Sunday, May 07, 2017

PETIE

Shortly before 3:30 AM on the morning of March 25th, I heard my cell phone ring in a room on the other side of the house.  I didn't make it to answer, but the immediate ringing on the house phone brought the realization that I was about  to get news. The minute I heard my sister's voice on the other end, my intuitions were confirmed: "Mom just passed away" are the only words I remember from our tearful conversation.

In retrospect, I can now see the signs that pointed to Mom's decline - shortness of breath on occasion, minor but obvious memory issues, the lack of desire to do things that she enjoyed, a diminished appetite, lack of stamina, sadness that she could no longer do for others, her talk of dreams about her father and deceased siblings, her nostalgia and longing for my father (especially as the anniversary of his death & their wedding anniversary - on the same day, March 16th-approached), her insistence for Myra and me to go with her to see a lawyer with her about her will and estate matters, and her inability to deal with anything that interrupted an easy day / her normal schedule. Yet still, for a 98-year old woman, she seemed to be faring OK.

Back in late February, Mom had told me a couple times on the phone that she just didn't feel quite right. Then, one night, I got a call from my cousin Bill, who was responding to an EMT call from Mom's Lifeline. She had fallen getting out of bed, actually slipped off the side of the bed as she was trying to get her slippers on to go to the bathroom. Bill reassured me Mom was OK, but he felt something wasn't quite right about her. He stayed with her for two nights until I could get home.  The next day, I headed to Boone.

When I arrived, Mom insisted that she was "just fine," but I could tell she looked a little weak and puny. So, I moved into the same mode she would have done with others: I fixed her three healthy meals a day, insisted she drink an abundance of water (which she swore she did, but I never saw her), massaged her, assisted with her bath, walked up and down the hall with her for exercise, and got her outside in the spring air - which was abnormally warm for Boone at the time. Over the course of a few days, I began to see change for the better, and the following week, I brought her to OH to spend time with me while Myra and I made arrangements for her care once she returned. (She stayed with for almost three weeks, insisting at the end of week 2 that she was ready to go home. "I've had a good time here, Tanya, but there's no place like home.")

That care, an initial thought that she would enter Brian Estates in Boone, was NOT to her liking. Though she had insisted all her life that when the time came, she would fully cooperate with whatever needed to be done for her care, she grew sad, very sad, and depressed about the thought of "breaking up her home, " as she described the impending move. To make a long story short, Myra and I reworked the plans away from Brian Estates to include in-home care via Hospice in NC so Mom wouldn't have to leave 145 Russell Drive. That possibility resonated a bit better with her, but she was not entirely content with it either.

While in OH, Mom seemed pretty good though I noticed confusion on occasion and a greater indication of short-term memory issues. Still, we drove around in the country, went out to eat with folks she knew here, sat on the back porch, and took a day to go to Amish country. She was fascinated with the Amish way of life and asked me all sorts of questions as we watched men at the stock auction in Kittering, toured Lehmann's Hardware, and passed women and men in their rickety black buggies. That day, Mom seemed as young as a 70-year old: we laughed, stopped to watch men working oxen in the fields, and talked all the way there and back home. It's a day I'll never forget - ever.

Two days later, I took her back to NC and stayed another week in Boone with her until Myra could get home for a week prior to taking Mom to Richmond for a visit there. One day while we were both there, Mom wanted to help with clean up from lunch. She started to put up dishes from the dishwasher but had to cut it short because "I just don't have the energy to do it, Tanya." Her breath was short, she was experiencing waves of nausea, and she mentioned being a bit dizzy. My concern increased as I knew her heart was weakening.

I returned home the Sunday after Myra arrived with the thought that I might not see Mom again. As much as I tried to dismiss the thought from my mind, it lingered and surfaced as I drove home to the point where I almost turned around and went back home. During their week in Boone, Myra and Mom had several appointments, one of which was to see Mom's primary care physician. Dr. Smith checked Mom thoroughly and found her to be in good health - a good blood pressure reading, strong heart beat, etc. Mom was vibrant when I spoke with her that evening telling me, "I got a very good report from the doctor today." At that point, she seemed reassured, for I know now that she was very aware of what was happening in her body. Still, Myra confirmed she also noticed changes in Mom's endurance and breathing, and in particular, Mom's appetite was significantly diminished with tummy upset becoming more and more of a factor.

On the following Saturday, Myra and Mom prepared to take off to Richmond, but Myra called to tell me they might delay a day or so because Mom was just "out of kilter." But, they went out to lunch, got Mom's meds, had a visit with a friend from Mom's church, and talked to Samuel, Eliza, and me on the phone. Bentley, Myra's dog, hung close to Mom all day, and she let him lick the crumbs off her shirt after dinner - something she really enjoyed watching him do. (Mom loved our dogs and Richard's dog, Baxter, is the only animal I've ever known to lick Mom's face.) She sent Myra out to get Japanese  food for dinner, but when Myra returned Mom declined to eat it; her tummy wasn't feeling good. However, she stayed up to watch TV until Myra insisted on going to bed, and when Myra left her in her room, Mom was reading her daily devotional and Bible. That was about 11:15 PM or so.

According to Myra, Mom called her in to her room about 2:30 and said she couldn't breathe. Myra knew she was in distress and pushed the Lifeline alert. The EMTs were on the way in no time flat. Mom remained alert until the emergency squad arrived, but shortly thereafter, she lost consciousness and drifted away, peacefully and painlessly, with Myra holding her and sweet Bentley curled up at her head. Myra said it was as if the nurse in Mom knew what was happening and she held on until Myra wasn't alone. Once the squad arrived, the woman of deep faith surrendered to the process and took flight. All of us - Samuel, Eliza, Myra, and I - are incredibly grateful for Mom's peaceful passage.  It is as if she wrote the script and followed it gracefully into the realm of light.

At this point, I can't write about much more than the events, other than to say that I've made progress in processing my grief.  I'll return to my blog before long when I'm ready to put the emotion in words, if I can. Most of all, I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have had the parents I had, to have had such special time all my life with my mom, to have watched her with Samuel and Eliza, and to have spent 5 of her last 6 weeks with her. That gratitude sustains me as waves of the most powerful grief overwhelms me still.

(taken the first week Mom was with me in March)










Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#WHYIMARCH - FARM MOM GOES TO WASHINGTON

As the Women's March approaches this weekend in Washington, DC, I find myself at the helm of a group of 55 women and men from Marietta and the surrounding area who will join hundreds of thousands of people in solidarity on behalf of rights - women's rights, human rights, everyone's rights. It just so happens that the Women's March was purposely planned by a group of young women to follow the day after the president-elect's inauguration.  The president-elect, in his actions, words, and in intended appointees and policies, embodies the reasons we march: to make a bold, clear statement that inclusion of all people in our country and equal rights are issues that must be acknowledged and protected. I think most folks would agree that moving forward, we cannot be assured of support, understanding, or advocacy for those causes from those who move into leadership positions on Friday, January 20th.

I don't take the reasons for going lightly, and I'm certainly not excited about being in a crowd which, by all estimates, will surpass the number of people in Washington, DC,  for the inauguration ceremonies. Yet, I haven't been so moved to be a part of a movement since the late 60"s. At that time, the Women's Rights movement was emerging from the social birth canal of our country, citizens still fought for basic civil rights, and the US was involved in a horrendous war in Viet Nam. Good people were fighting and dying (on both sides), and the country's leadership disavowed responsibility. Furthermore, the president broke the law, resulting in the Watergate scandal.

Perhaps the sting of those events and times has diminished over the decades, but the memory of the then and the current state of our country remain to worry me. Very, very sadly, the future of the very issues we stood for and worked for back in the day are under attack yet again, and our soon-to-be administration scares the living daylights out of me, offends me on so, so many levels, and forces me to "walk my talk." As a human rights activist, as a woman and mother, as one who believes in equality and non-discrimination, I would be a model of hypocrisy if I didn't do my part as an agent of opposition and change. And, I understand that I, Tanya Shook Wilder, can do very little personally to make a difference; however, the combined voices of many singular choir members can, indeed, produce a powerful song with a far-reaching refrain and call to justice.

So, I join hundreds of thousands across our country on January 21, 2017, who are genuinely committed to lifting our voices in a chorus that cannot be un-heard by those who take over the government on the previous day.

People on my bus range in age from teenagers to women in their 70's. We have lawyers, teachers, artists, massage therapists, mothers with their daughters, a minister, and others who represent a diverse cross-section of our country. We go prepared for a long, grueling day of standing on our feet for 10 hours, of being in a huge crowd, of being limited in terms of food and water, of infinite weather possibilities. Yet we go, and we carry the message of many people who cannot attend. We'll wear messages from the folks back home as we rely on them for prayers of protection and peace.

I march with the blessing of my 98-year old mother, who would be there herself if age and frailty didn't work against her. She encourages my sister and me to go and include her voice in ours. With her blessing and encouragement,  I march for my children. I march for men and women who feel marginalized because of their heritage, their beliefs, and cultures. I march for men and women who need access to health care and reproductive options. I march for my friends and colleagues in the LBGTQ community. I march on behalf of the Earth, on behalf of everyone's right to clean air, water, and land. I march on behalf of immigrants who are forced to abandon their homeland. I march on behalf of those who cannot care for themselves - children, elderly people, those who are chronically ill- and those who walk grace our world in the animal and plant kingdoms.  I march on behalf of those who lost their lives as a result of violence. I march on behalf of the rights stated within the Constitution of the United States and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I march because at this juncture in our history and in my life, complacency is NOT an option. Too many human rights and principles are at stake. I march with sincere conviction and love for all people and for my country. I do not take what I march for lightly, under any circumstances.

I hope that in differences of thought and belief people can find common ground. I hope leaders and representatives across our country will stop and reflect.

I hope even those who are not in agreement with what I offer here can at least respect my thoughts and conviction.

Peace and love....to all.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

IT'S A NEW YEAR

Mac, Merrybelle, and I rolled back into the farm after a 2 1/2 week visit in Boone over the holidays. Samuel, Eliza, Mom, Myra and I had over a week to enjoy together, and the greatest gift of the season was to have family time with them. After Myra left to return home, the kids and I took a couple of days to ourselves - the longest stretch we've had together in a while - to enjoy a lunch at Black Cat, coffee at Expresso News, and meals around the table with Mom. On the classic scale of 1-10, those moments soared way past 10+++!! The absolute very, very best in every way.

I'm forever grateful my kids love each other like they do. Samuel and Eliza have each other's back-- no squabbling or sibling rivalry between those two. I'm proud of that bond. They've gone through a lot together, and I think the difficult moments they endured over the years as a result of their parents' divorce have ultimately cemented their love and admiration for each other in indestructible ways. Now, as adults and professionals in their respective fields, they grow deeper in respect and pride of each other's achievements, relationships, and paths. What more could a mom ask for?!

 
For 98 years old, Mom's holding her own quite well. She's not going to run a mile in record time, and moments of spaciness result in a bit of confusion for her from time to time. Nevertheless, her sharp wit and sense of humor remain intact. Her house served as command central for folks who came to visit and spend time with her. Aunt Lera and Richard joined us for Christmas dinner, a tradition (with the exception of maybe 3 or 4 years) that has been in place for close to 60 years.

Aunt Lera remarked after dinner that she really enjoyed the fact that three generations of people, ranging from 25 - 98 years old, shared interesting and engaging conversation around the table until shortly after 10:00 PM. Aunt Lera has been Mom's best friend and sister spirit for decades, each serving as a second mother for Richard and me (and Betsy, too). Samuel and Eliza have never known life without the Randall connection; I'll never forget how Eliza immediately rejected the idea that we really weren't related to the Randalls by blood.  Didn't matter to her. Aunt Lera and Uncle Frank were indisputably her aunt and uncle, just like Richard was my brother by another mother, which still made him her Uncle Richard. (Apologies to Richard for his absence in the photo. He was the photographer.)

There were other connections in Boone with family members and friends. Zeb's family is still represented strongly in the mountains. My uncles, aunts, and cousins fill the void of missing my dad and grandparents. A ride over to Pigeon Roost and back through the mountains soothed my longing to be a child again at Grandma's table on Christmas Day, and a wonderful afternoon with my cousin Bill and friends Terri and Debbie, as well as a visit in Boone by my friend Pam, put the icing of wonderful memories with special friends and family on the holiday cake.

Return to the farm has provided the pups and me a chance to get outside (despite very cold temps) and move our bodies. I'm in search of a leak in my water line, so I've walked the distance from the house to the end of the driveway several times in unsuccessful attempts to find a "wet spot."  It looks like there'll be a new water line coming down the lane before long, damn it. The high thought, however, is the knowledge that I won't be dealing with water leaks again. I've had three leaks since I took over the farm 16 years ago. The upcoming damage to the bank account, however, makes me think that part-time work is in my not-too-distant future.

Some may recall the unfortunate ending two Novembers ago to a huge stag who had protected my land for many years. I had watched this majestic animal grow from a young buck into the alpha male on my land over the course of time since the kids and I redefined our lives here. I had met him and locked eyes with him on more than just a few occasions back in the woods. We knew each other well, and we understood the magic of the land upon which we dwelled harmoniously together.

A neighbor, upon whom I would not piss on if he were on fire, allowed one of his hunting-buddy houseguests to take the buck out, and I found the neighbor and his friend crossing my field to carry the animal away. The buck jumped the fence in his last moments to come to the farm to take flight (We won't dwell here on that; however, it was more than just "luck" that I came across him and held him as he died.)

Shortly thereafter, I met another young buck back in the woods and have watched him now for two years as he has taken heir to the farm as "chief stag." This is the first time I have mentioned him or written about him, except to communicate about him to a friend who would understand my connection to this animal.

I arrived home Friday afternoon, and yesterday morning, when I opened the blinds to check out the snow, there he stood across the driveway as if to welcome me home and let me know he had kept close watch on our land in my absence. Interestingly enough, the dogs didn't pick up his presence, so in the silence we exchanged our unspoken understanding that all was well, a new year was upon us, and we would each remain in touch to ensure the farm's protection and care.

With all that's happened / happening on the political scene in our country and across the world, I've found myself either enraged, stunned, grief-stricken, ill, or depressed since early November. However, the encounter with his buck has stilled my heart of worry and concern, comforted me, and left me invigorated and energized as I begin my 37th year here as Farm Mom. And with that ease of heart, I begin 2017 with great gratitude and humility for the many blessings that flow my way.

Love, love to all......infinitely!






Tuesday, December 13, 2016

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM FARMLANDIA - 2016

From the looks of things, it appears I've tied last year's lame record for a sum total of fewer than a dozen posts in twelve months, a miserable effort upon which I hope to improve come 2017. Since I'm retired, I have no excuse not to sit down and write occasionally; however, as I move deeper into the space of not working, I find I am not one to stick to a schedule of any sort.  Hence, good intentions often fall along the wayside.  So it is here at Farmlandia.

2016....What a year it's been! Wonderful in many, many ways. Filled with beautiful flowers, trips to Chicago, Florida, Vermont, Montreal, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and other neat places with family and good friends. It's been a year of good health and blessings for the core farm family (despite moments of reality checks and losses) , and there have been many a good visit and lots of laughter here. Everyone's thriving, including my mom, who just recently turned 98 years old!


We were all here for 24 hours (short time together, but I'll take it) on the evening of July 4th. Here's this year's photo of the kids. I'll have more once we all converge on Boone in a week or so.


Samuel was in from Chicago with his special girl, Caitlin, for an overnight in July.  Cait's a sweetheart, and likely one who'll join our family ranks in time if I'm reading the crystal ball / tea leaves correctly. Samuel's an associate editor at the Journal of the American Medical Association in Chicago; Cait works for DRW Trading as the company's event planner. Their happiness as a duo is contagious, and we all celebrate that. (Photo credit of those two goes to Harrison Fahrer.)

Likewise, Eliza's thriving with her fellow, Broderick (aka Beef). She moved to Burlington, VT, after finishing her MA degree at U-Cincinnati in August to begin her career as a cosmetic chemist (or formulation specialist, as her business card states.) with Twincraft Skincare, Inc. Beef's still in Cincinnati for the time being.  They manage to maintain a very functional and loving long-distance relationship between Ohio and Vermont.  I believe they're both wise souls who defy any notion of co-dependency.

As their mom, I am delighted with Samuel and Eliza's choices of significant others. I truly love Caitlin and Beef.

I'm into my second year of retirement and loving every minute of each day. The freedom to visit Mom once a month for a week or so and reconnect with friends in Boone, the ability to define my own schedule, and the joy of not having to work within a system that dictates one's life thrill me to no end. I do stay busy tending the flowers and critters at the farm, walking long distances several times a week, and putzing around the back acres. I laugh a lot and give huge thanks for all the blessings that flow my way from all directions. I play mah jong with an interesting group of women once a week, volunteer with the programming committee for the recently opened Peoples Bank Theatre, and chair the Esbenshade Series (an arts and humanities series) for Marietta College. I keep the knitting needles clicking, the paper vat sloshing with pulp (two shows for my work this year), and my camera poised for a perfect shot at any moment. One frequently finds me and the corgis out in the woods with my trusty binoculars, looking for whatever bird that's calling from a distant tree. I realize I spend more time with dogs than humans, so if I bark the next time I see you, don't be surprised. Mac, MerryBelle, and I are a tight pack.

Since I have been defriended and berated on Facebook by a small handful of the president-elect's supporters, I'll leave politics out of this post. Those who know me well will understand my very sincere concern about the current situation in our country, as well as my mantra that these days "complacency is NOT an option."

But most importantly, for all the friends and family who mean so much to me, I am extremely grateful.  I have no complaint about my life, and I hope I can share my delight in each day with all whom I so dearly love.

Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays! Properous New Year!

May you thrive in joy and laughter!

Infinite love.....T.








Wednesday, May 18, 2016

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

I have a lot of talented friends from all directions in my life.  One of the many is a high school friend - Debbie Autrey Warren. We hung out for four years on the girls' basketball team, and as I recall, we had one winning season. What I remember vividly about Debbie is that she was fast; she had a very accurate overhead shot; and, she had a quick wit and sharp sense of humor. Still does.

Anyways, Debbie's the person who made the sign LIFE'S BETTER ON THE FARM  that I'm using for my new blog look. It hangs in my house, and now introduces my musings and ramblings on my blog.

We reconnected last year as several of us from the Watauga High School Class of 1970 planned our 45th class reunion. And what a joy it's been to have her back in my life.  Along with fellow classmates, Terri Greene Langdon and Bill Rominger, we've formed a bond that's solid and hilarious.

Yep, life's better on the farm, and Debbie's a huge part of the joy and fun!

SPRING 2016 - FARM IRISES

 
Life is better on the farm when the irises bloom.  It's been a rainy, rainy May.  Despite the deluges, farm irises have opened and greatly lessened the heaviness of gray skies and chilly temps with their beauty and subtle essence.
 
 
Some people I know don't tolerate irises because they're almost impossible to keep weeds from co-habiting their bed and because they require almost yearly thinning and replanting. Their beauty trumps both annoyances for me: I think they're spectacular.
 
 

 

 
 

 
This little, bright yellow iris is one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, and this year, it opened in March. It came from the home of an older friend who passed away close to 20 years ago and has multiplied to the point where I have to dig and divide them every year.

 
Although this beauty has a pale blue cast, it's officially listed as a white species.

 
Subtle yellow -  one of my favorite colors


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

LIFE'S BETTER ON THE FARM WHEN WE REMEMBER THE WISDOM OF OUR GREAT TEACHERS

 
Peaceful Kwan Yin reminds all of us at the farm to stay mellow.

 
Happy Dude reminds all of us at the farm to laugh and enjoy life, even if elements take their toll.

 
MerryBelle reminds all of us at the farm to keep an eye on the cows from a distance rather than risk stepping in soupy patties.

 
And Mac reminds all of us at the farm to hide our bones when no one's looking.


LIFE'S BETTER ON THE FARM WHEN TANYA MAKES PAPER

 
 
I am deeply grateful to the Riverside Artists Gallery in Marietta for asking me to be the featured exhibitor in the May exhibit, "Zen Garden," alongside gallery members Cathy Norosky (carved and painted gourds) and Betsy Cook (metal work). For one thing, I had to get off my duff and make some paper this spring so I'd have something to work with as I thought about what I wanted to present. The papermaking process itself felt very natural, but putting pieces together sorta filled me with a creatively void feeling in that it's been so long since I actually did something to be viewed by more than just the corgis and me. Second, my eye has been shifting toward assemblage work, especially with natural and primitive elements. I have a wealth of material that could be accurately described with both of those qualifiers in the old barn that sits right outside my porch. It was in the barn that I began to see things with which I could create assemblages to match with the paper.  I began to play with the images in my mind. And third, in the spirit of "zen," the materials I chose to use were both impermanent in their natural setting and places of lasting wisdom in their own right.
 
 
This piece entitled "Final word: Felicity" is .dedicated to my dear friend and mentor, Brian Dendle. Dendle passed to the spirit world almost two years ago, and one of the last things someone found in the last book he was readingwas the word "felicity" written in his hand. My thousands of memories of Brian are tied in the flat scroll that's wrapped with a dictionary entry of the word's definition placed on top of the memory scroll. I chose to mount it  on an a piece of barn wood that fell off the barn about the time Dendle died. The hinge clung to the wood. The entire piece is mounted on paper made from burdock and mullein. I needed some practice in hammering, so I added some nails from the barn, and in doing so, I solidified specific memories of Dendle in the wood. I miss his gruffy ways and off-the-wall, irreverent humor so much.
 
 
This journal is headed to a friend of a friend in California. I painted the onion skin-dyed paper while it was still wet and had everything from recycled handmade paper to onion paper in the vat. The internal pages are done in rather plain sheets of abaca fiber so that the recipient can write on it without feeling intimidated by marking on the handmade paper. (Some folks just can't bring themselves around to using the paper to carry messages of the heart.) The purple fiber adornment on the front is made of dyed fibers of possum hair.
 
 
Journal #2 is rather plain upon first sight, but as one flips through the pages, he/she can see a fairly extensive combination of handmade paper pages that add personality and pastel surfaces for chronicling whatever the owner cares to share on its pages. The exterior is colored with walnut hull dye, and the interior sheets are ones of mullein, tea, coffee, onion skin, and burdock with a little cotton thrown in for intrest.

 
This piece, "Rain from the North Shield," came together one afternoon when I sat upstairs and watched the rain pour in from the north, a rare occurrence here on the farm. It's mounted on barn wood, and consists of layers of handmade paper - walnut dyed, onion skin dyed, mullein dyed and cotton that was stained with rusty barbed wire. The rain sticks above the center are a seed pod and rusty nail, as is the earthy element below. 

 
The final piece I share here is another homage to the barn - scrolls and nails mounted on barn wood on paper on tin roofing from the barn. Actually from a distance, the tin could look like paper itself. The middle scroll piece has a beautiful piece of snakeskin that also came from the barn - another treasure from the old structure. I'm going to add two elements to the side of the wooden block once it comes back home - two nails that I found after I had the piece installed.
 
 
Scrolls keep popping up in most everything I make. I like the idea of some sort of message captured within the rolled sheets of paper.  Most of the time, I write a little snippet inside the ones I roll up - a thought, a quotation, a definition, etc. - so that the piece carries that along to its next residence. This is an early photo of this scroll.  It has evolved a bit with other adornments and a change of paper, in part. And I have to say, I like it on my wall.  It might have to stay with me.
 
I would imagine these pieces have many people shaking their heads in terms of wondering what the hell I was thinking as I put them together, but as a result of this first step, I have ideas running around in my head unlike ever before. I'm excited to keep at this process, not for public scrutiny or artistic recognition on any level.  I'm just happy to have my hands in the paper vat and subsequently, have the paper in my hands.
 
Indeed, life's better on the farm when I make paper: my heart's full and my soul's dancing when I slop in the messy pulp and smelly inclusions that produce a rather unique beauty.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

WINTER STORM JONAS - NO CABIN FEVER HERE



A good winter storm always takes me back to the mountains of North Carolina when every winter brought a least a couple, if not more, storms similar to this weekend's Winter Storm Jonas.(When did snowstorms take on names??) Those of you who were students at Appalachian Elementary will recall we didn't go to school for over a month during the winter of 1960.

Memories of snow cream (not tainted from air pollution), waxing the rudders of my sled for greater speed, Mom's hot chocolate made from scratch, and cold, burning fingers and toes from staying out way too long. Richard Randall and I played at his house on snow days; like siblings, we'd get on each others' nerves, and I'd break one of his crayons, only to be sent across the driveway by Aunt Lera to get my crayon of the same color as a replacement (which I would break in half and claim mine was broken, too.) But mostly, we played and tunneled in the snow and played some more.

I don't get bored or lonely when I'm snowed in.  As a career teacher, I can vouch for the fact that teachers always have their fingers crossed for a snow day at the sighting of the first flake.

Here are a few ways I keep myself busy when snowed in. (Notice that cleaning / organizing did not make the list.)

I've knit. This weekend I worked on teaching myself a couple new stitches I'd like to use in some upcoming projects. The hat below matches my new neck warmer, and the dishcloth served as my project to learn the berry stitch - quite simple, really. Recent research, verified by several article on Facebook, tell of the stress relief my favorite hobby brings, so on snowy days, I pull out the needles and keep them clicking.



I channel Miss Jane Hathaway (of The Beverly Hillbillies for you young'uns) and bird watch. I've observed pine siskins, mourning doves, blue jays, goldfinches, titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, towhees, juncos, house finches, and others devour the oil seed I pushed through the knee-high snow to get to the feeders. PepĂ­n, the partially leucistic house finch who was here last winter has returned, much to my delight.

I watch TV - a couple of movies & documentaries, some basketball, ice skating, etc. 'Nuf said. PBS Series recommended. Most other TV, not worth the watch.

I listen to a lot of music and search for new artists who pique my listening ear. And, I tune in to a lot of NPR radio to fill in the gaps. I am aghast by the numbers of folks who take Donald Trump seriously. Likewise, Ted Cruz nauseates me, as does Sarah Palin. (My cousin recently reprimanded me for posting too much #feelthebern into on FB, but I'm "feeling the bern," so I don't care!)

My makeshift indoor greenhouse in my bathroom holds my orchids, and I piddle around with it,  cleaning and rearranging the plants housed therein. All my orchids are thriving - a contrast to the winters they've endured without sufficient protection from the too direct light and inconsistent temps. Since I can never remember the proper names for the orchids, I call this one the Dancing Russians Orchid - in glorious bloom and happy as a lark.





I'm also happy with the coleus I rooted from last summer's stock.  Nice colors on dreary days.


 

I hang out with two corgis and attempt to keep the house as free of their year-round shed as possible. They're not big fans of heavy snow falls since they get lost in the drifts. Mac tends to enjoy plowing through the snow with his nose; MerryBelle would just as soon stay inside.



Cleaning up the clutter and going through papers has yet to make the list. My entire house looks like my office used to look. There's a chaotic organization to my clutter, however, and I can live with that, especially when snow's on the ground and I can do all sorts of other things.



Finally, I layer up in a mountain of clothes and go out to play. Looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, I waddle through the snow, make a couple of snow angels, check out the barn, and do laps out the lane.

That's where I'm headed now.






Monday, December 21, 2015

WINTER SOLSTICE & CHRISTMAS - 2015

It's here!  Winter Solstice. Officially at 11:48 PM EST tonight. The shortest day of the year and longest night. (The day around which early Christians decided to place the birth of Christ.)


The most powerful day of the year: the day in which one contemplates what to conceive, fertilize, and nurture in her /his life over the next year (and beyond).  Darkness gives way to light, winter passes, and the Earth bursts forth with life. What we plant today charts our course for the following year and beyond; today's thoughts determine our reality, as Buddha would remind us.

(Words of wisdom, learned by experience: Careful what you conjure. Define all things precisely, leaving no details unconsidered, no stones uncovered!)

 Eliza and I head to Boone tomorrow to spend Christmas with Samuel (who's already there), Petie, Myra, and three dogs. I'm stoked! No doubt Eliza and I will sing a great part of the way down the road; Red Wolf will await us at the top of the tree in Petie's living room; our stockings will hang over the hearth for the 63rd year; we'll have an abundance of yummy treats; and the hugs exchanged will fill our hearts like fine champagne - bubbling over with love of family and friends, and the grace of the mountains.

 


This Solstice, I am particularly thankful for the freedom retirement has brought to my life. I got to be in the mountains for autumn colors, and I took a trip to New York City at the time when my colleagues returned to the classroom. I've had time to ride my new bike, walk with the dogs, and go to the YMCA at my leisure. I've had time to knit, make paper, play mah jong, and listen to music all day. Most importantly, I've been free to visit my mom in NC and spend precious moments with her. One never realizes how much work obligations interrupt "LIVING" until they no longer define each day. After 6 months, I'm still in awe of the joy I feel with the freedom that comes with retirement. And, I am grateful beyond words.
 


I don't have Solstice details for what I plan to offer to the Universe ready for words at this very moment, but my overarching thoughts about the upcoming year have to do with peace, tolerance, civility, and decency. There is such an absence of these basic principles these days that I sometimes believe people have forgotten how to love - or even that love is absent in their world. The energy of  hatred, vitriol, and intolerance encircles each person on the planet. It's essential for humankind to step back and breathe in the opposite direction. How do we manifest that notion?

Kindness....courtesy.....gratitude....tolerance....civility....love....Why would anyone not choose such basic ideas to guide his / her life?  I'm still trying to figure that out, but I invite everyone to join me in working to restore each of those principles in his/her life.

For now, my go-to quote sums it up best once again:

"...I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, a healer of misery, a messenger of wonder, an architect of peace...." and "I intend to leave those whom I encounter happier than before and with a smile on their faces."

May blessings abound!






Thursday, December 03, 2015

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2015

It's a classic gray winter day here at the farm - one of many we can expect until Spring decides to embrace us come March / April. While I enjoy the solitude winter brings, it's easy for this Virgo to get lost in her head during the months when I don't have my hands in the dirt, when I'm not outside most all day. It's also the first fall I haven't been in the classroom.  Thankfully I have a lot of time to myself. My task is to fill the hours with things I want to do....not all that difficult, thankfully.

But things have transpired lately that make accessing my joy difficult , specifically the level of killing in our country and abroad and serious illness that seem so prevalent these days. I tend to be a fixer - one who will work diligently to make people feel better. I intend to create moments that bring joy and peace to my space and those I love. When I realize I can't do anything about situations like in Paris and San Bernardino, I become anxious. When those I love fall seriously ill, I want to be the medicine that cures them.

I have to find a way to fix a lingering sense of futility. That's what I don't have figured out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

THE BIG APPLE


In August. Laida Carro and I decided on the spur of the moment to go to NYC to see the John Singer Sargent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Last week, we took off.  Here are a few photos to show some of the many things we enjoyed along the way.
Lady Liberty welcomed us as we cruised by on our harbor tour.

 
And the Empire State Building hovered high above us on every hop-on/hop-off tour we took.
 


 
In NYC, one sees classic, old buildings lend an idea of elegant structures of decades ago, despite the invasive and overpowering modern structures that engulf them today. I would LOVE to take a tour based on the architecture of the city prior to skyscrapers.



These men, gathered in groups of three, await the arrival of the bus after a day's work. The diversity of the Big Apple's inhabitants makes it the extreme opposite of the Mid-Ohio Valley, recently given the honor of the second least diverse area in the country. I LOVED people watching in the city!
 
 
 
 
Little did we know that the Pope would decide to come to New York while we were there. I'm sure our presence was a deciding factor in his visit
We managed to avoid a lot of inconvenience caused by the papal presence by going in the opposite direction of where he was to be. That said, the city made the best of all the interruptions caused by the Holy Father's visit. 



One of my favorite works at the Whitney Museum.  I didn't get the name of the piece nor the creator, but I know it was done by an American artist. How's that for detail?
 Traveling with an artist like Laida equates to lots of museum time: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, et. al.  Most fine by me! On the next visit, I want to take in the Frick Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

 
I'm fine in large cities as long as I can get outside and as long as I see animals. New Yorkers love their dogs and horses. This guy was on break and seemed to like the idea someone talked to him while he stood in the middle of the city breathing bus exhaust.  (My favorite breakfast place, called The Barking Dog on 94th Street, provided my daily dog fix.)

 
It was interesting to learn that the southern part of the island, the area where Wall Street and the World Trade Center are found, is built on a land fill. And all that land fill supports these huge structures. The Big Apple is a city of 8.6 million people, a multitude of diverse groups who speak 300+ languages.

Throw in visits to Chinatown, Brooklyn, Chelsea, NoHo and SoHo (north of Houston / south of Houston), and The Lion King on Broadway, and the cubana-americana and ameriana-cubana felt as if they got a good bang for their buck.
 
This Green Acres mom was thrilled to be away from the cows and stinkbugs for a few days. But, she was even more thrilled to return to the peace and quiet the land offers. Nope, no sirens on an hourly basis and open spaces here at The Farm, thank goodness!
 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (9/24-28, 2015) - Ground Zero

One cannot dismiss the soulful impact of the museum and memorial at Ground Zero. The recollection of the morning of September 11, 2001, parallels that of the disbelief those of us who recall President Kennedy's assassination felt - an instantaneous understanding that we were witness to a moment in history that would forever change our country.

I heard the news of the Twin Towers when I left a Grammar Techniques class I had just taught at our local community college. As I walked into the lobby of our main building, I heard the receptionist at the welcome desk telling students that our country was under attack. It was the day before my birthday, and any anticipatory happiness I felt for the following day dissolved on the spot.

As Laida and I approached the area on Saturday, I was amazed to see the new World Trade Center structure.

 
The light of the afternoon shadowed a cross on the side of the building.  I'm assuming that shadow is planned, but I don't know that for sure. The little dots ascending the building are lights that twinkle in the darkness and can be seen from a fair distance.

The fountain outside the memorial museum conjures the same feeling as the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Simultaneously beautiful and somber, the area pays sweet tribute to those who perished there on 9/11.



Flowers decorated the names of people who perished. I remembered a young woman from the Marietta / Parkersburg area died in the Twin Towers' collapse, but I couldn't recall her name. Ironically, hers was the first picture I saw in area inside where each person who perished is honored. Her name was Mary Lou Hague. (I took a picture of her story photo at the memorial, but I later learned no photos were allowed, so I will not post it here.)


There are numerous twisted metal pieces throughout the museum that resemble huge metal sculptures. Had I not heard the constant repetition of the names of those who died in the background, I could have envisioned these displays as the work of an artist of reknown.

Relics of that day - a letter from a man to his sons and wife, the twisted remains of fire engines that responded, driver's licenses, shoes, etc.- remind visitors of the many whose lives ended that day.

It's impossible not to feel the sacredness of this burial ground, along with the resilience of the people of New York and their ability to move forward.