white space

I didn’t really get into tree skiing until I was 20 and my fear was firmly in tact. All I saw was trees. Lots of begging my quad muscles to stop my body to avoid the giant trees that were committed to my eventual concussion. I was arhythmic and awkward. And I wanted it. I watched my husband and our friends glide through woods, one hundred percent aware of their body width, speed, ability; giving in to pitch, sailing with the precision and confidence and grace of a low-flying bird.

I’m still not a great tree skier but the trees are a favorite place to be. It’s always quiet, with the occasional bright blur to the left or right – a vibrant, alive low-flying bird doing its thing. I like the challenge. The immobility of the trees – the invitation of the inconsistent, alluring space between them. The altitude, the puzzle, the dare. The commitment, the euphoria when turns match breath, the frustration when nothing aligns. The fun of it alone, the fun of it with friends shrieking a few trees away. Laughter echoing among trunks and roots and canopies older than we are.

There’s this philosophy about tree skiing: that if one focuses on the space between the trees, the body will go there; if one focuses on the trees, the body will go there. So the SECRET to smooth, confident, fluid tree skiing is peripherally, barely noticing what you don’t want (tree collision) and focusing your entire self on what you DO want (floating through wintery portals).

I want my daughters to ski trees. I want my daughters to see the white space between the trees.

I want them to know the adrenaline burst of standing before an unknown plot. I want them to begin by aiming their bodies toward the bright, inviting place. I want them to trust their choice. To push their shins against their boots. To aim their heart toward the next thing. To feel their very own earthly support. To know the support of their family. To lean into gravity, point toward fear and need and want and trust and thirst and naivety and importance and fallibility. To carve a turn through giant obstacles, like a swift thread through a needle. To follow another’s path. To forge their own. To bury their face in snow so bright they can’t breathe for the joy of it all. To fall gently. To fall hard. To feel what they feel. To hurry. To take their time. To do it again. To stop when they feel like it’s time to stop.

To begin again by aiming their bodies toward the bright, inviting, white space.

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Feel it. Love what you love. Trust. Be devoted. Give in.

Last Monday at noon I went to my first yoga class in several years. For whatever reason my yoga practice vaporized from my agenda when I had my second kid. It went from daily to nada. I’ve missed it and blabbed about missing it but didn’t do anything about it.

And then Alice died. I haven’t hiked or ran since. Well, I did once and felt like an anvil sat on my heart the entire time, pushing buckets of tears out of my body. I was not ready to be up in these hills without her.

One late night last week I got out of bed to look up yoga schedules in Missoula. I found a class time that worked for me and promised myself I’d go. And then I saw the teacher’s name. Marina. She’s my old teacher. In fact, the last time I went to this particular studio I was eight months pregnant with a breech Margot. Marina helped me through giant-bellied handstands and headstands until my bug swam herself 180. Marina!

People say dogs don’t live long enough. This statement is true in human brains. For dogs, I think they feel just right. Because they always do feel just right. Always.

Alice dies on Thursday night, November 20. It is a shock. We just – two days ago – ruled out the kidney failure diagnosis we had mourned. We have a new vet we love. We release ourselves into an ocean of relief and optimism.

She falls over in the living room. She recovers. My kids think she slipped on their paper snowflake scraps. A short while later, her back legs stop functioning. I am on and off the phone with vets, neighbors, my husband. She wants to drink endless water, she wants to lay in the snow. She is scared. She looks into me for answers. All I have is love.

The day before – the day of the glorious blood and urine work news – we ran together. She gained four pounds back in two weeks. Moments before the episode I took a picture of my new boots to send to a friend. She pushed her wet nose into my hand. I called her into the kitchen for a treat and she bounced into me to be sure I remembered.

Four bucks stand 15 feet away, staring at us. One is impossibly noble. I see his breath in the cold air. Alice lays in the snow and can’t get up.

Fuck. Is this happening?

I carry her back into the house. I feel calm and alert. My kids are playful and hungry. I manage it all and notice that I feel emotionless. Alice vomits everything she ate that day, undigested. I clean it up with a dust pan. I make dinner.

Andy walks in and says hey, girlie like he always does. Every day for 11 years. She softens. She wags her tail.

We have a few normal hours with her. We wonder if she ate something weird. We sit with her and it feels like it always does. There is a shift. It is subtle, calm, peaceful even. We feel it. We know. She leans into me and closes her eyes.

As she is dying in my arms in our bedroom, she tells me a few things.

Feel it.

Love what you love.

Trust.

Be devoted.

Give in.

My husband looks old when he wraps the brown fleece blanket around her body. I remember his smooth face. I remember 16 years old. I remember not a thought beyond that moment of our first kiss.

We hold her. Her breath changes. We FEEL her life leave. It is so visceral I may even see her life leave.

I remember roaring when in labor. It shocked me. Not because I am a quiet person but because I had no control over the noise bellowing from my guts. This is the same. I howl. I gag.

When I arrive to the yoga studio Marina lies flat on her back on a mat in the middle of the floor. She slowly rolls toward the entry and giggles. She tells me I look tall. We hug.

She asks for updates about my body that might help her during practice. I tell her about my knee injury last winter. I tell her I am really sad. I say I might burst into tears during practice. She says, well we all might do that dear.

It’s a hatha class but I expect options for movement and intensity. I think I want intense, that I will elect for the “if you want to take it one step further” options. We sit and breathe for many minutes. We lay down. Marina reminds us that the earth is entirely responsible for supporting our bodies and we can give in to it. With those words I feel a fracture into my sadness. I try to grab it. I can’t. We stretch our toes. I stretch through spiteful cobwebs in down dog. I feel my shallow, arthritic breath. I try to push it down into my belly. I remember that satisfying, oxygenating, alive feeling. I want it.

I can’t wait for the sun to rise. It rises. We tell the kids in our bed, when they join us as they do every morning. Margot arrives first.

Where is she? Margot asks.

On her bed right here, we say.

Can I go to her? Will you come with me?

Yes.

She is cautious. She places a flat palm on her body and feels the coolness, the bones.

Can I listen to her heart? she asks.

You can, I say. But it isn’t beating anymore.

Does her brain still work?

No. All her organs have stopped working.

Will she remember us?

Oh baby. Yes I believe so.

Ruby wakes. We are all crowded under the down and wool. Andy tells Ruby.

Where is she? Ruby asks.

On her bed right here, we say.

Can I go to her? Will you come with me?

Yes.

Ruby rolls into her. She stares into her open eyes. She lays on top of her and says what feels different, what feels the same. I am astonished at her inhibition.

She hugs her. She pushes her fur back and forth. She peeks under the blankets. She cries.

The morning is gray. It is the day before Ruby’s birthday party.

Margot asks where Alice is now. Can she feel? Does she know us?

We talk about spirit. We look at her body together and notice her spirit isn’t there. I wish for a tidy answer about god or heaven but I don’t have one. I ask what they think.

Margot says I am pretty sure I get it. It looks like she’s somewhere else. It feels like she isn’t loving us right now even though she is right here. But, like, she’s not really right here. She’s out there.

Andy calls me outside to choose a place. He uses a jackhammer to break the first foot of frozen earth. The sound pierces the silence in our home. Then he digs. We stay inside. Soon he is shoulder deep in earth, in a t shirt. His breath, tears remind me of the bucks in the field the night before, of Alice in our room, of funerals and birthday parties.

The kids write words, draw pictures, gather things for our ceremony. They seem so content and I feel like enforcing how sad it is. I feel like telling them to stop laughing. I don’t. I appreciate how nothing is off limits to them. Nothing is inappropriate.

We wrap her in a white piece of fabric. My husband carries her from our bedroom to her grave. She looks small.

We cut rope and tie it around her body so we can lower her the six feet. The kids weep. Margot climbs the garden fence in protest. Ruby sits on the frozen mud. Andy and I stand opposite each other, across from the cold hole, our eyes heavy and swollen.

It is messy and the air is so saturated with every bit of our selves – physical and spiritual – that I feel like we could manifest our own storm.

We lower her onto a bed of pine boughs. We place our objects in with her, each dropped a few seconds after the last item. It seems foggy but it isn’t. It seems warm but it isn’t.

Margot wrote a letter that reads My dog died and we don’t know why. I love her. Ruby brought the magnet from her chore chart, the one that means she gave Alice snuggles. She holds that magnet until the end. I didn’t know she had grabbed it. She throws it up in the air like confetti and sobs I love you Alice.

The kids also add her favorite peanut butter treats, her collar. I read a letter I wrote. I toss in my running shoes. We couldn’t find her leash and Andy rightly points out how appropriate that is. We could never find her leash. He curls toward the grave and drops a bunch of dried lavender. Three earth worms emerge from the walls of the grave and fall in.

He asks to bury her by himself. Margot cries and grabs at my pants. Ruby panics, tells us she doesn’t want to leave Alice outside all alone because she never did like being all alone. I sit on the snow with my daughters and we settle into it. Ruby’s wet face pushes into my sternum. She says At least Alice has the wormies with her now.

Margot runs upstairs and into the house. I follow and find her on Alice’s bed. She rolls dog hair between her fingers and moves it around on her leggings. Ruby joins her. Together they sit there for hours.

At the end of yoga, we do this slow series of rolling across a pillow on the floor, first lengthening our side, our back, our other side. It sounds easy and relaxing, like a cooked buttery noodle draped over a fork. Marina asks us to take our time, to move when it feels good. I start on my right side. I am awkward and sticky. Al dente. My breath weak.

I wiggle and adjust. I breathe. I roll. I curl my spine up and then down. I broaden my shoulders. I breathe. I breathe a little deeper. I stiffen and squirm. I wish I was open and willing. I fill hollow, painful places with breath. I grow. I try.

Ruby turns five. She asks for her cake to look like Alice. Margot gets up early, gets dressed in her snow gear and goes outside. Later, I find her footprints lead to Alice’s grave. And there is a snow angel on top.

Feel it.

Love what you love.

Trust.

Be devoted.

Give in.

 

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nuggets: how bout we do some seasonal bits

I keep coming here trying to decide what to publish. I’ve been writing. About the confusion and truth of life and death — the dance of a life ending the day before a fifth birthday. About grieving with my husband and kids and without our dog. A friend pointed this out to me: the most unfair and painful part is that I want my dog’s love, cuddles and walks to get over her own death.

I will share more here about Alice’s passing. Today I share seasonal bits that make me happy. It’s complicated because the joy of cutting a tree is sad without our girl running up the hillside and the fun in the advent scavenger hunt is unbelievably quieter without our girl wagging and hopping beside the kids as they hunt. I’ve noticed that with every painful moment there is something beautiful to witness, that even the pain can be beautiful in its authenticity. And I’ve noticed laughter. Man I love to laugh.

It snowed a few days ago. The big, meandering quiet kind. Margot said:

Wow. I like, FEEL Alice. It’s like she is in the snow or something. Is that what you mean by her spirit? I really think her spirit is in that falling snow.

Yes, that.

:: I do so enjoy decorating and arranging our home this time of year. It’s a solid shot of brightness and levity. Plus we will have a huge houseful this year, making the jolliness extra amplified.

:: My favorite new addition is the tiny, sparkly peacock that I attached to our bird feeder. I wondered if it would detract the droves of finches, nuthatches et al that feed here but on the contrary, they are unaffected. I like to think they enjoy their new always-gazing-over-shoulder pal.

:: We always cut our tree on our friend’s property the weekend after Ruby’s birthday. This year we went on Thanksgiving day because we had our big feast with friends on Wednesday. Honestly, it was a hard day: the big exhale after birthday party, company, Thanksgiving. We settled into the distraction-free realization that Alice wasn’t there. We all kept seeing her, looking for her, hearing her. On the drive home the strap that held the tree to the car whipped in the wind against the window. Margot pointed out that it sounded exactly like Alice’s wagging tail against the inside of the car when she heard us approaching. It did. We drove under a giant full rainbow set against graphite sky. We saw mountain lion tracks and bushes that looked like dogs.

:: Remember the advent calendar I made and posted about and then one reader gently pointed out that 6 rows x 3 pockets = 18, not 24? Ahem. It was a challenge to keep the goodies hidden anyway so we switched to notes with clues that lead the kids to a treasure (special bonus: I can squeeze two notes into the middle pocket because 6×4=24 you know). A daily scavenger hunt! I like to make it an activity: carousel tokens and then we go; a game (that we already own) that we immediately play; our sled and we layer up and head out. This Friday they will open Nutcracker tickets, a particularly special treat this year as our dear friend and neighbor is Clara! Do you have advent activity ideas for me? I’ll take them. I am usually figuring it out about five minutes before the kids pull the clue, nonchalantly fast-walking ahead of them to hide the {mugs of hot cocoa on their desks}.

:: And the holiday stick! It’s a legitimate pain in the ass to hang this thing but totally worth it.

:: The stick’s BFF: the cocksucker. Who has earned year round placement by the front door.

:: Ruby again plans to ask Santa for a glittery watermelon with the addition of a pot of gold. Margot plans to ask for a stuffed kitten the size of her palm. I sincerely adore our Santa photos:

:: Margot jumps rope. Before breakfast, after dinner. She is on a jump roping team and has her first performance this week. Homegirls has been PRACTICING and it’s always awesome except when one of us takes a rope to the face. Before bed:

:: The first advent gift of the season is always a new holiday book. The books are out for the month of December only and are my kids favorite thing to unpack every year. This year I bought The Tomtes’ Christmas Porridge. And a second that I couldn’t resist will be a Christmas gift: Peter and Lotta’s Christmas: A Story.

Other books in our collection:
The Tomten
The Little Christmas Tree
Little Fairy’s Christmas
The Story of the Snow Children
The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas

:: Haaaaaaang a shining star atop the highest booooooooow…

Ruby: Mama? Why does that man saw moooooooooow instead of just saying ‘the highest mountain’? It’s frustrating.

:: Sledding hill bling.

:: Two gifts already under the tree. And Alice, where she liked to lay.

:: Our ski hill opened. It was raining at the base but once we got past the miserable lower lift ride, the top was a wintery wonder. Like so many things in life: there is great reward if you push through shitty weather.

Also: we are lucky to almost always receive handed-down gear for our kids. And we happen to have several skis and ski boots that are now too little for Margot and Ruby. Are you interested? If you pay for shipping, you can have it. Email me at hello @ digthischick . net  <– everything has been claimed! xoxo

:: Wrapping paper making.

:: My kids play the HOW BOUT game every day. This is one example:

How bout I’m a mom and you my kid but you’re a teenager and you have red hair like Ariel.
OK and how bout I’m like really cranky because I want to eat cottage cheese.
Yeah and how bout I don’t like cottage cheese and I want noodles instead.
And how bout we both love to read books.
And so how bout we read books while eating noodles.
Awesome.

This photo’s real life caption: Hey Ruby. How bout we have a dance contest and I’m the judge and I decide who wins are I always pick you.

A few details:

* Holiday stick: ponderosa pinecones, pom poms attached with glue gun. Strung to a found stick with fishing line. Attached to ceiling with fishing line and thumbtacks (this stick is super light, like dry driftwood; a heavier stick would require hooks)

* Tree bling: colored popsicle sticks glued together with regular ol’ white glue. Drilled tiny holes in each and attached to tree branches with embroidery thread.

 

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Rainbow Friday > giving away and giving back

Last year we inaugurated Rainbow Friday, a way to bring color and connection to the spirited days of shopping after Thanksgiving. This year is even better with every small, sustainable business not only offering a giveaway and great deal but also giving to a non-profit organization of their choosing.

I am blown away by the talent and big-heartedness of every business participating. This is your opportunity to shop; to vote for your neighbors with the purchase of unique, handmade gifts; to use your purchase power to lean in and give back.

I hope you will support their efforts and do some shopping this weekend!

* Each business is giving away an item. Leave a comment for a chance to win. Comments close on Monday, December 1 at 11:59pm. There will be 12 winners, announced here on Tuesday, December 2.

WINNERS!!! Congrats all; check your email for details.

  1. café apron from GEO: #4 Tricia A.
  2. garden calendar from Natalie Creates: #16 Jenn
  3. art from Little Green Things: #100 Colleen
  4. Hattie Rex necklace from tart: #36 Kat
  5. arrow notecards from Noteworthy: #59 Amy
  6. earrings from Lava Lake: #113 Rachael
  7. bonnet from Urban Baby Bonnets: #141 Jessica
  8. two headbands from b. handmade designs: #98 Linda J
  9. set of four bowls and salad bowl from Dharma Door: #42 Ashley Smith
  10. moccasins from Starry Knight Design: #8 Karin
  11. six cupcakes from Fairy Food Market: #33 Sarah Holden
  12. library tote from Small Town Goods: #122 Yana

* Rainbow Friday deals run from Friday, November 28 – Monday, December 1.

* I will post the amount each business is donating to their chosen organizations on instagram and facebook next week. Let’s make it impressive!

:: :: ::

I’m not ready to write about it beyond just saying it: Alice died last Thursday night, in our bedroom, in the arms of my husband and me. We are so sad. And so thankful to have had her in our lives for the 11 years.

The idea of giving back occurred with her generous life in mind. She gave so much and we are deeply grateful for the Humane Society of Western Montana, the organization that cared for her until she found her home with us.

>> GEO BY DIG THIS CHICK

GIVING BACK:
In Alice’s name, GEO by dig this chick will give 25% of all sales to the Humane Society of Western Montana.

GIVEAWAY:
We are giving away one of our brand new Custom Café Aprons. Seems an appropriate giveaway because my girl Alice was always right by my side in the kitchen.

DEAL:
Flash Sale (Mon, Dec 1 only): 8am-8pm MST: 10% of orders over $30 with code DIG10 and 20% off orders over $100 with code DIG20. And, free gift with every order: set of 5 garden postcards featuring my photographs.

>> NATALIE CREATES.
shop // blog // @nataliecreates

GIVING BACK:
20% of proceeds will go to Apple Seeds, a nonprofit that inspires healthy living through garden-based education.

GIVEAWAY:
Natalie & Luke of Freckled Hen Farm are gifting “A Year In The Garden: A 2015 Planting Calendar for the Mid-South.” This calendar is designed for gardeners, farmers & more in zones 6b-8a. The planting calendar is designed to inspire & enable you to grow & harvest from your own garden. 6 in. x 9 in, made of sturdy card stock & includes a clip for easy hanging.

>> LITTLE GREEN THINGS.
Reclaimed wood embroidery for feel-good living.
shop // website // facebook // @littlegreenthings

GIVING BACK:
Little Green Things will donate half of the sales of all prints during the sale to the Baltimore Animal Shelter.

GIVEAWAY:
The self love manifesto is an 8″ square reclaimed wood yarn embroidery reminder of all we essentially are.

DEAL:
25% off with coupon code RAINBOWFRIDAY

>> TART.
A shop and gallery in Bozeman, MT carrying unique, handmade art, jewelry and gifts by local and regional artists.

GIVING BACK:
tart will donate $1 for every purchase made using the RAINBOWFRIDAY discount code to the Bozeman Warming Center, helping to make sure everyone in Bozeman has a warm and safe place to stay.

GIVEAWAY:
Copper Montana coin pendant by Hattie Rex.

DEAL:
20% off Hattie Rex products with coupon code RAINBOWFRIDAY

>> NOTEWORTHY PAPER AND PRESS.
A contemporary stationery boutique founded to share our love of all things paper and letterpress printing.

GIVING BACK:
Noteworthy Paper & Press will donate 20% of all online sales, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, to Teach for America. Teach For America is growing the movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education. Be sure to include the code RAINBOWFRIDAY in the comments section at checkout.

GIVEAWAY:
A pack of 8 letterpress arrows notecards printed by hand in our letterpress workshop in Missoula, Montana on 100% cotton stock with coordinating kraft envelopes.

DEAL:
20% off all online sales; use code RAINBOWFRIDAY in the comment section at checkout

>> LAVA LAKE JEWELRY.
Handcrafted artisan jewelry ~ earrings, necklaces, bracelets simply created using a variety of metals, gemstones and beads.

GIVING BACK:
10% profits during the sale donated to American Farmland Trust

GIVEAWAY:
Tiny Silver Hoop Earrings ~ Simple sterling silver hoop earrings, hammered for texture and lightweight for every day wear.

DEAL:
20% off any purchase over $30 with coupon code RAINBOWFRIDAY

>> URBAN BABY BONNETS
shop
// facebook

GIVING BACK:
UB2 will donate $1000 to the Glen Helen Association, a nature preserve that protects over 1000 acres of land and provide rich outdoor education opportunities for kids.

GIVEAWAY:
REGALIA modBonnet in the winner’s choice of size

DEAL:
25% off a regalia modBonnet with coupon code RAINBOWFRIDAY

>> B. HANDMADE DESIGNS.
shop // facebook // @bhandmadedesigns

GIVING BACK:
With every headband purchased, Becky will donate a SUPERWIDE headband to the non-profit organization, Cancer Support Community of Montana. Cancer has touched many lives; this year she lost her best friend of 25 years to breast cancer and she will donate these in her name.

GIVEAWAY:
Two headbands of your choice.

DEAL: 20% off with coupon code RAINBOWFRIDAY2014

>> DHARMA DOOR.
It is the mission of The Dharma Door to bring Fair Trade goods to a new marketplace, bridging the gap between ethical production and contemporary style.

GIVING BACK:
The Dharma Door will donate 10% of sales to their local animal shelter in honor of Alice.

GIVEAWAY:
Handcrafted using sustainable bamboo and traditional techniques, our colorful collection of bamboo bowls make a perfect gift.

DEAL:
Use code RAINBOWFRIDAY for 25% off all purchases.

>> STARRY KNIGHT DESIGN.
Handmade soft soled leather shoes, moccasins and boots for babies, toddlers and kids. shop // @starryknightdesign

GIVING BACK / DEAL:
Use code RAINBOW FRIDAY for 15% off. Or, mention RAINBOWFRIDAY in notes at checkout and 15% of your sale will be donated to The Lotus Project. The Lotus Project is a pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum education and resource center whose mission is to improve women’s health and happiness during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, and through that process, creating healthy and happy families.

GIVEAWAY:
Rocky Mountain brown leather baby or toddler moccasins.

>> FAIRY FOOD MARKET.
Fairy Food Market builds miniature meats, veggies, fruits, and desserts out of polymer clay, because tiny things are fantastic, and even fairies need to eat!

GIVING BACK:
Natalie of Fairy Food Market will donate 20% of profits to the Missoula Food Bank. Mention RAINBOWFRIDAY at checkout.

GIVEAWAY:
Fairy Food Market is giving away six teeny tiny clay cupcakes for imaginary play, dollhouse kitchens, or display.

>> SMALL TOWN GOODS.
shop // blog

GIVING BACK:
20% of all sales will be donated to the library fund Pastures Preschool, a one-room schoolhouse located on a sheep ranch in the small hamlet of Bodega, California.

GIVEAWAY:
Organic cotton library junkie canvas tote bag. Artwork designed by Tammi Salas and screen printed in Petaluma, California.

DEAL:
Every order will receive a beautiful, handmade bookmark painted by Tammi.

 

Comments (146)

nitrogen to carbon to nitrogen

I took a master gardening class years ago. I took it after I was fired from a housesitting gig for killing all the plants and before I started my gardening business. I still consult my Master Gardening Manual regularly, its pages soft with dirt and turned corners.

Gardening is meant for writers. From the poetic words like meristem and apical and brassica to the generous metaphors in tending, troubleshooting, growth, harvest and nourishment.

I saw David Sedaris read this week. I went with my friend after we were offered tickets one hour before he was to take stage. We sat high in the balcony and listened to his familiar cadence deliver hilarious and shocking words. I noticed two things. First, when a person is funny, it gives their audience permission to laugh at anything, even the serious and sad stuff. And it isn’t inappropriate to laugh at serious and sad stuff. It’s a legitimate reaction to the discomfort of big feelings. Two, I need to read more books and look at more art. When another shares their genius, an energy field is cast. It’s contagious in the most inspiring way.

I ordered a new computer yesterday. Mine is slowly croaking, keyboard and track pad kaput and the function straining at the smallest requests. Ruby says it sounds like it is sighing all the time. Yesterday afternoon I was on the mac help chat thing with Claire, trying to decide between a new or refurbished computer. I think those chat windows were made for moms. If I’d had to make a phone call, my kids would have immediately been starving, in great need of a glue stick from the top shelf and writhing from some ailment that required lavender oil and a bandaid. The chat allows me to get some questions answered while Ruby summits my body and Margot choreographs a jumprope routine to Frosty The Snowman in the kitchen.

October and September were bright and warm. Our kids ran barefoot on Halloween afternoon, a day that is famously cold around here. Deciduous trees held color for over a month, sharing a continual shower of tumeric and cayenne leaves. And then, in just one day, the temperature dropped to the single digits, all the leaves curled into themselves and jumped to the ground. It snowed.

Acquiring the skill to detect a nutrient imbalance in the garden is like a magic portal into the Earth’s growth rings. We get to watch carbon and nitrogen be neighborly and productive when in harmony and wither when fighting for space. We can sprinkle blood meal or toss coffee grounds to mend tension. We can sweep fallen leaves atop tucked-in garlic cloves as a party invitation for worms and leaf mold. And even with the best love and attention, we can witness disease throw down its trump card. Even science is an unpredictable mystery.

My youngest daughter turns five this weekend. She is the happiest person I know, skipping and whistling and wanting to read just one more book. She always grabs two cheese sticks at the grocery store, asks for an extra sticker from the bank teller, collects two rocks so her sister can have one of everything she gets. She has a fierce temper when her cut snowflakes don’t turn out as she’d hoped and an equally fierce recovery — one mama hug and it’s all fixed. I wish my embrace would have that impact forevermore.

She only likes tights and leggings, nothing “shakey” on her legs. She draws voraciously — pictures of worms thinking about snow storms and pictures of our family as mice on a mountain. She eats three breakfasts and doesn’t care for dinner. She likes dolphins, horses, skiing, purple, braids, gymnastics, cuddling chickens, riding bikes, eating ice and impressing her sister.

On the nights she doesn’t climb into our bed and take up space like one of those plastic capsules that expands into a sponge seahorse when in contact with water, she sneaks over to my side of the bed and whisper yells MAMA one inch from my sleeping face. I startle awake. What honey? I ask. I was just wondering. What did we have for dinner? I can’t remember. 

There was more I had wanted to do in the garden before the ground froze. Now that to-do list is complete, no matter the items finished. In a world where we can control and manage so much, I appreciate things like seasons and birthdays that exist no matter our plans. I now turn my attention to a kitty butterfly cake and a tea party for five little girls and their favorite dolls. (I’ve always wanted to make miniature food for stuffed deer, ducks and Elsas)

The 2014 growing season was was difficult in pole beans and tomatoes; in a daughter who grew toward five years alive with feats like newborn-style sleep patterns, needing to toss her clothes all about the house to find what she was looking for and “decorating her sheets with tattoos.” The 2014 growing season was fantastic in beets, cabbage, carrots, kale and tomatillos; in a daughter who grew toward five years alive with accomplishments like riding a bike, growing her hair long enough for a side braid and managing to breathe joy into every living creature near her.

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