Friday, February 28, 2014

Sun Days


Every year she comes like this: first gradually and then suddenly. Spring always seems to arrive through our doors like she's been trying the doorknob for a while and then it flies open without warning, blowing in sunlight and small flowers, chattering birds, new grass and the smell of wet earth and California winds…

The trees have been trying to bud for weeks now, enduring snowfalls and windstorms. Migratory birds keep trying to return and sing their hearts out, only to be silenced by the cold. All it takes is a few sunny days and suddenly the yard is blooming with unfurling leaves, crocuses rising like purple and yellow stars from the soil, bumblebees drunk on nectar and cats frolicking in the patches of sunlight.

The light now stays for eleven a day, which some days seems like winning the lottery. In the morning it only takes an hour after waking up for the backyard to turn pale blue and when I go outside the trees are full of birds just singing out their hearts.

Time seems to stretch further, there's more hours in the day, for doing and making and reaching deadlines and submissions. And there's still time to cook and visit and work. And sometimes to stop and smell the flowers even.

This morning, walking out to do my friday milking, it felt like the whole field was alive with small insects and flitting birds. In the garden, cutting kale for the goats, three redwing blackbirds serenaded each other by the pond and it felt like they were really singing to me.

Guess who's coming for dinner? Finally. Poor nettles. They've been coming up for over a month, only to be struck down at every turn, but they keep at it. It's that time of year again...

You know, this little update was going to be a bona fide outfit post, but got totally derailed by sudden changes in seasons.

Besides, I'm wearing more of the same old. You can probably tell that I'm totally in love with this new thrift store sweater. It goes with everything. Originally it and this dress both were going to the store, but what can I say? Other things had to leave the wardrobe to make them room. It's such a luxury to walk to work in just this a sweater, no coat, single pair of tights.

Do you ever have library luck? It's like thrift luck, but even more delightful, because it's totally free.

I got to be the first to take out The Sixth Extinction and am adding Cartwheel  and Five Days At Memorial to my read women list. The Crane Wife was on my list of other things to read, so I'm excited about it as well. I think I'm going to declare March a reading month, regardless of whether winter is over, or not.

Speaking of luck. Amelia and I got some tiny espresso cups from our potter friend. Seconds they may be, but I love them.

And while I was despairing over the afore-mentioned deadlines today, this was the reading I got in response. It speaks directly in encouragement. I'm excited to do more readings and maybe even set up a little booth to do them for strangers this summer. Stay tuned for that tarot-related post from me and miss Sadie Rose.

Back to the grind...


Is it spring where you are?




Tuesday, February 25, 2014

There's More To Life Than This


Sometimes working at home, on a computer, I get stuck like some poor underwater creature in a tide-pool when the tide goes out. My mind goes completely blank, my thoughts a tangle of disparate threads that won't tie into each other. I can sit like that for hours. Just staring at the task without an original thought in my head.

Thankfully for my deadlines and employers and kind souls who've asked for my words, I've learned that there are a couple of ways out of such messes. First: go outside. I know that for myself, the hardest thing about interrupting even an unproductive workflow, is feeling guilty about not working.

Screw that.

Once outside, my brain starts up again in a big way. Whether it's because of the exercise, the change in surroundings, or the fresh air, as my blood flow increases, so does the amount ideas in my mind. Sometimes I go for a bike ride and when I get back home I discover I've untangled my thoughts, or solved a problem, that just a half an hour ago, seemed unsurmountable.



The second trick to increased creative flow, or I guess thought-work of any kind, is to engage in another, entirely different activity for a while. And by this I don't mean perusing facecrack.

Sometimes simply walking around, observing your surroundings is enough, picking up pieces of driftwood, or interesting rocks, like new thoughts. At others, I find that a another creative project can really help me with my work. I imagine that creativity resides in a certain part of our brains and stimulating it in different ways nourishes it on the whole.

Today, I snuck down to one of my favorite beaches, with my new tripod (birthday gift) and took pictures for a special little project, the writing of which is one of the things giving me trouble right now. Looking at the world from a different point of view, images instead of words, horizons and headlands instead of that infernal little blinking cursor, was just what I needed to feel inspired again.

It's still completely magical to me that I live in such a beautiful place, something that's all too easy to forget in the daily bustle and humdrum of living. Just a little while on the beach, watching the gulls, looking for treasure, warming my cheeks in the sun, I felt completely recharged, suddenly at peace again, full of ideas, relaxed.

On the way back I took my time, poking around on the side of the road, watching the Redwing Blackbirds sitting in the reeds. I ran into a friend, I stalked a small black and white kitten, I watched the horses and cows and admired the Olympic Mountains, so clear across the water…

When I got home, I discovered that there's plenty of treasure here too and got right back to work.

Hope your week is fruitful too...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fat Love.


You know that Bon Iver song, Skinny Love? Yeah, the one that, like, defined a generation. Well, did you know that it's not actually a love song? If you listen to the lyrics, it's…a break-up song. Then again, I guess that whole album is a break-up album. You know, a guy's band splits up, his girlfriend (Presumably named Emma?) leaves him, he retreats to his dad's hunting cabin in the woods and writes a very depressed, but ultimately incredibly successful album. It's a classic tale of love, woe, triumph and Kanye West. Anyway, not a love song, maybe don't pick it for the first dance at your wedding.

Skinny Love probably doesn't refer to a thin beloved, but rather an underfed emotion. Well, you know what's the opposite of skinny love? Yeah. That's what I'm feeling these days.

While I still have an intense need for solitude and independence, lately I also have a sometimes overwhelming amount love for those that I am spending my time with. And I don't just mean my cats and the husband.

Whether it be friends who show up unexpectedly and are up for spontaneous fun, or my funniest, best girls, or people whom I see almost daily and who invite us over for dinner at the end of a long, hard night, or those who go on walks with me in the cold and the rain, or all the amazing women who've sat me down in the last month and said really kind things about my writing, lately it seems like I've got everyone who matters in my corner and I'm really, really grateful for them.

They come and sit in the kitchen and drink tea and talk about deep things in the same breath as they make irreverent jokes, tell tall tales, are sweet and silly and self-depricating and honest. They send emails with the kindest words, for invitations and ideas. They are generous, with gifts that didn't need to be given, but are appreciated all the same, but most importantly with their time.

More than that, more than the people in my life, I suddenly feel a lot more able to love my life just as it is. Maybe it's partly just a hormonal balance being restored with attention and medicine, or maybe Mercury is about to come out of retrograde, but things are starting to make a lot of sense to me.

Let me be the first to admit that other people's problems can seem so small and manageable to me and their good fortunes appear more formidable than my own. I'm sure that this effect is all the more greater, if you're only looking at images of snowfalls and new ten dollar rugs and jars of goat kefir fermenting.

I know that from the outside my life might seem like one endlessly fun walk in the woods. In many ways and most days it is. But there are certain parts of it I'm not happy with, certain patterns I keep repeating and emotional issues left over from much harder times.

I know, have known for a long time, that I have lot to be grateful for. That in the grander scheme of things I'm really lucky. But there's a difference between knowing and knowing. One's own luck is hard to internalize. You may count your blessings day in an day out, with all your fingers and toes, and there'll still be days when you'd be ready to trade out lives with almost any old stranger, just to get out of the messes you've made and out of your own head for a while. At those times, it's easy to let your love starve.

I wish I could tell you that I'm so enlightened that I never struggle to love my life, friends, family, neighbors, enemies, strangers, or myself, for that matter, but that would be a lie  total bullshit. Or that I don't sometimes consider other people hell. Or that I don't sometimes often wake up in the morning and wish I could just hike up to some hunting cabin in Wisconsin and mend whatever part of me is currently in need of repairs.

But then along comes some real calamity, or a simple internal shift that reminds me just how good I have it.

I'm not exactly sure which of those two is happening for me right now, but I'm feeling my luck keenly these days. The forward momentum of this year seems to be moving things along, not just in the physical sense, but emotionally as well.

It's not often that the hard things seem smaller than the good things, the obstacles surmountable, even the most difficult people tolerable. So when it does happen, you don't have to tell me to patient, fine, balanced and kind.

And you certainly don't have to tell me to feed my love with maple candy.

How's your love? I hope it's well-nourished.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Turmeric Dream

Sometimes, I have a really hard time finding the time to say what I really want to say.

I mentioned before that I have tons of ideas for posts and am genuinely excited to work on those pieces.   There are "literally" dozens of posts in various stages of (in)completion waiting in my draft-folder. And, I also mentioned that I was really busy working on other things that took priority over this hobby.

Which everyone, of course, was very understanding of. The trouble, it turns out, is what to post between those more substantial, but as of yet, intangible pieces?


A while back, I asked you what kind of content you guys would like from this blog, because, let's not kid ourselves, I no longer write it just for myself. Just as dear Maria predicted, you guys left a lot of really kind comments encouraging me not to change nothing and a few lovely suggestions for topics you enjoy.

While the unanimous love was very sweet and even flattering, it left me with less direction than I had hoped.

From what I've been able to gather from your comments, is that you guys enjoy, knowing what books I read, cats, clothes posts, serious posts, seeing how we live, our surroundings, what we do, even our zany family antics, bless your hearts. You're a easy bunch to please.

Still, I can tell that my relationship with this space continues to be in flux. And its not just this space. It's blogging as a medium. A few years ago I would not have hesitated for a moment to post just a few shots of what a cooked and wore, a sunrise, or a sunset; now I feel like I need to have something to say, to provide content. When there's too many posts in a row that I are just about me, I start worrying about being narcissistic and boring.

This in spite the fact, that for myself I'm always simply delighted when bloggers I read post, regardless of length or amount of insight.

While I enjoy recipes and tips, I'm sometimes hesitant to post them myself, thinking, sometimes even unconsciously, that if I know something, most other people must know it too, therefor making it redundant for me to explain it further. (Hence the whole hair powder thing.) And while I love and miss proper outfit shots being a big part of blogging content, I've started to feel more and more self-conscious about posting them myself. Hence the first picture. I believe the instruction was "Look cute." There's only so many pictures of myself against a wooden wall that I can handle.

Similarly, simple descriptions of the lives and loves of others delight me to no end, yet I suddenly feel self-conscious about posting ten pictures of meals I made.

Before anyone goes "Lighten up and don't take it so seriously." know that it's not like I spend sleepless nights over whether it's okay to post pictures of my food all over the interwebs. I've more or less made my peace with it. I suppose it's just that by nature, I sometimes think hard about the connotations and connections of things in my world.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way: here's a whole post about food. Without any recipes or anything. Because save for a few walks, a drunken karaoke night at the bar, kayaking in the bay in a calm before a storm, that's the only concrete thing I've done all week, and certainly the one with the most pictorial evidence.

A pleasant side effect of writing/ working from home is often that I end up spending a lot of time in my kitchen. In fact, I think that in the last few days, I've shook those cooking doldrums I was complaining about. For one thing, I invented a new oatmeal. Other than oats, it has ten ingredients. Some would say it's less wild than my standard oatmeal with the soft boiled eggs.

For about a month now, I've been obsessed with fresh turmeric. I put it in everything. Tomorrow I think I'm gonna try it in oatmeal. In Ayurveda the turmeric root is considered a great balancer, prized for its cleansing effect on the body. It's considered to be tri-doshic, meaning that it fits all three body types/ temperaments.

One night I had a dream in which I was looking for something. I was walking around in a place full of people I knew asking them if they had seen the something I was looking for. We were digging up flower bulbs, as you do in dreams, randomly. Suddenly in my hands was a huge turmeric root. The next day I went to the health food store and they had just ordered a whole little basket of it. Yes. I am claiming to have had a prophetic dream about food arriving at the grocery store.

And since I'm on the topic of alternative medicine, I might as well reveal that C. is currently completing his second round of antibiotics, because he has staph infection on his foot. After months of trying to treat an ever-worsening bout of contact dermatitis with natural remedies, we finally decided that he needed to have it cultured to make sure that it wasn't fungal. Well, it turns out that medical science hasn't yet figured it out, but the samples did reveal the afore-mentioned infection. The fact that his immune system was able to keep it fairly staple for a long time, is encouraging, but now that he's taking antibiotics he's managed to catch a cold (antibiotics suppress the immune system). It's such a balance to keep, health.

I made him about a million cups of medicinal coldtea with orange peels, rose hips, mint, rose petals, lemon and ginger.

I baked a loaf of Demetria's apple & molasses dutch over bread, and it was both educational and delicious.

This was the first time I've ever baked bread in my dutch oven. Aside from a few mistakes (forgetting to bring the dough upstairs at night to keep it warm), not checking what kind of molasses to use (I used blackstrap 'cos for some reason that's what we always have), it turned out great.

I often talk about "not being a baker", mostly because the strictness of the rules annoy me, but lately it's been much more on my mind. Still, winging it is more my style and that just doesn't really work with baking.  Inge asked for the recipe of the heart crackers in the last post, and maybe next time I make them I can actually come up with one that is official enough to share. With measurement and all.

Honestly I'm rather proud of myself for being able to be in the same room with bread for hours on end and not eating all of it.


This cat eats bread and yogurt. The other cat eats oats. Go figure.

I think my eyeballs are gonna fall off my head, from all this time on a computer. I'm going to bed to dream of food. But answer me, if you would, are you guys down with short and sweet posts with pictures of outfits, or food or cats, or would I be wasting our time?

Goodnight, day.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I'll Be What I Am



When a storm rolls in, my first instinct is to go out into it, let the wind push me and pull me and try carry me away. I want to ride on its back like a bird and hide under its rolling waves. My second instinct is to crawl into some crevice under a rock, or inside a tree-trunk, some secret, mossy place of shelter, a small, animal place. I was born in a storm. I find storms comforting. Between these two instincts, storms are a stirring, powerful thing. They bring in their own wild energy.
These last few days, obeying the second instinct, I've been working on writing projects (I have deadlines!) and crafting away, while the wind blows horizontal rain onto my windows and pushes clouds around, sometimes briefly parting them and showering the yard what seems like heavenly sunlight.

Reading, making, listening, letting the rain drone on, following its own rhythms. These kinds of days are perfect for sitting by the fire dreaming, scheming.

I thought I'd share some of my recent indoor joys with you guys, just in case its raining (or blowing, or snowing, or freezing) where you are too, and maybe in return you'd share some of your with me...

Favorite dump finds/ thrift scores/ gifts / found objects
An eagle kite. So far it's been too much, or not enough wind to fly it, but I hope we get to take it out for a spin soon. A small pottery vase, or cup. Pussy willow branches, that I thought I might decorate like this, but like in their plain way as well. In this land of non-winter, they are nice reminder of the old country.




New moccasin slippers! Just when I needed them. My old pairs were falling apart. How did you know Ms. Sadie Rose? And how did you know I needed a laptop sleeve too? Are you psychic? A whole package of amazing, loving, cozy goods. Not to mention this calming tea, perfect for rainy nights.


Music

Today is the much anticipated moment Hurray For The Riff Raff's Small Town Heroes finally comes out! We're long time fans (I'm pretty sure I've included her in a best tunes round-up before.) and are excited to go see her live later in the spring (My birthday present for C.)

I'm also enjoying armchair traveling to Iceland with Olof Arnalds' bizarre nordic folk (not to mention this version of Solitary Man) and a favorite from my trip to Reykjavik last spring, Of Monsters And Men who based on my pandora stream are blowing up right now.

I'm Also very excited for the new Marissa Nadler album July.

Other good stuff on heavy rotation on my stereo right now include We Are AugustinesCity And Colour and Radical Face, oldies but goodies Björk (especially the early albums), Shearwater (to the point of mild obsession) and 10 000 Maniacs. You read that last one right.

Kitchen

I've had a little bit of a hard time in the kitchen when it comes to finding inspiration. Usually I love cooking, but I've kind of been stuck in a stir-fry, rice and beans, bolognese sauce, stews -rut. However, doing one off projects like kraut (a never ending project around here), or these heart-shaped hardy Finn-style rye crackers, or no-knead bread from Demetria's recipe still feels inspiring and today Lauren posted a recipe I'm actually dying to try (maybe with that no-knead bread).

My hub sharpened my favorite (only!) kitchen knife and then I went and cut myself with it 'cos it was so sharp. Having an amazing, sharp knife does help with cooking inspirations though.

Books

I've mentioned before that most of the fiction I read is by women, something that I decided in my mid-twenties, simply because much of the Western "canon" is so dominated by old white men and because, in spite of glorious and sizable advances by female authors contemporary literary fiction continues to lionize the "golden boy" author in his many incarnations. This year, however, there's an extra special reason to read women though, because the Guardian critics declared it The Year of Reading Women.

This year I'm planning to read at least the following works by women authors and probably many, many more:

Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I know. This is old news. I'm only getting onto this book now because I've spent almost a year muddling my way through Swamplandia! It's not the book, it's me, I think. I'm having a hard time with all of it's melancholy whimsy. Having loved Russell's sophomore effort St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves though, I know I'm going to enjoy her second short story collection.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Can I put into words how excited I am for this book? No. It has all the hallmarks of being something I would enjoy. It takes place in a remote corner of Iceland, features an underdog female protagonist and its language is described as "poetic". Count me in.

The English translation of The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson. I love this book and am interested in the translation, as all previous translations I've read have been excellent (not that I've read them in the actual original).

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. If you never read Field Notes From A Catastrophe you really should, because in hindsight it is even more terrifying in its accuracy and how the worst predictions have already come true. Whether you're in drought plagued California, or winter ravaged Manhattan everyone should read this. (Obviously, these are non-fiction books, my dears.)

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Controversial? Perhaps. An epic undertaking, surely.

Fellow fairytale lover Brigit recommended Red Riding Hood Uncloaked by Katherine Orenstein. Need I say more?

Homestead Hack

Podcasts. Listening to podcasts makes menial tasks more intellectually stimulating. My current favorite is Dare To Use The F-Word from Barnard College a podcast about feminism geared particularly towards young women. I really can't recommend this podcast enough, it's so positive and passionate. The latest one is on radical doulas it is beyond awesome. No really, you have to hear it to believe it. No, but go listen to it now.

Good News

Oh and speaking of feminism and good things: have you seen this yet? It seems like it would be a pretty good tool to explain to men in your life what feminism is all about. And while we're on good, empowering ideas, today gave us yet another reason to feel proud of living in Washington.

And to make it an even better day, Washington artist Matika Wilbur who's Project 562 we've been closely following is making bank on Kickstarter, thanks in part to being featured on Upworthy. Her plan is to take an epic photographic journey and document of the 562 federally recognized Native American tribes in the nation. If you haven't already, I would recommend checking out her pitch and videos because they're important, empowering stuff. Even though she's more than doubled her original budget for the second phase of this project, I'd consider (and have myself) still giving her some dollars, because this project is so unique and frankly vital to this country. And if you're feeling financially squeezed spreading the word is plenty of support.

Some days are just good days. Forward momentum. It's happening in my remote little kitchen and everywhere else. I can feel it.

Wear and Hair

Want another trick to taming dirty hair without washing it? Snake/ fishtail braids before bed. I had mine in for about five days and as they get more messy, they get better. If you brush hair powder in before making braiding they look positively clean.

I've been really into hanging out in my new (to me) 60s mini dress, there's something about short hems in the winter.



Rainy day suggestions?