The Big Questions

Nothing like an early walk on an exquisite spring morning to generate the big questions in life . . .

Why can’t I pick trilliums? It was illegal when I was a child; is it still?

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Was that deer flirting with me? Was she following me? Was she as interested in me as I was in her? Why is her tail white? Why can’t my iPhone camera keep up?

How much does a sailboat like that cost?!

Who will live in Mr. C’s little place, now that he’s gone? Will they grow tomatoes, too?

Why does my cat sit placidly and purr when we stick a big needle under his skin and deliver fluids and then bite me, hard, when I clip his toenails?

And a related question: Why can’t I drink alcohol while on antibiotics?

Where does that lilac smell come from? How can it be so poignant and nostalgic and moving?

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Which chore do I tackle when I get home? Which piece of wood do I sand and/or paint today? Which tomorrow? The next day? Can I just keep walking . . . and avoid the chores?

Why do I look so tubby in my silhouette?

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And a related question: Which kind of ice cream shall I choose today?

Why does 71 sound so old and seem so young? I’ll ask my husband—he’s reaching that birthday today . . .

Where does the time go? Are we using it to full advantage?

How can I fit it all in, everything I want to do on this perfect day, and still have time to acknowledge and honor a perfect day?

Can I do this all again, tomorrow? Please?

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Lessons from My Garden

 

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I ache all over.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately, and the better part of the last two two days, outside trying to bring some sense of order to our yard and gardens.

The temperature has been in the 60s (call it 18 celsius) and it’s been sunny, so it’s been a delight to be outdoors. But it’s hard work, is yard work. And since my husband had yet another ankle surgery last month, a lot of it is falling to me.

I learn, or re-learn, many lessons in these days of April.

  • This isn’t yet a lovely time of year. It has its moments and, all in all, it’s better than February, but April is pretty chilly, quite windy, and way too wet.
  • Living on a lake has its downside. Ever since we had to leave our home for 6 weeks several years ago, when Lake Champlain flooded and we could only get in the house by wearing chest waders, we have had a healthy, nervous respect for the lake in April. It’s high right now, into flood stage, but not yet really a problem . . . knock wood.
  • I now know where I planted my mother’s irises. We sold her place late last fall and I had to rush to dig up the irises and bring them here. And I had no idea where I put them! Now I know and I’m thrilled to see them. It’s good to have something new, and old, to look forward to.
  • All the leaves from upstate New York, most from Vermont, and quite a few from Canada blow in every late fall and form dense, thick mats on our lawn. The tops look dry but underneath they’re soaked and in spots still frozen. The Canadian encroachers bother me most and I think maybe we should build a wall.
  • The gym didn’t do me much good at all. I dutifully went, all winter long, and sweated on the treadmill and that elliptical thingy, and am still knackered after two hours raking.
  • The corollary to which is: the best overall way to stay fit is to do yard work.
  • I did a wretchedly bad job, just really lazy, of cleaning up the gardens last autumn, which is proof of another pivotal lesson of life: You can pay now or you can pay later.
  • I’ve been reminded that little things offer huge rewards after winter—that one golden crocus, the old cats that act like kittens again and zoom up trees, the bits of chartreuse that are thriving under the frozen mat of dead leaves—it’s that color that happens only in early spring and is so fleeting and perfect.
  • And I’ve learned, again, the pleasure of the bone-deep tiredness that comes from working outside, to care for our bit of Earth.

What lessons does your garden have to teach?

Home Ick

I was ironing from my stash of vintage linens recently and came across an apron that set off a wave of memories for me.

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The fabric is vintage 1960s, sort of cool and retro. The sewing is novice—the waist band is applied awkwardly, so the uneven stitching creates puckers and wrinkles. The colors—the turquoise ties that match nothing in the main fabric—would appeal to a young girl.

I’d bet a lot of simolians that the apron was a project from a long ago Home Ec class.  

I was a young girl, a novice at sewing in the 1960s, too . . . I took classes in this thing Americans called Home Economics. 

It must’ve been the late 1960s and I was probably in 7th or 8th grade. The boys took “Shop” and used woodworking tools and learned about car engines, while the girls took Home Ec and learned about cooking and sewing. 

For a person who now loves sewing and even quite likes baking, I hated Home Ec. Even then, as a 12- or 13-year-old, I thought of it as Home Ick.

I have these clear memories of the teacher showing us how to butter bread. She stressed that we needed to spread the butter or mayonnaise or peanut butter right up to the edges of the bread, very carefully right up to the edges, so that the bread would stay moist . . . for our husbands and children.

She told us to take two slices of bread out of the package and open the slices like pages of a book so, when we put them back together, with filling, they would fit and match perfectly . . . for our husbands and children.

She taught us that it was of utmost importance, when measuring liquids, to squat down and look at liquid in the measuring cup at eye level, so we would get the precise amount and our cookies would turn out perfect . . . for our husbands and children.

Ai yi yi.

The sewing lessons were just as lame, to my 12-year-old sensibilities. We sewed one seam up a length of cloth to make a tube, stuffed it full of batting, and tied the two ends closed with cord and called it a bolster pillow. Really?

We also did class presentations on makeup and I remember a classmate intoning that we shouldn’t use eyeliner because it was passé. I was impressed that she could the word “passé” in a sentence but that whole thing about eyeliner . . . ?

I like to think I was ahead of my time, a mini-feminist in the making. Maybe the attitudes of the late 1960s and 1970s were influencing me, even in the backwoods of upstate New York, but taking an actual class in how to make a sandwich struck me as ridiculous. 

Maybe it was because my mother and father both worked and I had long made my own sandwiches . . . but taking an actual class in how to make a sandwich struck me as really, really ridiculous.

Maybe it was because what we were being taught was SO basic, not to mention sexist, and I knew the boys were learning skills of value—changing the oil on a car, making book ends with power tools—and no one was ever suggesting that they do it just so, for their wives and children.

Home Ec died a few years later at my school. I believe it has since been reincarnated, in different forms, in some schools. Boys can learn to cook and girls can take Shop, or not, as electives. Maybe they’re also teaching budgeting and organizational skills, and useful life skills, beyond how to butter bread and disdain eyeliner.

Thinking about my own Home Ec experience has me wondering—was it just that my experience was a lame one? Did other teachers, in other schools, provide a better, fuller range of skills? The person who stitched the vintage apron certainly learned to sew more than a bolster pillow! 

Was Home Ec just a thing in the United States? Did/do schools in other countries use valuable school hours teaching such things?

Do tell—what experience did you have with Home Ick?

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Building Your Word Power: Sastruga

Over the years, I’ve posted photos of one of my favorite winter phenomena and a couple of years ago, blogger Sandra, from A Corner of Cornwall, told me there was a fancy name for it!

Sastruga (pl. sastrugi) It means: “ridges of snow formed on a snowfield by the action of the wind.”

When the wind screams off the lake, it sculpts the snow into constantly changing shapes . . . sastrugi.

Some are subtle.

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Some are gorgeous, sinuous, and flashy.IMG_3303

It may look like striations in rock

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Or waves of water, breaking

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Or just plain peculiar . . .

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This was from earlier this week. Those “duck bills” have an overhang of at least a foot!

Sastruga–A new word for you–you’ll need to use it three times, in a sentence, to make it your own . . .

Would you ever have a need for such a word, in your neck of the woods?

An Autumn Pet Peeve

I love a field of autumn corn. The stalks all golden brown, lined up, and waiting to be harvested. It’ll be cut down, chopped, and used for silage to feed cattle during the long winter. (Silage goes in a silo and that’s what most farmers call it. I grew up on a farm very near the Quebec border and never heard the word silage until a few years ago. We used the word “ensilage” exclusively–the French influence, I guess.)

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I even love a field of mown corn. It looks restful, harvest finished, and its sere, muted shades make the surrounding foliage seem all the more radiant.

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But this? This make me peevish. Who does this?

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Who harvests an entire field and leaves one last corn stalk standing? So untidy . . .

(And can you see the blue jay photo bombing the picture?!)

Re-Entry . . .

Hi.

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I’m Kerry. Remember me?

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It’s been awhile . . .

I’ve been wanting to get back here, to say hello, to say everything is fine.

But what a busy summer it’s been!

Nothing hugely dramatic. Just so busy.

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Doctor appointments, for my mother, my husband, me. Some regularly scheduled, some emergency.

Veterinarian appointments, for our many cats. Some regularly scheduled, some emergency.

We cleaned out my mother’s house. We took care of her possessions, the ones she didn’t take with her to the assisted living facility, and maintained her yard. We sold the house.

We had two enormous garage sales. We sold stuff on Craigslist. My fantasy is to be able to park a car in the garage come winter, for the first time ever.

We had visitors come to stay. We made a trip to Boston.

We participated in a craft show.

And we did our own yard and house chores and summer projects. Don built a fire pit the new pictures windows will be installed in two rooms soon.

I spend at least two or three days a week with my mom.

All summer long, in the early mornings, I have had time to either weave or write a blog post. I’ve chosen the former.

In the evenings, I have had time to either write a blog post or sit by the lake and have a quiet drink with Don. I’ve chosen the latter.

For the last couple weeks, things have been a little less hectic, a tiny bit less scheduled.

I’ve thought several times about writing here.

But like all good, healthy habits, once one stops, it’s very difficult to start again.

And that’s all this post is. A chance to start again. To say hi. And to commit to being back soon.

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Clouds: Ragtag Tuesday Daily Prompt

Like Margaret, who provides CLOUDS as this week’s Ragtag Tuesday prompt, I prefer fluffy, white clouds scudding through the sky, perhaps calling to mind a bunny or a kitty, or reflecting in placid waters.

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But I was sure that most of the cloud photos in my own files would be of dark, forbidding, foreboding clouds, full of drama and threat. Maybe it’s a reflection of my mood, in the face of news of my country and our world?

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When I actually went looking I was surprised and pleased to find that, in reality, most of my cloud photos are dramatic, yes, but with the drama of sun dispelling darkness, of light peeping through, of hope.

Let’s be hopeful . . .