nuggets: moonshadow

Andy and I woke at the same moment. 4:17am, the glowing moon washing our room with ghost-blue light. We don’t have curtains and every full moon, it seems our space is washed by celestial illumination. How is it possible that a rock that is 230,100 miles away can light my bedroom from the inside out? It’s magic and I can feel it. I am always sleepless and stirred in a way that is bigger than me, tossing around in lunar dust.

Andy got up, wide awake. I entered into a hazy, in-and-out sleep for a few hours where I thought about the things. How I want to make all my own clothes, I missed soccer sign ups, I need to get my plane ticket to San Francisco, I look forward to next fall’s road trip with my kids, I am frustrated that I had to fire my web designer and start over, I am so pleased that my garden is off to a great start, I ought to read more books.

Lately, when I wake in the middle of the night I have a song in my head. Every single night around 2am I wake up with lyrics on repeat. I started writing them down last week: Beyoncé’s Halo, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, Pearl Jam’s Daughter, Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands. On the full moon night: Cat Steven’s Moonshadow.

And if I were to do a mashup and make my own soundtrack perhaps it’d go something like this:

Hit me like a ray of sun
Burning through my darkest night
She holds the hand that holds her down
She will rise above
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
It’s like I got this music in my body and it’s gonna be alright
Yes, I’m bein’ followed by a moon shadow
Moon shadow
Moon shadow

One of the things on my mind on this morning was wanting to share about our spring break. The one that happened several weeks ago. I’m getting used to this — the documenting things well after the fact. When I first started writing here (nine years ago!) I would feel like it was too late to write about a thing that happened last week. My life doesn’t allow for me to write here as often right now. And the practice of remembering, looking back at my notes (I make notes all the time about what I want to write about) and telling a story is a good one.

I actually wrote quite a bit while in our cabin in the woods. The old fashioned way: by a raging wood stove, raging pen and paper. I managed to spook myself pretty good that night and I hope to get that whole story out one way or another sometime soon. Boo.

Spring Break nuggets. We stayed home mostly, with one little adventure away.

:: Andy has a new painting on exhibit at the Brink Gallery in downtown Missoula. We went to the opening briefly. Although only there for 12 minutes, my kids managed to eat a cupcake and two fistfuls of licorice. I had wine.

:: Last days of skiing, first bare feet in the creek.

:: Long, tiring days in the garden. Planning layout, planting seeds (early April: radish, peas, spinach, arugula, lettuce, onion, beet, carrot). My kids still love to count worms and millipedes, to dig in compost and hang out with me all day in the dirt. And this mama still loves those days so very much.

:: I rented a forest service cabin for a few days but the girls and I ended up only staying one day. Long story short: I had some fear, ignited by neighboring campers and decided that even though my fear was likely way out there and even though I wanted to stay, I realized that the whole reason I get out into the wilderness with my kids is to relax and run free with them and I wasn’t doing that. I was uneasy and having wild, dark thoughts. So we stayed one night, went for a great hike and then left.

 

:: We then drove to a different forest service cabin our friends’ had rented (that was luckily only 1.5 hours away!) and stayed a night with them instead. It was the perfect elixir to remedy my previous night’s head trip.

:: On the way home we picnicked on the Big Hole River, stopped and swam at Fairmont Hot Springs and hit this giant slide in Anaconda. When we showed up there were two teenage couples making out under the slide. At first they didn’t stop so I gave them a compassionate mama stink eye where I communicated Just ease up a bit, friends. We will be outta here in no time. They understood but acted put out. Goodness I remember being a teenager so well.

:: The kids taught me about the brand new thing the kids are doing at school. When two people say the same thing at the same time they say Jinx! Pinch! Poke! You owe me a coke! Isn’t it amazing that these rites of passage swell up at the exact same times, generation after generation? Same handclaps, same games, same side ponytails and jump rope songs. Anyway, they are REALLY into this Jinx thing and I listen to it approximately 17 times an hour. Lots of hypothetical cokes owed.

:: Ruby made markers for the carrots and beets.

:: One day, I was in the garden while the kids played in the field. They went inside the house and came out with lunch for me. Margot said, “It seems like you are working so hard and that you need to feed your body.” She had made me a sandwich of hummus, pickles, bean spouts and tomato. And a tangelo. It was delicious and heart-melting.

After days of the sisters playing outside at home, I overheard Margot say to Ruby, “Isn’t is so fun to just play just you and me? Like, we really don’t need toys or anything but each other.” I quietly smiled from the hallway, enjoying that moment and those words I happened to hear. And of course knowing that quite soon feelings of boredom or annoyance would surface. They do because that is life: moods and feelings are like the moon’s pull on the ocean. Rising and falling, reactive and strong.

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?
*

*from Cat Stevens, Moonshadow

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nuggets: finally it’s the first day of spring!

I started composing this on the first day of spring, adding thoughts and photos over the last few weeks. And then adding thoughts and photos just before spring and it’s quickly grown to monstrous size but I’m rolling with it. Welcome to the giant nugget post.

(I was reading this to my kids and Ruby has asked if I could change her name to Bob for a while)

Bob emerged from her bedroom, a halo of yellow bed-headed hair. I was on the couch, drinking coffee and reading. She fell into me with her toothless smile. “Finally it’s the first day of spring!” she yawned as she fell onto my lap completely unaware of the coffee.

Question to those with older children: do they ever notice the cup of coffee in your hand before diving into a morning snuggle? I’ve become incredibly skilled at keeping the hot, caffeinated liquid inside the mug with a wiggling child on lap.

Indeed it’s spring. Finally! I think we always feel a bit that way with every season. We love winter. We ski and sled and ice skate. We eat oats my the fire and resist getting out of our warm beds in the morning. And we look forward to spring. We dream of that day when will be able to stand in a non-breezy spot and, if the sun is directly on us, it actually feels warm.

Springish nuggets.

:: The girls designed and made little creatures mostly all by themselves. Margot has decided that even if she doesn’t make enough money she wants to work with owl research and rescue. Specifically she’d like to “study them and cure them when they are injured.” Bob wants to BE a kitty when she grows up.

:: Moody spring hikes with friends have taken us up mountains. Our kids used to be on our backs and shoulders and now they run ahead of us begging us to hurry up.

:: I shared this on instagram but want to share here too because it’s my new favorite trick: you can place the white roots of spent green onions in water and continue to harvest the greens for weeks and weeks! They just keep growing.

:: Andy has been planning to build a bench to sit on Alice’s gardenside grave. We went to Home Resource to find materials and instead found an already-made bench. It’s constructed from salvaged materials and is just perfect. We all sit there often, especially the kids. Here playing a game in caves. I heard Margot say, “Quick! Hide! Wolf 12 o’clock!” as Mabel ambled up to sit. Our dog is quite good at pretend play.

:: Our ski season is wrapping up. We went almost every weekend. We plan for the expense of ski passes all year and it is always a stretch to make the purchase. And it always feels so worth it when we get to spend our days together, outside, enduring all kinds of weather — both literally and metaphorically. The chairlift conversations with my kids are among the best I’ve ever had. It’s what we do and I love it.

:: The secret sister snowball ambush.

:: Andy and I had a ski date, just the two of us, on one blissful, powdery, sunshiney day.


:: Margot, Bob and I made these little birdie biscuits. The recipe is HERE. They were great fun to make and eat. They are slightly sweet and wonderful with butter and apricot jam.

:: Full moon walk with my baby girl. My favorite part was our conversation about the big, bright moon. On the still, dark trail she found a round rock and we used the flashlight on my phone to show how the sun shines light on the big rock in the sky. “Mama, it’s really pretty amazing.” She’s so big and strong and capable now. I like that she still fits in the bike trailer and falls asleep on me.

:: Garden bits.

:: Easter bits.

:: Sisterly bits.

:: Bob loves to help with dinner every night. Completely unassisted, she chops and sticks sticky notes on chairs with our names. She finds great joy in directing where we sit and how we dish up. On this night: she made a salad that looks like a monster and a desert surprise in those muffin cups (marshmallow with chocolate chips). I made polenta with toasted pine nuts and green onion.

:: Our Artful Homestead Gathering has changed shape. Paige Green and I had originally planned a 3 day gathering but received valuable feedback suggesting people didn’t have enough time to plan for a big, expensive trip. This is our first time doing this and we greatly appreciate your enthusiasm and willingness to make suggestions! Thank you. We listened and simplified it: One day: May 28 / Windrush Farm / Chileno Valley, CA / $200. There are just a few spots left. Join us? Read all about it and sign up HERE. (I know that is a ridiculous photo of me but Bob took it and suggested it when I mentioned I didn’t know which photo to use.)

top left photo by Laura Schneider, bottom right photo of Windrush Farm by Paige Green

My kids have spring break this week. We plan to mostly stay home with one little adventure in there. The girls and I are heading into a cabin in the woods for a few days. I am so excited to be unplugged from to-dos and plugged into my awesome kids. Bob plans to collect things, play house and snuggle with me. Margot plans to write a book or two, practice headstands and snuggle with me. Mabel plans to relax and eat and snuggle with me. I plan to be a part of all of that.

 

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Let’s go swimming.

Andy’s alarm goes off for a full minute. It takes him a while to reach his phone to turn off the chirping because he threw his back out. He moves slowly, forcing inhales through the pain. I offer to help and he declines. The rain taps the metal roof just above our dry heads as we lay under down and linen in the dark. The furnace kicks on.

He gets up first, he always does. I hear the click of our espresso machine button. I feel around the floor for the hoodie I took off last night. I walk gently down the hall, avoiding the three floorboards that creak. Andy tunes the radio to NPR. Another terrorist attack. In Brussels, he says.

The familiar words reach our ears. I hate that they are familiar. Isis. Extremist. Suicide bomber. 26 dead. 30 dead. Retaliation. War. Terror. Terrorist. Terrorism.

The rain lets up. I feel the wetness in my bones. The heaviness of rain sinking into soil. Washing the streets clean, adding volume to rivers, feeding gardens. Relentlessly nourishing. Pure love. Steadfast. The cool, clear, generous liquid that gives everything life. Water is the antonym to Terror.

Our daughters are still asleep. Andy leaves for work, kissing me on the forehead with a sigh. Be sure to change the radio station when the kids get up, he says. I nod. He climbs into his old work van and drives away.

I wake the girls, as I often do on school mornings. I spoon their warm, alive bodies. My fingers trace their faces. I coo and hum. I kiss their eyelids and ear lobes. For a moment I forget that moms are wailing 4753 miles away because their daughters were murdered. Just for a moment — and then that information pushes on my chest and my eyes fill with tears. Water pooling, spilling.

They shuffle down the hall, landing on all three squeaky boards. I make egg burritos while they check their hardboiled eggs that have been immersed in dye overnight. We all agree the yellow onion skin and red cabbage leaf dyes are superior. We decide we should dye more eggs. Ten thousand eggs! Piles of beautiful, colorful eggs!

I wonder what our world would look like without guns or bombs. I wish I could sit down and talk with a suicide bomber who believes killing people is his god’s will. I want to understand. How else will this change? I fantasize about a group of moms who conduct a terrorist intervention. Does that sound silly? What’s your idea? When we arrest terrorists they kill more people. When we bomb them back, they bomb more. What is this pushing us toward? What next?

Let’s go swimming. Naked bodies of every skin color and faith, floating in the cool current. We’d realize how little control we have. How beautiful it is to not know what happens when we die. To feel buoyant and blissed out. We’d inhale a deep breath and submerge and hear all the gods of all the religions telling us stop trying to dam the ancient canyons of another’s heart. They’d sing a lullaby about a great flood that sweeps us all up and sets us down on a mountain top to dry. The great flood sunk all the weapons and all the hate to the bottom of the deep, new sea. We are left with only each other. We listen and learn and love, unarmed.

Laying in bed with Ruby last night, she told me she missed being a baby. She feels sad when remembering nursing and being held all the time. She didn’t blink when she told me this, her eyes steady and serious. Like, if she concentrated on her words enough, if I understood enough — we could rewind time. I’d hold her tiny body to mine and she’d gulp milk from my body as she fell asleep.

I think about keeping my kids home from school today. If they even suggest it, I am ready to abandon work and spend our day playing memory and baking bread. If this life is to be so painful and short and so stunning and expansive, maybe I ought to do this differently. I daydream about walking deep into the woods with my family and living an intimate life, holding hands with the season’s quiver. I like that daydream and I know I am meant to do more. Maybe.

But my kids are excited for school. Margot ties her hair in low pigtails – one with a crooked black bow – and wears her favorite black leggings and talks about plans to finish the story she is writing about the dog named Ranger who is lost in China. She tucks her lunchbox into her polka dot backpack and jumps rope in the kitchen. Ruby is excited to get a new library book and to hand out clementines for snack. She wiggles her loose tooth with her tongue as she tries to master the double knot on her new sneakers.

The house is quiet after my daughters leave. I watch two magpies build a nest out our living room window. The male and female take turns flying away and returning with a single twig to tuck into their home. They’ve been at it for weeks. Driven by instinct and survival, they just keep building the nest as strong and warm and secure as they possibly can, tucked deep into the high branches of a blue spruce. They see the raccoons and hawks and me. They build it anyway.

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The Artful Homestead: Digging Into Daily Ritual

**We had originally planned a 3 day gathering but received valuable feedback suggesting people didn’t have enough time to plan for a big, expensive trip. This is our first time doing this and we greatly appreciate your enthusiasm and willingness to make suggestions! Thank you. We listened and simplified. This post has been edited since initially posted.**

I am excited to invite you to The Artful Homestead: Digging Into Daily Ritual.

I began imagining this a few years ago: a weekend focused on creativity and earthly awareness – with attention given to the whimsy and practicality of everyday acts. I envisioned working with the people who are passionate about things like baking bread, writing, gardening, poetry, deep breaths, art, music, canning jam, learning, doing, being. Together, camping and getting groovy with our homesteady selves, identifying our values and rituals.

It’s manifesting this spring, collaboratively with my dear, old friend and exquisite photographer Paige Green. You’ve heard me mention Paige many times before; she’s my best friend of 20 years. Our first-ever Artful Homestead gathering is happening over Memorial Day weekend. Will you join us?

photos by Paige Green

WHEN: 9am-7pm, May 28, 2016

WHAT TO EXPECT: This day is for people who want to explore, grow and create. The whole thing takes place on Windrush Farm, a real working farm located in Chileno Valley, CA. Participants will get dirt under their fingernails and forget about unanswered emails. Special bonus: no cell service! You can expect a comfortable yet rustic experience grounded in nature, community and expression.

photo by Paige Green

Together with Paige, I will lead participants on adventures in writing, nature exploration, art-making, photography, cooking, gardening and movement. Our day will have a good balance of light, leisurely flow and focused activity — time to relax and explore at your own pace balanced with time to interact, engage and accomplish. The evening will take root in a healthy, shared meal followed by fireside storytelling and a swim in the secret garden pool.

All food will be lovingly prepared by Paige, me and two other friends. We will feed you so well!

WHERE: Windrush Farm | 2263 Chileno Valley Road, Petaluma CA 94952
Located in the green hills of Chileno Valley, Windrush Farm was founded in 1995 by Mimi Luebbermann, with an intention of living simply, farming fiber, and functioning as a quiet space for Luebbermann’s longstanding writing career. Windrush Farm has since evolved into an educational facility educating and entertaining Bay Area children and adults about farm life, wool, and the real world of animals, grass and sunshine.

I know first hand the magic of Windrush Farm. Paige’s mother-in-law is the founder and owner so I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several times over the years. I’ve helped with milking cows, feeding lambs and cooking pizza in the outdoor wood-fired oven…

Giant live oak trees lend their nobby, knowing spines for leaning and listening. Wisteria drips from the farmhouse eaves, involuntarily intoxicating every passer-by. Goats summit abandoned shed roofs, sheep bleat to be pet, cows step into the worn walls of a well-used barn. Lavender and rosemary elbow each other for more room.

The photos below are from two of our visits to Windrush Farm at this same time of year.

April 2009, for Paige and Arann’s wedding (I was pregnant with Ruby but didn’t know it yet!):

 

May, 2012:

photo by Paige Green

photo by Paige Green

with love and appreciation,
Nici

:: DETAILS ::

This event is sold out.

The Artful Homestead is an intimate gathering and space is limited. SIGN UP NOW.

how much: $200 / includes food and workshops. Participants will need to arrange their own travel and accommodations. We can assist with this! Just shoot us an email if you have questions.

if it rains: if it happens to rain a little then we’ll put on rain boots, bring out our umbrellas and play in the rain. If El Nino hits then we’ll reschedule the workshop and if you can’t make the new date, we’ll happily refund your workshop fee.

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Day trip: Quinn’s Hot Springs

Spontaneous adventures are my jam. The kind that are casually planned over a post-ski beer and then happen the following day. I am enlivened when I’m “unprepared” — when I get to dance about in the early morning hours fashioning road snacks out of back-of-the-pantry bits, feverishly gathering the pieces we will need and then leaving. As ready as I’ll ever need to be.

I let the kids sleep, aiming to get the car all packed up and then scoop them straight from bed into their seats. Part of this plan is practical: I have to get a lot done to meet our 8am departure and if it’s just me, hip hop and the to-dos it’ll be lightening fast. And part of this plan is magical: I remember being 6 and 8 years old and I decide it would feel thrilling and cozy to climb from bed to carseat where my blanket, doll, bagel and open road await. Mom at the wheel.

photo by Ruby

We meet our friends and begin the caravan north along the fierce, alive Mission Mountains, through the Salish & Kootenai Reservation and then west along the turquoise blue Flathead River. We drive to Quinn’s Hot Springs.

Ruby: How much longer?
Me: Ten minutes.
Ruby: How long is that?!
Margot: Not too long! Just count to 60, ten times.
Ruby: one two three four five six seven eight…
Margot: IN YOUR HEAD, PAL!

There are several hot springs around here and I’ve been to most more than once. Each has their own unique vibe and lore. Quinn’s vibe: tidy and strict.

We arrive in the pouring rain, change into suits and tip toe across the cold cement to the healing waters. We all slip into the pool, feeling that welcome pin prick of warmth seep into our winter-cold Montana bodies. Eventually the four kids don goggles and find the slightly cooler pool where they romp and squeal. Kara and I find the hot hot pool. The hot hot pool followed by icy cold pool followed by moderately hot pool is my favorite sequence. Oh the luxury in willingly taking your breath away at a temperature shock.

notice the rainbow!

Most places in Montana – especially remote places – are famously trusting and chill. At Quinn’s, there is a lot of “you can’t do that here.” Like, they approach all things with a noticeable skepticism. It’s a funny quirk, really, but I have been annoyed before. No personal water bottles, no keys to your room until your friend who made the reservation arrives, no babies in the karaoke bar, etc. On this trip, I am hollered at from the edge of the pool. “Ma’am I know that is fun but it is DANGEROUS to lift your daughter that high.” (#troublemaker) There is a positive side to all those rules: it’s clean and predictable.

We soak and luxuriate for almost three hours, moving around between the six pools of varying temperatures before we get out, dry off and head out. It is still pouring rain – harder now – so we huddle under our car hatch for a snack before deciding to explore up the hill. It’s wildly lush and green – feels more like the Oregon coast than Montana, feels more like April than February. Kara reminds me that this valley is kind of a banana belt; the farmers up here grow a fruitful bounty. The Dixon melons, the Forbidden Fruit Orchard peaches.


We planned to be heading back home by now but nobody is ready for this to end and us moms convince ourselves that work can wait. So we drive a bit further west to a roadside spring we adore. I’m not sure if the water is actually the best tasting water in the world or if it is just my history with stopping and filling water bottles here that makes it so. Either way, I love the abundance of water from this risky place.

We take our time on the road home, stopping for photos and running and snacking and staring at the river. I’ll forever be an amazed admirer of rivers. Tiny, inconsequential droplets of water join together to create a holy force that inscribes earth and supports life.

Margot: Mom how does the ocean move because of the moon? Is that kind of like technology or something?
Me: That’s nature, baby.
Margot: It’s nature’s very own technology!
Me: What is technology anyway?
Margot: When things connect to make other things happen.

I try to always stop by The Perma Store to see if there are things we might buy. But mostly, to talk with Harold.

He remembers me this time, notices the girls have grown since the last time we stopped. His store sells earrings, lukewarm sodapop, fishing tackle and other provisions. His chicken coop sits between the store and his small cabin; it’s all just a few feet off highway 200. Harold has a gentle, interested way I appreciate. We always start with small talk. I wait with restricted earnest for him to reveal what is on his mind. He seems to delight in sharing his wisdom and theory, earned from his many years on this planet and lots of time to think about stuff. On this day I notice he has fewer Native American handworks and he proclaims a dissatisfied acknowledgment of youth choosing iphones over making medicine bags. “It’s hard to find young people who care enough to keep making this stuff.” He tells us about his hunting lineage, how he was raised to hunt for meat and not for the rack. Last fall he stumbled into a pile of six decapitated deer bodies. Killed for their antlers, left to rot. It’s a thing, we learn: people want antlers to decorate their homes and so poachers are making a living off of it. His neighbor found 20 headless deer last year. With all the antler-shed around here, I have always assumed those antlers-for-sale were found in the mountains. Silly, naïve me. I deeply detest this reality and silently promise myself I will tell everyone I know about it, starting with you, here. Because I trust that people who admire antlers also like and respect the lives of all animals and want to be responsible about where their decor comes from.

We make a long day of it, stretching our 1 hour drive into 4 hours. Our last stop is for milkshakes at the Bison Café. My mom and dad used to stop here with us on our way up the Flathead Lake, I think. Or some place like it. Any which way, these old diners with milkshakes make me pause to smell that good memory. Of being on an adventure with my family and getting malted treats at foreign restaurants.

That night Andy and I lay in bed with our kids; I (mostly) successfully try to enjoy the last bits of the day without thinking of all that is now piled on tomorrow’s agenda. Ruby’s face is pressed into the curve of my neck. Margot is next to her and Andy on the far side of our queen bed. Mabel and Sam at the foot. George on the window sill waiting for a vacancy.

Ruby: Mama? Stay here until I fall asleep ok?
Me: OK.
Ruby: You’ll know when it happens because I’m hugging you so tight right now. When I loosen, that means I’m asleep.
Margot: You know that moose show when the mama moose kicked her calf out when she was just one? That made me sad. I wouldn’t like that. That won’t happen, right?
Andy: That won’t happen buddy. You can stay here as long as you want.
Margot: Like forever?
Andy: Yeah, forever.
{ pause }
Margot: What’s college like?

:: :: ::

Details, with links:

Our sturdy new adventure rig, a Honda CRV, c/o University Motors (please email Toby if you’re interested in a special deal for dig readers)
Quinn’s Hot Springs
Favorite road trip snack: honey balsamic almonds
Soundtrack: Modest Mouse, Taylor Swift, Bill Harley
Old Perma Store
Natural spring location: on hwy 200, just west of the hwy 135 turnoff to Quinn’s
Bison Café
Forbidden Fruit Orchard (where I get my peaches every year!)

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