"So prayer is our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the Real, with Truth, with the Light. It is us reaching out to be heard, hoping to be found by a light and warmth in the world, instead of darkness and cold. Even mushrooms respond to light - I suppose they blink their mushroomy eyes, like the rest of us."
~Anne Lamott~
(Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Catharsis

"The first section of the poem, The Inferno, was Dante’s account of their trip through Hell. Each circle of Hell contained assorted shades (ghosts) suffering increasingly harsh punishments. As the pair entered the 4th circle of Hell, they found two mobs at war, crashing against each other with enormous boulders they pushed with their chests. The armies formed a circle and as Plutus, the Greek God of Wealth watched, they collapsed upon each other crashing the stones against each other, only to retreat and taunt “Why do you hoard?” While the opposite mob replied, “Why do you waste?” Dante’s guide explained that these were the hoarders and wasters in life, the Avaricious and Prodigal. Their lives were spent acquiring possessions and chasing wealth, but by doing so they shielded themselves from God’s light. Now they were forever doomed to this fate. Their possessions became the heavy stones they heaved and crashed for eternity."
(http://hoarding.iocdf.org/dante_to_dsm-v.aspx)


Yes, well... "Why do we hoard?"  "Why do we waste?" Good questions.  I know this is a little heavy for Monday morning but it's something I've been thinking about and it brings me to the point of this blogpost. 
We cleaned out our garage two weeks ago and even though it's not completely finished, I feel really good about what we accomplished.

We chose a day, moved the car out and faced this monster with determination. This seems like an overwhelming project. 
We began by making piles.
One for the dump...
and one for the thrift shops...
...and a small pile for the undecideds. (This is a pile that needs to be kept to a minimum. It tends to grow fast.)

This cleaning and sorting is a lot of work, at our age... at any age, really... but it took all day and visions of Dante's Inferno kept hitting me in the back of the head. 
By late afternoon the garage was looking pretty good. The only casuality was a bird that had died (quickly I hope) in a rat trap. Why it chose to fly into the garage and eat cheese left for a rat, I have no idea. Our cat sleeps in here. The poor bird must have been desperate.
By the end of the day we we able to drive the car back into the garage without hitting its doors on "stuff". 

There is still a lot of work for us to do. Plastic boxes of "things" that I need to look through and sort. There's also the Prospector's side of this... "his side" of the garage. He is complicit as well. He has a workbench and storage area that is unusable at the moment. I'm not in this alone. 
I know that my schizophrenic artistic habit of hopping from one one kind of art to another (and all of my supplies that ensue)... and my  (I believe) unconscious "Don't throw anything away, I might want to use it someday" attitude, seems to be trapped in the recesses of my brain, having left me with a permanent inability to toss something away. I know, that without the looming thought of having to move someday, because of our health or old age, I would become lost in all of this. If I thought that this was our last destination, our final hurrah, I would probably not care so much. But I do. I also don't want all of this, piling up, waiting for my family to deal with.

I want to be like some folks who never collect anything. I truly do. I want to have a perfect, well organized life with closets that reveal what's in them at a glance. I want to find my shoes. I need that item that I put away, in a safe place, so I would know where everything was when I need it.  Yes, I have HOPE. I know that this is possible. I just don't know if I have time.
I have visions of  Dante standing there between the piles of stuff, smiling... waiting... with my "possessions" and they will have become the "heavy stones" that I will have to "heaved and crashed for eternity." 
That's scary shit. 
I need to keep working on this... fast.
 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Valentine visit from our son

Our oldest son said he would come up for Valentine's Day. This is, at least, an overnight trip. It's a few hours from the Bay Area. He arrived on Saturday. The Corgi boys knew this ahead of time... because the sofa bed was opened and ready.
Carl loves it when someone comes. He thinks that we open the bed for him and he lets us know that it's his bed, by laying on it as soon as it's made up. He never challenges anyone with his possession of things...well, sometimes he does... but in a cute, loving Corgi way. He loves company... so when the bed is opened he knows that someone is coming. 
He and Cutter greeted our son at the gate like an old friend.

I love having our boys here. It seems I still have that maternal instinct inside of me, even now as they both move through their 40's. I guess you never stop seeing them through your childhood memories. They are grown men, but they are still our children. They are adults with lives of their own, but the feelings are still protective and loving, as if there is still a small child inside of them. I guess we all have a small child inside of us.
So "M" came to visit us for the weekend. We had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants on Saturday night. Great food and, because we are having summer early this year, the weather was beautiful. Didn't even need a coat at 7:00 p.m. This is California Winter at its best.

On Sunday we went for a short hike up to the ridge. It was so lovely... warm and sunny.
About halfway we saw a gang of turkey on the hill above the trail. As soon as they saw us most of them continued to move away, but two of them (young jakes) came straight down the hill to see us. Too funny. As if they were waiting for us, "Oh, look. It's Farmlady and she has someone else with her."
They were so friendly that I think if we had given them some food they would have come right up and taken it from us. Of course, when we didn't offer anything, they turned around and left.
We headed on up the hill and walked to the little, old house that is falling apart. Someone told us that he was born here. I tried to imagine being born here. It would have been a great distance from town and kind of lonely for his mother.
When we first moved here the house was standing upright. That was 16 years ago. Over the years it has withered into a pile of moss covered wood with few signs left that someone once lived here. A sink, a bed spring, some wire connectors, a rusty water tank and pieces of corrugated roofing. 
A window, without glass, that frames the old oaks...
and poison oak that is slowly devouring the small house. In Summer the poison oak has big, shiny leaves that almost shield the house from view.
There was a stove pipe laying on top of the roof, rusted and looking useless.
We discussed who might have lived there and what their lives would have been like. I tell "M" that when we first moved here and I found this house, there were Iris blooming close by. I dug them up and took them back to our house. I planted them in my new little garden ... dark blue flags. They still grow there.
We walked further and "M" noticed a caterpillar on the trail. We could have stepped on it.
Just a little thing... crawling across the open trail to who knows where.
I picked it up...
It was so pretty... but some day soon it will make a cocoon and create some magic.
I wondered what kind of butterfly this little caterpillar will be? I set it back down on a leaf and told it to move on into the bushes. It didn't move... so we continue walking, trying to remember to step lightly from now on and watch the ground for other arrant creatures looking for some sunshine.
I thought to myself that we should be careful and keep an eye out for snakes too. The weather was so warm and more like April or May out there.
We decided to take another trail down to the little creek. There is a mine here. Someone did a lot of work looking for gold in this area. Probably before World War II.

There is a creek that only has water in it during the winter.  There's a lot of bedrock in this creek and a concrete wall to hold a reservoir of water in one area.
Someone built stone retaining walls for reasons unknown. Houses, roads? channeling water? Who knows. It's a beautiful mystery.
"M" and I spend quite a while exploring the area. We found an old wheelbarrow, old pilings and a good size water tank. What stories this place could tell.
We even found more mushrooms...
Fairy like and delicate...

tiny yellow ones...
and some that look like they were eaten for lunch. Maybe the little caterpillar was there.
This one looked good enough to eat.

It was time to go home... walking back down the trail to the house,
 I remembered Mary Oliver's poem called ~How I go to the Woods.~

"Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.”

This was a walk that I shared with my son and it was beautiful. It was a gift for me... and he knows that I love him very much.


Friday, February 13, 2015

From my friend...in the high country.

"Pilgrim"

Pilgrim, how you journey
On the road you chose
To find out why the winds die
And where the stories go.

All days come from one day
That much you must know,
You cannot change what's over
But only where you go.

One way leads to diamonds,
One way leads to gold,
Another leads you only
To everything you're told.

In your heart you wonder
Which of these is true;
The road that leads to nowhere,
The road that leads to you.

Will you find the answer
In all you say and do?
Will you find the answer
In you?

Each heart is a pilgrim,
Each one wants to know
The reason why the winds die
And where the stories go.

Pilgrim, in your journey
You may travel far,
For pilgrim it's a long way
To find out who you are...

Pilgrim, it's a long way
To find out who you are...

Pilgrim, it's a long way
To find out who you are... 
 

 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

January Chicken Report

Just a quick post on my chickadoodles. The are lookin' good. The molt is over and the the feathers are in.
Here's the Roadie...
She is our attack chicken. She's just one gene short of being a rooster. I don't trust her. She tends to walk alone and she jumps at the coop door in the morning when we come out to give the chickens their scraps and fresh water. Red is pushy and disagreeable but she's a good brown egg layer... and she is looking really good right now.

Then there's the Plymouth Rock. This is our big bird. She is a great hen and a good layer. She lays a large  light to medium brown egg with a touch of pink. and she seems to mingle well with the other big hens.
Her only bad habit is that she picks on Squeekie, our Bantam hen. She doesn't really harm Squeek'.  It's more just her size that makes Squeekie run. The Rock kind of walks around  with an air of, "I'm the biggest and I don't have to fight over anything. I only have to walk up and take what is rightfully mine."

 The Ameraucanas follows the Plymouth Rock around and get along with everyone. We have two of them. The Ameraucana's have tails and muffs unlike the Araucana breed. The all lay blue or green eggs.. or somewhere in between.
All the big hens are looking really good in their new spring feathers.

And then there's Squeekie, our sweet little Bantam hen.
I want you to know that this is her 10th year. She is a little old hen with a charming personality. She doesn't lay eggs anymore and she's dragging one of her feet. She must have had a little stoke or something. But this doesn't stop her. She free ranges with the other hens and can keep up with any of them.
She is a beautiful Belgian Bearded d'Uccle Bantam that, possibly because of bad breeding, does not have a beard and she is not booted. (consist of long feathers covering the legs that look like boots.) Squeekie is a mille fleur variety of this bantam. Mille Fleur describes the plumage associated with this bantam. It's very beautiful and  distinctive, The Mille Fleur plumage consists of  dark, brown feathers divided by a black bar and tipped with white spangle. I should have named her Milly, but Squeekie is more accurate. Her sister, Henny Penny and our Bantam Rooster, Napoleon, are gone. She is the lone survivor of the bantam flock.
I love this little hen. She is a chicken in a million.

Squeekie was checking out the cat box in the garage, the other day.
Yes... our outdoor cat has her own cat box in the garage and uses it exclusively... and she likes it kept clean.
Squeekie checked out the cat's box and Annie watched her the whole time. But Annie never went over and discussed it with Squeek' or chased her away. I guess the have an agreement.. an understanding. Looking is OK, as long as Squeek' doesn't try to use it.
Annie is very patience with the chickens. I think she is a little afraid of them. She sits and watches them. She will even follow them around sometimes, but always at a distance and always with caution.

So the hens are laying again. The molt is over. We got three eggs a day this week and today we got four. Four eggs a day is plenty for us and the neighbors. So what do I use these beautiful eggs for, you ask?
Well, today I made some cookies.
Mixed up the dough...
And then... before I cooked them...
I ate some cookie dough.
It's tradition. Fresh eggs allow this indulgent behavior.
A bad habit that, in 50 or 60 some years, has never made me sick.
Thank you Chickadoodles.
Keep those eggs flowing.




Monday, January 26, 2015

Small Cactus... and Lemon Martinis

The Prospector decided to start a Cactus garden this year. Just a few cacti in some pots. I don't have a problem with this, but they seem to be multiplying. It started out with two cacti in one container and now...
We have many different kinds of cacti in three containers. Where will this all end?
I will admit that I have had nothing to do with this. He bought them, planted them and arranged them on the  small stand, on the front porch, that I was under-utilizing anyway. I'm not complaining. They are very pretty. So different than flowers... more rugged and defensive, but interesting. He waters them, feeds them and seems to enjoy his little grouping of succulents. I just never know what this man is going to find delight in and worthy of his interest. Life is short... we all need to find small things that make us happy. He has found an attraction to these prickly plants.
I like to take close up photos of them. They are symmetrically beautiful. Maybe that's what he likes about them. I will ask. Whatever it is, they make us both happy. It's a small pleasure.

For Christmas the prospector bought me a Meyer Lemon tree. He knew I wanted one and when I actually told him that I would really love to have one, it was almost a guarantee that I would find it in the living room on Christmas Day. It's a dwarf and he's building a big planter for it near the deck. We decided to keep it up near the house where we could protect it (instead of the vegetable garden) because we can get to it more easily and cover it on freezing nights.
We have not had many freezing nights this winter, but we do once in a while and I have lost a couple of citrus trees because we didn't protect them on cold nights. In fact, the weather is so mild this winter, it's like Spring right now. Warm days... cold (but not anywhere near freezing) nights.  All the plants and trees are a bit confused. They are all getting little buds of growth. The lemon tree is no exception.
It is ready to bloom and start its little lemons. I hate to think what will happen if the weather turns on us. Guess we will have a little lemon tree in the livingroom at night. I have big plans for this tree and its lemons. I'm not loosing the tree to carelessness this time.
 I'm personally waiting for these lemons in anticipation of lemon pie, lemon shortbread, fresh lemonade and lemon gelato, homemade Limoncello and... listen very carefully... Lemon Meringue Martinis.
 Yes, Lemon Meringue Martini. Doesn't that just roll right off of your tongue?
We're talking, Limoncello, whipped vodka, half and half and crushed graham crackers around the rim of the glass. Who says you have to be sad when life hands you lemons?  Life is short and when my little Lemon tree hands me lemons... I will be ready.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Speak to me of love...

Before Christmas my sister and I decided to make a "box" for each other as a Christmas gift. I'm finally getting around to showing you what she made for me.
Will you look at this...
She took a plain wood box and created this beautiful piece of art for me.
The most amazing thing about it is that she used one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver. It's called How I Go to the Woods. She knows me and understands how I feel about solitude.
She wrote the poem all the way around the sides of the box...
And the last amazing lines of the poem are on the top.
The box is covered with lace and shells.
A butterfly is watching from the corner.
In the moss... a small bird and a nest that she made, with pearl "eggs" in it.
There is a photo of us with a heart attached.
This is a very special gift.

Thanks Sis. I'm so lucky to have a sister like you.  I will always take you with me into the woods, because I love you very much.
Here is the poem by M. Oliver... one of many that speak to me.
Have a wonderful day.

How I go to the woods
Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.”

~Mary Oliver~


Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Addiction of book altering

My sister, Lisa, was here last week. She left on Thursday and we miss her.

Carl too...
It was her birthday. She chose to spend it with us.
We shopped the thrift stores in town for old books.
Let me tell you why.

When I went to see my friend in Isleton, for her birthday. I gave her a book on folding book pages as art.
It was filled with ideas like this,
and this...
I was so inspired that I got on line and found out how to start folding pages and I made my friend an altered book as part of her gift. It was really fun to do. Very simple... only done by folding the pages and using a little glue in some places.
She was delighted and I was inspired to make more.
When my sister arrived, we decided to devote most of our week to making one of these books. That's when we headed to the thrift stores to find some old books that would work for this project.
Wonderful old books that we didn't have any attachment to and didn't cost more than $1.50 a piece.
I showed Lisa the video that I had watched. I shared my vast knowledge (Ha!) of book page folding with her and off we went, into the land of creating art from old book pages.
She started off a bit faster than I did. . She sees an idea in her head. I see the start, but never the end. She sees the process. I see the "Oh, my gosh... look what's happening?" as I move through the concept. We both started folding pages. She couldn't wait to start painting and shaping the idea that was already forming in her head. I was content to fold triangles different ways and found it soothing to bend and fold each page.
This was her beginning...
But, I didn't get a clear photo of her final piece. I will get one from her and show it to you in another post. It's wild and whimsical with extra pages shredding and flying out of the folds like fireworks. It's beautiful and creative. I was trying to work on mine as the same time and I thought I had some decent photos of hers. but I didn't. Wait until you see it. WOW!
Mine started out with basic folding and then I started snipping the edges of the triangles.
And folding them in different directions.

 I also took words and sentences from the story and added them to the blank pages on the left an right side of the book.

Then  I stained the pages with a wash of Vandyke brown and some nickel Azo gold acrylic paint to make it all look old.
The painting was done with layers of different colored paints that I let dry as I layered.

I finished the lighter colors and then added some brown and black to one side. The book is about a war in England when Rome invaded southern Britain about 44AD.The Romans were pretty brutal and so were the Druids. So I wanted one side of the book to look like it had been through a war. I painted the left side with dark brown and black as if it was burnt. I also use a red paint to signify blood.

Since these  photos were taken, I have added more "blood" and I'm thinking about burning some of the pages on the left side to really give it more battle scaring. It's amazing how much you can do with paint  to add darkness to the pages.
The right side is about coming through the war and starting to recover... seeing the sunrise and finding human emotions like love again.
There is no burning and blood on this side... only recovery and healing.
At one end of the arrow that pierces the pages, the red feathers say
wounded beast... through the darkness... exhausted and battered... terrible injuries. When it comes out on the other side it says, "Oh, I see... an arrow." as if the arrow has no where to go and becomes lost in the air. Losing its power, it's then caught by the bright sun before it can do any more damage.

One side is dark, black and bloody filled with, "Fragments that penetrate the human body." and  "approaching enemies". The right side is filled with a night sky washed with the pale glow of dawn, where a man comes home to breezes blowing through the forest and his woman is waiting for him.
I enjoyed working on this. Wish I had read the whole book before I altered it. I kind of read pages as I was pulling them out or when I was cutting them up.
It's not quite done, but almost. What do you think about burning pages on the left side... just a little?.

I've started working on a new one. It's an old hymnal with lots of old Christian songs.
This is becoming quite an addiction.

( The war book was called When the Eagle Hunts, by Simon Scarrow)