One of the great things about having five children (and four and one-third grandchildren) someone is always there to love and be loved. This past week has taken me across the country and back. And at each phase of this trip there was one of my children there to share life. They are all grown now, all within their own phases, but for the most part, no matter where you go, or when you return, there is someone there to love. We are still a pretty strong whole. This week took me from California to Chicago and back home again. I traveled from apple orchards and fire- as- our- only- means- of- heat on some very cold autumn days in the midwest and returned home to a house sprinkled with Northern California autumn. This post is about Chicago...
It was so cold there. And to boot, central air and heat were being installed in Shannon and Isaac's flat so the radiators had recently been torn out. Day and night we kept a fire burning in the fireplace. It was a wonderful necessity. Often we snuggled in bed and read books. Another wonderful necessity.
On Friday, when we drove out to the apple orchard to pick apples we loaded the back of the station wagon with a wheelbarrow full of apple wood...which was a fragrant treat. And after a very cold week, Friday ended with the delight of an autumn warm, sweet, apple wood burning.
There were sweet things at the orchard...a crunchy leafed, rich smelling earthen play area, sprinkled with hay bales and wagons where the children could play. Plenty of room to run and be children enjoying an Autumn day.
Animals. Fairy Tale animals. I particularly loved the Three Little Pig's and their abodes.
And of course, pumpkins and apple picking.
A huge barn with country cooking and, the gift shop.
And I have to mention the dreadful dangers of this place. I prayed for gawd to help me stay strong against them...
Sadly, even with bloodied knees, my prayers went unanswered. (I don't even have a photo of the moistest, juciest, tastiest fried chicken we had for lunch.) God Save this Grandma.
And our outing carried on once we returned home, with sacks full of leaves and baskets full of apples. We did projects. Busha is known for her projects. Nature is best for bringing the seasons alive. That's my story and I'm forever sticking to it. What gifts we find when exploring the natural world! Beauty abounds and brings our homes alive. Nature brought inside grounds us and brings us a quiet peace. So Ike and Fiona and I had some great fun making autumn windows, with beeswax and leaves and a few sheets of waxed paper. Oh, and an iron which Ike was proud to use since he is older...the big brother (once again). The one who often has to give up so much for the peace and sanity of the whole. Anyway, he ironed. And he helped with the cutting. And he was proud.
And on Satuday we were still enjoying our trip to the apple orchard. Shannon and I put on a big pot of vegetable bean soup and the children stacked apples...again and again. Making pyramids that turned to castles that turned to mountains. Fiona found a little oak twig with two leaves in the basket amidst the apples and she and I used some of the corn husks from the soup prep, a sparkley purple pipe cleaner and made a flying apple fairy! And we peeled our apples and made an apple pie!
And the week filled me up. For awhile anyway. Filled my heart with those I love and cannot see everyday. Until they come home.
But if I had to pick a single moment from this week where I was bursting with awe and pride, it was this one. People ask me all the time how Shannon does it. How she has two children, and now is 15 weeks pregnant, in her fourth year of anasthesia residency, is Chief Resident...how does she do it all and keep it all together. Well, mainly with Isaac, her dedicated husband and father of her children, who has put his own life on hold for seven years, to be a stay-at-home-dad while she did med school and residency.
But also her.
This moment, when it has barely cracked dawn, and she prepares a breakfast of hot cereal and tea.
This moment where her children are cozy in the kitchen with mama by the stove. Wrapped against the morning cold. Just waking up. Loving them. Seving them. Notes posted to the kitchen cupboard as she stirs oatmeal and prepares to make a huge presentation at the national anasthesia conference in just a couple of hours when they are off to school, remembering that she was standing by the stove...
She is a dedicated and passionate human being. And this thought, this morning vision, will linger in my mama's heart forever.
I have never read The Handmaid's Tale, but am reposting this from my blogger friend jaykaym (whose opinions I thoroughly trust)...and then I am going out in search of the book...
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2011
Maybe we should re-read "The Handmaid's Tale" When I read this article in the Huffington Post (House Republicans Attack Women's Health Again) on the recent House of Representatives passage of H.R. 358 restricting women's right to an abortion even to save her life, I immediately flashed back to Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale". I recalled that it was about the subjugation of women by religious men and that at the time I read it I found it terrifying and totally believable. I looked up its plot summary to refresh my memory and found this on Wikipedia:
The Handmaid's Tale is set in the near future in the Republic of Gilead, a country formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. It was founded by a racist, male chauvinist, nativist, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically driven response to the pervasive ecological, physical and social degradation of the country. Beginning with a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Islamic extremist terrorists) that kills the President and most of Congress, a movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launched a revolution and suspended the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order.
Taking advantage of electronic banking, they were quickly able to freeze the assets of all women and other "undesirables" in the country, stripping them of their rights. The new theocratic military dictatorship, styled "The Republic of Gilead", moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily Christian regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious orthodoxy among its newly created social classes.
It appears that Ms Atwood may have been prescient.
We should all be terrified.
One week from tonight I'll be snoozing in Chicago, snuggled up with Ike and Fiona. My vacation. A jet plane zooming me back to The Windy City for a week.
And while I'm there I will get to share in the twin's second birthday celebration. I get to love them and snuggle them again too.
I am just about bursting with the thought of all this. In a perfect world Satchel and Temple would be coming along with me, and Jahan wouldn't be in India. And now my new little guy here. But I have to take my baby-love whenever and wherever I can get it. All these babies fill my heart every single minute of every single day.
Tonight my house here is empty. This is an unheard of phenomenon. I am very happily watching chick flicks, finishing up my knitting project; but also pulled out some felt and embroidery floss and started designing birthday crowns for Sofia and Eli. Second birthday crowns with two stars each. And then I cut ou 4 more stars of each color so that I can add them at 3, 4, 5, and 6 years old.
Now I want to make Autumn Fairy crowns for Fiona and Temple.
When I worked in the kindergarten classroom all those years I think I probably made at least 100 crowns. No. Probably more. I know there were a few years there that every student got a birthday crown made by me. I swore I could not make one more. But with a little time off, I'm thoroughly enjoying this project again!
But right now? I'm starting to see a little cross-eyed, so I'll have to finish tomorrow.
The sun is shining, a cold, post-rain Autumn sun. I woke up and headed downstairs, poured a cup of coffee and shuffled out to the backyard in my flannel jammies and slippers to sip from the warm mug cradled in my hands while drinking in the fresh morning.
There was a man sitting out there. A man about to be 60 years old come March. Still a boy/man to me on somedays. Like when he pivots sideways and dips a shoulder as he heads out the kitchen door. Ancient movements that ring like a clear bell.
My first love. My best friend. The Grampy to my Busha. My happiness and my nemesis. We've been together in life for so long that we've been every shade of dark and light to one another. He probably woke in his downstairs room, stretched, and headed out for his own version of this Autumn morning. His cup of coffee. Cigar.
But we two are not the old timers that titled this post. Not yet. Those old timers were warming the feet that were perched on that outdoor table in the sun. Those hand-knit, Fair Aisle socks that I knitted for him for his 50th birthday. Ten year old socks are old timers. Worn. Loved. Softer with age. Socks he pulls out of his drawer come cold weather. Socks I am sure he had all but forgotten about. A nice surprise when you wake up cold. Like finding that phone number scribbled on a matchbook cover in the back pocket of your old jeans.
So there they were again. Holding their own. I looked at them, smiled, and wondered where the years had gone. Wasn't that just yesterday I was knitting round and round in brown and green?
"Don't move!" I said. "Lemme get my camera..."
"yeah-yeah" was all he said (in his hardass/soft heart kind of way). As if he knew that was coming.
And so it goes with us.
Once again, loving this time of year. It's full blown hot and heavy summer, then you can feel it. Autumn seems to arrive through the backdoor, the friendly kitchen door: quietly, refreshingly, not making a fuss. My welcomed guest. The season I want to invite to my party. My birthday season. And it all begins, for me, with that Majestic Harvest Moon. Of course this year I worked late and missed its orange splendor. By the time I was driving down off of the mountain this is how she shown down upon the bay. Beautiful in her own rite, but lacking my beloved vermillion.
Just knowing she was outside my bedroom window all night had me waking early and ready for a harvest morning. I grabbed my bucket, my camera, my sunhat and headed out to the rows and rows of blackberry brambles in my favorite little woods in all of Sonoma (I used to explore there with my kindergarteners). I walked down the road and I was the solitary human out there that morning.
I love cooking with bounty that has been gathered or picked by hands that I know. Hands from which I have felt love. Mine. My friend's and family's. So I just began picking. The berries plunked in my bucket at first and then they grew quiet from a softer landing. All I noticed were the birds singing and chattering. Allowing me into their territory. "Them sharing with me", I thought. It takes a heck of a long time to make a dent in the berry bucket.
But this year I have made jams and cobblers. Made them once, and then made them a couple of times over.
I've also spent time at a couple of local gardens, reaping their harvest into my grocery bag. One called Greenstrings was a co-sponsor of the first National Heirloom Seed Expo I attended last month. While it's pleasantly still just a little stand on the side of the highway, it is doing amazing things with public education and employment of yound interns in the sustainable farming movement. And with tomatoes only a buck a pound, I loaded up and got my fill of cold sliced tomatoes with a little shake of salt and pepper as well as a pretty tasty roasted tomato carrot soup recipe.
Along with the makings for the soup, you see a cup full of diced apples that have been ending up in some apple cookie bars. Another family hit.
The kale was rich and bright and added a good healthy touch to Brooke's Mexican Beer Bean recipe.
And then right here in Sonoma, just a couple of blocks off the main plaza, right adjacent to Touristville, is our own little piece of heaven. A place that surely takes you to another time. Sunday morning when the sun is shining is usually when I head down to The Patch. It is another little farm that has been there for at least 15 years, and very often (when Leo, the old Italian guy, is not there) works on the honor system: pick what you need, weigh it and drop your money in the old rusted metal cylinder with a slot in the top.
Sonoma is a beatiful, bountiful place to live. And everyday when I'm bustling to here or there I can look up and see something to be grateful for...