centering down for Michaelmas

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“Strongly I will think, will remember often, how within I’m vitalized by all primal spirit strength, will strongly sense within me weaving soul and power of will, will reflect in stillness how I can find a hold in my heart’s depths when my soul, quiet in itself, rests and also strongly acts out of itself.” by Rudolf Steiner, “The Heart of Peace”

I’ve been reading a great book: “Living the Quaker Way,” by Philip Gulley.  A friend recommended it after my post about searching for buffers in this chaotic world.  In his preface Gulley writes, “I’m not inviting you to a church but to a life,” built upon the Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality.    And it’s in these pages I’ve learned the phrase “centering down,” a common practice before a Meeting of Friends.  (Although we don’t have a name for it, it is also what you’d experience 15 minutes before the service if you were to attend The Christian Community.)  It means choosing to create the quiet needed to reconnect to one’s inner life, making more space for whatever divine or higher presence guides you.  And, according to the author, it need not be sitting in silence.  While he described his experience with walking meditation, a vision of yarn and needles came into my mind.  The familiar feel of them in my hands became a life line during the family’s bumpy transition back to urban life and school.  I do also love to sit in silence, a more traditional centering down, but it comes much easier after the rhythm of knit and purl have passed between my hands for a few minutes.

Between that and the unfinished projects I discovered while clearing out a fiber moth infestation, there is a lot coming off the needles these days.  This Striped Linen Stitch Cowl, however, I finished up over the summer.   I received the yarn (a Mountain Girl Yarn, whose Etsy shop is currently on a little break) as a gift from my friend Kim at Mothering with Mindfulness, a few years back.  I don’t receive yarn gifts often, so I when I do, I am always tempted to extend the gift by making something for myself.  I had a few other projects in mind and actually started one and pulled it out before I settled on this cowl.  I’ve been wanting to take on a linen stitch project for a while and this one was perfect: since it’s in the round I only had to learn half of linen stitch!  It proved the perfect repeating-pattern-travel-companion for about a year.  I took it with me to Ann Arbor, and Nova Scotia, and tossed it in my carry-on when I came back to Denver in July for my training program, then, back again to Canada.  All the while I wondered if I was going to be able to double it around my neck.  I started with not quite enough yarn for the project, by my estimates, so I cast on a few less stitches, fingers crossed.  Excited to say that it does tightly, but still comfortably, go around twice!  We’ve had an uncharacteristic rainy week and it has been so lovely to pull this out.

I wish I could say that I’ve been outwardly preparing for Michaelmas while wearing it, but alas, no.  One myth of parenting I am beginning to really understand: it does not get easier as the children get bigger, it just gets different hard.  What the children once needed in physical care–diapers, feeding, shoe tying–they now need in emotional care.  I find it equally difficult and more complicated, and draining all the same.  Which is why our nature table at the moment consists of left over pictures from Lucien’s birthday (in August) and a vase of flowers from Nana’s garden that should’ve made its way to the compost days ago.

I am thankful for the years when I’ve had more space for dragon bread and harvest activities, because I think they are part of why I have an inner relationship to Michaelmas.  A simple, enigmatic relationship with the courage to act; the courage that He can plant within our hearts.  For some, those actions may be loud–taking to the streets.  But let us not forget the others.  The ones carving out a simple, conscious, life, in partnership with the Spirit, an act that goes against every grain of our more-faster society.  Let us not forget the courage and sacrifice it takes to turn off the device and “center down,” making room for whatever it is that reconnects us to our best and most authentic selves.

That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow afternoon.  Come join me on the porch if you’re passing by.

 

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these ordinary things: hearth

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

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Years of dreaming, several months of planning, a few weekends of work (yes, with a hole in the roof), some help from friends, and the wood stove is finally in.

For six years we have been transforming this neglected structure into our home.  There are the big things–two of our children were born in the room they currently sleep in.  And the unnoticed things–the daily ritual of sweeping up dust, sandbox sand and muddy boot prints.  Ensouled with all of it and every in-between, this home now has a life of its own, and in its hearth the heart’s transforming power of warmth. Not the abstract warmth of a furnace that somehow manufactures heat from the bowels of our house, but the right-in-front-of-you sacrificial combustion of sunlight and sap.

Somehow, gathered around its warmth, we find our inner selves again, so easily avoided in the endless distractions of modern life.  Then, turning outward, we hope to bring the powers of the heart with us.  And returning, we find the home fires diminished, but never quite extinguished, just waiting for replenishment.

 

 

 

 

just the two of us

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When I talk with other mamas about Opal starting preschool, they often comment on how nice it must be to have a little more time to myself.  I look forward to that someday, but it’s not quite here yet.  Instead, as each kiddo goes off to school on different days, circumstance has given us the gift of one on one time.  Every week I spend one morning with each of them, just the two of us.

Mattheus usually has a grand outing or project planned, which I say yes to when I can.  But in the in between moments–in the car, when I’m doing housework–he speaks little, or quietly to himself.  I know he’s thankful for the solitude–for a morning free of all those siblings.

Lucien thinks Mattheus’s outings will surely be wonderful, but he tires easily and quickly remembers he’s more suited to projects at home with Mama.  Our mornings together are uniquely special.  Birth order has never quite allowed us this space, and our shared joy is clear.  The kitchen is his favorite creative place, so I try to reserve some of our Monday baking for Thursdays with him.

Opal is thrilled about school and her new friends.  Often she wanders around the house whispering lists of their names over and over again.  So, she can’t quite figure out why the boys are so excited about getting to stay home with Mama by themselves.  (“Papa, today I am staying home with Mama, like Opal does!”)  She’d much rather be at school where all of the action is.  But then there’s a trip to the coffee shop for hot chocolate, and Mama actually playing at the park instead of sitting on the bench with knitting needles in hand while everyone else plays.  It might not be so boring after all.

Next Fall Mattheus will meet the teacher and classmates he will spend the next eight years with, formally marking the end of his early childhood.  And with this shift, some part of our entire family moves on and out into the world.  No longer will life be all that is home, with a bit of school, a bit of friends, a bit of family added at the last minute for garnish.  But before that, these last few months of one on one days, to pause and be grateful all the quiet chaos and humbling joy of the last six years.  I’ll take it.

off she goes

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Nearly every morning last fall, Opal would fall in step with her brothers as they prepared for school, only to be shocked into tears as they drove away without her.  After all, these three kiddos are a tightly knit pack.

Slowly, she got used to the routine of waving goodbye to them as they went on their way.  But the sense of inequity never quite left her.  We would bustled around the house getting ready for church, or hikes in the foothills–outings planned for the entire family–and she would look up at us, steeling herself for disappointment and ask, “Do I get to go?”  “Yes, Opal.  You are coming, or course.”  Then she would raise across the house to another family member and exclaim, “I’m going to school too!”  “To church, Opal.  We’re going to church.”  “Oh.  I’m going to church too!”

Well here we are, a few short-long months later and Opal is finally off to kindergarten a couple of mornings a week.

It’s a moment that stirs up the first days of her life.  The first wobbly steps.  First attempts at language.  I find myself wanting to go back in time, hold them each in my arms for just a few moments.  Their new and fresh from heaven selves, who have passed into memory and become little people with successes and attempts, failures and mendings.

But this is the selfish part of me.  Joyfully watching them from afar, the rest of me understands a little better what it is to be human–the interweaving of given and created, archetype and individual, connecting and separating.  And it all starts with those few words, “I’m going to school too!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

these ordinary things: saying yes

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Throughout our days with four and a half year old Lucien, we are just as likely to be redirecting a storm of aggressive limbs and biting teeth as we are to be swept up by his expansive joy in life and heartfelt regard for everyone around him.   On the difficult days, it’s easy to fall into a kind of assembly-line-style-parenting: just get it done so we can start again tomorrow.

And then he tenderly asks if he can help (in the kitchen, always in the kitchen) and the word “No” flashes across the screen in my head.  When I take a deep breath and say yes, the connection I find heals all the moments of mutual frustration.  Not just yes to the spilled flour and egg shells in the batter, the pancake flipped halfway off the griddle, but yes to the path we are walking with him.  Aggression and tenderness.  Joy and teeth marks.  Heart force and restlessness.  Without judgement, only compassion, and saying yes to his little limitless life.

return of the rainbow fairies

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This time of year the Rainbow Fairies return to us, casting their changing constant selves on the surfaces of the house.  The maple tree sheds its leaves releasing our house from the shade of summer , and the low hanging fall sun finds its way into our windows.  Outside the days are shortening as we sink into winter darkness, but inside our little red house, this same light shines more brightly than it does at the height of summer.  As we tuck in the garden and watch the squirrels filling their nests, we see the light wake up in our house and in our hearts.  Now all that we have gathered of the summer’s bounty can bloom within us.

Turning inward we find the core of our family again.  No longer scattered about the yard, hands in the dirt, but lying on the floor among the puzzle pieces or intently bent over handwork projects.  There is plenty of running into each other, of pondering how we will survive the years on top of each other in 1000 sqft.  But along side this are the miraculous moments in which we remember what a gift it is to all be here together.  That in all the many beings in the universe, we have had the good luck of finding each other.

summer days

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Oh my, dear friends, how busy our days have been.  I move through the day composing snippets of blog posts in my head, but each moment is so full of all things summer, it is hard to sneak a moment to sit down at the computer.  And, let’s face it, after supper, when half dressed children are running through the sprinkler and planning camp outs, the desire to pull out the guitar and play as the summer evening seems to draw on forever, well, it always wins.

But here I am, summoning some discipline and wondering where to begin sharing all of the magic on the farmlette.  Here are a few, rather, a lot of snapshots.

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In the garden we are beginning to sense the fullness of the approaching harvest season.  Piles of green tomatoes are yearning for a good stretch of hot weather.  The garlic is in, and what will likely be the last of our spring greens planting.  Both of those beds, along with one more and the cold frame will be getting a good load of compost and manure to prepare for fall/winter.  This is our first year doing cool season gardening here, so it will be an experiment.  We still have a bit of work to do to get the actual frames ready, but there is time.  The peas, we have had such an oddly long season, are finally done and we will pull them up this week to throw into the goat pen.  Greens, cukes, zukes, summer squash, strawberries and the first cherry tomatoes are coming in, although nothing in huge quantities yet.  We’ve been sneaking a few beets and carrots in the name of thinning.  For the third year in a row our beans have done very little, so I will have to give that some serious attention this winter.  I planted some greens under our maple tree this year, hoping they would do well in a shady spot during the hotter months, and so far they seem to be doing well.  Herbs are drying by the bunches and I think we’ll have enough to get through the year.  So far, the only new obstacle this year has been combining companion planting with our irrigation system, which is a necessity in Colorado.  The few things I planted not directly on irrigation lines are doing okay, but not quite getting enough and so I end up spot watering quite a bit.  So more winter thinking on that one.

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In the barnyard the kids have grown so quickly.  They will be big enough to go to their new homes soon.  The bucklings don’t have homes yet, and we are still on the fence on how to proceed with them in terms of keeping them intact or not.  We’ve chosen not to disbud them, so that may complicate homing them.  However, there must be someone else out there who sees the value of allowing these lovely animals to live the way Mother Nature intended.  Time will tell and it is all a learning process this time around, so when we find out how difficult it is to home a horned goat, we will have more information for next time.  Our little chick is all feathered out.  Hen or rooster?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Either way, it ended up being the only addition to our barnyard this year.  We’ve separated out our first batch of six hens to slaughter this fall so that we can fatten them up.  We all have mixed emotions on this, but the reality of urban farming is that there is only so much space.  If we want to continue striving for our ideals of sustainability then we have to also strive to accept these compromises.

DSC02076 DSC02080 DSC02079 In the studio, well, I’ve not been down there very much.  I have managed to get the buttons on those baby boy Hawthorne sweaters which is good because those baby boys are getting big.  Hopefully they will fit well for fall.  The body on my FLS is done!  And then there is those sleeves.  I always tend to stall out on the sleeves, just an old habit of mine, but perhaps when the cool weather sets in I’ll be ready to plow ahead.  I have a gathering collection of quilts in some stage of progress, four now, I think.  Fall will be a busy time.

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August 1st always brings images of school along with it.  We begin to look forward to the stability of a rhythm, to the way our minds are a bit clearer when the sky is crystal blue and the breeze is crisp.  To the renewed intentions we’ve let go of during these hot hazy days.  The great expanse of summer, the urge to free oneself from all earthly responsibilities is so strong, that eventually I find myself craving the grounding of fall.  But it’s not here yet.  We have a few weeks left of no schedules and siestas and late bedtimes.  A few more weeks to share long visits with friends and pull out the fiddle and guitar after supper.  A few more weeks to fill ourselves with the ease that is the slow paced life, centered around what needs to be done each day, right here on the farmlette and no where else.  A few more weeks to insulate ourselves in this haven from urban life.  And that’s just what we plan to do.

And what about you?  What is August bringing to your life?