the rhythm of these quiet days

DSC09648DSC06839DSC07663DSC07393DSC00082DSC00155Opal is approaching 20 months–the age at which both Mattheus and Lucien became big brothers, each in their own turn.  There’s a touch of sadness in this passing moment, knowing that we are not currently expecting another family member.  But it is a small touch. It’s too soon for us to face the uncomfortable stretching that happens when the universe is making room for another human being.

We are grateful that our children are close together.  We love the gifts of love they share with each other, and the ever-present opportunities to learn about community life.  I remember when Lucien and Mattheus first started to become friends, watching them exchange their secret understandings and realizing that they had a connection I would never be a part of.  This was one of the most wonderful parenting surprises I have ever had.

But, it has been hard navigating this pack of siblings and the perpetual liminality of them arriving on each others’ heals.  Magical and beautiful and surprising and hard.  Everyday.  Even on our smoothest days, I still find myself standing in the midst of three screaming toddlers, all in conflict with each other, all looking for a resolution from me. Most of the time all I can do is not lose my cool and hope I am teaching them a little bit about inner grace.

Thankfully, these hard days are getting easier, bit by bit.  For the first time in almost five years there is a hint of having our feet on the ground again.  With this comes the sense of an authentic rhythm.  Not just a general flow of the day, not just pockets when we can expect events to unfold accordingly. Not just attempting it, but real rhythm. The kind that lives in your limbs somehow.  The kind that nourishes the parts of us that modern life attacks.  The kind that fills us with a sense of well-being and quiets the anxieties of the heart.  The kind that allows our minds to rest, choosing when they need to be conscious and when they can relax into dreaminess instead of having to think about every little thing.

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It’s the way the grain sounds in the feed bucket.  Every morning.  It’s knowing the cycles of the maple tree in our yard the same way we know the cycles of our days.  And the changing path of the sun through our windows as the days grow shorter, and longer.   It’s the feeling of the broom in our hands as it works its way into familiar corners.  It’s watching my hands know just how to kneed the bread–a knowledge that eludes my head.  It’s the predictable morning moments, knowing Lucien will wake up around five and patter across the house to our bed.  Opal will stir at six–we could set our clocks by it.  And Mattheus will doze on and off until seven if we let him, yelling out the bedroom door for all of us to be quiet.  It’s the body knowing that it can fall fully into sleep and not wonder if someone will wake it in two hours.  It’s understanding just how Tuesday will pass differently from Monday.  And that the third week of John’s teaching block will always be a little difficult, as he juggles preparing for what is to come while wrapping up what has been.  It’s watching Mr. Todd, the mailman deliver the post, day in and day out.  It’s trusting that one thing will generally follow the next.

Like most of us modern human beings, I lived in a world liberated from, or at least oblivious to the rhythms of the natural world.  The tyranny of schedule I knew–don’t hit the snooze button more than once, drop whatever you’re doing and move onto the next class when the bell rings–clock in, clock out.  So when it was time to build a rhythm for my family, I was lost, not knowing where to begin.  Sure, I’d learned about alternating inside and outside, quiet and active, ritual and repetition.  I tried to write out the course of our day, with all of these things included, but it all felt so contrived and we’d get pulled off track after a few short days.

So I took the advice of a wise friend and started small, adding one thing at a time, bit by bit.  A candle and a verse at bedtime.  The same song for getting our outside clothes on.  A weekly lunch rhythm.  A bucket of hot soapy water for washing up after meals.  Crepes on Sunday morning.  Lots of home time free from disruptions. As each thing became habit, we added something else.  And now, after five years, the rhythm has fully arrived and instead of a schedule that we put in place, it feels like a partner in our lives.  A Being all of Its own that we invited into our home with our little repetitive activities.  I can’t pin down the moment that She arrived, but one day I just became deeply aware of Her presence.  Now that She is here, we feel Her out, adjust as needed as our family grows and changes and She buoys us through the moments of our lives. It’s like having a sixth member of our family, and we’re thankful that She’s here.

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this moment

Joining Amanda for “{this moment}. A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”

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all tucked in: inside

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Winters are fairly mild here in Denver.  We have our cold and snow, but frequent warm ups are common.  Even when it’s chilly, there is something about the warmth of the sun that makes 30 degrees feel much different from the 30 degrees I grew up with in New England.  When we first moved (for John back) here, we were both struck by the gentle shift in seasons.  We actually missed that feeling of really snuggling in to hibernate, and the relief of emerging in April.  But I’ve come to appreciate the ebb and flow of the seasons here, and at the moment, that ebb and flow is moving us inside a bit more.

DSC00731I’ve been enjoying watching how the kids’ play has changed since last winter.  They are quite the little pack, and Opal is running with the big dogs every chance she gets.  There are still many hurt feelings that accompany the under five year old lessons of getting along, but there are also magical moments of new found peace.  Sometimes there are even moments in which I offer a solution to a conflict, that is disregarded in light of their own solutions–something I would never had thought of.  Those are my favorite moments of all.

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DSC00863DSC00852DSC00878For the times when unoccupied hands find themselves up to no good, I’ve been keeping this basket of felt squares close by. (The yellow striped sleeves in the basket picture are from a sweater John made in 7th grade!)   We’re stringing them together to make garlands to use in our wintry celebrations.  I got the idea from Amanda, although, I confess I can’t remember if it was from the blog or one of her wonderful books.  Up until now, the kids have not been ready to do much in the way of handwork.  They’ve shared in my own handwork by imitating my inner gesture of slow, steady, creativity–usually working alongside me on their own projects.  But Mattheus’ almost five years have awarded him the fine motor skills to make fast progress on these garlands and I love the marking of this little milestone.  He’s taking up the task with all of his usual careful determination.  Lucien is still concentrating pretty hard to string each piece of wooly color–fine motor skills in development.  (He’s bit camera shy these days, so there aren’t many pictures to post.)  Opal discovered Mattheus’s kid sized scissors in the process and tries to put them to use everywhere, while Mattheus tries to teach her the ropes.  “No, Opal!  Don’t cut Bunby!” (Her beautiful knit bunny from her dear godmother)  “No, Opal! Don’t cut the rocking horse’s tail!”  “No, Opal!  Don’t cut the piano!”  One can’t help but chuckle a bit, and perfect that Waldorf kindergarten teacher “walk-across-the-room-slowly-and-calmly-but-with-intention-and-pray-you-get-there-in-time-before-too-much-damage-is-done-without-moving-too-abrubtly-as-to-disrupt-the-carefully-cultivated-space-of the-room” walk.

One of the things I love about coming inside in November is delving into the food treasures we put up over the summer.  Preserves and frozen veggies and pumpkins and squash.  All those forces of the summer sun transformed into the warmth of winter. Enough said, I think.

Lucien, our epicurean of the moment, helped me with a Reinhart family tradition this year: First Snow/Snow Days from School Cookies.  He’s helping me tweak the recipe to meet our current special diets.  When we nail it I’ll try to remember to post.  But, it is essentially a healthier, wheat free, oatmeal, chocolate chip cookie.  There’s just something about snowy days that call for these treats with warm milk, cocoa or tea.  They must be consumed while the chocolate is still melted of course!

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Just about the only thing I approach with a bit of a heavy heart during the colder months, is the task of laundry without a drier.  When we bought our house, we consciously opted out of this energy hungry appliance.  Colorado is so dry that on a hot summer day, by the time I hang the last clothing item on the line, the first is dry!  With a bit of extra planning, creativity and new knowledge (stories of frozen laundry in The Long Winter are actually pretty accurate), it’s a manageable task.  There are occasional trips to Gramma and Granpa’s when we realize there are only three more diapers in the drawer and we need clean ones.  In the next three hours.  Really, for the most part it all works out.  But, I have from time to time during the winter, yearned for the easiness of a drier.  Of laundry being a weekly chore instead of something I have to hold in our daily rhythm.  Still, the benefits outweigh the costs, so I keep checking the weather report before the never ending piles go in the machine.  Laundry fluttering on the mild February wind is a benefit of gentler seasons I would not easily give up!

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all tucked in: outside

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DSC00659DSC00671DSC00747DSC00666DSC00664DSC00670I’ve been quiet this past week on the blog.  Partly because a weekend away from home equals about a week of catch up.  Partly because I am still feeling out how much blog is too much.  I am loving writing and connecting with new friends, but at times I realize I am dreading turning on the computer and that’s when I realize that I need to rebalance blog life with real life.

Mostly I have been quiet because winter arrived in full last Monday, and demanded much of our attention.  It came late this year–we usually have a heavy wet snow fall before Halloween.  It comes off the mountains and dumps a few inches overnight, only to be melted within 48 hours by the warming temperatures and high altitude sun. But, this year winter held off, and when it did come, it was not holding back.  We woke up on Monday morning to mild temperatures–we had to take off our hats and mitts and jackets by 10am.  At about 11:30, a single arctic gust of wind blew across our property and through the trees (Smelling of cow manure from the stockyards northeast of us–a sure sign that the wind is blowing just right for a storm.  Brings a different meaning to the phrase “smells like snow.”)  Within 10 minutes the blue sky was gray and we were headed inside to warm up.  It really does happen this quickly here in Denver, where the weather is so volatile it still surprises me after eight years.  But it was unchanging this time.  Instead, we settled into a week straight of below freezing temperatures, such stretches that only occur a few times a season here.

All parents know the trepidation of looking ahead to a week of mostly inside activity!  But it still doesn’t tamper with the feeling of healing that accompanies the first snowfall.  Something about the gray-white quiet and falling flakes puts to rest the struggles of Michaelmas–the topsy-turvy feeling of transitioning from summer to winter, from out to in.  At last we are given full permission to return to the deepest corners of our homes and of our hearts.

This year, the first snowfall coincided with Martinmas and our lantern walk at school–festivities that acknowledge the gifts of selflessness and compassion for others.  Many people see it as a call to cultivate the strength of your “inner light” as the darkness fully descends upon us, as if, if we do not build up this strength, the world around us will easily snuff it out.  I sense the truth is this picture, but I have always felt that Martinmas is a time of celebration–an acknowledgement of the inner light that has already, hopefully, carried us through Michaelmas and refused to be extinguished by the Dragon.  I experience Martinmas as a time to recognize that our inner light is always burning, all we have to do is seek it.  This gesture of seeking is subtly different from cultivating, but to me, the distinction makes a world of difference.

DSC00712DSC00710This strength of our inner lanterns carries us into winter, which on a farm is about resting, and dreaming of next season.  For us on the farmlette,  this generally means problem solving the challenges of a family of five’s needs on a very small property.  Where could we squeeze in another bed–how sturdy do you think that roof is, Dear?  How can we get a little more sunlight to the spaces we do have?  Do we really need a lawn?

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DSC00806DSC00887When we’re not dreaming, our winter energy turns to the animals, who need a little extra care during these cold months.  Eggs are collected more frequently to prevent freezing, chicken combs are watched carefully for frostbite and “balmed up” when necessary, and “the barn,” gets a little more cleaning as the animals spend a lot more time inside.  (I can only imagine if a chicken’s small brain had the capacity for contemplation, it would wonder why snow ever came to be.)  Then, of course, there is the carrying of buckets back and forth from the house, since the outside spigots are off and there is no running water in the garage attached to the barn.  Henny Penny, our white Araucana, and one of only two hens to have won themselves a name, is wondering why everyone is taking over her barn, which she retreated to after taking a vow of celibacy upon Rodrigo’s arrival.  Daffodil and Gypsy don’t mind the snow too much, as long as they have a dry warm place to thaw out their hooves at the end of the day.  They will hopefully go off to be courted by a Billy in December.  This will be our first experience in breeding, kidding and milking.  Daffodil was bred before she came to us and had triplets!  Are we crazy to breed them at the same time?  Possibly.

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Rodrigo has a new night time home since I last wrote about him. (We did end up with a neighbor complaint from the eightplex across the street.  Admittedly, I seem to have a blind spot for those folks, since they keep to themselves and come and go through the side of the building that does not face our property.)  Now he comfortably passes his nights in a large dog crate in our basement.  It’s clear he misses the ladies and is always grumpy when we collect him after dark, but with the cold settling in, I think he’s realizing the benefits of his prime spot next to the furnace.

DSC00782DSC00777With the crops in, the animals have full run of the garden and sometimes even the entire property.  They are thankful for the extra space, and we like that they are a little more present in our outdoor activities.  It’s not uncommon to feel goat teeth nibbling at your mitten and look down to realize that Daffodil has quietly sidled up next to you looking for a treat.  When she realizes wool is still not tasty, she walks away a bit disgruntled.

I don’t know anyone who says to themselves, “yes, barn chores in winter!”  but, I am really loving them at the moment.  With the boys off to school and Opal down for a morning winter’s nap, I have the luxury of moving slowly.  Of spending some quality time with the animals–especially the goats.  Of enjoying what defines winter here in Denver: sunshine that beams off snow a little too brightly, soft pale blue skies and crisp dry air that wakes up the nose and lungs.  I always appreciate that chores get me outside at the start of each day, but when I have the space to really be outside, it is so satisfying.  Often these quiet, fresh-aired moments in the barn yard are just what I need to still my heart before another day inside with the kiddos.

 

this moment

A few days behind!

Joining Amanda for “{this moment}. A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”

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abundance

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John and I just returned from a weekend getaway at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash.  We take a few days every year to escape to this Eco-friendly resort nestled in a valley of the Rockies, with views of the Continental Divide.  Even during the off season (the few weeks when warm weather activities are out, the leaves are off the trees, and there is no snow to shepherd in the winter sports) the Rockies tower over you with some mix of magnificence and severity.  A friend of mine who lived at the base of Pike’s Peak for many years, once told me that she felt the mountain “knew her.”  I find this an apt description.  There is something active in these mountains, as if they not only pull us toward them with their force and upheaval, but also gaze down upon us, keeping their tallies.

DSC00448DSC00399  DSC00451It is only a few days, an hour and a half drive, but it feels like a big step away from everyday life of work and students, of home and children.  I managed to fit in quite a few things from my single stolen day list (I did spare the other guests the baroque arias), while John wrote poetry, of course.  Over delicious food and hiking and hot tub soaks, I was able to catch up, really, it cannot be said any other way, with my best friend.  “So, how’ve you been?!”  We can’t help but look at each other and realize with full clarity why and when and how it all began.  And be grateful.  For the space to leave it behind, and the joy that we carry when we return.

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We receive these few days at the Ranch every year from the owners, whose children are students of John.  I am to this day amazed at their generosity–they offer this gift to all the teachers who have loved their children.  But, I got to thinking on the drive up that maybe it’s not so generous after all.  Relax.  Hear me out.  It is, of course, deeply generous, but I doubt it makes a noticeable dent in their business.  In other words, if we gave this gift to someone else, it would be crippling to our household economy.  The owners of Devil’s Thumb, however, have an abundance of a resource that most of us do not.  And so a tiny thing to them, becomes a huge thing to us–I venture they have no idea how huge.  After a weekend at the Ranch, we take our renewed energy, restored inspiration and quieted hearts back to our everyday lives, and the effects ripple beyond us to our children, our colleagues, our friends and family.  All because someone gave a little bit of their extra to another human being, who could not have given it to themselves.

What if we all gave something of our own extra to others?  What if we all spent a little less time focused on getting what we don’t have, or being resentful of those who do, and put our abundance, whatever it might be, to work?

I for one, would feel a little more confident about facing those tallies the mountains are keeping.

this moment

Joining Amanda for “{this moment}. A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”

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