Monday, September 29, 2014

Radical Homemaking | Week Old Chicks

The chicks are all looking healthy and happy this week. They're still in the brooder, of course, exploring their confines under a 250 watt heat lamp. But in the afternoons, when the temps reach 90-plus, I take them into the back yard and let them peck and scratch at the grass a bit. For such tiny babies, so reliant on my care and feeding, they certainly are independent.

They are also growing very quickly and each new hour brings with it a new set of feathers. Their downy fluff will be done in no time. They're already trying to "fly the coop", so I'll need to cover their brooder today or tomorrow with chicken wore or hardware cloth.





And here they are all together:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Planning a Memorial Service

Such a strange enterprise - planning a memorial for my brother. It's something I never ever thought I'd be doing at this particular point in my life. This week I've been gathering photos, collecting music, writing a little something to share with our grieving family and friends, etc. Its been healing in some ways, but gut-wrenching in others.

The world has shifted in some inexplicable way and those of us left behind must learn to move from a new center of gravity. The stage has been raked, the sets pitched forward, the props are rolling towards the audience and still the show must go on.

The photo of my brother (above) was taken in 1999 on the beach in Cayucos, CA where we spent our childhood summers. I was also married there and Joel's memorial service will be there as well. I'm looking forward to seeing this vast blue-gray sea again. It's been too long.

Thank you to everyone who has shared their condolences with me and my family. Many of you have asked if there is anything you can do. If you feel moved to do so, a friend has set up a memorial fund in my brother's honor. The expenses associated with dying have been an unexpected part of this process. My mother, father and I are grateful for the assistance as we move forward with travel plans, memorial costs, etc. Click HERE to contribute if you wish.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Create Your Own Nourishment

A few years ago, I went to a psychic. At one point during the reading, my grandfather's energy entered the space. The psychic said that he appeared to be standing over a gas stove, cooking soup in a large pot. He wanted to tell me something - something for me to remember when I feel lost or alone. He said, "Create your own nourishment."

I know this sounds a little woo-woo to some of you, but it was a wonderfully insightful reading that helped me quite a bit at the time. My grandfather's words have always stayed with me. This week has been a particularly hellish week. My brother is dead and I seem to be putting out little fires every time I turn a corner.

In an effort to stay sane and grounded, I've been working in my garden. I take my shoes off and feel the earth support my body. I tend to little plants and listen to little animals. I create my own nourishment. I weed. I harvest. I breathe. And I let the tears come.

The photos above were taken by me in my garden.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Radical Homemaking | The Chicks Have Arrived

It's been a long while since I've had the opportunity to write a post on my radical homemaking efforts. This is mostly due to the fact that I've been away from my home for over four months. But today, we're back in business.

Our plan for backyard chickens has been in the works for the past year. I'm three generations removed from farmer stock, so what little instinct I have has probably been bred out. But I've never been one to let lack of experience prevent me from trying something new.

On Saturday, my son, Walker (6), and I got a call from our local feed store letting us know that their chicks had hatched. Walker picked out four beautiful, healthy looking chicks. Introducing the newest egg-laying members of the family: Etta and Mavis (both Rhode Island Reds), Aretha (a Barred Plymouth Rock) and Gladys (a Gold Laced Wyandotte). Let the adventure begin!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Squam Art Workshops and Back Again

My five days at the Squam Art Workshops are over. I'm back home in Dallas. Actually, I've been back for a week, but haven't been able to gather my thoughts until now. This trip came right on the heels of my brother's sudden death and as I mentioned earlier, I wasn't sure if I could go. But I did go and best of all, I was able to go with my mother. She and I shared a lone second-story bedroom in this gorgeous cabin (below) overlooking Squam Lake.

The sun rose each morning, bringing with it a flood of light into our sleeping quarters. It was a gorgeous reminder that the earth is turning and dark nights are always followed by new days. What a gift. This alone - a beautiful and rustic room with windows overlooking a New Hampshire Lake - this alone would have made the trip worthwhile.

Squam Lake and the surrounding woods revealed it's gifts little by little, leaf by leaf. In New Hampshire, autumn was taking her first cool breaths. The trees were mostly green, but if you leaned in and allowed your eyes to settle in one place, you could see the red and orange painted tips here and there. It's all changing. Every moment, we're in transition.

And then there was the water. Oh, the heavenly water. There is no better way to clear your head and renew your body on a cellular level than to immerse yourself in a natural water source. The campground that hosts the Squam Art Workshops is called Rockywold Deephaven and each little cabin has it's own dock access. 

In the mornings, when the light was new and the air was crisp, I walked out our cabin door onto a path of dead pine needles to the water's edge. The dock would creak a bit as I stepped onto the old wood. The water color was ever-changing: gray, then green and then blue as the sun rose in the sky. Swimming in Squam Lake was like a full immersion baptism and the water was the presiding priestess, made holy by her own presence. 

Squam Lake made space for serenity and sadness to coexist in my body. It provided a place to play and stretch and ruminate and ease into my grief. This time was a gentle reminder that it's alright to laugh a little when the whole world seems to be crumbling around you. There is joy in grief, celebration in sorrow and life in loss. These things all live together in each of us.

But my time at Squam Lake was not just about the setting. The art workshops, hosted each June and September on it's shore by Elizabeth Duvuvier, are the reason for the season. I took three classes during my five-day retreat. The first was a sewing class called Alternative Stitch taught by the ebullient, free-thinking Emily Falconbridge. On day two, I took an art and movement class called Love Layers, taught by the absurdly talented and gracious Flora Bowley. And on Saturday, I took a mini-workshop from the feisty, open-hearted Rachel Rice on creating Native American dream catchers. All three classes surprised me in some way. None of them adhered to my expectations, but rather ebbed and flowed according to the energy of the instructor and students. 

Each morning, I would take the path from my cabin to the dining hall where I would eat a beautiful fresh meal with coffee. Then I would toddle off down some winding path to a designated gathering place where I would meet a new group of women. Then I would create something. It was simple and touching and so very needed. 

Photo by Emily Falconbridge

I have been looking forward to Flora Bowley's class since I first signed up in January. She usually teaches a class called Bloom True, but for Squam she embarked on a new class called Love Layers, which mixes movement and art. She kept telling us "it's not about the paintings". Initially, I had signed up for her class because I love her technique and she and I both work with acrylics. I wanted to work together with acrylics and watch her process. We did not use acrylics and we did not focus on the painting. It was a great zen lesson. Flora was more interested in the kinetic connection between our bodies and the act of making art. And after taking her class, I am too. Deep listening is tough work, but oh my, it is so rewarding.

Photo by Jennifer Ciplet

Photo by Jennifer Ciplet

Photo by Jennifer Ciplet

Here are two of my pieces from Flora's class (even though I know it's not about the paintings):

Now that I am home in Dallas, I miss the cool bite of the morning air in New Hampshire. I miss taking my coffee down to the dock and listening for Loons. I miss the beautiful, spirited women who were teaching and taking classes. I miss my lovely cabin mates. I miss having the wide, open, unadulterated space to make friends with my sadness. Grieving at home in front of family and friends and neighbors and strangers is tricky. I don't want to scare or alienate anyone with my emotional state, but I also want my children to know that the only way around grief is through it. And while my broken heart feels a little hemmed in now that I'm back in Texas, I'm also deeply comforted being in the arms of my husband and sweet sons. 

All things must end.
Decay is natural.
Love is eternal.
I am content.

Thank you Elizabeth and Kaitlyn.
Thank you Camille.
Thank you Gail, Danielle, Elaine, Margi and Suzanne.
Thank you Emily.
Thank you Flora.
Thank you Andi, Rachel and Tara.
Thank you Mama.

Until next time.

Photo by T.Spoon Photography

Photo by T.Spoon Photography

All photos by Sarah Greenman unless otherwise noted.