Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oh how that light changes

I know... I know... I am always saying "the light has changed."  But it has!  And it is always the first thing I notice as the world takes its subtle shift toward the next season.

A week ago, it was freezing cold outside, but the world suddenly looked different.  The light lasts longer and twilight has made a comeback.  The snow, despite being new and frigid on top, seems to be full of.... well, life.  Movement.  And it is!  The scientist in me knows that there in horefrost in the bottom layer of the snowpack.  The naturalist in me has begun to recognize the cues...and I am waiting, watching as the snow slowly peels back from the tree trunks despite new snow... signaling the upward travels of the tree sap.

From the darkness of late January and early February, those crazy cabin fever days, comes the sudden rush of relief that Spring is working its way here, even if it will take its damn time.  Valentine's Day is always a fun holiday for me to go all out because it signals the real beginning of a New Year... with the dance of flowers and candies and love for one another... a fertility rite for the earth, really...

There are things I miss about winter every year, actually.  The depth of quiet on a silent winter day when all the kids are sleeping and the snow soundlessly floats to the ground outside our plate glass doors, the softness and grey of the world seeping in and making me feel safe, soft, loved.  The ritual and calming quality of trips down the stairs to pile logs on the fire, watching their splinters and papery bark catch and heat us through their sacrifice.  Sledding down the hillside, screaming and laughing the whole way.  And a quiet snow shoe trek to the back woods.

But with February comes the planning... and dreaming... of what the summer might and should hold.  Really, February is month of possibility, the month of dream. A shaman's exercise in floating toward the future.  In March, we begin to get our feet dirty with reality once again, but in February, we are allowed to totally let go.

So, with the last pig barely cold in the freezer, and bacon yet to smoke, I find myself turning toward the next year, catalogs and dreams firmly in hand.  Chicks to order, seedlings to start, syrup to boil, pigs to buy, hay to store.

With food costs skyrocketing, it becomes ever more imperative to produce as much of our food as we can.  This year, we are almost veterans at this farming thing.  Our space is almost "right" for what we need.  And we have made difficult decisions.  Cows this year?  Not if I am starting grad school in the fall.  We are pretty constant over-achievers, super-parents at their most stereotypical.  And so, this year, we accept the limits of our humanity.  And we put off the cows. Trade some pork for beef.  We will do our own turkeys, two sets of meat birds, a larger group of pigs (but only one set, keeping them longer), and our layers and ducks, of course.  We got the cats to battle the mice, which they appear to be doing successfully so far. And the dog... well, we admit he is not a farm dog, and we need a farm dog.  Not one who chases cats and chickens and ducks.  He's great with the babies, fabulous at chasing pigs.  But we need a dog who is bred for this life, and right now, I do not have the time or the energy to get him where we need him to be.  Since he got fixed, he has changed, and is not the dog for us.  This really really broke my heart.  He is no Lucky.  But neither was she when she first came.  So next time (when school is done for me), we'll either get an elderly dog who needs a country home, or a much younger pup who can be trained from the beginning to understand the expectations of life on a farm.

We slowly have become good at what we do; good at growing meat, good at knowing what we need to make life work for animals in the winter, good at the dirty parts like slaughter and cutting meat.  And it feels right. So right, that Colin has decided that his after-after-career will be butchering.  He loves it.  (but don't worry Mother-In-Law-ish, he still plans on Law School....).

The world is changing rapidly.  The ideas we were raised with about how to budget our time, our finances, our spiritual lives, have proven not to hold true for our generation, and likely even less so for the next one.  It is not easy to parent in this climate, simultaneously preparing children for a successful future, and worrying about climate change and things that may make any concept we have of the future completely obsolete.  I find that absolutely terrifying.  My kids will have to know how to provide for themselves.  How to help others.  How to think outside the box.  Somehow, our political climate is fighting against these changes more than anyone else seems to be, denying the changes that are coming.  And rather than choosing to be what saves us, they choose to be what denies us the chance to save ourselves.  Schools are not teaching how to think outside the box, and those that do must suffer their way through failure.  But it is also not teaching gumption.  And we are all going to need a lot of gumption.

What I am today builds on what my parents sowed within me.  Independence from the system comes from my mom's garden, the corn in the front yard (remember when mom's garden was on the garden tours of Rochester?? SO cool!!  Corn surrounded by impatiens.  An entire wooden planter of lavender.  Tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, asparagus, and dill in a planter running the length of the driveway.  Perfection of true gardening surrounded by fake flower gardens and people with chem-lawned yards.   Remember the little yellow signs that said "This yard is safe for children and pets" to battle the ones with ChemLawn signs???)  Yeah... this is where I learned to buck the trends.  Although, it might be a bit in my blood, too... that red headed firecracker of a birth mother must've had some serious influence, as well.  And my commitment to society as a whole, to the world beyond myself and my children, my teacher-ness even, comes from my father's example in his life.  More than just a local minister, his church is not a platform for spewing venomous exclusion, but instead a place for anyone and everyone to be, to connect, to find refuge and sanctuary.  And I hope that I am able to live up to his example.

Being a parent is hard.  Really really hard.  As a child, I did not make it easy.  As a parent, I am sometimes left bewildered by my own children not making it easy.  And totally overwhelmed by my love for all of them, constantly enamoured by them, shocked by their ability to surprise me.

But Spring comes.  And it provides renewal for everyone... the sinner and the saint.  The imperfect reality of all we are.  It is absolutely freezing cold today.  It is sunny and windy.  But the ice in the heart of those around us (as Angaangaq would say) is melting.  Opening.  The Middle East is calling for democracy and the beauty of the human spirit to be recognized.  As we here debate cutting programs and budgets, without the mention of the US sacred cow -the military and the wars we wage- I meditate on the idea that hearts open through the cries of hearts around the world.  Maybe we will hear the cry for democracy... real democracy... and join our brethren in its call.

But for now, I must change bums, walk the dog, and got get the CSA share of veggies.  Because basic life goes on, and I am but a player on its stage...

No comments: