In case you have lost track of the date, Christmas is next week. I have decorated to the extent that I feel able, and am enjoying the cheery visuals provided by the little lights against the greenery and the orange pomanders. The magic of the season is greatly aided by the fact that I’m actively working on ignoring the constant rumble of my children disagreeing with one another. It is hard, but necessary, to ignore the shrieking in order for me to survive right now.
Speaking of survival, the theme song for this holiday season is the Judy Garland version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, which will nearly kill you if you listen too closely to the lyrics while simultaneously experiencing Judy’s voice.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas Let your heart be light From now on Our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas Make the Yule-tide gay From now on Our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days Happy golden days of yore Faithful friends who are dear to us Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together If the fates allow Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow. And have yourself a merry little Christmas now
I thought maybe the isolation offered by universal quarantine would bring blogging back as a cultural trend. But after two months of 24/7 life at home, I realized this is not happening. Reading blocks of text (even when interspersed with pictures) is very early 2000s and our attention spans are roughly the length of a TikTok video. And then there is the fact that we are all too busy in isolation. Freaking out and fighting over available virus information/disinformation, trying to do our jobs and manage online schooling, and baking sourdough bread all take a lot of time. So the anticipated cultural revitalization of blogs hasn’t happened. That said, I would like to start posting again.
Lots of farming-related activity is going on. Bread-making, growing food, and new this year: bee-keeping. As Benjamin Franklin cautioned, I have a beehive…if I can keep it. That’s not precisely the quote but it is in the general spirit of the enterprise.
I am excited about the bees. A little too excited, my kids might say, as my moods swing in accordance with whether or not the hive seems to be thriving. But I have good reason to be nervous: apparently, keeping the hive alive and in good health is on par with keeping our Constitutional Republic alive. Basically, I have the same job as Congress. Even so, I was feeling pretty good about everything related to the bees before I heard about the murder hornet. This two-inch long protein-eating nightmare has descended upon Washington State and is munching its way across the continent, one beehive at a time.
In a gut-level anticipation of a pandemic, I became wound up a few years ago about making my own wild yeast and taking charge of my own destiny through bread. It took me a while (a long while) to really get cranking, but now I’m as weird as the rest of the internet about sourdough bread. I’ve had some massive failures along the way, and I still don’t score fancy patterns into the top of my bread in the way that is Instagram-worthy, but I make the bread and we eat the bread and I smell the tangy, weird smell of my starter once a day and feel a rush of emotion. I don’t understand it but there you are.
Like millions of other people, I watch videos about tiny houses by the trailer-load. I also watch a few over-the-top farm ladies on a regular basis. Why I like the suggested resources: because each of these people make it okay to care about farming and aesthetics, or minimalism and aesthetics. Having a simplified, countrified, even isolated lifestyle doesn’t mean you are surrounded by junk. In fact, it means the opposite. A few of my favorites:
Last Saturday our (last) local farm celebrated the Spring Equinox by holding a Greenhouse Openhouse here in our seaside village. My family and I helped with the event, and had a good time observing the changing of the seasons. A couple of Celtic fiddlers played by the wood stove in the greenhouse, while my husband cooked beef stew – made by one of the farmers from their own locally-raised, grass-fed beef – over an open fire.
We dyed wooden eggs using all vegetable dyes, colors made from beets and carrots and all sorts of edible stuff. Once you start digging into the rituals surrounding it, there are so many inspiring, wacky and awesome ways to celebrate the turning of the seasons. People also took part in planting seeds, literally helping the farm grow.
My kids played in the mud all day, while occasionally complaining about not being at home playing video games. Eventually the complaints died down. Either they finally gave up or – I hope – forgot about the allure of technology for a couple of hours at least.
The air was crisp, the stew was hot, and the greenhouse smelled like warm dirt. It was a great day.
Memorial Day weekend is here. This is a time for remembering those who have died, a somber way to start the summer. Our town has a Memorial Day parade and ceremonies — one at the cemetery and another at the wharf, where those who have died at sea are honored. Memorial Day in Rockport is sorrowful, and momentous, and sometimes even funny — like that time a kid who was marching with the Middle School Band accidentally dropped his flute in the ocean.
After Monday, the summer truly begins, even if the academic year has developed the awful rhythm of extending into June — a miserable change in custom if there ever was one (won’t someone consider the poor teachers!). In our household, we pretend school is over the Friday before Memorial Day, even if truancy laws demand that in practice, the oldest kid still go every day until it is mercifully over and he is released into summer.
The house is buried in snow this winter. Not literally, but almost. I’ve had lots of time inside to look around my house and wish I had resources of every kind to make it look better. But then I make a cup of coffee and look around a second time and remember: the snow is outside, I am inside, warm and drinking a cup of coffee. Right now I’m not too worried about refinishing the floor and repainting the walls. It could be a lot, lot worse.
Living a walkable distance from the coastline has its disadvantages. 1) The sand. Which as everyone knows, gets all over creation and into places it does not belong. 2) The guilt. For not going to the beach every day and staring at the water and contemplating existence and willfully relaxing and all the other things we’re supposed to be doing there.
But kids, who rarely have guilt, only desire, make up for all my beach anxiety. Whenever I go and don’t really know what to do with myself (which is every time), I just stare at them while they do their thing. Picking up gross stuff, stacking stones, throwing everything they can lift into the water, lolling about in the sand, lolling about in general, actually. It’s a revelation. I don’t want to return to childhood — no one in their right mind would ever wish for such a thing — but occasionally I would like to interact with the world the way they do. Be nowhere but at the beach when I am at the beach. But until I reach that state (never) watching them be at the beach while they’re at the beach will have to do. And just so you know, I do occasionally throw a rock in the water, just to hear it splash. And then I go home to chase sand.