I began this project with the notion that I would take and/or select one photo each day and write a paragraph to go with it. Soon, very-very soon, I realized that I had not yet developed the discipline to sit down and do this every day, so it became more of a ‘once a week’ venture. It’s a little long, but I hope you enjoy each and every one of them.
1 – Contentment
It’s been a good week off work and I’ve gotten a lot done in preparations for the year ahead… I sat down today and took account of what I’ve accomplished, and am content. I am at peace in my surroundings and comfortable in my home… we all are.
I watched the sun come up on the first day of the year, drank a cup of coffee, spent about 20 minutes doing Tai Chi, then sat in the sun and snuggled with the cats… we’re off to a great start.
I love the way fog feels. It masks the season; the time of day… it’s like spatial insulation.
On most evenings, you can walk outside, speak, and your voice carries off into the darkness… to nowhere in particular… just “out”. In the fog, though, you’re wrapped in the same blanket with everything around you. You’re in it together. Your voice is absorbed by the fog, where the trees can digest it… and they whisper in return.
I realized recently that I never knew my grandmother. Sure, I met her. I even spent some time with her when I was younger. She taught me to use her knitting machines one summer… now I am never for want of a scarf. But the woman I met was the one who had already lost sight of who she was. She had forgotten about the bathing suits, the beach… and the lipstick. I’ve seen photos of this woman… standing up tall, unabashedly smiling, looking directly at you, even being playful… but I’ve never met this woman.
I don’t believe she knew what she was getting into… a serviceman fancied her, and that was good enough. She didn’t know anything about the life she was signing onto… she didn’t even know the rules of the church into which she was being baptized. In little decisions along the way, she lost herself… she wanted to come out… in small, quiet, artistic ways… ceramics, knitting, building a dollhouse, etc… but he wanted to feel ‘in charge’ a whole lot more than she wanted to feel ‘alive’. He won. And she’s gone. But once upon a time, my grandmother wore red.
This past year has been a breath of fresh air. Never is that more apparent than when I lose myself in a peaceful, crackling, glowing fire. I remember all those winters growing up, when everyone knew right where to find me. I was always right in front of the fire and no one else could get warm. I’ve even melted bits of decorative stitching on jeans. Sometimes I call it “making hot crossed buns”. No one thinks that’s as funny as I do.
Clutter begets stress… even just a little… and it wears on you. For the past couple of months, I’ve been systematically going through each area of my life and removing clutter. What qualifies as ‘clutter’? Well, the definition going to be a little different for each person, but my personal rule of thumb is that if it meets most of these criteria, it’s probably clutter:
- It’s taking up usable work-space, but isn’t currently being used.
- It’s visually distracting when you’re doing or focusing on something else.
- It adds to your to-do list, but not to your personal enrichment (think: needs dusting or washing regularly, or requires set up, organization, cleaning out, etc., but the ROI may not be worth all the effort).
- It necessitates that you store it, but you don’t use it often enough to warrant 1) having it in the first place or 2) buying/renting/building/allocating space to store it.
What I found was that most of my clutter was already out of sight. My clutter was tucked away in drawers and cabinets and hutches, so it didn’t seem like clutter, until I got to that last item: storage space.
Oh yes, my clutter was taking up a lot of that…
So now, I’m weeding out the useful from the un-useful, and finding the proper disposals for each – I foresee many donations being made in my future.
Disorganization leaves me feeling a little lost… like something’s amiss, and if something’s amiss, one must put it right. Picking up clothes that have fallen off their hangers at the store, pruning plants, helping lost children find their parents,,, and organizing the bookshelves. Now, I know that last one doesn’t seem to fit on the list, but it does. Books are resources, kept because they’ll be needed at a later date. But, if you can’t find what you’re looking for when you’re looking for it, the book does you no good. It’s a wasted resource. I’m no more likely to turn on the water before I leave the house than I am to have unorganized bookshelves. Well,… not unless I move. Then everything gets all mixed up. So, I finally took the time to pull every book out of four bookshelves and organize them by topic. I know where every one of them are, and I absolutely, 100%, breathe better for it.
To everything a place, and everything in its place.
The infamous flowerpot smoker has seen its share of chicken since its incarnation, and it’s going to see a good bit more. I eat a lot of chicken. I’d estimate ~20-25 whole chickens per year, making stock out of the miscellaneous parts, cooking it with the bones in so that the juices will have a lot of gelatin in them, saving the juices to make gravy or add flavor to stews, deboning all the meat so it can be used daily in all sorts of dishes. One chicken lasts about two weeks.
Knowing what we do about the agricultural industry, I’ve been trying to make better decisions about the chickens I eat, ensuring that they’re healthy and humanely raised chickens. I’ll be honest, I’ve only made baby steps and am somewhere at the “this one’s better than that one” phase, but I’m making strides. By mid summer, I should be firmly in the “I’ve met this one… she was a good hen” arena. I appreciate each and every one of them, as they help provide sustenance for me, and I pledge not to let any of their little chicken lives go to waste.
You miss some things more than others… when I learned that many of my physical ailments were due my inability to process fructose, I had to give up a lot of things. I gave up things that were delicious and induced dancing with a side of happy. Today, I got one of those things back. It’s amazing how much these little things really do make a difference… it’s not just the little things that someone else does, sometimes it’s just those little surprises that happen. And you get to soak’em up.
Accidental success is still success… you just can’t take all of the credit for it. While dumping out what I thought was a dead set of roots and old brown vines that had long since abandoned their root base, I found three tiny little surprises. The plant wasn’t dead, it just wasn’t bragging about being alive… better yet, it was being sneaky, not revealing its location, and furthering its chances of survival. My heroic little potatoes. I will eat you with great satisfaction and reverence.
Everyone needs a place of peace. A place where you’re not self-conscious or anxious or irritated or chaotic. It could be anywhere. On a pier, with water ambling about below. Parked in your car. At a lookout on some random mountain. In a tiny little wooded space. On a run or a bike ride. It could be just about anywhere. That bench outside your office, where the sun shines just right. Wherever your serenity is, soak it up. It’s what puts us right, and helps us wash off or cope with the other stresses in our lives.
I’ve never really been one to “rely on the kindness of strangers,” but the kindness of the people I know never ceases to amaze me.
Physically, I can be a pretty fragile person. I get cold easily. And when I get cold, sometimes I can’t get warm again on my own. It’s scary, but it’s also one of the reasons I’m fanatical about having spare blankets and coats around and always want to live in a space with a fireplace.
This year, I’ve been living in just such a space, and it’s wonderful. At the slightest hint that the temperature is going to drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, I’ve got the fireplace and blankets at the ready! But, I hadn’t really planned for winter, and rarely had more than two days worth of firewood handy.
At one point over the winter, a friend of mine mentioned having some downed trees that needed to be cut up and hauled away. Another friend mentioned enjoying using their chainsaw and how exhilarating it was to get their hands dirty. What I didn’t expect was that after connecting these two friends, I would end up with a winter and a half’s worth of firewood – delivered right to my house while I was at work.
I don’t think I’ve ever before stacked firewood with such joy.
I truly have the best friends in the world.
Butter. Is. My. Favorite.
My favorite what? Yes.
But why? Yes.
It doesn’t entirely make sense to me, either, but I’m sure one day I’ll find out that I have some sort of deficiency that butter normalizes or something.
When I was a very young child, I used to get in trouble for eating butter right out of the fridge (until I figured out how to hide it better). I’ve always eaten butter. A lot of butter. I love it.
Now, I know some folks are going to immediately imagine an amazingly large girl, habitually shoving butter into her mouth, and blaming her weight on genetics… but let me also state: I’ve always been a terribly skinny girl …until I got much older, but that was for entirely different reasons, too – and corrective measures have been made. Mind you: these measures to do not include foregoing butter.
At one time, not long ago, I counted six different types of butter in my fridge: salted, unsalted, plugra, whipped, honeyed and herbed. I never want to run out of it.
Yesterday, a friend of mine (I’ve mentioned they’re the best, right?) sent me a link to a blog that told me how to make my own butter. ::gasp!!:: I know, I know… I can hear you thinking: ‘um, yeah… we’ve been making butter for a while now… I’m sure it’s not hard to make. You’ve never tried to make it yourself? Isn’t it your favorite?’ Well, yes, it is. But I’ve always read that it involves a great deal of time and effort “churning” before it’s butter… and mostly, I just want to eat it. So no, I hadn’t really looked into it any further than that.
But that’s all behind me now!!
I can make my own, personal, little batch of butter, all by myself, in a matter of minutes, in a mason jar, while also working out my arms (just in time for summer)!
I won’t mention how many times in the past 24 hours I’ve actually giggled/teared-up/clapped/exclaimed joy just because I thought about the fact that I’d made my own butter. You wouldn’t believe me anyway.
It’s good to know and own one’s joy.
(It’s also good to have the world’s most awesome friends.)
I’ve decided to paint. Now, I’m not sure that anyone other than myself will ever enjoy my paintings, but it’s given me an avenue, in addition to photography, to illustrate some of the things in my head, or (in many cases) simply illustrate the way I see things.
Have you ever wanted to ‘download what’s in your brain so others could see it’?
Well, painting, for me, is a lot like that – though, it’s also like downloading imagery via a dial-up connection that’s traveling through chewed up wires… to say it’s a little slow would be an understatement, but *wow* it is so exciting as well!
There are many more images to come. Promise.
I know we’ve covered the whole “holycarp! Making your own butter is easy!” bit, but do you want to know what else is easy? Pasta.
So. Freakin’. Easy.
Takes about 15-20 minutes, tops. And that’s only because you let it ‘rest’ for ~10 minutes. Effort-time = 5-10 minutes. It takes longer to go buy some. It cooks faster. It freezes nicely. You can stuff it with whatever you have in the fridge and put sauce on it afterward. WIN!
Why don’t we all make our own pasta?!?
Which also makes it difficult to eat at an Italian restaurant… because you can tell it’s not fresh. But then again, I have a ridiculous amount of wine at my disposal and all the fresh pasta I can eat… so, um… why would I want to go to a restaurant?!
You: bring a movie. We’re staying in tonight.
[Pro-tip: how do you prevent cooked pasta from sticking to itself while you’re not actively saucing and/or eating it? Butter. Seriously. I would never mislead you about anything butter-related.]
Adventures are good for the soul.
I have a lot of philosophies, and this is definitely one of them.
The exhilaration of being in a helicopter, high above the city, comes rushing back when I look at the photos… and the wind steals my words away.
The hot air balloon ride, however… while providing ample opportunity for photos, wasn’t nearly as fun or exhilarating. A warning about how nauseous the fumes from the fuel can make you, or that folks who get motion-sick easily may have a hard time with the ride, would have been greatly appreciated.
Anyone who’s known me for any length (or quality) of time, also knows that getting up early is not in my bag of tricks. So the fact that I got up at ~4am for this venture should tell you that I was pretty excited about it. By 10am, I was pretty over it.
For those of you still reading, here’s a brief play-by-play (excluding the fumes and motion-sickness):
- Crack of dawn, cold, balloon is laid out on the ground.
- Sun starts rising a bit, and we start inflating the balloon.
- Sun is still ridding the valley of its fog blanket, and we’re in the air – it’s beautiful.
- Passing over the countryside… learning about how the sound from the fuel valve drives dogs on the ground nuts. (Things were pretty peaceful until we got there…)
- The truck with the trailer is following us on the ground so that wherever we end up setting down, we’ll have transportation at the ready!
- Speaking of setting down… we can’t seem to do that. The wind coming over the mountains keeps pushing us away from fields and such and right back toward the highway. So, we do the ‘fly higher, fly lower, fly higher, fly lower’ thing for another ~45 minutes, trying to find a spot where we can land. (Have I mentioned that there’s also a finite amount of fuel?)
- Spot where we land: some poor farmer’s corn field. We’re lucky we weren’t shot, because we ::crunched:: the top 2-3 feet of some of his corn. Left a rectangular imprint in an otherwise perfectly rowed (and profitable) field of corn.
- We coerced 3 guys to “volunteer” to drop from the basket and drag us by rope to the nearest clearing (about a ¼ mile away). The drop from the basked was about 4 feet further than anyone thought it was… so the poor guys had a rough landing.
- After regaining their composure, we tossed the rope down to the now ‘trudging’ adventure-seekers who did their absolute best to pull the rest of us to the clearing… the whole while, being cut up by the corn stalks, passed/run over by the hot air balloon, sometimes getting dragged,… but they did it. They got us to a safe place to land.
- Then, we, as a group, had to deflate and load up the balloon. That’s right. The passengers… loaded up the balloon and basket onto the trailer, so we could all go home. (I’m thinking a few folks on this trip should have been compensated for their efforts…)
All in all, I’d like to say “been there, done that”, and move on.
Speaking of “adventures”… Helloooooo Mexico!
This was an unbelievably hot and wonderful excursion.
While all of my compatriots were iced-in back at home, I was running around Mexico in 90*F weather. I couldn’t have been happier. We learned about the buildings, the people, what happened when ‘Europe showed up’, we ate fresh fish, drank local beer, sweated… It. Was. Glorious. And I slept exceedingly well that night.
What really struck me was how completely ‘at home’ I felt. Like, if I had ridden my bike a few miles down the road to a little house, it wouldn’t have surprised me to be greeted home for dinner. I get that feeling in the oddest places, and usually when I don’t understand much of what’s being said. It’s almost like, the less I understand the language, the more I listen to the people… and great kindness lives in these communities.
Do you know what I love (aside from butter)?
An idea that makes you think.
An idea that challenges you to figure it out.
An idea that… feeds me.
I had this idea a few months ago and decided to figure it out. Now, ideas don’t always happen with a beginning, middle, and end. Most ideas are just an incomplete notion. A place to start.
This idea was about a ‘portable raised-bed garden’. Essentially, a container garden on wheels.
I love food. I love fresh food. I love putting some care into my food and appreciating my food before I eat it. So, I love growing my own food. But, given the sun’s jurisdiction in my yard, there wasn’t a good place to grow food, except the driveway – and something tells me that wouldn’t work well.
One night, I dreamed (which is how these things usually start) about a container garden that I could move around freely, to wherever the sun was that day. It was such a liberating idea that I jumped on it (read: spent more time and money on it than was probably warranted), and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!
I’m surrounded by life, and I love it.
And yes, I talk to them.
They have their own radio, and they’re perkier when it’s been on.
When I get my coffee in the morning, I go out and bid them each ‘good morning’ and make sure they’ve got enough water for the day.
I think they know they’re loved.
(I also keep the hammock and beer-fridge out there… so, the plants and I? …we hang out.)
I mentioned my grandmother earlier.
This dress form was hers.
This red scarf was made on the knitting machine that she gave to me.
The flower… was my idea.
The flower is kind of like a pin, without metal or pointy bits. There is about half-an-inch of chain stitching with a button on the end, so you can feed the button through layers of the scarf, and it’ll hold it in place. Yep, this idea also began as a dream one night.
In my effort to downsize my belongings, I’ve had to really take a look at what is important to me and determine what stays, what goes, and what needs to be modified in order to reduce quantities. For instance, have you ever had a glorious glass of wine, then had to go somewhere, but was all “I can’t take this with me… it needs a lid”, so then you dirty up a travel mug, and now you’ve got more dishes to wash…? Yeah, me neither. But look! Klassy mason jar wine glasses with lids!
Yep, this is why we can’t have nice things.