something i cannot do at home!) i had time to weed my mom’s vegetable beds (made from repurposed stock tanks), put her new bleeding heart in the ground, and dig around here and there whenever the spirit moved me.
my dad and me inspecting his alfalfa- family resemblance? photo credit: rich
of course most of the time i wanted to be there in the midst of the family, soaking in all that mutual affection. rich was rapidly absorbed as well; each of my family members took a moment to let me know how much they like him, and he told me he felt comfortable with my family. the way the children seemed to find all of us adults rather interchangeable was the most potent evidence to me that it’s a comfortable family to be a part of.
photo credit: my sister in law
i know my little family will look forward to our next visit to our new york family!
other posts you may enjoy:
pretending at the park, quinn, who was a fish at the time, climbed out of his fish tank because i said it was time to go, and asked me to wait up. he wanted to hold my hand, and as he grabbed it, he said, “now let’s pretend we are married.”
i played along, curious why he had been thinking about marriage. i asked if he was thinking of the characters in harry potter (we just started the 7th book, and near the beginning two sets of well-known characters get married), but he said no. i asked him what made him think of it, then, and he replied, “k (a little girl friend of ours) was talking about it. we were pretending to get married when we were playing house. but i can’t get married, because i don’t know the dance.” i hid my smile with some difficulty, and let him know that i think he might not want to get married until he is a little bit older anyway, but that i thought one could actually get married without knowing how to dance at all. in fact i have seen it done. he seemed a bit relieved.
he would still like to marry me (he has told me this before) but i explained once again that we can’t get married but it is okay because i will always be his mama, and he will always be my son, so we will be together forever because of that. i said that one day he might find a partner he wants to marry, but he said, “but if i don’t, i will keep staying with you.” i told him that was fine with me.
i had a dream about our upcoming trip to new york to see my family, and in it, i was walking with my red-headed nephew (whom i have yet to meet) and looking out over the valley at the farms across the way. i was taking pictures with my new camera, because while we walked, although it had been snowing when we started, it turned to rain and i was trying to capture the lightning over these old farms. but my camera was getting wet, and i was getting frustrated. and then suddenly one of the trees near one of the farms in the distance was hit and fell crashing to the ground, taking a power line with it, and it all sort of happened in slow motion, but i knew that no one was hurt and hurried to comfort my nephew, who was scared by the tree (which was of a variety not found in new york; i must have brought it with me from oregon). so i picked him up (he is 2) and then suddenly quinn was there, also needing to be picked up, so i let him climb on my back, and i carried them back to grammy’s house.
quinn on the phone with grammy; taken on my phone camera before the bee’s knees camera came along
(“grammy’s house” is apparently what my nephews call it. i told my mom it is awfully nice of her to let grampy sleep in her house, since grampy’s barn- apparently that is his domain- is not quite as comfortable.)
speaking of my new camera… my mystery man, rich, asked me on a date friday night, and i checked my calendar and made sure i was free. then i told him i would be able to join him for dinner. (actually i still have a hard time remembering not to squeal and jump when he asks me out, and i only attempt to do the aloof calendar check because he does it when i ask him out. all in jest of course.) after i got finished with pilates i did not find him in the library parking lot like i often do, so i called him and, when pressed, he told me he was reading the paper by the park. i had to ask three times before he would answer, so i knew he was being mysterious. and sure enough, when i got out of the library 10 minutes later, he was in the parking lot, holding up my new camera like he was the paparazzi trying to get a photo of me. and people, it is the bee’s knees.
the bee’s knees!
it is almost exactly my old camera (a canon eos rebel t3 if you are into those details), but i don’t feel like i have to make some huge commitment to each photo i take, and therefore i am free to take 10 (or 100) different frames of columbine flowers from different angles, playing to my heart’s content. which i spent much of the weekend doing. one of the best birthday presents ever, right up there with playing with dolphins and taking SCUBA lessons (age 15 and 16, respectively). after our date, i pulled off the road at the beach while rich was at the store picking out movies to rent, and took 13 photos of the sunset.
the timing is perfect. everything is in bloom, and my little family of three is off to new york to see my extended family! and take lots of pictures of them, of course. and the blooming things in new york. and any blizzards or lightning we might encounter.
other posts you may enjoy:
quinn and i have a scrabble game going on, laid out on the table in his bedroom. he got interested in it because he “helped” me play a few words in the game words with friends (ie scrabble on a smart phone) and one time he looked over my shoulder and told me, “mama, you can spell up! u-p!”
slowly but surely, he is gaining more confidence with reading and he seems to relish all of those little quirks of the english language. he will pose questions, “carrot starts with /ck/ (saying the sound). is that a c or a k?” he delights in observing silent e’s on the end of words. it’s like he’s in on all these big secrets now, and he loves being in the know. replenishing his scrabble tiles he tells me, “mama, i have 3 vowels in my tray now. two a’s and a u.”
can you find “up”? hint: he used a blank tile for p.
now that the evaluation wave is behind us, and the swell of our ocean has calmed down, we are back to diy methods for helping quinn learn to tolerate frustration with more flexibility. i am making a conscious effort to enhance quinn’s “sensory diet,” that concept i mentioned from the out of sync child. i don’t know that quinn has sensory integration problems, though i suspect it’s like the rest of his “stuff”- it’s there in quantities too small to register on a neuro-developmental pediatrician’s yardstick. either way, i know that sensory play often seems to calm and center quinn and so beefing up his sensory diet can’t hurt and might help. (i think that is probably true of any child.)
i made myself a list of things quinn already enjoys on a sensory level. sand and water are thing one and thing two in our coastal lives. we spend a few hours on the beach each week, lately as part of my nanny job. (aside: i often get looks of pity when i tell someone of my career change from science to nannying. i know the automatic first thought is other peoples’ childrens’ fecal matter but to me it means i get paid to take children to the beach. i went into marine biology because i love the ocean, and now i get to spend time with it instead of a computer screen.) the beach is of course a full-immersion sensory experience (the sound of the waves, the smell of the salty seaweed, the feel of the sand in your toes, in your fingers, scooping, sifting and pouring, building sand castles, stacking rocks, the feel of the sun, wind, rain, space to run and gallop and spin, drift logs to balance on, and if you are only one, the taste of the sand and the feel of it crunching in your teeth! (my little charge is at that fun stage of exploring everything orally.) similar to the sand theme, we used to get a lot of mileage out of a tray of birdseed i would bring to the farmer’s market, which somehow attracted all of the market urchins to my tent for hours on end as they dug their fingers through it and filled plastic eggs to make shakers, shoveled, funneled and poured it among containers. i may have to revive the birdseed bin- which i do recommend over popcorn or dry beans, because birds will still eat it after it’s been played with. also, it is that wonderful time of year called gardening season. digging in the soil is therapy for anyone, and quinn has always enjoyed it.
what quinn really enjoys about gardening is watering. he will dip a yogurt cup into a 5 gallon bucket 431 times to water tiny seedlings, right to the bottom of the bucket, then ask me to refill it. he will hold the hose in the greenhouse and squeeze the spray nozzle for so long i usually need to put a stop to it so we don’t empty the tank or drown the plants. he will hydrate foliage using a full spritzer bottle until it’s empty, as though he is hypnotized. like his mama, he will soak in the bathtub for an hour or more, though he likes tepid water and i prefer it boiling. he has a fun time pretending all sorts of things in the water (one time recently a pink rubber duck was hermione, and she had been captured by the giant squid). he can usually be heard talking non-stop to himself, moving water from here to there, squeezing ducks to fill them up, and squirting water out again.
he doesn’t love the sensory experiences involving hair washing, cutting, or brushing, (in fact he finds them excruciating), but we have made some strides. he likes having apricot oil rubbed on his scalp, something i do at night occasionally to try to loosen the last remnants of cradle cap. he knows that means the next morning’s bath will include a shampoo, but he likes the head rub enough to agree to it. i just have to be super gentle and not get any water in his eyes at all. the last haircut he told me he only wanted if it could be gentle and fast (it hurts and it’s so boring!) so i did my best. i definitely lost style points, but on the other hand it may have enhanced his harry potter look. we just picked up a little rubber duck scrub brush, and i know that skin rubbing/brushing is a sensory integration tool that helps kids organize their neurons. there has been many a night when quinn simply will not fall asleep, but after a good backrub and dolphin story (the baby dolphin has his body parts listed and mama tells him to let each part sink into the waves while focusing on his breathing) he is out like a light. we also like to start our days, when we can, with a good 10 minute snuggle.
of course, sometimes snuggling turns more into things like steamrolling and hiding under the blankets, sometimes “being an egg” (which he will ask me to sit on) and then hatching out, other times requiring tickling. i am a stickler about tickling, i rarely want to do it, and will only do it on request and will stop at any indication it is not wanted any longer. yet, because i have done it this way, respecting his boundaries, quinn seems to crave it. usually things devolve into horseplay then, and quinn can be seen hanging upside down by his ankles from my arms, wheelbarrowing around the house, or dancing to whatever happens to be on the stereo (the other night it was the band, and the grateful dead hour dead air is also a favorite on saturday nights.)
i notice that he is interested in swinging more than he used to be. he has never been a natural at swinging, but is starting to get the mechanics of keeping himself going. he doesn’t like to go very high, but seems to enjoy the constant motion as long as it’s a gentle arc. when he finally does come off the swing after a session, he seems more grounded and flexible, speaking of neurons becoming organized. we just put a swing up in a big tree at home, from a board and some rope we hauled off the beach.
there is a putting green in the yard outside our nanny house that quinn has been drawn to, so we went to the second hand sporting goods store and got quinn a putter. i imagine putting as a skill that causes one to have to integrate both sides of the brain, as the hands have to move across the body’s centerline. the significance of crossing the midline might be very great for children with sensory integration issues. i imagine quinn’s archery practice (he does this with his dad) is great for this as well.
my little perfectionist does not want to try skipping (i wonder if he will let grammy and grampy work on it with him in a few short weeks- they are the ones who taught me!) but i got him a jumprope while we were buying the golf putter, and he has been having a great time with that. he is supremely uncoordinated at it, of course, but as he doesn’t know it (as he seems to have some indication with skipping- maybe because of the evaluation) and he thinks it is a barrel of laughs, he is happy to practice. he will jump over once and stop, then ask me “how many times now?” and then will do two individual jumps, stopping in between. i keep increasing the number as long as he is into it.
another thing quinn got to do for the first time recently was jump on a friend’s trampoline. he had such a blast! he and the friend spent a whole afternoon on it, alternating between bouts of bouncing and then periods of sitting and talking, imagining all sorts of things together. he also thoroughly enjoys yoga balls, and loves visiting the yoga studio and getting to use them. i am planning on getting him one for home. rich handed me a newspaper article about schools starting to trade in desk chairs for yoga balls, and it is said that the kids’ focus is vastly improved.
probably my favorite sensory stimulus is when quinn asks for a sandwich hug. it happens just about any time he comes into a room where rich and i are hugging. it is so routine we all know the script now. it goes like this: “make me into a sandwich! i will say, ‘don’t squeeze me too hard’ and then you squeeze me as hard as you can! ok! don’t squeeze me too hard! aurghlmph!” i like having my arms wrapped around both of my guys at once. it it the best thing i have found for organizing my neurons.
other posts you may enjoy:
i remember saying a few years ago, back when i had a 40 hour lab job and was trying to figure out how to extract myself from an oppressive “daycare” situation, that “i want to wake up on monday morning and be mama.” i don’t even remember who i said it to- maybe my journal, or in a phone call to my mom or bff. in true law of attraction style, i get closer to that articulated goal all the time. financial stability is a prerequisite of that goal, and law of attraction has been coming into play there as well. last week i had a short lull in diaper orders, which was actually a blessing because it was such a busy week in the aftermath of our big evaluation. i said out loud to rich, “i’ll be ready for another diaper order on friday.” saturday morning i checked my email and there it was.
it isn’t a seamless transition from working girl with a career in the marine science field to nanny with diaper business, especially when the working girl had health benefits and the nanny is paying student loans that bought an education she is no longer using. i can’t go back and un-articulate the goals of my youth of becoming a marine biologist, and probably wouldn’t undo it if i could, though i believe students should stop being handed the ball and chain of debt in exchange for a degree. but then of course if health care and education were both free, what would there be left to work towards in this country? i still feel my choices were the right ones for me at the time, and it makes it easier to be at peace about loans outliving the usefulness of what they financed.
we are working on our flexibility and frustration tolerance still, to be sure, but through my heart shaped lens it’s easy to see progess. on saturday night, at 7:53 when he finished dinner and i said to quinn, “ok, go wash up and while you’re in there you can do your bathroom chores” (our phrase for brush teeth and go potty before bed). he suddenly stormed, “no! i am not going to do my bathroom chores!” then after the briefest of pauses, but still stormy and still said in a near-yell, “but i will go and wash up!” i said it was okay with me if he wanted to do something else in between washing up and chores- for seven minutes, and thanked him for being able to stay with me through that frustrating moment and make things work for us both.
on sunday i watched quinn frolicking with his friends as apple blossoms fell like snow on their sun-kissed heads, and the horse tethered below the apple tree “mowing the lawn” grazed placidly. my friends’ chickens’ glossy feathers winked their iridescent colors at me in the dappled light under the boughs of evergreens as i shoveled manure into the trunk of my car, in between other duties of pushing kids on the swingset and stirring the chicken and noodles (the chicken in the pot having been one of the extra roosters from their brood that i had the opportunity to help harvest). my two close mama friends, the chicken owners, are sisters and call me their “brother from another mother” and the house we spend many family dinners at is their mom’s. i find quite often that my thoughts echo quinn’s words, the ones he said to me when i was driving him home up beaver creek, our forest commute, after he got back last week from a desert camping trip with his dad: “i like living here. because it’s green.”
maybe the sunlit warmth of spring is what makes it all seem so right. taking my guys out to panini, quinn wastes no time in pointing out his chosen danish (law of attraction works for him, too- there is never any guarantee panini will have the pastry you desire on any given day, but of course the universe heard quinn’s request for another apricot cream cheese danish that day) and then heading straight over to the tall stools by the west-facing window, sun streaming in, one block up from the ocean. there are three stools in a row and he chooses the middle one, climbs up and sits patiently to hold our spot and wait for the slice of cheese pizza he will eat with his whole face.
another sun-bleached day dawned on homeschool group last week, which found quinn conquering a climbing wall on the playground, helping me turn water of varying temperatures and salinities different colors and watching the behavior of water in one mason jar inverted over another. seeing his mind grasp onto the concept of clockwise and counterclockwise currents as a quick experiment with a bowl full of water and a sprinkle of cornmeal, and a girl blowing through a straw, cemented the concept in his mind. watching him spend the next 30 minutes drawing the concept in painstakingly intricate detail, with arrows for the wind direction and currents, one speck of cornmeal at a time, on his worksheet, delaying his lunch so he could finish this work he took such pride in. his pride only rivaled by my own pride in him. and like a cork that moves only up and down when a wave goes by, but stays in place, the school pushers have surged on through and we are still here. he was not rushed off to another class, our lives are still structured in such a way that he can linger over a project he is passionate about, and it is so clear that he is passionate about learning.
and today is monday. today i woke up, and i was mama. it’s a good day.
other posts you may enjoy:
~a friday ritual~
a photo capturing a moment from the week.
a simple, special moment.
a moment i want to pause, savor and remember.
other posts you may enjoy: