Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mo' Dreams at MoMA

Gustav Klimt. Right there.

Brush strokes on a Monet.

Marilyn in all her golden glory and Andy's soup cans.

Legos. Can shapes. Chairs galore.

An Airstream camper.

And outside, new ideas on modular and solar housing.

Wow. Wowow.

Being out with just Colin at the MoMA, walking in Manhattan, sipping the strongest cup of coffee I have ever tasted, and running into (literally) Eliott Spitzer was about the best time I have ever had. Art that was unique and interesting and something we had always seen.

Perhaps I could have done without the gazillions of Picassos. And Picasso sculptures. Everywhere.

But the stuff was pretty cool. I longed for more design art. Furniture and buildings and clothing. But the rest was neat. Some was just plain weird. The exhibit on photpgraphy through time was cool. And the modular homes outside were really cool.

The best thing was all the people. All walks of life from all over the world in there, for free, looking at the art.

I'm going again someday.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sense of Place

I knew that weed. Actually, it was a baby birch tree. It has grown just a bit over the last few years, gaining a few inches here and a few inches there. I never really notice it until fall, when it turns a brilliant yellow against the brown and green background of the sugarbush.

But I noticed it that day.

The kids and I were up visiting Craftsbury, looking for people, saying hello, and doing a lot of driving around the area to do what we needed to do. And as I passed by Sterling College and Craftsbury Common, I saw the vistas and yards I had come to know very well in the last 8 years. Some are pieces of land where I could draw a visual map in my mind of where they went and what grew there and experiences I had had there. Some are more like postcards on the fridge, pretty pictures I know well, but take for granted.


What does that mean? Did I really take it all for granted? And what does any of that have to do with that damn little weed?

There is a sense of security and confidence that brews when you're intimately familar with your surroundings. It is more than knowing where your favorite tree grows or where the first little snowdrops will appear in Spring. It is a subtle, but constant, awareness of the cycles and lives that are moving on all around you. It is a deep knowing of where you fit in those lives, those cycles. It is knowing the rituals the earth preforms, and when to see the sacred moments.

It is being granted a private conversation with the Universe.

Not everyone is looking. Even when they notice, "Hey, that little tree is all yellow against the leaf-covered bank" they may not really see it. They may not say, "that little tree wasn't there when I moved here 7 and a half years ago, but now look at it. It seems almost tall enough to stick its little tip above the snowbanks this March."

But if you stop, even if just in your mind, and really allow it to sink in your soul, you can feel something speaking to you. It is as though the story of that tree's life unfolds in your mind. You might remember where the nearest adult birch is. What the soil is like around there in the spring. That the garter snakes have a hibernaculum in the rocks next to that tree. Where the horses stop when they are backing the maple syrup tank in to the old road in the woods, just five feet from that little tree. That that birch just might survive no matter how cold it is, because birches stay with you as other trees drop out on the journey north from here.

But I don't live here anymore. I don't live where I know the shapes of the spruces against the dusk sky. I'm not sure where the snowdrops will pop through the snow this spring, or even if there are any here. I don't know where the first dandelion greens will be that could be cooked up to nurture our winter-weary tummies and souls with rich green food. I don't know where to find wild leeks, or where the bethroot grows. I don't know how long those baby spruces have grown beside the driveway, or whether the birch tree in my back yard died last year or ten years ago.

It is disconcerting to be disconnected. To feel like a guest in the world I used to know so well. But I do know where to begin to look, and this winter maybe the beginnings of finding my spot in the lap of this little hill of ours.

I already know where the deer trails are, and where the hemlock stand can keep them safe. I have heard the Barred Owls at night, and know that as the winter drags on and food gets scarce, they're likely to hang out in the old dead birch tree snag. I saw a red squirrel bouncing up a tree with food in its mouth, readying for the cold. Colin told me where the beaver is building his dam. The winter birds have begun to sneak out of the woods, collecting seeds and making stashes. And I know where the coyotes call from, and that they know where the deer hide. When the snow falls, which it should do soon, we will be able to go out and track them over the karst topography around us.

I left school this morning, the last day of our residency, ready to come home and delve into my semester's work. And as I headed across the campus, there in the disatnce, looking over the village of Plainfield, the traingular strength of Spruce Mountain held everything in its place. And I remembered... I am not a stranger in a strange land here. I am here, and have been here, ever since the first time I saw that mountain from the road as we passed through town. I was 16. I have been drawn to these hills ever since. And for a time, if ever so brief, Plainfield was home.

Here I am again. Looking to memorize the trees.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Switch to Grad Program

Hey all....

So the official word is this: I AM NOW A REAL GRAD student. I decided that I was academically beyond the "Pre-G" semester, stated my case, talked to everyone and financial aid, and then the status was switched.

So what does this mean? It means 4 grad level courses at 4 weeks apiece rather than 5 undergrad level courses at 3 weeks a piece. And it means more in depth, study, an extra 10-15 pages of writing per course, and a focus within the course. Mostly it means the same texts, with a bit more reading.

So now I had better get on those study plans, and my "SPAW" (Study Plan As a Whole)! See ya'll soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Away at school

HI all, I am at school, and loving it. Keep in touch in the evenings!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Setlling into the craziness

The rush to be ready for next week at Goddard has kicked in. Trying to settle housing arrangements (aka: I don't need any), get childcare figured out, plan meals for the family for the week that Colin can throw on and be done with, and get the "little things" organized and ready. I figure that oughtta take me all week, and through the weekend!

And boy, am I nervous! A new school (at the old school??) with a bunch of people I don't know (average age in the psych program is 44 or something), and a whole new subject. And I will be doing FIVE undergrad courses between now and the middle of February! Holy cow! (School supplies? Oh... my!)

Sage was feverish all night, and her nose just snuffled and snuffled all night long. Aidan began snuffling around 10, and had a fever as well. Nadia fell right asleep at 8, but then woke up at 9, and fussed and fussed for hours, finally falling asleep around 11 (so much for my "mommy time"). She woke up again at 2:30 and never fell back asleep until 4:30. I had put Sage and Aidan in bed with me because they weren't feeling well, and to keep them from waking up Colin when they needed me. But Nadia was sleeping with him, and obviously, woke him up, and then he was up off and on while she fussed (I heard the tv go on a couple of times). So I can't imagine anyone feels good today. I know my throat is sore, and I am exhausted. And I have everybody at home in bed. But of course, they get a little restless, and begin to fuss about. Sage's fever seems to finally have lessened up about a half an hour ago, so hopefully we are past the yuckies!

Now... hopefully Nadia and I don't get sick next week. Hmmm.

Colin found childcare for Nadia where one of his co-worker's kid goes. I have called today, but didn't get to talk to the woman (busy with kids perhaps??) so I will call again this afternoon. I'm nervous about that too. The horror stories I can tell about childcare, day care, babysitting! And not from my side, but from moms who have had bad things happen to their kids. I am sure that everything is fine, but I am going to go and visit, because otherwise I will worry all the time.

Sage has discovered the "Jack and Annie" books we have (The Magic Treehouse Series), and although it is hard for her, she is actually reading them. SHe seems to have done a lot more reading lately. And suddenly seems to be enjoying it (THANK GOODNESS!!). These books are easy enough that I think she might be able to plough through them once she gets through one or two.

The cold has finally come to Montpelier. The laundry Colin hung out last night was covered with ice this morning, and the house was definitely chilly. But the sun came out, and is warming everything up quickly (no fog last night). We expect another hard frost tonight and then it is supposed to be warm for a while after that.

Everytime I think it couldn't possibly be any more beautiful here, the next wave of changes hits, and it is stunning. When we first visited and paid our deposit on the house, the apple trees, elder, and the honeysuckle were all in bloom. It smelled amazing. The pine and fir and spruce and hemlock were covered in pale green spring growth, and the maples had leaved out their deep red buds. The woods had small ferns unfurling and no other undergrowth but last fall's dark brown leaf litter.

Then summer came, and there were raspberries and cherries and elderberries and apples and blackberries. It looks as though there might even be a few strawberries. The maples and birches filled the air, and made the yard feel enclosed and cozy and protected. The garden spilled over its borders despite the late start, and sunflowers poured over the top of the chicken coop fence.

Now, leaves of all colors litter the yard, and the white pines have seemed to turn yellow underneath the green, dropping last year's needles to form a deep carpet of orange beneath each tree. The firs and spruces seem as green and blue as ever, and the apple trees are still going strong, despite the frost. Long ago, the cedar waxwings came and stole all the berries, leaving the cheery tree and elders picked clean. No one seems to want the Japanese honeysuckle.

As the leaves fall, the view opens up to the hills beyond, one view to the southwest, and one to the north west, along the spine of mountains that runs from Hardwick to Montpelier. I have watched as the fall colors swelled and faded, leaving now a brown-ish grey sheen where the deciduous trees rise, tucked in between their evergreen cousins. It seems much the same as life in Craftsbury, but for one thing: we are either too far south for the cold sinks where tamaracks thrive, or the soil is too sweet for their taste, and I will miss the pumpkin orange of the last blaze of Autumn, as the only coniferous tree to drop its needles displays its fall color.

It makes me wonder what winter will hold? I can already imagine the snow draped across the white pines and hemlocks outside our living room windows, and the dance of chicakdees and jays across the deck as they look for seeds. We've already heard the owls calling in the night, the Barred owls, and I expect to find them come late winter balancing on the branches of those huge trees outside, staring down at us, wondering why we don't fling mice and shrews at them. And the coyotes, crying in the woods, must know about the fir stand just across the property line, where deer must overwinter. We see them already, out in the pasture, and sometimes in the yard, and we expect to be able to follow their trails easily when the snow comes.

I hope to find some snowshoes for the kids this winter, since we have such vast woods behind us, so we can all go out traipsing through the woods, tracking, and playing in the snow. I wish I could've afforded an amauti when I was pregnant with Nadia (an Inuit winter parka with the "shelf hood" for the baby to sit on), so I could carry her close to me, and we could share our warmth. But we will figure something else out, I am sure. And off we'll go, to find those wolf-coy hybrids' footprints lurking in the snow, reminding us that this world is little of our own making, and too much of our own taking.

The children are sitting, glassy-eyed, at the table, making puppets on popsicle sticks, and Nadia is crying "Fee Fiee... See book!!!" at me (Followed closely by a "TanTooo!" ..."thank you"). SO I am going to go and oversee the process and read to Nadia. "Fee" means fish in Nadia-ese; her new favorite thing is fish. Sometimes it even sounds like "feee-sh"! She looks like a freshly washed ppodle staring at a fish tank at the moment, her hair all wet and curled (after 20 minutes of brushing out the horrid dredlocks) and close to her scalp (despite being longer than the middle of her back), and she is staring at a particularly colorful page of fish from the DK book series.

Off I go to play and heat up chicken soup and biscuits (last nights dinner for sick people).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sick Day

Sagey is sick today, complete with hot skin, an headache, a runny nose, a stomach ache, and glassy eyes. Bummer. Especially since I am trying to get things settled for school and get the garden in tonight... killing frost over the entire state tonight and tomorrow, with warmer temps later in the week.

But we baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and are about to do some reading together, and Nadia is only having about 25 hissy fits a minute because she has to share her momma.

But the chill air smells delicious, even though Colin and I desperately miss the feel, smell, taste, and sight of wood heat, we welcome the moments of battening down the hatches. And our house is warm and comfortable and clean. Really, who could ask for anything more?

I am looking into natural paints and lazuring techniques for doing the girls' room walls. I would like to paint their room a warm peachy pink, and put in the ol' double bed and set it up to be a comfortable space, pretty specifically for sleeping. Play is for out here. And besides, no one seems to notice as the toys migrate to the garage, so maybe they won't notice the migration of toys from the bedroom, either. I haven't thrown them away, and I was asked about the guys, the cars, and the animals, but I think that is more than ok. They promote open-ended imaginiative play anyway.

Well, off to give cuddles and kisses and chamomile tea to Sagey, and hope that Nadia lays off the nipples long enough to let me cuddle her big sister.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Good News


Now we're scrambling to get everything taken care of (child care, deposit, residency request info, fin aid, etc...) before SATURDAY!! (Woah.) We're down to about three days we have to figure care for Nadia, and I may have to look into before school/after school for Aidan and Sage on those days. We'll figure it out.

We miss you all. If you'd like to actually catch us at home and not eating dinner, 7pm is usually a good time! I pick the kids up at 4 usually on Sundays, so we're home around 4:30. Sunday is usually an easy dinner so feel free to call anytime Sunday evenings.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Duckie Dos and Snow in the Air

The new Cayuga pair have arrived!

They are large and beautifully feathered out, deep black with the most radiant "beetle green" sheen all over! Sue and Aaron picked them up for $10 for the pair at a bird swap at the Lamoille County Fairgrounds. We drove up yesterday, gave the kids a chance to play with their buds Silas and Mianda, dropped them $10, and brought the duckies home. They are currently penned in the barn in the old cow stall, getting used to their new home. They will be introduced to the chickens in a few days, and then be let out to free-range. (Saves us soooo much money!)

The kids were supposed to have a hike day today, but at 6:50 AM it was pouring and cold. I finally went down at 7:30 to plug in the heat system. We'll need it tonight, as snow is forcasted on the mountain-tops. I guess that means if we get a break in the drizzle this afternoon (the sun is supposed to come out eventually) that I will have to go out and harvest most of the garden. This leaves me in quite a pickle, as there is almost no room in the freezer. We really need to get our hands on one we can stick in the garage. The freezer is currently full with the 5 roosters Colin slaughtered last weekend, and the huge package of meat I got yesterday at the grocery store. Turns out Hannafords will sell "Family Packs" all put together for you for about 2/3s of the original price. I spent an hour yesterday afternoon repackaging and freezing it all. Should be set for a very long time!

Speaking of meat, we should be picking up a 20-22 lb turkey for Thanksgiving from Sue and Aaron at some point this weekend. The turkeys went to the slaughter house today. [Aaron is still trying to decide what to do about their 14 meat (chicken) birds, as it costs about & a bird to send to slaughter, but 14 is a lot to do on your own.] The turkeys were happy, well-cared for, fed organic grain and free-ranged. And very funny. They gobbled exuberantly as we walked out past them to catch the ducks. I look forward to eating them! (A very handy tool I was taught early on in my "I wanna farm" days was no matter how cute something is, always remind yourself and it of its ultimate purpose by saying something like, "Hello birdies, don't you look tasty today!" Silly? Maybe. But it works for me.)

Well, it looks like the rain is lightening up and I can no longer justify sitting here at the computer. Off to household chores and doing a bit of "feng shui" in some of the rooms. We've been here long enough now for me to figure out what works and what doesn't. I love our great room. I hate our bedroom, and the girls' room. At the moment, I am keeping my eyes out for a decent deal on a full-size mattress and box spring. Aidan and Sage slept together for awhile when Sagey was about Nadia's age, and it really eliminated a lot of the jealousy and angst of who got attention when at bedtime. Since both girls go to bed so well (when not distracted by their never-sleeping older bro), and since their room feels crowded and divided, I am looking to put in Aidan's old double bed. Hopefully that will help organize and create a feeling of coherence and unity between the girls. Plus, on nights when I need to put them both to bed myself, I can lay in bed and read to both of them, and no one has to feel left out (unless I fall asleep before getting to Aidan!).

Alright... here I go. Really. DOn't try and stop me. Besides, I guess I have to go find all the mittens and hats and coats in the garage attic. Ugh.

Miss you all and wish you all lived in little Bungalows around the yard.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rain rain go away

A grey drizzle has settled over our little hill today. The chickens have yet to notice. I have watched them chase one another across the driveway, pecking at the grit and salt by the sides of the road. Ambling back across the yard, with a flutter here and there, they end up back in the garden, nibbling snails and earwigs.

Yesterday, though the clouds dampened the sky, it didn't rain. So after I met with Aidan's teacher prior to school, Nadia and I went for a fall foliage drive. We went down to Brookfield, VT, and up to Allis State Park. All the parks are locked up for the fall at this point, but we parked below the gate, and walked up the long hill. The maples, birches, beeches, and ashes have all dropped leaves (the beeches didn't seem to be holding on to too many of their leaves like normal. I wonder why?). Nadia yelled "YELLOW!!" and filled my vest pockets with leaf after leaf. At first, it was ok for me to take them from her and put them in my pocket, but soon Nadia had to do it. Eventually the pockets were also lined with small rocks and sticks. Who says I ain't got nuttin' in my pocket?

Eventually Nadia noticed places where the wind had made deeper piles of leaves, which are of course, for the sole purpose of walking in. We ran and laughed as our feet shot leaves everywhere. Near the top of the hill, her little legs began to get tired and she asked to be picked up. I put her on my shoulders, and away we went. This is a state park in the woods, with campsites and leantos, built by the CCC in the 30s. (Time for a new Great Plan?) The road turns to gravel at the check-in building, and loops around, with small driveways off to each campsite. This is a pretty unique place because there is no pond for swimming, and the site is on the top of a hill. From some sights you can see South/Southwest. From the main building you look North/Northeast. And from the best site, you look over the hills east/southeast of Brookfield that are separated by deep gullies and ravines and a few flat valleys. On a clear day, I am sure this view must extend to New Hampshire. Even with the clouds balancing on the hilltops, it was a beautiful view, with deep splashes of color and texture on the hills beyond.

As we walked, Nadia would yell, "Yellow!" at most leaves, and we began discerning between the colors, and mentioning that they were all still "Leaves". When a bird chirpped or cawed or jayed, we would stop and listen and Nadi would whisper "Buuurd." We scared a grouse (which, let's be honest, sorta scared us) who took off with the heartbeat sound of its wings pounding the air, and our ears. I stopped and pointed and we watched it fly away. I also mentioned that we had scared the bird. The second one scared me less and we laughed.

My favorite part of our walk was on the way back, when Nadia got off my shoulders and picked up a stick. She traced the cracks in the pavement with her stick for a good half a mile. Very deliberately, she would stop, crouch, and trace. At one point, she shoved her stick in the crack so deeply that it stood on end. She backed up, leaned back, put her hands out to her sides (palms up) and yelled, "Woooooaaaaahhh!" Unbelievably adorable. I resisted the urge to make a big scientific discovery out of it, and just allowed her to enjoy it, echoing her woah, and smiling. I then turned and continued on my way to see what she would do next. She slowly examined each crack for a time after that, trying to jam her stick into it, but never meeting with the same result. It always fell over. A few times she left her stick and then went back for it. She ran up and poked me in the butt with it and said, "Bonk!" then laughed like a crazy person. Eventually, I showed her how to use it to swish the leaves around, and about half way back down the hill, stuffing my pockets with more leaves had taken precidence, and she dropped the stick. Again, I resisted the urge to interfere, deciding that the experience was worth far more than the object.

She never mentioned the stick again, until dinner, and has yet to look in my pockets for all those rocks and leaves. Our walk took nearly two and a half hours, and was a wonderful way to spend the morning before heading to grocery store, off home to nap (for her), and then to pick up her sibs and head to the library.

At each stop yesterday she asked to go potty, and I pulled off the diaper and helped her to squat in the woods, avoided the thr grocery store bathroom, and we peed at the library. On diaper, off diaper. On panties at home, diaper to go out. (Sometimes we use thick undies and vinyl pants, but only have a few pairs... they tend to get used up quickly).

At the library, Aidan went to a comics club, and they drew two, three-panel comics for submission to the paper. He also got a free comic book, and they will meet again next week. We'll always be a little late because it starts at the moment the school gets out in East Montpelier. Ironically, they meet in the East Montpelier room at the library. (Weird).

Sage and I looked up "Princesses and Fairies" for her topic of interest (getting her to read anything but Dick and Jane by herself is like pulling teeth. Why Dick and Jane? Those were our "Schoolbooks" for reading during homeschool. She has since convinced herself that she can't do anything else. *Sigh* Perfectionism is a sign of smartness. And then, that person never feels like anything they do is up to snuff. This leads to being afraid to try. Hmmmm.... sounds like both Aidan and Sage. And me. And Colin. Call us the crippled crazy-brains.) Eventually I got her to enjoy herself, and she didn't want to leave. She took out every copy of the fairy poems by Cicely Mary Barker that they had. Garden fairies, tree fairies, spring fairies, winter fairies, and a fairy alphabet. We also got a book called "Princesses Never Quit," about princesses who are bored and switch with their servants for the day, then go on to always help with the chores. At home, she set the table (her night... I finally wrote it on the calendar... how long it takes me to be organized!) and gave us all assigned seats by putting afiry book at each spot. Colin didn't get it at first, and asked her to remove them. I asked him to let her explain, and whispered "It's ok..." and he grinned. We just moved the books ourselves when we took our seats.

Colin ran into another friend this weekend. Two weekends ago it was his buddy Johnny (who now goes by Juan) at the residency at Goddard. This weekend it was his friend, Sam, who plays in a brass punk band we went to see at the Langdon Street Cafe (Feel free to Google this place. They list their schedule online. We know the principle owner.) She plays the cymbals. Aidan and Sage were soooo impressed. And when she gave them a free copy of the her cd, they were even more impressed. There were lots of little kids there, all dancing in the empty lot under the tent, and marching around the block as this band paraded around Montpelier. A lot of fun! Lots! It is especially nice when we get to do something we like to do with the kids. Plus, I had the nicest mug of beer. Pumpkin Ale. By Smuttynose (I think) definitely not by Sam Adams or Long trail or whoever else makes one. This one tastes a bit like pumpkin pie with hops. Delicious. And orange in tint. I am always a fan of anything that comes in that deep, harvest, rusty-orange.

My application was reviewed on Monday for the psych and counseling program. I should find out today or tomorrow by mail. I will keep ya'll posted.

We payed some respect to Rosh Hoshana this week with sweet dinners and Challah dipped in honey. We had the last of the lamb the other night.... first slow cooked in a wine and cider broth flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, and celery. Then it was broiled with an apple jelly/mint glaze. The veggies from the broth were then mixed with cooked beets and given a maple clove glaze. And last night we had roast beef, mashed potatoes, pear/gorgonzola/almond salad in a red wine coulis sauce, and a tomato basil egg noodle salad. Colin is looking forward to celebrating Sukkot, and building the shelter. We think we are going to put it on the deck, since the tables are already out there. Hopefully, we can have a big dinner potluck for the festival. We're hoping, anyway. Aidan told me the other night that he wanted to be a Buddhist Jew, and low and behold there was a book about a Buddhist Jew in the library. We also got some books on celebrating the Jewish holidays, and cooking for them, and stories and poems about them. We also found out that there are some high holidays services at the Vermont College of the fine arts. So we are hoping to go for Yom Kippur with the kids, to help Aidan see what a temple service is like. Hopefully, someday, I will get him out to Barnet, VT, to visit the Buddhist center out there.

Well, I supposed eventually I should get thee to a nunnery.... oh, no, a grocery store. Bad shakespeare, bad! Stay in thee corner. (I find that I am always saying "Out out dammed spot!" as the children wring their dirty hands, seeking help to get them clean.)

It is pouring now, and I seem to be losing my internet connection intermittenly now. So I should probably post this and get on with my day.

Love you all and wish you were here!