It’s Hard to Remember

336 :: Reluctant Dog and Boy

Sunshine is a gift.

Even with a sore back, I want to be outside today, moving around, face illuminated by the light, blinded by sparkle and white, taking compost to the chickens, pulling a sled, gathering frozen kale from a garden covered in snow.

Wallace isn’t so sure.
He drags behind, thick in his suit, collapsing onto the ground, pulling off his mittens.
Protesting.

I make my way down to the chicken coop.
Theo waits, curious about compost but leery of the electric fence, making dog-breath steam in the bright, icy air.
Watching me.

At bedtime, snuggled under the covers, Wallace wonders about fireflies.
“Do you remember how they light up, blinking, all over our front field?” I ask him.
“In the summer?
When it is warm and humid in the tall grass?”

But it’s hard to remember
in December.

The Apple Tree

259 :: Growing Together

I let my hands travel
over the layered trunk in winter
and stood breathless
under her blooms in spring.

Carried home a handful,
wrote in their company,
returned in the rain.

I cried hot and bedraggled
tears falling to join a carpet of petals,
the blush of pink at my feet.

Flowers lost forever.

Weeks later, she called me back
in an early morning mist.

Overwhelmed in my wet, green boots,
taken with her swelling,
witnessed only by the forest edge,
I asked a lonely question —

273 :: My Apple Tree

she answered in fruit.

310 :: In Her Hands

The Garden, In August

228 :: Marigolds

Wer seines Lebens viele Widersinne

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth—
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

Rilke’s Book of Hours Translated by Joanna Macy

228 :: Beauty Yellow Nasturtiums

228 :: Green Tomatoes

228 :: Pumpkins

Sometimes I just wander around in the garden and marvel. And sometimes we bring some of what is outside, inside. And wonder.

227 :: Flower Palette

233 :: Her Herbs

Stolen Roses

195 :: Stolen Roses

Not all, but a few
were stolen.

As I pulled the car over
onto the side of the road
and jumped out
my clippers in hand,

having watched this stretch of hillside for weeks,
waiting
for the pink wild roses
to bloom in their close-to-the-ground,
almost secret sprawl.

Roses stolen,
thorns and all
embedded in my finger tips,
a blood red effort I will remember
each time we drive past
next winter
in white.

Nature Journals

175 :: Nature Journals

Three years ago, the girls and I started nature journaling. What this looks like, for us, is gathering natural objects from our garden and walks; laying them all out over the table; and sketching and watercolor painting in our journals. We also write the names of plants and creatures and other items in French when we are inspired. Nature journaling is definitely about the process for us. We did it regularly for about two years and then got out of practice. Today we gathered around the table again, and I was so happy . . . even when Wallace started painting blue stripes all over his arms. I hope we will make space to nature journal all summer and into the fall. There’s nothing quite like the meditative space it inspires.

June Light

169 :: Bird Head

151 :: Chick Nursery

168 :: O Dandelion

164 :: Rhubarb

Even in the fullness of these days,
especially in the fullness of these days,
I seek out my desk.

167 :: June Desk

I seek out my desk and
I slip away to catch the light.

166 :: Conversation

I turn around and find it, everywhere.
Even when the day is overcast,
the clouds are heavy,

161 :: Spirea

my pants soaked from the long grasses,
my boots like puddles inside –

light like an abundant secret
in June.

162 :: Beginnings

SCHOOL

126 :: Bubbles

SCHOOL

You’re like a little wild thing
that was never sent to school.
Sit, I say, and you jump up.
Come, I say, and you go galloping down the sand
to the nearest dead fish
with which you perfume your sweet neck.
It is summer.
How many summers does a little dog have?

Run, run, Percy.
This is our school.

– Mary Oliver

I think Mary Oliver would have made a wonderful homeschooling mom . . . for dogs and kids!

Marsh Marigolds

120 :: Marsh Marigolds

With What Hope

did you write your way into paradox,
trapped there
hands lit by thorns
and the creek
holding marsh marigolds under pines
unimaginable last spring?

These footsteps,
this passageway over the swale
where willow tips reach upward,
gather the sap of earth
running deep
and visible as soon as we arrive.

Do we belong here?

Merely by walking with bare feet,
earth opens,
and what’s within comes without
vulnerable, exposed,
life giving?

In her generosity
she makes herself susceptible
to contamination.

Everything comes to drink with
muddy feet,
a winter’s worth of thirst,
parched lips –

and still, she flows.

Seeding

117 :: Seeding

Here in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone or shifting sand,
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry –
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.

In this brown husk a dale of hawthorn dreams;
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That will drink deeply of a century’s streams;
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.

Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells, a million roses leap;
Here I can blow a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.

– Muriel Stuart

Wild Rosebush

99 :: Wild Rose Bush

I fell in love with this wild rose bush over the winter. Finding her was like walking into the promise of one of my favorite poems.

With the help of my loyal photo assistant, Ellen, I’m planning to take photos in this spot over the next few months and watch this rose unfold its “givingness.”

Sometimes it’s these unexplainable little projects that wake me up at night. And I have to follow them. I have to follow the calling of the wild rose.

Wild Rosebush

How it stands out against the darkenings
of the rainy evening, young and pure,
its tendrils arched everywhere in givingness
yet absorbed in its own rose-being;

the shallow flowers, already open here and there,
each unasked for and untended:
thus, immeasurably exceeded by itself
and indescribably self-aroused,

it calls to the wander, who in his evening
meditating comes past along the road:
Oh look at me, see, over here, how safe I am
and unprotected and having all I need.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Nearing Spring

73 :: Spoon Shovel

watching him work with a spoon
in the emerging mud

snow piles
melting down
layers of ice

ice once so hard,
impossible to break through.

Remember the morning we couldn’t leave,
couldn’t get into our car
covered in ice so thick, so cold
the doors frozen shut?

Remember the night we couldn’t speak
because there was so much frozen
to say?

That ice.
It thaws.

75 :: Pussy Willows

When we cut them
down in the swamp
the fuzz was nearly invisible,
still tucked inside.

Hiding.

Two days in the house,
and here they are.

Emerged.

Warmth does that.

Make Something, Mama

13 :: Juice

Every day, he says,

“I want to make something, Mama.”

as he drags a chair across from the table to the butcher block
and climbs,
stands up tall
next to me,
ready.

I’ve been making something
with a little person (or two, or three)
next to me,
every day
for more than 13 years.

Some days
it wears me out.
I dream about being alone
and uninterrupted.

But other days I stand in awe
of how this simple act
repeated over and over again,

alchemy in the kitchen,
in the garden,

has shaped their hands,
made my life,
nourished our family.

Born to Farming

1 :: In Our Greenhouse Together

The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
He thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
descending in the dark?

The Man Born to Farming by Wendell Berry

Here we are, in our winter greenhouse, on January first. Unveiling the hardy greens that have survived the cold nights. This is the perfect place to begin our year together. Side-by-side. Grounded in home.

Landscape

361 :: This Landscape

“I think it makes a huge difference, when you wake in the morning and come out of your house, whether you believe you are walking into dead geographical location, which is used to get to a destination, or whether you are emerging out into a landscape that is just as much, if not more, alive as you, but in a totally different form, and if you go towards it with an open heart and a real, watchful reverence, that you will be absolutely amazed at what it will reveal to you.” — John O’Donohue

361 :: Serious Sledding

Deep In

344 :: Close In

Writing at dusk, writing by candlelight, writing under overcast skies. . .

Deep in this work right now. Back and forth from page to screen; type to text. Sometimes lost in these words and sometimes found. Asking the difficult questions: does this work matter? And is it true?

Dog Promises and Then Forgets

332 :: Good Boy

“Dog is docile, and then forgets. Dog promises then forgets. Voices call him. Wolf faces appear in dreams. He finds himself running over incredible lush or barren stretches of land, nothing any of us has ever seen . . . Dog promises and then forgets, blame him not. The tooth glitters in the ridged mouth. The fur lifts along the spine. He lifts a leg and sprays a radiant mist over a stone, or a dead toad, or somebody’s hat. He understands what is wanted; and tries, and tries again, and it good for a long time, and then forgets.”

— From “Dog Songs” by Mary Oliver

Candle Wreaths

316 :: Candle Wreaths

It’s so wintery outside today — the girls and I were inspired to go out and gather little bits of red and green to make candle wreaths for the dinner table. I love to watch the enthusiasm they bring to these little projects that we’ve been doing together since they were tiny and it was mostly me doing the crafting. Now, it is mostly them. And I’m just the photographer.

France :: Part One :: Paris

287 :: Rue de Caire

We made it there and back again: all five of us across the ocean to beloved France, to visit Paris, Bordeaux, and then Aunt Zane and Uncle Gerard in the beautiful Dordogne Valley. What a journey. 15 years ago, Jeffrey and I were together here. I had just finished a study aboard program and he came to meet me in Southwest France. To return to this part of the world with our three children was a tremendous gift.

286 :: Jet Lagged Tourists

It was wonderful to travel all together as a family, but Paris was not easy with Wallace. I knew that Parisians are stereotypically impatient with loud, active children, but on the first day we had a couple of incidents that were particularly humbling. I speak French but Wallace doesn’t! We got “the look” more than once. Gratefully, the girls were a huge help, and we all tried to be extra attentive to Wallace and negotiate his melt downs. I hope the girls remember our walk along the Seine, Jeffrey’s commentary on the remarkable architecture, and traveling down magical narrow streets — as well as they remember coaching Wallace through it all!

286 :: Terrarium Store in Paris

285 :: Here We Are

286 :: Locks

286 :: Musee D'Orsay

On our second night in Paris, we explored le Passage de Grand Cerf, found dinner “a emporter,” and then I put a very tired little man to sleep while Jeffrey took the girls up into the Eiffel Tower to see the city all at night. I opened the windows in our sweet little apartment on Rue de Caire and let in the Paris night noises: fragments of French, dogs barking, mopeds. . . I sat on the old wooden floor and wrote, letting myself linger in poetry inspired by a Parisian Passage.

287 :: Passage de Grand Cerf

Saying Goodbye

284 :: Nasturtims

We are saying goodbye to the garden for the next two weeks. I love this time of year so much, and it is hard to leave, knowing that these nasturtiums will likely not be standing tall when we return.

They’ve given us their spicy sweet all summer long. Wandering around the garden, I gather one last bouquet and inhale deeply before we adventure off across the Atlantic Ocean.

Blackout Poetry

283 :: Blackout Poetry

Amie is teaching me how to do blackout poetry. We are both working with a page, copied from The Secret Garden, and creating different poems from the same text. The idea is to “black out” the words or word fragments you don’t want to use and then create a poem with the shape of what’s left. Have you ever done this before? I didn’t know about the world of Blackout Poetry until Amie showed me a google search of so many examples out there, both visually and word wise. Creating poetry from existing words on a page is such a different way to spend time with literature. I’m finding it fascinating. I could spend hours doing this sort of creative work if Wallace wasn’t dismantling the entire house behind me . . . doing his own version of blackout housework, I suppose!

A New Landscape Every Morning

281 :: This Color

The colors seem especially brilliant this year with all the rain and overcast skies.

279 :: Sisters on the Farm

281 :: Purple Mushrooms

More so than any season, in October I feel I’m like going out into a new landscape every morning.

280 :: Off We Go

278 :: Cosmos at Sunset

282 :: Boy Making Roads

I find that I want to spend as much time as I can outside, even in the rain.

278 :: Finding Asparagus

And
I want to tell you about reaching up
into the apple tree
to pick a wild apple,
when a shower came down from the leaves
and a drop fell on the corner of my right eye
and rolled down my face —
a single tear.

282 :: Apple Tears

Sage

277 :: Sage

Kneeling down
in the sage
after nighttime revelations,
headaches and sick toddlers,
rain for days,
cold and wet and lovely
and always
so many gifts outside
beckoning us to come
and gather.

“You make it too easy”
he said.

Too easy?
Should I reject “too easy,” I ask;
should I stay inside, withholding,
rather than walk into the wet, wild world
calling with rain?

October Green

273 :: Wooded

Bringing in the house plants that spent the summer outside; wondering at how much they’ve grown; getting soil all over the kitchen table and floor and counter . . .

271 :: Succulent

274 :: October Poetry

274 :: Maybe the Last Bouquet?

The greenhouse seed babies are thriving and this little man has been busy making a mud pit full of “hot cocoa” just outside the door. I’m thinning and he’s brewing; so come on over for some cool microgreens and warm drinks! I love gardening in this giant terrarium on the cusp of autumn. It’s such a paradox to watch new life burst forth as everything else outside slows down and lets go.

272 :: Back to Work in the Greenhouse

276 :: Mud Land

Fermentation Family

265 :: Fermentation Factory

Last fall I wrote a piece for Wild + Free on fermenting with children. It is one of my favorite articles I did for the magazine because everyone in our family helped with the photos, the recipes, and the fermentation! One year later, everyone is gathered around again, making a new ferment: Giardiniera. Jeffrey’s endless enthusiasm for fermentation experimentation is contagious. I think we are raising a whole brood of wildcraft makers and brewers.

266 :: Harvesting Wild Grapes

After the Giardiniera project, we made wild grape soda: one of our September traditions and favorite ferments!

266 :: Wild Grapes

268 :: Wild Grape Soda

While the Girls are at School

253 :: Back To Work

You may be wondering if Wallace is very sad and misses his girls terribly when they are at school. After two years of homeschooling, it is certainly a change to have them gone during the school day. And, yes, he does miss them. A lot. He asks about them when they are gone and he likes me to tell stories about them. But, he certainly keeps busy! And he keeps me busy. And he keeps Jeffrey busy. And he deconstructs many things around the house whenever I try to “get something done.” But it is a joy to have so much time one-on-one with Wallace; I feel like I’m getting to know him differently without his sisters. And, oh boy, is he excited when the time comes to pick them up every afternoon!

250 :: While the Girls Were at School

250 :: The Mess

263 :: Little Man Painting

264 :: Pillow Pile

269 :: Drawer Boy

262 :: Greenhouse with Bugs

255 :: Mirror

Four Season Gardening

255 :: Greenhouse Love

With many thanks to Boppa and Uncle Scott we moved the greenhouse to its new fall and winter home. Ellen is giving it a thorough washing before we fill it with lots of compost and plant it with greens. This will be our first year attempting to grow in all four seasons in Northern Michigan! Jeffrey and I were inspired by listening to a podcast with Elliot Coleman, and now here we go on our first winter gardening adventure . . .

Home Again

247 :: Home Kitchen

We spent August away from home, in a little house on the other side of the county, while we rented our house out (to seven different groups of guests). It was equal parts wonderful and ridiculous. But one of the best parts? Coming home again. There is no where else I would rather be tonight than in my home kitchen, chopping up veggies from our beloved garden for the people I love.

247 :: Time for a Work Break, Papa

South Manitiou Island

241 :: After Hiking Seven Miles

On the last Thursday of August we took the Manitou Island Transit Ferry across the big lake over to South Manitou Island. In all my years in Leelanau, I had never been to visit this incredibly beautiful place! We hiked to the valley of the ancient white cedar trees and marveled at some of the only “old growth” forest left in Michigan. (In the Midwest?) Why were these trees (many of them well over 500 years old) not cut down in the 1830s and 1840s when the rest of the island was logged to fuel ships? The wind blew in such a way that the massive tree trunks collected sand from the dunes, and the sand dulled the blades of the loggers saws; and so a beautiful grove of white cedars was left to grow and grow. Walking among them truly feels like entering another time. I loved watching the girls and Wallace marvel at the trees after our epic hike through the woods together.

241 :: This Moss

241 :: Ancient White Cedars

241 :: Little Lake

241 :: Lighthouse Lookout

241 :: My Boys

241 :: On Our Way to South Manitou Island

241 :: Pyramid Point from Lake Michigan

My Desk with Little Hands

244 :: My Writing Desk with Little Hands

my desk with little hands
and rose petals
because I want to remember writing here
at Old Gousty
with a view of the woods
Mary Oliver by my side
and rose petals
from roses Grandmommy brought me
and brought me again.
candles for night writing
and an old photo of Maude Louise
(my childhood Airedale)
all of this waiting for me
after Wallace falls asleep
and rain is drumming on the roof
quietly luring me
to my desk
to write.

236 :: The Roses

240 :: Rose Petals

242 :: More Rose Petals

Neighbors

229 :: Ted & Tali

The gift of good neighbors keeps on giving.

I met Ted and Tali when I was 10 years old. Exploring the forest and hills behind my family’s home, I came upon their incredibly beautiful farmstead and their far-reaching woods. They welcomed me to walk on the land, and I fell in love. 26 years later, we’re still talking about the trees and the paths and the landmarks we return to season after season. And now my daughters are learning to find their way over these same hills – and back again.

229 :: Lanham Love

Old Gousty August

213 :: Always Acorns

I’m catching up on photos from this glorious month, and I’m going to let Mary Oliver do the talking tonight . . .

216 :: Legos

In Blackwater Woods
By Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

and long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

214 :: In Forest with Book

211 :: Giant Sandbox

212 :: Young Artist at Work

215 :: Flying with Uncle James

217 :: Meditation

217 :: Dark and Sunny Woods

218 :: Hers

219 :: Visitor

226 :: Nearing Dusk

227 :: Old Gousty Stump House

224 :: That Morning Light

224 :: Monitoring

226 :: Those Hands

226 :: Nasturtiums

227 :: Little Gousty Library

228 :: Cousin Love

228 :: Bud Buddies

222 :: August Glow

225 :: Papa

225 :: Water Cousins

229 :: Berry Hands

229 :: Berry Girl

229 :: 35 Pounds of Talk

229 :: Family

A Visitor in My Own Garden

221 :: More Nasturtiums

226 :: Arugula

when I picked this arugula
I had no idea
there were acorns involved,
stacks of dishes
and tomatoes.

it was unclear if the yellow ones were ripe.
were they a new variety?

I usually forget to label the plants
when I put them in the ground
and I have to return to my notebook
filled with notes on seed starting
mixed with lists
of tomato varieties
and basil in the same tray –
a few poems between the lines,
and smudged ink from tears

knowing I was planting the seeds
of tomatoes he would
never taste.

226 :: Long Day

226 :: Fuzz Head

Dusk

220 :: Dusk

it’s the color of dusk
when I am captive
on the bed with a nursing toddler
who won’t let go of my breast
and who won’t let go into sleep
because the world is too full
of wonderful things
and he says “turn off the light”
but there is no light on
to turn off –
only the soft glow of blue dusk
filling the room,
begging for a poem,
calling me to write
before I am claimed by dreams
and night

Ha Ha!

208 :: HA!

Sometimes it is enough just to be close to the people you love. Even when life is hard and you aren’t sure what to say. This year has brought a lot of difficult things to many of us, and tonight I am just humbly grateful for dear family reaching out and staying present.

On a lighter note, Aunt Debbie and cousin Frances taught the girls the game “Ha Ha!” Does anyone else do this? It made us all burst into contagious laughter!

A Gousty Evening

203 :: Little House Light

Little house light with Grandmommy.
Golf lesson with Grandfather.
Wallace was captivated.

203 :: Golf Lesson

203 :: A Little More Golf

Ellen always finds the flowers.

204 :: flowers

More antics with Uncle Chris.

204 :: Airplane

And Julien, contemplating amidst all the cousin chaos.

What you don’t see is how completely overwhelmed I am feeling on this night.
Photography is good at hiding as well as revealing.

204 :: Contemplating

Silence

200 :: Corners

“One of the tasks of true friendship is to listen compassionately and creatively to the hidden silences. Often secrets are not revealed in words, they lie concealed in the silence between the words or in the depth of what is unsayable between two people. In modern life there is an immense rush to expression. Sometimes the quality of what is expressed is superficial and immensely repetitive. A greater tolerance of silence is desirable, that fecund silence, which is the source of our most resonant language. The depth and substance of a friendship mirrors itself in the quality and shelter of the silence between two people.”

— Anam Cara by John O’Donohue, p. 112

Boy and Currents

196 :: Boy and Currents

Yesterday I felt so sure.

I stood there, in the morning kitchen light,
taking photos of him,
holding currents.

And here he is, filling the frame,
in all his baby, toddler, unselfconsciousness goodness.

But today, I don’t feel so sure.
I’m questioning the light
and how I spend my time,
and all this reflecting I do.

What do I do?
I stand here, admiring him
holding currents.

The Smell of Forgiveness

195 :: Garlic Harvest

These three, helping me.
Bringing the garlic in again.
Another nine-month season of growing,
coming full circle.

Oh, I have so many thoughts about growing garlic. But this year, garlic speaks to me of forgiveness.

Taking a single clove from last year’s
soil and pushing it into the ground
just before winter
and hoping it will grow it into a new, full head –
come what may.

Through autumn leaves falling,
and snow storms,
and spring cold,
it grows silently
or maybe sits and waits
underground,
offering at last
in deep summer,
the smell of forgiveness.

July Abundance

191 :: Gathering

I have a tremendous amount to say about flowers in July – and most of it comes out in the form of poetry and photographs.

192 :: Flowers for Sale

this day selling flowers at the art fair
thanks to Grandmommy
because my head was too full of house project lists to think about
flowers
but flowers –
what could be more important than flowers?

201 :: Calendula

See the sunshine
captured within these glorious petals?

they will dry out
with all their goodness preserved —
and we will soak them in sweet oil, for weeks,
and squeeze out the golden essence
and combine it with beeswax
and pour it into a beautiful little jar
for you.

And you will carry it
in your pocket
all winter long,
dreaming of sunshine
as you smooth summer into your skin.

188 :: Calendula Harvest

199 :: Rose Petals

I’m saving them for you.
why?
because they are my givingness:
so unprotected,
safe,
and having all I need.

Remember the wild rosebush?

Morning Mist

193 :: Morning Mist

I see you there
walking behind me
as if you’d like to disappear
into the white mist with your black dog.

Let it swallow you up:
all your beautiful long legs,
curly hair covering
deep-seeing eyes —
hide
if you must.

But, please, know this:
I will keep walking with you.
I will keep walking
right on through
the mistakes I have made
over the past 13 years,
since I carried you inside
of me,
knowing so little
about who you were
and who I would need to become
to be your mother.

And, oh,
my dear child,
I love you like the wind
on a soft summer morning
resting on the edges
of the orchard,
ready to blow away
the thick air
surrounding us.

I see you
even
in the morning
mist.

Quiet Work

185 :: Quiet Work

My sanctuary.
With roses.

I’ve shared this poem before, haven’t I?  Here it is, again.

Wild Rosebush

How it stands out against the darkenings
of the rainy evening, young and pure,
its tendrils arched everywhere in givingness
yet absorbed in its own rose-being;

the shallow flowers, already open here and there,
each unasked for and untended:
thus, immeasurably exceeded by itself
and indescribably self-aroused,

it calls to the wander, who in his evening
meditating comes past along the road:
Oh look at me, see, over here, how safe I am
and unprotected and having all I need.

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Together

180_pure_magic-180704-1.jpg

Mothering these two beautiful children, ten years apart in age, is one of my greatest challenges and also one of my greatest joys. The connection between them is a tremendous gift. He looks up to her with such unconditional affection and awe. She nurtures him with such adoration. Quite often these days, she is her most expressive self with him.

And he is getting quite an education from her. Today I asked if he wanted to look for tadpoles when we went down to the beach. He looked up at me and said, in his most matter-a-fact way, “We can’t go into their habitat.”

Now I wonder where my 2-year-old learned that?

Dog Days of Summer

169 :: Morning Walk

Theo boy is living a dog’s life over here. And growing so fast! He has tripled in size since we brought him home two months ago. The girls have been diligently training, walking, washing, brushing, giving swimming lessons . . . and generally taking Theo out to explore the world. I know I’ve said this before, probably a dozen times, but I just love to watch them nurture their pup.

168 :: Lavande

169 :: Shake

171 :: Baby Dog

172 :: Sister Photo Shoot

172 :: More Training

178 :: Under the Umbrella

178 :: Wet Doggie, Dog

182 :: Littermates

184 :: Evening Light

Leftovers

170 :: Leftovers

I’m cleaning out a
cupboard of watercolors
and art supplies
and nature journals
and clay, and I am cleaning
but this is what I end up doing
instead:
laying out the bits and pieces
of a homeschool year
as a sort of still life
on the kitchen table,
and admiring all the little
reminders of a creative life
lived here
in the this home
filled with birdsong
and love.

Welcome Back to the Jungle

159 :: The "Lawn"

This is what the “lawn” looks like after six weeks away.

165 :: Garden Jungle

And the garden is a jungle. But at least there is kale growing in the jungle. And lots of garlic. Oh, and volunteer plants I would have weeded out weeks ago. How I love the volunteers. And so they get to stay. Nasturtiums in the garlic beds. Cosmos in the onions. Calendula everywhere. Hundreds of borage plants for the bees.

160 :: Chef

166 :: Minty

The garden is wild. The children have not brushed their hair in days. The puppy is happy.

162 :: Theo Boy

The chickens are settling back in.

161 :: Bird

And sometimes Amabel and I spend the morning collecting beautiful bits of plants and arranging them just so, creating this lovely, yet rather pointless assortment . . . instead of weeding, but . . . it’s lovely here, in the jungle, isn’t it?

165 :: Making Order

Walking Back in Time with Jill

151 :: With Jil

Here we are, on the winding Gousty lanes, exploring with our dear friend Jill, traveling back in time together. There is a timeless quality to the lanes going up and down the hills, connecting old houses. Old houses like old friends talking, remembering, as we do, our shared history.

I love watching my girls as they observe the friendship between Susie and Jill, dear friends who spent years raising their children together. My girls love to hear them bantering stories back and forth – stories from when I was the age of my daughters. I see my girls imagining Grandmommy when she was my age, with little ones like I have now. Imagining me as little like them. Imagining me with Jill’s daughters and the worlds we created and the words we invented. And how those little worlds and those words live on in the stories our mothers tell all these years later. Walking together.

Tunnel of Love

145 :: Learning to Ride

The girls and I were talking about what we love about living at Gousty and what we love about living on our hill in Suttons Bay. We miss our gardens in Suttons Bay, and we miss our light-filled rooms on the hill. We like being able to hop on our bikes and ride down to Little Bees. And we miss our dear neighbors.

But it doesn’t take much explanation to get to the heart of our love for Gousty. Every time I walk through the “tunnel of love” I am simply filled with the feeling that there is no where else in the world I would rather live.

Then I turn the corner and see the beautiful land that my parents have tended and loved and lived on for 26 years, and well, this is it.

145 :: Gousty Light

Puppy Paradise

(Top photo by Aunt Kim!)

It’s puppy paradise around here. Aunt Kim and Cousin Cora brought home one of Theo’s sisters, Chole! The girls are certain that the two pups remember each other from their days as litter mates.

142 :: Littermates

And cousin Frances has a puppy too! Humphrey came over for a puppy play date and the two little doodles wore themselves out with tumbling around and around all over Gousty.

143 :: Cousin Puppies

144 :: Humphrey

May Reading

137 :: May Book Stack

We are reading so many good books this month! Being at Gousty is bringing out the reading in all of us. The stack of books that Amabel has read to herself this month is even higher than the stack in this photo! Many of the chapter books that I read as a child and adolescent are in this house (the actual copies!), and I love coming into the living room to find her curled up on the couch with one of my old books in her lap.

140 :: Morning Work

Theo

134 :: Theo

Our little baby dog, Theo, is surrounded by so much love! I knew that the girls would adore him, but I did not anticipate how entirely they would devote themselves to him – waking up to take him out in the wee morning hours, feeding him, training him, brushing him, keeping track of all his puppy needs. Watching them nurture him is truly a joy. And Wallace says, “Good boy, Feo.”

134 :: Theo Puppy Boy

134 :: Last Nurse

134 :: Puppy Love

134 :: Pup

137 :: Oh, Theo.

136 :: With Susie

So Little, So Much

125 :: Tiny House

We had a lovely tour of this tiny house on Sunday. Then on Monday, we went to visit our dear friends, the Lanhams, on their beautiful farmstead.

126 :: This I Love

126 :: Sculpture

126 :: Boys

126 :: In the Workshop

126 :: Together

I am always overwhelmed with wonder when I go to visit the Lanhams. Their farm, Little Valley, is my dream home – and has been since I was 10 years old. It’s a dream that I cannot shake, no matter how far off the reality of owning over 200 acres in Leelanau County (and maintaining a collection of beautiful, old buildings) really is. But, when we visited on this particular day, the day after touring a tiny house just a few miles away, the contrast of the two homesteads was just so striking. I love the idea of so little to care for, on the one hand. And I love the idea of so much to care for, on the other hand. What is this all about? It’s such a paradox, isn’t it? Longing for so little. Longing for so much.

126 :: Big Barn

More Kanji

114 :: More Kanji

We are learning so much about Korea during World War II from this book by Linda Sue Park called “When My Name was Keoko.” Korean children were required to speak Japanese during this time when Korea was part of Japan’s empire. Children also learned Japanese Kanji, which we practiced in the fall. The girls loved returning to it again this spring – practicing the characters both in full size and tiny doll size.

Catching Up in April :: Reflections on My Daily Photo Project

108 :: Bur Oak

I’m behind in posting my daily photos this month. There is so much life happening here every day — homeschooling, games, play, getting ready for spring, house projects, spring snow, more spring snow . . . and I’m catching just little bits of it on the camera.

Recently, the girls were looking through some photo books from the past couple of years with Wallace, and as I listened to them reflecting on the pictures, and remembering moments together, I realized how these daily photos have — collectively — come to mean something to them.

I started a 365 project in 2016 primarly for myself. These were my goals then: To nurture my creative voice. To encourage myself to see beauty in our everyday life. To be an active part of a photography community. And to see my family more deeply, with more dimension, and with more reverence.

When I continued taking daily photos in 2017, my goal was “to keep practicing the arts of photography and writing and use these tools as a way to pay attention and express gratitude.” I’ve continued in 2018, with a similar goal. Taking photos does help me to pay attention. Seeing though the lens of a camera has become one of the very important ways that I practice gratitude. Because of this, these photos matter deeply to me.

But years from now, I hope these photos will also matter, in different ways — in ways I maybe cannot imagine — to my children.

106 :: Table Top

103 :: Massive Marble Run

106 :: Garden Plans

105 :: Super Snow

107 :: Uncle James

108 :: Game Over

109 :: Branches

110 :: Games

110 :: April Eve

111 :: Stove Top Repairs

112 :: Right in the Middle

110 :: April 21st

Rilke

98 :: Sick Baby and Rilke

Ich bin, du Ängstlichen, Horst du mich nicht

I am, you Anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My mumurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting:
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made by time.

— Rilke’s Book of Hours

Easter

91 :: Tiny Egg Hunt

For the past few Easters I have make a tiny egg hunt for the mice and all the other little creatures that live in our house. And I realized this year that this mini hunt has become a beloved tradition for the girls. I try to pay attention to these things: the things they remember, the things they tell stories about, and especially the things they describe to Wallace. He takes it all in with such wonder and joy.

92 :: Dress Ups

Wallace, surrounded by his cousins, at Gousty.

Meadowlark Love

81 :: Greenhouse Love

stepping out of the arctic air
into the greenhouse warmth
and light,
welcomed by our dear farmer friend
who put these three little people right to work
planting ginger mothers!

as she and I talked
about the changing seasons
I looked around,
thinking how the seeds of my wedding flowers
were seeded in this very space
by Jenny’s hands.

how grateful I am
for our long friendship
and for roots of love
that grow deep
at Meadowlark Farm.

Graduate Studies in Poetry

79 :: Graduate Studies in Poetry

I’m designing myself a graduate program in poetry.

I received an unexpected gift this year: a reawakening of my deep love for poetry. I’m following this love by consuming great quantities of poems and filling notebooks with words. I wish we lived close to a university so I could attend an actual graduate program. But for now, my mom, my dear friends, my professor brother, and the wonderful library are all keeping me supplied and inspired.

And, to tell you the truth, most days my graduate studies look something like this . . .

80 :: Napping and Poetry

Jane Goodall

58 :: Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall said that she learned how to be a good mother from watching chimpanzees. During her hours and hours of observation, she witnessed mother chimps and their babies. Mothers do not punish their babies for being “naughty,” Jane said. Instead, mothers redirect their babies when they want to change their behavior or keep them safe.

Inventory

Our seeds are spread across the dining room table. Packets and packets of garden seeds — some still good, some long past their prime, but I am loath to let them go. Because, where would they go if not into the rich soil beneath my bare feet? I could feed them to the grumpy winter chickens. I could dump them in the frozen woods. I could let my children play with them and plant them in pots and get their hands all dirty and see what might come up.

I ask a farmer friend what he does with his leftover seeds. “Do you save them?” I ask.

“Some,” he answers. “But not the alliums.”

“Oh yes,” I say. “We learned that the hard way. Last year hardly half of our onions came up. The seeds were old. Too old.”

It just begs the question: how long does a seed last? An onion seed. A carrot seed. The seed of an idea in my soul. How long can I keep it in the dark?

Pinecones: Close In

Revisiting one of my favorite poems. . .

Start Close In
By David Whyte

Start close in
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

(David Whyte, River Flow: New & Selected Poems)

Little Getaway

The highlight of our little getaway for Wallace was watching the cranes outside our hotel room window!

The tropical greenhouse at the Frederik Meijer Gardens is like balm for the January soul. We could have stayed inside all day.

My dream mini greenhouse!

The only thing they would have changed about visiting the conservatory? Being allowed to explore in bare feet!

I rummaged around in a box of hand-me-downs, looking for a swim suit for Wallace just before we walked out the door to leave for Grand Rapids. When Jeff looked in my bag, he asked, “What is this smurf costume doing in here?”

Self Portrait with Baby Boy

Self portrait with baby boy.

I’ve seen so many beautiful self portraits of women photographers on Flickr and Instagram over the past couple of weeks, and I’ve felt very inspired by the vulnerability and expression shared through these little windows.

Thank you to couragous women, near and far, who inspire with your dedication to your families, your work, and your creative lives.

Line Them Up!

Wallace is in this hilarious organizational phase, where he likes to line things up. Everything! Crayons, toy cars, kitchen utensils, animals, books . . . it is funny and cute and sometimes slightly irritating when he doesn’t want us to put ANYTHING away!

Ellen is working on a “curriculum” for Wallace. She is his dream teacher; she will gladly let him stay in his pajamas all day long!

January Homeschool Life

A New Year’s Day hike at Gousty.
This home I so love.
Covered in a blanket of white.

Sitting deep in thought.
Writing at dusk.
Thick snow falling.

Sweet girl.
I pushed her too hard on cross-county skis.
She is nursing a strained tendon.
I must remember to take it slow.
They grow and they become so capable, but still, we must take it slow.

We’re traveling to Italy in our studies this week. Our table is covered with books about Leonardo da Vinci; Jeffrey’s beautiful sketch book from Rome; maps large and small from Florence and Rome to Sienna and Pienza; a beautiful picture book about the island of Sardinia; and amazing images of Italian buildings and works of art. And, well, then I just had to bring out some of those old love letters from Jeffrey’s year abroad 17 years ago!

If you can’t go there in real time . . . play you can!

The sweetest sleep of baby dreams.

Sister’s new old skateboard!

Busy man, up at the sink. Making a flood.

Oh, I love this.
She painting a portrait of herself from a photo I took of her, almost a year ago.

“I’ve never painted myself before,” she said.

And then she took artist liberties to change the way she looks.

Let’s go inside the greenhouse and take off our coats and reach our faces up towards the precious January sunshine!

We have a family of opossums living in a brush pile near our chicken coop. First we saw one. Then two. And then the girls discovered . . . a mama and three babies! They have been making the rounds, gathering compost scraps, chicken food, and birdseed.

Is it time to get a dog???

Boogers

Wallace finds a bag of gummy bears. He has no idea that they are edible. They become his favorite toy for days. He calls them “my boogers,” lines them up, sorts them, and puts them to sleep in a drawer. As soon as he wakes up in the morning, he asks, “Where are my boogers?”

Messy Table Tops

I’m struggling with a serious case of the messy table top blues. It’s always covered. Good stuff happens on this table, but I can’t seem to keep on top of clearing it off lately. It collects such eclectic assortments . . . play dough, typewriter, books, notebooks, hair brush, candles, squirt bottle, binoculars, scissors, tape, yarn, felt, tiny budda statue, and food, always food. . .

Citrus Garlands

We’ve been seeing photos of beautiful dried citrus and wanting to make garlands. Finally, this week we made it happen! This is such a simple, colorful, delicious project for December (or any time of year when citrus is in season!). We sliced grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes 1/8th of an inch thick and dehydrated the pieces overnight. Then we made garlands for our windows. Each ring is like a tiny, vibrant stain glass window filled with December light.

Calendula Lip Balm

We’ve gathered around for our annual Calendula Salve making this afternoon!

This year we’re making lip balm with petals we’ve been soaking in olive oil since the end of the summer. The magic of summer sunshine preserved as golden goodness pulls us all into the kitchen. Each year the girls do more and more on their own. I find myself mostly watching and soaking up the wonder of this messy, rich process.

“I salute you!
There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.
No peace lies in the future, which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy.
And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”

— Fra Giovanni, AD 1513 (Take Joy! The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book)

Dear Sir

Rilke’s famous words to a 19-year-old poet in 1903:

“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Dark

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

“The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry,” Counterpoint, 1998: p. 68.

I find myself revisiting this very Novemberish poem. Going dark.

A Happy Bird Story

A happy bird story for you today!

This sweet hen went missing after the girls attempted to keep her safe from the aggressive roosters. (Grandmommy had a theory that she was secretly in love with one of the roos and quietly followed him into the wild.) Looking back at my photos, I see that little puffy cheeks had been gone for a whole week . . . but this afternoon the girls discovered her under the apple tree behind the house, and we all rejoiced!

She is our sole Ameraucana chicken; she lays those beautiful light blue eggs we so adore. We’re so glad to have you back in the flock, little one.

Cracking the Garlic

214 cloves in the ground. And just in time; it’s supposed to snow 6 inches the day-after-tomorrow!

I couldn’t have done it without the help of my beautiful girls. I believe they are coming to love the rhythm of growing garlic nearly as much as I do. These magical cloves will meditate underground all winter and greet us early in the spring. In nine months time, we will pull them out of the earth and give thanks for their gift of abundance once again.

I have a lot to learn from garlic this year: stillness, quiet, solitude, patience.

Thursday

Oh, this boy. Talking with such confidence. So articulate. So sure. Making his way in the world. Such vitality. Life’s longing for itself.

Not much school work this week. Sometimes I take photos of the briefest moments to help me feel better.

This looks like a happy scene, but it isn’t really. The girls decided this morning that the roos needed to go. They were becoming too aggressive with the hens. They rounded up the two young men and took them on a farewell walk through meadows and over hills. We said goodbye and hope they will become a needed meal for a fox family.

NaNoWriMo

November is NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month! Alongside my writing students, I have challenged myself to write a novel during these 30 days. Our goal is 25,000 words, which is the young adult version. (If I get really crazy I’ll try to reach 50,000). Is anyone else out there doing this? Have you done it before? Please share your stories! And don’t worry if I disappear this month: I’m just up here in my office, with co-sleeping bed hed, notebook and pen in hand, while my happy children run wild and free!

Birthday Grill

Wallace was surrounded by so much love on his birthday. It was so life affirming to spend the evening with family and friends and celebrate this little boy’s vibrant being.

Wallace is obsessed with our neighbor Mike’s grill. For his birthday, Mike and Paula made a mini version for Wallace! Such delight!

As soon as he finished his cake, he said, “Again, grill!”

Houdek Dunes

This is a little catch up from 10 days ago when we spent a glorious afternoon at Houdek dunes in the midst of color and light and warmth. We read “Amos and Boris,” by William Steig (one of my all-time favorite children’s books), painted with watercolors, and picnicked. Yes, we have soaked up so many of these beautiful days this fall. I hope they will help carry us through the darker, colder months ahead.

Worlds within Worlds

Deeply overcast day. Perfect for making tiny worlds inside worlds with rich green moss, fresh from the forest.

Terrariums: my interest in these little jars of life seems somehow tied up with my recent questions over work and our future. It is as if I can let myself imagine a series of different worlds — each completely contained. While my fingers are occupied with tiny bits of moss and lichen, I sift through possibilities in my mind and envision a half-a-dozen different paths. How can I be simultaneously so centered and so utterly unsure?

(From a piece I wrote in January 2015, before we knew that little Wallace would be joining our family.)

Making Space

A meditative morning
cleaning out a garden bed,
getting ready for garlic.

Pulling out the old growth
to make room.
Letting in the light,
just before the rain.

There is so much color here —
so much joy in the seeding and growing,
planting and transplanting.
Watching, waiting, watering.
Flourishing, nourishing.

But there is sorrow, too.
Sorrow in letting it all go,
pulling it out —
even as I know that I must let it go
to make space for what is to come.

Morning Greenhouse

In the greenhouse. Repotting plants and then lingering, soaking up the morning light.

I haven’t spent much time in here since spring.

The tiny black onion seeds we placed into trays filled with soil in March . . . have grown and flourished and now the glowing bulbs are drying in the warmth of the October sun, back here where their little green shoots of life began.

The sun nourished the onion plants all summer; their bulbs will nourish us all winter.

And then into the basement for some serious work with Papa’s tools!

Wednesdays

This is our home-away-from-homeschool one day a week.

I spend a lot of time on Wednesdays in this classroom at our homeschool partnership where I teach a Writer’s Workshop to middle schoolers and a French class to elementary-age students.

The girls take classes too and help watch Wallace while I teach!

When all the details were coming together this summer, I was excited about the “idea” of teaching. But I didn’t know how much I would like it in real time. But I sure do. I love having a space dedicated to bringing children together to learn. I love listening to all the things they say and ask — and watching their faces light up when we read and have conversations and work on projects. It is all kinds of wonderful.

Studying Japan

In spite of a whole collection of challenges, this has been one of my very favorite weeks of homeschooling — studying Japan in all sorts of ways! We read “The Old Man Mad About Drawing,” a story about Hokusai the famous artist. We painted Japanese characters using a sumi-e ink block and learned to recognize a few symbols. We watched “My Neighbor Totoro” and a documentary about Japan. We read “The Big Wave” by Pearl S. Buck and ate sushi for dinner. Now if only we could squeeze in a little field trip to Japan . . .

Week Three

Cleaning off the table at the end of the week . . . there is much I want to remember and savor here. After two very challenging first weeks, this week was wonderful. The weather. Walks outside. Star gazing. Beach time. Books. Poetry. Writing. Exploring. Wallace’s morning circle. Making wreaths. Shakespeare. Music lessons. Expanding our timeline. Looking at works of great art. Math with Papa. These are the things of my homeschool dreams.

Walking Among Giants

When the Leelanau Conservancy preserved this piece of land, there was talk that these woods overlooking an incredible expanse of Lake Michigan Clay Cliffs was “old growth” forest. Upon closer inspection, stewardship staff determined that the trees don’t quite fit that classification, but as we made our way under their canopy this morning, I still felt like we were walking among giants.

This is perfect weather for taking the school books outside!

We’re filled with such gratitude for this land of lakes we live in.

Petoskey Stones

We’ve been gathering petoskey stones for Gommy. A huge crop of these treasures was recently revealed on one of our favorite beaches. A petoskey stone is a fossil from an ancient coral called Hexagonaria percarinata. Years of water, wind, and waves shape each unique piece of fossil into a smooth stone treasure that looks almost polished when wet.

Kehl Lake Natural Area

One of my goals this year is to visit a new place (wild place) at least once a month. We have a habit of going back to the same places over and over again . . . but there are so many incredible natural areas in our county! Kehl Lake Natural Area was magical this afternoon. We walked the two-mile trail loop under ancient hemlock trees and along the edge of this quiet lake tucked away up near the tip of the peninsula.

Morning Walk

It is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. Taking a walk with my three on these autumn mornings when the air is so rich with life letting go. So much growth this year. So much abundance. And then in the fall, we slowly release it all.

p.s. Maybe we shouldn’t have named “her” Earl! Look at “her”! “She” has grown up to be a he!

Be Wild

I’m listening to May Erlewine’s newly released album “Mother Lion.” It’s amazing. I could listen to it over and over again.

“I want the dawn to break me open.
I want to breathe and be unbroken.
I want it to take a while.
I want to be wild.”

I love how May sings through the contradictions and vulnerabilities that we live with every day. Thank you for putting your music into the world, May.

Seeds

Main lesson today on Seed Dispersal.
Wallace ate crackers and dried cherries on my lap while we read from a few books.
Wallace threw sticks in the fire pit while we collected seeds.
Wallace stood up at the kitchen sink on a chair, while we made charts in our books, and dumped water all over the carrots, himself, and the floor.
Wallace is throughly enjoying homeschooling so far this year!

I feeling so grateful for “Exploring Nature with Children” this week — a simple curriculum that guided us into learning about seed dispersal and gave purpose to our morning lesson during a time when I’m having a hard time finding the energy I would like to devote to our homeschooling. Taking an overhead photo was a way for me to capture and save a moment of beauty in the midst of a lot of challenge and chaos. I share this because it gives me hope and reminds me how resilient we are when surrounded by support. Seeds of hope.

Morning Clouds

“I think it makes a huge difference, when you wake in the morning and come out of your house, whether you believe you are walking into dead geographical location, which is used to get to a destination, or whether you are emerging out into a landscape that is just as much, if not more, alive as you, but in a totally different form, and if you go towards it with an open heart and a real, watchful reverence, that you will be absolutely amazed at what it will reveal to you.” — John O’Donohue

Wet-On-Wet

Cousin Julien is going to Waldorf school this year, and after we talked about wet-on-wet watercolor painting, the girls wanted to try it. It’s been years since we’ve painted this way! Surrounded by his sisters, Wallace was in his element. They painted first thing in the morning, and all day long I admired the table, covered in their colors.

Truman

I spent an hour this morning photographing my good friend doing bodywork on a horse. Horse Shiatsu. It was beautiful to witness. I love how being the photographer gave me a special “license” to be in the space and pay close attention to the whole process. The barn was quiet with the sound of shuffling animal hooves and sweet smell of hay. Light filtering in through the open door illuminated Truman’s mane and whiskers, and every so often he would move towards me to say hello before relaxing back into his horse massage.

Thinning

In early July, after explaining to the girls about how to “properly” seed carrots, I planted the seeds in my own rows way too close together. And now there are more carrots growing in this bed than could ever possibly thrive. I already thinned them once, and this morning I thinned them again. I asked Amabel to come take a photo of me as I was working because I was having deep thoughts in the garden about how I need to practice thinning in more areas of my life — not just in the carrot patch.

Wallace entered in the scene and the resulting photo was much better than the serious one I had in mind.

North Manitou Island

Our dear neighbor Mike took us on an adventure to North Manitou Island, and it felt like traveling to another world. The Island is so close (we look out at it every time we go to the beach) yet so far away (accessible only to overnight campers by ferry or by private boat). North Manitou is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and therefore undeveloped except for what remains of a village from over 50 years ago. Visiting was like being transported back in time. And the rock hunting was amazing! We spent hours on the island and when we got back on the boat it felt like hardly any time had passed at all.

I returned home so rejuvenated in body and soul: so humbled and awed by vast Lake Michigan and this incredibly beautiful land.

Watercolors

Impromptu painting
this afternoon at the table —
the table around which so much centers:
family meals, conversations,
stories, questions, projects, colors, abundance . . .
Our couch may be tattered
and our table may be worn,
but we are here living together
with our hearts open
and our eyes filled with wonder.

Baby King

He calls this: “King!”

“It is play, not properness, that is the central artery, the core, the brain stem of creative life. The impulse to play is an instinct. No play, no creative life. Be good, no creative life. Sit still, no creative life.”

— “Woman Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes: Ballantine Books, 1992: p. 234.

Big Glen

I was pretty nervous about being on a boat for four hours with Wallace. Tight quarters + a toddler didn’t sound like a good idea to me . . . but after a rough start he loved the adventure, and watching cousins and uncles on the tube made all the baby antics worth the trip.

Better Blueberries

We took a wrong turn on the way to the blueberry farm. The blueberries were mushy. Mosquitos swarmed us, especially little Wallace with his milky baby blood. I had dressed for an overcast morning not for full sun at noon. Our lunch was soggy and Wallace wet his pants.

But we were with Grandfather. And being with Grandfather makes everything better. Conversations with him during the long car ride there and back again made it all worthwhile.

(I still wish we had come home with a basket of better blueberries. . . )

Kimchi

This man knows me so well. Right before he starting taking Kimchi out of the big crock and putting it into jars, he asked me if I wanted to take photos. Well, yes, of course I wanted to take photos. This looks totally staged but it is real life. Our kitchen is a fermentation laboratory and everyone loves to taste the latest brew!

This is just some of the 15 pounds of cabbage from our garden that we turned into kimchi.

Little Pillows

The girls found an old tattered and torn pillow case in the linen closet, cut it up, and transformed it into a dozen doll pillows.

I have been the recipient of a series of unkind words this week, and this little pile of pillows seems to be the reminder I need today. Be gentle. Remember the power we wield with our words.

Now if only I can learn from my girls’ creativity and turn a torn relationship into a beautiful connection again . . .

Journey to France

I’m preparing for the “Journey to France” class that I will teaching at our homeschool partnership this fall. The girls have been helping me to gather books, posters, art materials, classroom supplies, and props for puppet shows . . . They are thrilled about setting up our classroom and making it inviting and interesting to all the French students!

For the first few weeks, we will be learning simple French phrases and words, as well as exploring Paris through literature, images, maps, and discussions. I hope to have the class singing in French and rhyming too — in an effort to learn as young children do: through sounds and word play as well as conversation and stories.

Morning Flowers

Early on Saturday morning, Grandmommy arrived with flowers and her gift for making beautiful floral arrangements. She and the girls worked together to create thirty-some bouquets for the Art Festival. Watching them create floral art together in the morning light was a beautiful image that I carried with me all day . . . and well into the next.

Later that evening, the dolls had a romantic dinner under the canopy of the leftover bouquets.

Conflict

The girls are helping me to create a photo for a friend who is working on a poster for a lecture about “Resolving Conflict.” As we are experimenting with silhouettes and expressions, I realize how much simpler it is to depict “conflict” than it is to depict “resolving conflict.” I’m pondering this as I edit the photos and send them off.

The following morning, the photos I have sent cause a conflict which follows me around the whole day. And I am left considering layers and layers of conflict.

Kitchen Helper

I’m making soup: chopping onions, garlic, carrots, parsley. He is right next to me on a chair, up at the counter, putting baby potatoes into a bowl, transferring them into another bowl — back and forth — and stirring them with a wooden spoon. He adds sprigs of parsley, saying “chop, chop, chop” in his deep, confident voice. This little kitchen work keeps him occupied for many minutes. I finish putting everything into the soup pot and am surprised to see that he is still happily busy with his potatoes and parsley.

Summer Kitchen

The kitchen is full of one garden project after another right now: calendula petals, cucumber pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, pesto, flower arrangements, sun tea . . . and then just the regular three meals a day!

Yesterday I snuck in a few minutes of watercolor painting when I should have been making dinner . . . or at least helping to clean up!

Garlic Harvest

Sunday was our much-anticipated family garlic harvest. (Believe it or not we were wearing sweatshirts and hats on Sunday night . . . Hard to believe in the heat we’re having now!) These little people help the harvest go so smoothly! We were able to pull, clean, and spread out over 200 heads in less than an hour. (And I didn’t do much more than take photos!) I write about garlic every year. The magic of growing this glorious plant just grows and grows, especially as I watch our children come to love this tradition as much as Jeffrey and I do. These beauties are the great-great grandchilren of the Meadowlark garlic Jeffrey and I planted the fall after we were married, 13 years ago.

The Dark Richer than the Light

The way this farm nestles into this little valley on this land I so love — it takes my breath away every time we emerge from the woods to find this place so illuminated. Sharing it today with a dear family friend made it all the more lovely.

Wendell Berry has a poem that describes it beautifully:

“Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.”

— Wendell Berry, “The Country of Marriage,” HBJ: 1975

Riding Along

It looks so care free. But it wasn’t care free today. He has been struggling against napping — and today was one of those days. I ended up exhausted and unraveled by dinner time, because when he is awake it is hard to do anything except be with him. I love to be with him. But sometimes the only thing I want in the world is to complete a task without being interrupted. Maybe even to think a complete thought. And write it down.

I use my camera as therapy and try to write things down later — when everyone is in bed and the house is quiet and dark. And I should be sleeping . . . but here I am looking at photos of him.

Begin

It was a hard day, but then I was writing to a dear friend and found this quote from our years dancing together in college — and sharing it made the evening brighter.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no woman could have dreamed would have come her way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” — Goethe

(I took liberty with Goethe’s words and changed “man” to “woman” and “him” to “her” in the fourth-to-last sentence.)

Art Fair

The girls are working on some new miniature food pieces for the summer art fair. These are made from sculpey, a polymer clay that is baked in the oven and then glazed. The girls make food for their tiny creatures, and they’ve gotten to like the process so much that now they make it “in mass” to sell and share. Amie has set us a goal: 200 pieces by July 8th, the date of the first art fair. The pressure is on!

Music

I love to hear my girls sing.
To watch them on stage — yes.
But, even more than that, to hear them humming and whistling,
singing spontaneously around the house.

Oh, what does John O’Donohue say?
“I love music.
I think music is just it.
I love poetry as well, of course, and I think of beauty in poetry.
But music is what language would love to be if it could.”

(“Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living” by Krista Tippett, Penguin Books, 2016: p. 77)

Robin Mapping

It started with a question: how much territory does a pair of nesting robins like to have?

We came across the following information, and today Amabel started making robin map!

“Somewhere out there, a robin ‘calls’ your backyard its home territory. A robin’s territory — the place where mating and nesting occurs — is usually less than half an acre. Territories often overlap, perhaps because of the feeding grounds that neighboring robins share. If you think robins are everywhere, you’re probably right!

Robin Squabble Story

One summer a Minnesota woman had a pair of robins nesting in her backyard. A pair of robins also nested next door on one side of the yard and yet another nested on the other side of the yard. A fourth pair of robins nested in the yard behind hers. After a few territorial squabbles, the robins pretty much kept to their own yards for feeding. But this woman had the only birdbath on the block, so two of the neighboring pairs of robins started sneaking into her yard for drinks and baths. At first, the male and female robins who “owned” that territory spent a lot of time chasing the intruders away.

But when the female started incubating her eggs, she stopped chasing off the other females. The male chased off the other males until the babies hatched. Then he had to spend so much time searching for food for his nestlings that he stopped chasing off the other robins — unless they started exploring beyond the bird bath. As long as the neighbors flew directly to the birdbath along the shortest possible line from their territory, he left them alone. But if they veered off that path for just a few seconds, he charged the birds!

For several weeks, the woman observed where each robin spent the majority of its time. She noted where each robin could range and be ignored by the others, and where each was when disputes took place. This information gave her a clear picture of each robin’s territory. She could have drawn a simple map with each territory outlined.

Activity: Map A Robin’s Territory

Observe your own robins and see if you can map their territories! Here’s how:

Begin by drawing a map of a small part of your neighborhood. Mark in the trees, bushes, houses, fences, and other things that robins might notice. Mark any robin nests you find.

Use this map to study the robins in your neighborhood for a week or two. Give each robin a letter, number, or symbol. See if you can start to recognize different individuals and notice where each spends its time.

Mark a bird’s letter, number or symbol in the right spot on your map every time you see that bird. Do the robins spend more time in some areas than others? Can you draw territorial boundaries on your map based on where the various robins spend their time?”

(All information from: www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/TerritoryStudy.html)

A Single Shard

“A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park may have been one of my favorite homeschooling books we’ve read so far this year. The beauty and simplicity of the story and especially the integrity of the characters really captured my imagination. As the girls and I were talking about the orphan boy who works as an apprentice to a Korean master potter in the 13th century, we agreed that we will not be likely to forget Tree-ear and Crane-man.

Welcome, June

Here is our “wattle” house in progress — made from poplar tree trimmings, grape vines, and bittersweet vines. Jeffrey dug holes for the poplar trunks and sunk them in the ground about a foot deep. Then we all worked together to weave branches and vines in and out between the poplars, adding more as we are inspired. Our “haus” (as Wallace calls it) has become the perfect place for reading, playing, and popcorn eating!

We’re still debating about how to finish it off. Should we bend the tips of the poplars so that they meet at the top or leave the house open to the sky?

Fallen Orchard

They cut down the orchard. It wasn’t a surprise — but still a shock. This orchard is on the northern edge of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and it could remain in agriculture as long as the owners wanted to maintain it.

Having lost interest in the orchard, the owners sold the land back to the National Park (the girls and I counted 45 rings in a tree stump: well beyond the age of most productive cherry trees) — and so now this land will revert back to wild.

It’s a gift, in a way, because no more pesticides will be sprayed on this land, and many more creatures will come to live here over time. And yet, it’s still a deep shock to see this landscape, that my siblings and I grew up with, changed so dramatically overnight.

My sweet Amie sat on a fallen tree and cried. Wallace watched her, perplexed. I stood close by, feeling swallowed up in the mist around us.