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What is the root of my pernicious envy? I grew up somewhat financially insecure, second oldest in a family of nine, and am a people-oriented socially inept hermit wrapped up in conflicting creative energies. I compare myself constantly to other people to see how far “ahead” or “behind” I am. I do it all the time. And I mean all the time. If you wondered why I struck you as competitive and resentful, yet charmingly yearning, then that is why. I don’t make a good pet.

I’ve been through beautiful periods of self-appreciation and self-forgiveness, free enough of spirit and mind to take hours-long walks, to see petals, leaflets, Mare’s Tails, dewshine, hues, glints, and grassy contour like I was new to the planet. I have been free, at times, to see and love the world the way I think it deserves to be seen, and loved. I’m a poet, and will be my whole life, whether I #amwriting or not.

But I’m the kind of person who sometimes makes a terrible mother. Sometimes ye olde conflicting creative energies blow up into shame-rage cyclones, and the isolated nature of this early-motherhood gig compounds the destructive forces. Once I finally had a kid, I never looked at the ill, dented mugshots of mothers who had hurt their children the same way again. Now I know what it feels like to be consumed by negative forces, swirling overwhelmingly within the self, and have to selflessly take care of a kid at the same time. I know what it feels like to want to hurt everything within reach, but retain the freedom of movement that my mind still has that mothers who try to drown their kids have lost. I always know where I am, and what’s happening to me. I always calm myself, talk myself into stillness. Stillness is an excellent consolation prize when peace is not to be had.

Postpartum depression and anxiety (with a dash of OCD) was a trip. But I never fought for a diagnosis because I’ve had periods of overwhelming depression and anxiety throughout my life—I knew something was wrong, postpartum, but I was kind of familiar with going through the wringer, and everybody around me told me that early postpartum felt like going through the wringer, so? Here we go through the wringer I guess? This is taking a really long time though?

According to Enneagram (have you taken the test what is your type & what is your partner’s type & all your siblings & also your parents), shame is a powerful motivating force for those with my personality (type? profile?). Shame is big for most everyone, but it is really big, for me. I am slowly making my way through Daring Greatly, Brene Brown’s Big Shame Book, and finding it all resonant. Somehow I know that my impulse to compare myself favorably with others is directly connected to my lifelong struggle with jealousy and anger, though I don’t know what to do about it yet.

I pulled some SOS quotes from Brown’s book and sticky-noted them to my dashboard, hoping that I can learn some mind karate techniques. My paraphrasing: 1) I can be warm and understanding toward myself when I fail; 2) feeling personally inadequate is common to humans, this doesn’t “just happen to me”; 3) I can be “mindful” by neither ignoring negative feelings nor “over-identifying” with them so that they sweep me away (Brown 131-132).

Maybe you’re like me, and can hardly imagine not flaying yourself within an inch of sanity for your failures. Maybe you, like me, believe that you are uniquely inwardly misshapen and maladjusted and therefore mammoth struggles are something that you have that not many other people have, those other people who look so chill and chic. Maybe you have “surfed” negative emotions like it was your sport of choice since early adolescence, and crying in bed has always been your idea of a relaxing night in. Eh? If so, these points are HARD TO UNDERSTAND.

But the fact remains that they are saving me.

Motherhood, right?? *slaps knee, spills drink*

Motherhood is to my life what salt is to a dish, a catalyst, an intensifier, it raises the boiling point, the air is super-saturated and super-thin up here. Army-crawling through my low points isn’t cutting it, anymore. Retreating to get a handle on my negative emotions isn’t possible, anymore. I can’t hibernate or become a hermit. So this is why I think motherhood is forcing me to grow up. I can’t get lost in my negative feelings anymore, so I have to slog down into my strange subconscious and do weird inventories, organizing motives, responses, etc. I have to read self-help books like they’re candy (Codependent No More and Daring Greatly were fucking incredible, next up: The Dance of Anger!), and write things that sound like the most common of all common sense on sticky notes and try to memorize them.

Those creative energies have to find new outlets, new syntax, new vocabulary. Even new purposes. I used to write at every serendipitous shoulder-tap from my own personal muse, but now I basically have to used my own hands to bend my own knees and force my own ass to sit in a chair and start writing in what feels like a new language that I have not got down yet. Ugh, God. And I have to soothe that horrible sense of being-at-the-very-beginning-again by creating other things, like gardens, bouquets, quilt blocks, herbal teas, roasts, raw salads, pestos, marinades. And when I can slow down enough to be kind to myself, I can (to borrow some language from my Evangelical days) rejoice, exult in my work, and in that little being who neither competes with me nor against me, who never envies me, who never compares me to all those other moms that I compare myself with daily: my own little kid.

One of my best “a-ha moments” as a mother came from a podcast interview, in which a childhood development researcher said that families (and communities) benefit more from a “gardener” approach to parenting than a “carpenter” approach. Yes, yes of course. A child is not a work-in-progress in a closed system, but a plant growing in an ecosystem that is (almost) impossibly complex. The accompanying thought, months later, was that I have to learn to treat myself like a plant instead of a WIP, too, if I’m going to ever be comfortable treating my daughter like one.

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I haven’t written in a week, and after having cried about it and generally felt like a failure, I am back at it this morning. Unfortunately, my brain is motherhood-mush and highly distractable, tending to focus on how I’m going to take Mary to the mall today so I can look for some summer pants, with pepperings of intense jealousy that other adult people have time to write novels and screenplays while I’m just losing gray matter (because I’m a mother, look it up sheeple) and becoming more irrelevant to the world BY THE DAY.

Yeah yeah yeah, my “grand revelation” last week about how my “roots” are “perennial.” “Wow.”

OK I HAVE TO SETTLE TF DOWN.

Let’s begin again: Good morning. Because it is a good morning. Today I’m going to the mall to get summer pants, and treat myself, because I’m so jealous that other adult people get to sit in their quiet offices and write so many pages of creative nonfiction. And poetry. Dammit. One more try, then.

Good morning. Because it is a good morning. After a long dry spell, it is raining. I have easily a dozen large projects that I dream about finishing, but one of them—gardening—is moving forward. And it’s moving forward because I have prioritized it. It’s as simple as that, actually. I feel powerless and victimized by the demands on my time, as a working mother, but I have to remind myself (every day) that I’m NOT diving for individual pearls with only a snorkel mask; I’m allocating resources, of which there are many. I.e., life is not a game of Whack-An-Emergency, but more like Operation. Every wrong move triggers the loudest buzzer I’ve ever heard.

And! Neither of those children’s games are metaphors for real life,  just for my perception of my life and responsibilities. I’ve had to hit re-start on my brain three times already this morning.

It is a good morning, because I have a whole day ahead of me, and I get to allocate resources.

A chipmunk jumped onto the brick sill outside the window, just now, tiny and shiny russet, like a fallen oak leaf. Its tail, short and brushy, and ears like the smallest clamshells, or snailshells. Wow. It looked around with those quick movements unique to squirrels and birds, I saw its black, liquid eye, then in a burst it gathered itself and flung itself across the sheer brick, out of sight. It’s been raining, it’s been dry, and my seeds and plants are gathering toward greatness out there.

Sometimes I look at the natural world and am impressed by its unending cycle of growth. Nothing can truly kill it for long, nothing but nuclear holocaust or polluting corporate dystopia. Nothing so far. An isolated stand of hackberries and mulberries, brushed up with privet and honeysuckle, are slowly encroaching on the southeast corner of our property, a few inches a year. If a pandemic wiped out human life in this neighborhood, or city, these trees would finally be able to raise their thousands (millions?) of seedlings that pop up each spring, that we anxiously slice to fragments with the mower.

I like to calm myself with the thought of this house becoming a home to chipmunks and coyotes, forest marching steadily over and underneath it, till it is truly inside a wood. Our bluebells would spread, and irises, and the Bermuda grass and ground ivy would—finally—move elsewhere. I don’t want to think of myself, our family, as an environmental pollutant, an impurity, or an alien element. But our stain of blindness and frantic energy belies our natural place in this world: yes, a fellow-competitor, but a companionable competitor. If there’s such a thing.

How to allocate resources, how to compete companionably. How can I assert myself in my environment, plant a thousand seeds, and protect my roots? And what is a more useful metaphor, a tree in a clearing, or a biodiverse farm? How much control do I really have over what grows into my life, and how I myself grow?

If I’m longing for relief from burdens of responsibility, that’s important to consider. What can I let go, today? What little spirits of wildness can I let into my head, while letting the frantic energy out? The answer, again and again, is to look into my little wild heart and my daughter’s little wild heart, and let the dishes go to hell. Or, maybe I’ll do the dishes and let the garden weeding go to hell. Because dinner can’t go to hell, no way, cause it’s gonna be pizza and pizza is greatly beloved by my little wild heart.

I have this friend. And we are trying to do so much. She’s trying to do more, since she has two kids, and one of them has had a lot of heart surgeries because of a congenital heart defect, and basically has PTSD from some of those times when her son could have died. I’m just over here trying to sort out my socks. Just kidding—I’m trying to deal with my past and create my future, just like the rest of us. And what a shit-show it can be.

So this friend and I have something in common, and that’s high-achievement, perfectionism, and an amount of ambition that feels alternately inspiring and impossible. Actually, two of my friends are like this (probably most of us, to be honest), and the friend I thought of just now told me that she knew her pattern of “I feel like I’m killing it … and then I want to kill myself” was unsustainable, long-term. All of us high-achieving perfectionists can make that roller coaster work for us WAY longer than makes any kind of rational sense, and I think it’s because we remember what it was like before we had kids.

So many people—once the adorableness of our children has been the topic of conversation for a few minutes—open their mouths and “Do you even remember what life was like before?” comes out. Oh my god.

It’s a personal “pet peeve” of mine, because there are times I have regretted having a kid, and since no parent is supposed to admit that, I’m often in the position of having to smile and force a small agreement-laugh through my nose when asked (rhetorically) whether I have amnesia and forget what it was like to be a free and independent young adult with prospects.

I’m sort of kidding, but sort of not. All the truisms about parenthood (and motherhood in particular) rain down on my head and shoulders these days, when I’m wanting to make bread AND do the week’s meal prep AND clean out grass roots from the garden area AND go to an anti-white supremacy demonstration downtown AND split the goddamn bulbs in the front flower bed. This first friend and I, we think about our choking bulbs all the time. Who has time? I don’t even usually have time to condition my hair in the shower.

No, having experienced the vast surprising fun of creating a new human, I wouldn’t go back; children are a shock and a delight; I am growing in ways I might not otherwise be forced to; sacrificing greatly to nurture a kid is, in fact, worth it, for me. But I remember what it was like before. I daydream about it.

Sometimes when I am dragging stuffed animals and snack leavings out of the yard on my way to starting dinner, I think about how I used to climb trees and wait to be blown about by the wind, like a flag, or a bell, wait like I had nowhere in the world to be—because I didn’t. Sometimes when my daughter has her pants around her knees and is yelling for me to wipe her butt, and I have to leave the garden for the afternoon (after only having been able to weed one small area), I think about the long, lazy afternoons I used to spend alone or with friends at outdoor café tables, languorous and dreamy in the summer dusk. Sometimes when I have eight things I want to get done in a day, but after work I’m exhausted and I realize I can only do two of the things, and only one if I want to spend any time sitting down before I start dinner, I think about how I used to lie on my bed on my days off, reading and reading and reading and reading, till the shadows got long and the air grew cool.

One answer for me has been a hard pill to swallow, and even now I’m not sure I’ve swallowed it totally. It might be stuck in my throat right now. And that answer to my tearful, ragey, or numb responses to having so little time to do the things that used to make me feel whole and peaceful has come in different forms from veteran parents: Make new good times with your kid.

How? I’m working on it, after resentfully (“UGH” & “FUCK FUCK FUCK”) rejecting that advice for a few years. (And, to be fair, there are very few “new good times” you can actually have with a baby; now that my daughter is three, things are different.) Yes, my creative work will, in the end, have to wait for a while to be reborn. My love for solitude will have to wait to be reborn, my immense satisfaction in long to-do lists, manicuring both the front and back yard at the same time, fast-tracking the kitchen renovation. I used to look at this kind of admission as an admission of failure: I have failed to bring my whole self to the present, or to motherhood. But nothing essential can be lost for long, and losing ground in the battle for solitude and productivity is temporary. Solitude and productivity will come back, sooner than I thought: they are trickling back in, they are sending up different-looking shoots in surprising places. I still hate this, but finding fun with my toddler is the medicine I need.

Another friend—a writer whose kids are almost grown up—wrote to me in the midst of the fierce chaos of my early postpartum days, saying that when her kids were young, she had accepted that creative work would not get done in the same way as before. (She remembers the before, too, ha!)  She instead let her new environment reshape it. Instead of sitting at a desk and writing stories, she invented stories to tell her kids at night, working from prompts they gave her. At the time, I couldn’t hear this. All I could hear through my postpartum noise was, “You can’t be a mother and write.” Returning to that email a year later, it brought tears to my eyes and a place in my ribcage tightened suddenly, unbearably, because I knew she was right, and that I could understand her.

I work on a farm, and I’ve always been attuned to the mechanisms of the natural world—I should know this stuff. Our vocations are deep, perennial roots, and can’t be killed by the winter, or even a few winters.

Today my alarm went off at 6:15 instead of 6:00  (lost so much sleep in a 5-day period I felt like I had the flu, probably also should start taking an antihistamine just before bed because my throat, nose, and sinuses are feeling v. raw and throbby). I’m dragging myself up this morning. Instagram tried to keep me in bed, scrolling, but I managed to resist. For a tired crawl from the bathroom to the kitchen to the bedroom to the bathroom to the office, where I am now trying to be pithy for 11 minutes and then I have to put on mud-encrusted Carhartts and go to work. I remember being excited about this writing project, and the slow build-up to actually starting it. I’m not feeling the excitement now, but according to People the important thing is to sit, and write.

God I’m tired. Yesterday I was so tired I felt like my head was a big steel keg, and stimuli gonged it softly every few seconds. Inside was jelly and the gonging sent thoughts traveling from one side to the other, little slow determined journeys. V. heavy.

This morning I can tell is going to be better. I’m eating something besides fig bars and coffee this morning, and I really did probably get almost 8 hours of sleep last night. I don’t know what I’m having for lunch, unless I have a banana and 3 of those super-expensive fruitynutty bars I got for 99 cents each (on way sale) at Kroger yesterday. Was going to save them, but? Who am I kidding? Ok so I’ll have protein. (I’m the worst at feeding myself. Why? My main daily preoccupation when I’m *not doing well in life* is what food to feed the fam for dinner, and that sometimes means I feed myself total garbage from 6am til 6pm, I behave really like a Smokey Mountain black bear rummaging through a campsite. Is this refined flour? Ooh yeah. Wait where did this wrapper come from, did I eat that already? Oh but there’s crumbs in there yay!

So the build-up to starting this project.

Red azaleas and lavender irises are blooming in the green shadow outside the window. I love irises but feel like they’re too cool & elegant to care about me. I do know that Nature doesn’t give a fig for the human race, but most plants have a very compliant kind of attitude about it; irises make me feel like if I say the wrong word they would all move out, maybe just go ahead and load up with all their iris friends and leave Middle Earth. I haven’t picked any since we moved into this house 2 years ago because I want them to like me first.

Anyway yeah ok right this writing project. I have 6 more minutes. Next time I get up to write (tomorrow morning, MUST happen NO EXCUSES) I’m going to go into a few things:

  1. Saving myself from drowning since no one else lifting a finger to do so, smh.
  2. Saving myself in order to (do what I can to) save the marriage, since I don’t think it could survive both of us being unhealthy to such a degree at the same time. Fortunately husband is also taking steps to gain health, and at the end of our therapy session yesterday our therapist basically said “You guys are halfway already to making this work for you,” and I was like (in my head), “Can I pat self on back? No that’s dumb he said ‘halfway’ you still have to get into Mordor ugh.”
  3. Saving myself involves being #codependentnomore and trying all the old numbers for God in my phone to see if anyone has his number or knows how I can contact, AND writing and reading. Writing and reading are what my soul is made of, and I used to say to myself (back in college days) “I just don’t know what would happen to me if I couldn’t write! *hair flip*” as if I was so sure that would never happen. Well guess what happens! *Draws self up fully into light, ominous music, claws clacking, scales glinting* Yes, I can forgive my younger self. And, theoretically, I can forgive my current self. Saving self also includes a thousand things, because in my life I have loved a thousand things. Can I make another bullet point for this? Yes I can.
  4. Saving myself involves resuming active love for the following: songbirds, flowers, gardens, exploring forests, sitting outside and thinking, baking cakes, distance from social media, creating visual art like quilting or bookbinding or home decor*, reading Hopkins and Howe and Hirschfield and Rilke and all the other spiritual writers and poets that I’ve been longing to return to but life is a maze & how, and lying on the grass and letting the earth hold me up, AND climbing a tree and letting the tree lift me up.

*assuming home decor is art. It is right? At the very least I need to put actual art up on the walls of this house. My God. I need that so bad.

I had a little burst of optimism this afternoon that I immediately wanted to write about, and may as well blog since I want to keep up with the sisters and I haven’t blogged in log tog. “Blog”—worst word!

Firstly, thanks mostly to my dad, our kitchen project is off with a BAM. He brought his sawsall (?), drills, tools, implements of all kinds, and helped Marshall BUST through one kitchen wall so we could widen that doorway and move it over a bit, and then through another wall this past weekend to make our new second doorway. I’m not gonna be all DIY-blogger about it, because it’s not my area of expertise, and it intimidates the fuckin hell outta me, even though I have been helping [a tiny bit]. Also there are so many details to go into, and I only have prob 20 minutes to write this whole entire thing. But getting this renovation started is YUGE. I’m not sure I can explain how yuge, without making us look like a couple of exhausted depressed anxiety-ridden weirdo maniacs. Marshall would add that probably, it would make him look kind of normal-ish and me look like that previous thing. Fair enough!

Secondly, I think the season is beginning to turn, which is always—ALWAYS—the point at which my inner witchy spirit feels it turning and considers it actually fully turned. As soon as there’s an end in sight, as far as I’m considered, the end is here. I’m a real tough bitch and can handle whatever [without dying], but midsummer and midwinter are tough for me because where is the end? Can’t see it. Now, however, hyacinths and tulips and amaryllis are being hawked with garish display (because we want and need it) at every greenhouse and grocery store. The end is in sight. This cold, soggy winter is about to end.

And THAT means that I can start seeds, which is the beginning of the garden and the birth of that merry carousel of garden daydreams that doesn’t generally start bogging down, for me, till July. Which is saying something. This year’s garden is of course mapped out precisely and v. v. ambitious.

I’m starting more herby perennials to be moved at the end of the season into the perennial garden: yarrow, echinacea, and black-eyed susan. I’m growing Tennessee Red Cob & Cherokee White Eagle Blue dent corns again, and adding a hybrid popcorn, because we eat so much popcorn around here. I’m growing several flowers I’ve never grown before, like sea holly (eryngium), craspedia, green zinnias, celosia, bicolor sorghum. Dill, calendula, and chamomile, are old friends, but new ones will be beets, red and black carrots, torpedo-type onions, and an heirloom okra called “Show’s.” I’m growing Italian Heirloom, Matt’s Wild, and Principe Borghese tomatoes again but adding Green Zebra, Black Vernissage, and any sweet and hot peppers I can rescue from the farm’s compost pile. I’m hoping to quadruple basil and therefore basil pesto production, and last but not least, I’m devoting a big area to my favorite winter squash from last year: Greek Sweet Red. Guys it was amazing, if perilously late-maturing. Plus any Long Island Cheese pumpkins the farm has extra. Last-for-real, have to add on dry beans: Tiger’s Eye again, but will try Turkey Craw and Mbombo beans this year—the first is a regional heirloom, the second is GREEN and from AFRICA.

We’re just now dipping into frozen whole tomatoes, having just finished the last of our frozen tomato sauce, and we have one more pizza’s worth of frozen sundried tomatoes. Shocking! And I do so much self-congratulating about this freezing-tomatoes business, you have no idea. I mean, I guess I instagram some of it. But I also have a little party room in my head where I go to secretly party about my frozen tomato situation. And how I’m going to improve upon it this year. Guh!!

Ok I think I’ve gotten garden excitement out. Next item of optimism: sewing. I’m doing a patchwork thing to get rid of my rando 8-year old stash, but am experimenting with new blocks for the first time in forever. I always though string quilts looked lame, but turns out they’re pretty cool. I’m probably going to get back into the eight-pointed stars I was making last year, too, which would be great. I’m making some reusable paper towels, hoping to use fewer single-use disposables, and they’re super satisfying if slow-going. Yay!

Last thing, which should maybe have been first, is reading. I took a break from reading (for the most part) after my daughter was born, being super depressed and disconnected with any real sense of self, but I’ve got a GoodReads account and have been (weep!) unbelievably happy to tear through a bunch of novels, recently—I’d say since Christmas. I set a goal of 40 books in 2018, because Katie J had a goal of 75 and I was like, “surely I could do about half that,” but almost changed it when I realized how many books I’d actually have to average per week. But I’ve been doing it, damn! And how wonderful it is.

I’ve read food writing (The Supper of the LambThe Gastronomical Me), nonfiction (Julie Andrews’ wonderful memoir HomeThe Empathy Exams), and fiction (George Saunders’ Tenth of December and Lincoln in the Bardo, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies, and Satin Island and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet). Reading new fiction and old food writing has been envigorating & exciting, even if I did have mixed feelings about the Tom McCarthy. I finished the Ada Limon poetry collection Bright Dead Things, which I put off reading for an embarrassingly long time because I wasn’t ready to read poetry again … and it was beautiful, rich, wonderful. Poetry still feels like a very strong medicine, to me, but Limon will be the next I read.

OK daughter is out of her “quiet time,” naps being a thing of the past, and I’m out of battery. All this feels good to get out. Cheers!

 

  1. On the one hand, the official kick-off of Anna Laura 2.0 and Marriage 2.0 (random piecemeal conflagrations, slow burns, snatches, letters, epiphanies-not-ground-into-harmless-glitter, etc.) have really have boded well. Optimism, hope, and fog clearing to reveal a position near the middle of the mountain; neither too low for despondency, nor too high for cheerfulness. A feeling of lying underneath an exposed crag and brushing sand from clothing, bright blue sky above.
  2. On the other hand, there is an incredible, almost unbelievable amount of things in our life that scatter with a careless gesture: a bean box, full of a mixture of soup beans and multicolored lentils; glasses half-filled with water and wine hidden weekly about the house; plates of crumbs, crusts; diminutive pink toddler potty sometimes containing pee, sometimes not; plastic boxes filled with every kind of small implement; columns of solid flesh filled with tornadic, cyclonic feeling.
  3. On the one hand, garden plans pupating—sorry, so gross a word! Cocooning, then: invisibly finding a form, a secret in my brain, no one knows these small miserly plans over which I cackle like Scrooge. Square foot gardening (TM), I secretly peruse your dating profile! But no! No I can’t!
  4. On the other hand, my plan for writing a Serious Work of Towering Import (TM) simmers on the back burner, Thing (TM) after Thingz (TM) insinuating themselves between me and that solid steel saucepan handle. I will come for you. Will I come for you? Can you come for me?
  5. In summation: I have, at least, decided to buy (and read) the Man Booker Prize winner every year from now on. Since I get to have a library, I should add quality to it. Hardcover! Lord! $35.99! “Wear the old coat, buy the new book”—I’ve taken a break from this advice, and have officially returned.
  1. First I have to mention that Roy Moore lost his senate race. I don’t know anything about him, except that he didn’t even go to the trouble to deny all the allegations, that the allegations appear founded on some sort of really problematic issues, and that Republicans who believe that “abortion” is the only reason to vote for or against anyone would have had to turn off the same large parts of their brains to vote for him that they turned off to vote for Trump. And Moore still lost. A tiny win for decency that may turn out to be the beginning of the end for Trump—one can only hope. And I do!! I am feeling hope this morning, after having prepared myself for him to win.
  2. Roughly 97% of black female Alabama voters voted for Doug Jones, and as they made up 18% of the voter turnout, they basically pushed Moore out of office. Black women of Alabama, you turned up, and turned a douchebag out. Get it.
  3. If you’re still reading, welcome to the real beginning of my list. I started this list because—after repeated attempts and failures to go to bed early and then get up early, Marshall and I have decided to MAKE IT HAPPEN. And the only way to make it happen is to go the fuck to bed at night! No more of this watching-New-Girl-and-eating-popcorn till 11:00 and then getting in bed at 11:30 and deciding we feel sexy. This is crazy, and terrible, and—most importantly—over. Last night we got in bed to read our books at 9:30, read till 10:30, and then went to sleep. OK???? Ok. So of course I woke up this morning at 6:00 or 6:30, not sure which, got up, and then Mary got up earlier than usual.
  4. That last sentence—now, this is the REASON I have thrown in the towel on getting up early several times. Somehow……she knows. And as every parent knows, if a kid knows you’re trying to have solitude, s/he will find it personally offensive, file long complaints, win. This morning, instead of trying to read and meditate/pray, I just pulled out my seed catalogs and laptop so I could tippity-type away, regardless of whether she was up stomping around. I’ll get back into the truly solitary morning pursuits……when I figure out how to. For now, seeds!
  5. In the perennial herb garden, I’ll replace calendula (annual) with existing perennial herbs, spacing out the thyme, sage, echinacea, yarrow, and comfrey that got bunched up this year. Calendula will get more space, but in the main (annual) garden. Those flowers are gold.
  6. I want spring and fall beets next year, and a red or orange Swiss chard. Was bamboozled by Care of the Earth’s orange chard this season—and it’s slow-growing enough that I’ll be able to eat it AND the greens we get with our CSA box. And if not, then it’s ornamental! Ha. All plants in the “goosefoot” family I tried to grow last year were eaten by rabbits. So, fence.
  7. Want to nix Greek Sweet Red winter squash (unless it turns out to be amazing, haven’t tried it yet) and add a bumpy Asian moschata winter squash, like Yokohama, Kogigu, or Futsu Kurokawa. The photo in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog of this last one is definitely rusty-tan, but the description calls it both “dusty green” and “almost black”—? Mostly I want a bumpy, old squash next year with non-tan skin. Tan is great and all. But.
  8. This year’s sweet and hot peppers were so successful that I want to expand—I’d love a long red hot pepper for drying, a thick-walled oxheart red pepper for roasting, and more Wenk’s Yellow Hots for pickling. Roasted red peppers is one of my culinary epiphanies from 2017. And grocery store “red bell peppers” paled—PALED—in comparison with my California Wonders.
  9. For Mary: I grew a garden for myself this year, which was wonderful. Next year, though, I want to grow stuff Mary can eat right out of the garden, and at this point that is: peas and carrots. Yeah, she eats raw carrots now. I know. Amazing. Knock on wood! So I want to try peas (not getting hopes up, since East Tennessee springs have gotten sooooo short and hot), and carrots. I would love to try purple, orange, and Dragon-type carrots. If my soil isn’t any lighter than it was last spring, I’ll add some round/stubby carrots in there too. Also, strawberries?
  10. Onions. This is one of the few vegetables that I buy at the store anymore. Our farmers do the literal best that any southeastern organic (EU organic, specifically, so they don’t even use “organic” pesticides or fungicides) (tooting their horn, here, since I’m about to follow it with a sad face), diversified vegetable farm can do with onions, but I need more. :(  I need onions all year round. Onions are “light/day-sensitive” crops, meaning that they will only “bulb” if they receive a certain number of hours of daylight, and that fact plus our hot springs, hot summers, and hot falls means that not a lot of onions will grow well (organically) here. And the ones that grow ok often don’t store that long. Anyways, I’m going to try to baby some onions in 2018. We’ll see how that goes.
  11. I’m going to *think* about growing arugula, because arugula pesto is the best ever, and I can just make it and freeze it, and in the summer (when it’s too hot for arugula and the basil is dying of downy mildew) I can have tasty pesto pizza, which is my fave. Like, omg.
  12. Tennessee Red Cob dent corn produced so well that I can’t not grow it again, and I’m going to give the rare Cherokee White Eagle purple corn (flour) another try since I set it up for failure this year and want to make it work. Since we eat so much popcorn, I’m gonna try that next year for the first time. This will likely be the only hybrid (organic if I can find one, non-organic if not) I grow, since Marshall likes the big, light, crunchy popcorn, and I can respect that. Heirloom popcorns tend to be flavorful but small, and sometimes a little dense. This is a lot of corn for a small garden. :|
  13. Dry beans: I think my dry bean woes this year were largely due to me not trellising them. Maybe. I’m going to try a cranberry bean again, and Tiger Eye, just to see if I can do those better on a second try. I might add another one in lieu of the Whippoorwill pea I grew this year? Maybe?
  14. Tomatoes: Principe Borghese was a delightful triumph. Have so many oven-dried Principe in the freezer right now, pulling them out for arugula pesto pizzas, etc. Matt’s Wild was a similar success, and I think I could freeze a lot more of them than I did. My paste tomatoes were hit-or-miss, mostly miss. I think fertilization could help, but I’ll probably try different varieties regardless. Striped Roman failed to impress, San Marzano impressed for a brief window, and Opalka for a few brief minutes. Maybe time to give more space to Italian Heirloom or a dense oxheart. As far as slicers/beefsteak, I might try to grow some bright colors, so we can try to re-create Marshall’s favorite heirloom tomato salad from The Plaid Apron.
  15. That’s all I got. Happy Wednesday.

Title are literally the worst.

So I felt 1. proud that I’ve somehow been able to follow through on this vow to do a Saturday poetry series here, but 2. irritated that now my blog just looks like a string of poims that are not even that good. So here’s some large blocks of text to break up the monotony.

Life continues to be garbage and pretty good at the same time (like always). Since Mary’s due to wake at any moment, this will actually take the form of a list instead of the aforementioned large blocks of text.

  • I’m seeing a therapist, and it feels v. v. excellent. Partly, this guy is clearly just good at what he does, and it’s been productive, considering that I’ve only been twice. But partly, it just feels good to be doing something proactive for my own health. After trying and failing multiple times to help people I love, I’m finally learning that I’m the only one I can truly help, in a real and uncomplicated way. So, let’s get TF on that.
  • Organizing the house and the house’s numerous and complex projects is overwhelming, even though we have slogged and argued through initial first steps, including but not limited to ordering and receiving $3K’s worth of cabinets.
  • It’s fall, and somehow still super hot.
  • The garden is a bright spot: I still have to weigh (and finish harvesting) the winter squash and the dent corn, but it’s gorgeous and exciting. Peppers and cherry tomatoes are still coming in.
  • Mary is still refusing to toilet-train, which is fine with me, because I can afford pull-ups and so far no-one has suggested that I should be getting on it. I mean, I suggest to Mary that she should be getting on it, but so far that has only resulted in her trying to sit on her baby potty *after* she has already pooped in her pull-up and getting poop smeared on stuff. That was ONE GARBAGE DAY. And I probably shamed her and I’m … still trying to deal with that
  • I don’t have anything to say about politics at this time.
  • Back to Mary: I had a few hours of work to make up on Friday and couldn’t find a babysitter, so, she came to work with me. I feel like I’ve joined some ranks. So many ranks to join. So many of them are garbage. However, this day turned out to not be garbage—it was actually really, really fun and wonderful—due to the fact that my bosses are laid-back and I think they really love and care about me. They didn’t mind me bringing my toddler to work, and my co-worker Jessica got pretty excited about it and at one point put Mary in the truck and drove her across a field to go see the chicks. I can’t describe the cuteness of Mary’s tiny red head barely showing at the bottom of the front passenger window as they drove away. (Very safe, if you were wondering. As you were, if you were a mom.) Mary helped pick green beans, and stepped on several bugs as I weighed and bagged greens.
  • Also, Mary has somehow weaseled her way from her bed (napping) to the couch next to papa (watching sportsingball on TV) to my lap with my arms around her as I type on this laptop. Pretty cute man. She likes what she likes. And I do encourage that, no matter how much I vent about it on social media.
  • We went to Kyle Carver Orchards this a.m. so I could get some fall frenzy going on. I wanted a bushel of apples, but Marshall talked me out of it. Possibly he was right. So we just got 1.5 pecks of Arkansas Black, Mountain York, and Carousel, and a pint each of the apple butter and sorghum they make. Yeah I instagrammed it. The fact that I just spent 30 seconds trying to figure out if I should be defensive about that or just straight apologize should remind you that I’m in therapy. But it was a most excellent morning.
  • Pizza for dinner, dough is rising while I daydream about food. God I love food. This should be its own bullet:
  • God I love food. Since I seem to have grown 50-70 lbs of winter squash, I am going to have to get creative about eating it, and these are my thoughts so far: pumpkin streusel crumbcake; pumpkin-ricotta ravioli (huge batch, freeze half) ; enormous vats of butternut soup for dinner party; vegetarian pumpkin chili; pumpkin cheesecake; cauliflower-pumpkin enchiladas; pumpkin layer cake with cardamom-cream cheese icing. AAAAA. I love food so much.

Mary is singing and talking to herself in her crib, but she’s  in her crib, and I showered and made myself tea and am deciding—of all the top-priority things on my to-do list—to write a blergh. What if this is the road less traveled by, and it will have made all the difference?

So it’s Friday, and despite a terrible night of sleep, during which the husband’s bad cold roused him constantly till about 2a.m. with phlegmy throat-obstructions (sudden spluttering coughs like gunshots), and consequently roused me, I am feeling light and buoyant. Let me count the ways.

  1. It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and we’ve agreed that my present will be a solitary date all by myself—to the mountains or some other piece of wilderness—where I will have fancy cheese and crackers and a beer, and write/edit, and read in a hammock (or similar). I might decide at the last minute to take myself out for lunch and then see a movie instead—obviously I should go to the mountains. But MAN I love movie theaters, and I hardly ever get to go.
  2. Making pizza tonight.
  3. The president of my country continues down the path of horrid nightmareness and it’s becoming less and less easy for his supporters to support him. TO MY GREAT RELIEF. One tweet in particular came out today and was fucking insane. Madhouse. But our independent paper has just reported that no fewer than six (6) women from Knoxville or Maryville are preparing to run for office as Democrats. A pertinent quote: “In Tennessee’s 220 years of statehood, only two Democratic women have held office in the U.S. House of Representatives, and no woman in Tennessee has ever served as a governor or been elected to the U.S. Senate. Just two Democratic women serve in Tennessee’s 33-member state Senate, and seven Democratic women in the 99-member Legislature” (17). Makes me curious about Republican women, but I’m sure it’s safe to assume their numbers are comparable or fewer. Hope for the future!
  4. Garden is getting along, and only one plant has been eaten by rabbits. A garden fence is on next spring’s agenda, so I’m just planting tons of the things I really want, and hope that the neighborhood warren spares me enough to freeze and can. For instance, as of today I have 25 tomato plants in the ground. Ridiculous, but like I say, some of them will get eaten by rabbits. I have gorgeous rows of Whippoorwill peas, Tiger Eye beans, and a cranberry bean called Lena Sisco’s Bird Egg bean. I have about 20 winter squash plants in the ground as well: Tan Cheese pumpkins, San Jose Mountain Club squash, Pennsylvania Dutch Crooknecks, and one random red Japanese squash plant I saved from the compost at the farm. One long row of Tennessee Red Cob corn. Also four pepper plants and five rows of zinnia & tithonia, also brought home from the farm. The herb garden is looking good, too, but the vegetable/flower garden is exciting because my hopes/expectations for it have risen sky-high and plummeted several times this spring, and I think it’s gonna turn out to produce ok. Yay.
  5. The “long-term forecast” for East Tennessee was so worrying, earlier in the year, as they were predicting a year like last one—hot, extreme drought—but despite (portentous) roller-coaster high and low temperatures, we continue to get rain. I’m grateful for every drop, even though we’re garbage neighbors and let mosquitoes breed in collected rainwater that we keep finding around the yard.
  6. We got a new couch to replace the old one, and we are delighted by it EVERY DAY. The old one was vintage velvet (?), striped with dark gold and pale yellow and blue—a very cool old couch—but it was passed down by someone who had bought it secondhand, and it was on its absolute last leg. I had grown to despise it. Its cushions needed daily re-shaping, the upholstery was stained and faded, it made bad noises when you sat down, and occasionally harbored mysterious odors. The day it left was the day I rejoiced. The new one is a gray sectional with nothing frilly or fancy—you might even call it Brutalist—but it is like heaven. It makes the room nice to be in. It has room for two people to stretch out, which is a heretofore unheard-of luxury, in our house. It makes me feel a little more at home.
  7. We’ve only killed one of the five chickens my boss gave me. Technically the other chickens pecked it to death (one of the several reasons I have no fuzzy feelings AT ALL toward chickens), but I think it was because we had them in an enclosure that was too small. We’re working on a larger pen and hope everybody will be somewhat at peace till it’s ready.
  8. I have so many things on my to-do list that I rarely write them anymore. It’s too frustrating. There are emails I should have replied to months and months ago, rooms to clean, weeds to pull, and just numerous other things. I don’t even have time to write them out. So instead of scrolling instagram, as is my wont, I’m writing. It’s little, it’s shitty, but I’m writing. And it makes me glad.

Today Mary threw up five times between 6:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Since she’s been incredibly congested from leftover cold gunk and allergies for the past week, we’re guessing it’s drainage build-up in the stomach, not a stomach bug. After her last barf she seemed especially bright and cheery and kept down a cup of yogurt (I know I know), two pieces of toast, and a handful of banana and apple bites. The nurse I talked to on the phone said “just watch her,” so I’m staying home and watching her.

I did like four loads of barf-laundry, moved the chicken house to a new spot of grass, planted a row of winter squash in the garden, and got climbed on while Mary watched Clifford and The Magic Schoolbus. Mary is not a snuggler, but simply MUST have me close by, so I let her climb and sit on me till it drives me crazy, at which point I jump up with a roar and run into the next room and shake the sharp little elbows and knees off like a dog after a bath. Definitely find her amazing, etc., but my god she jabs me with every hard little bodypart in the boobs, neck, —ugh!

I’m having Reese’s cups for lunch/tea while she takes a nap. Wishing I could take super glam selfies and work in a tall glass building, wearing clicking heels. I’m feeling pretty again, for the first sustained amount of time post-pregnancy, but have poison ivy rashes on my face and neck, and a farmer’s tan.

To which the better half of my brain replies, “sure love my job” and “things are pretty good right now,” both of which are true. The garden is growing, and I think I’m going to be able to grow most of the things I wanted; I have a few chickens and only one has died; I’m getting back into shape and feel strong; I’m reading White Teeth and am delighted to report that I’m underwhelmed by it at the mo; and I’ve been thinking about sending some poems out to litmags this summer. And I’m still finding profound meaning in my work at the farm (and I got a raise, binch).

But we’ve been watching Ken Burns’ new series The Roosevelts and the person of Eleanor Roosevelt feels a little too kindred for comfort. Hearing about her life, reading her letters, reminds me of my immersion in the character of Mrs. Ramsay from Woolf’s To the Lighthouse; I have the feeling of sisterhood, of her soul having been made of a similar material to mine. And when a guest historian declared, after a brief segment on her early life as a mother, that “Eleanor Roosevelt never really hit her stride, as a mother,” I felt the invisible cymbals clash. That does it.

I also feel out-of-stride as a mother. I realize that doesn’t make me a bad mother, but it makes life strange and out-of-joint. I hardly seem to catch my breath when I’m underwater again—I finally re-work my daily schedule so I can re-incorporate something life-giving like writing or reading poetry when the porch is blown off the house in a gale, and I with it. All that exultant fuss about me getting up early in the morning, a few posts back? Daylight Savings, a.k.a. parent-sanity-ruining-time, and creeping sunrise had Mary awakening at 7:00 instead of 7:45. And 45 minutes may seem like a tiny amount of time, but it had already been a delicate balance. I haven’t gotten up early to write in at least a month.

The next episodes are going to be about how ER fledges, how she manages to “run a family” and also enter into a new time of her life’s work. Already I can see little glints of hope coming from this woman’s life and words. She’ll likely become a new muse and mentor for me.