Apparently I need you all to email me, or PM me, and remind me what word I picked as my word for 2016. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that I forgot.
I always get a little wild in my chest this time of year, like there’s a caged bird in there. I just research so much. And it’s good that I do, because our homestead wouldn’t be what it is without my planning skills. I’m crap with bladed tools. But give me a calendar… You guys. I’m a genius.
Trouble is…I’m not making a calendar from scratch. My genius is irrelevant. Because so much of what we need to respond to hasn’t been decided yet! And certainly isn’t under my control. What day will the snow melt? When will the spring rains come? What day will my beekeeper friend locate a swarm? How will my asthmatic/allergic lungs handle the early spring pollen this year?
Of course I’m hoping for the best. But if wishes were fishes…
This is the season when I always need a loop around my ankle. Something to keep me tied down to the ground. I’m always a little jumpy, and tending to float away in possibilities and potential projects. I just get so excited about everything! Can you blame me? What an amazing world, and what an amazing time! And what overwhelming goals we have set for our family in the coming year…
I will tell you, though, this time I didn’t start it. Nick turned the calendar page to February and said, “My winter vacation is over.” I was like, umm…I didn’t notice we were having a winter vacation. But this is all relative. My husband is a lot of things, but they’re all intense. He has no low setting. He goes right from sitting on the rocking chair with a glass of wine in hand, to working into the night every night of the week…what we call crazy time.
But of course the very next day, the day he called his “real New Years Day,” was in the single digits and there was fresh snow. So…maybe not quite the springtime yet.
We’re on the tightrope, between two things. Half sleepy winter, and half the cascading plans for our ambitious year. The winter itself is turning, too. It’s still good and cold. Snow is falling as I write. But the light is higher. We have direct sunlight through our yurt window, and I don’t have to wear my headlamp for the evening chores. The kids are staying up later at night, to match the sun. And our land heats up in the midday before it cools again at night, foreshadowing the wild temperature swings of this mountain country in May.
I felt the tipping point, too, before Nick mentioned it. I felt us coming as close to next year’s spring as last year’s fall. That’s why I got my research hat on, and spent days on our calendar, doing this planning thing I do. What tools do we need, what skills, what information, by what date? How can we best juggle the mountain dream home, the gardening, the soil life, while still feeding our children and our souls?
I worked into the night. And I was so overwhelmed by it all that this morning I found myself completely spaced out on Amazon…trying to buy a hand loom. Which is funny, because I don’t know how to weave.
I think it’s fair to say I craved a little mindless work.
And you know, I’ve been thinking of our foremothers, who kept their piecework handy, so as never to have idle hands. I’ve been thinking of the poem, too, in the beginning of my mother’s book, where the grandmother does a stunning amount of farm work and then — at the end, I think it’s important that it’s at the end — she looks back on her day and calls it good.
Sometimes I think you need to walk forward and THEN decide whether your legs work. I don’t mean recklessness. But the kind of work that grandmother did in the poem isn’t reckless kind of work. You just don’t hurt yourself keeping your hands busy, planting seeds, preparing food from scratch…hand weaving.
I don’t think it was so crazy that I craved that, the beautiful, simplicity of hard, real work. And, maybe even more importantly, a restful mind. I’m not telling you that I’m going to announce to my husband tonight when he comes home from town that I have bought myself a hand loom. But also I don’t think it was so crazy after all.
What is the discipline of slow? When you have quite so much to do? So many dreams and wishes, and the calendar may be laid out beautifully but we’re always a month or so behind? Are we always reaching out for what we want? Or grasping for the things that we don’t have?
There’s still snow falling. But the light is high. It IS time to think of gardens. Our Canadian friends are starting their tomatoes. I do need to order the berry canes and trees. I don’t want to settle into a wasted month that adds up into a wasted life.
But also, I need to learn the simple, persevering skills of handwork. Also I need to learn the pace of consistency, moving always forward, yes, but moving at the same rate as the turning earth. Not always trying to run ahead and see what hasn’t happened yet. I need to take it slow.
Wishing you all the gift of a restful mind. And good, peaceful dreams of coming spring.
Love, from the yurt.
“The Perfect Day” — author unknown
Mama’s mama, on a winter’s day,
Milked the cows and fed them hay,
slopped the hogs, saddled the mule,
And got the children off to school.
Did a washing, mopped the floors,
Washed the windows and did some chores,
Cooked a dish of home-dried fruit,
Pressed her husband’s Sunday suit.
Swept the parlor, made the bed,
Baked a dozen loaves of bread.
Split some wood and lugged it in,
Enough to fill the kitchen bin,
Churned the butter, baked a cake,
Then exclaimed, “For goodness sake!
The calves have got out of the pen!”
Went out and chased them in again.
Gathered the eggs and locked the stable,
Returned to the house and set the table.
Cooked a supper that was delicious,
And afterward washed all the dishes,
Fed the cat, sprinkled the clothes,
Mended a basket full of hose.
Then opened the organ and began to play,
“When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day.”