What The Living Do

lilacs

For that yearning, for this everyday, for the cherishing, so deeply, for the living of it, and for the fierce remembering. I’ve kept this one a secret to myself for a long while, a small burnished jewel in my pocket, but it feels like the right time to share it.

What the Living Do
Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

Time Flies

snowypathI started keeping a 5 year diary at the beginning of this year (the topic of its own post, certainly), and I told Sweetheart that looking back on this month, at least, the days are beautifully, brilliantly similar: a series of good books, many long dinners, most of them just the two of us and that giddily more than enough, the desire to plant, the thwarting of yet more snow, the killing of a snake, the tireless hijinks of squirrels, the beauty of the birds, the bees coming in with new pollen (red maple and alder), the first stirrings of daffodils and crocuses and the buds coming on the lilacs, the thwarting of yet more snow, burning, burning, burning—the last of the cord wood, the first of the burn pile, the long lingering rays of the now-late evening sun, lots of plaid, long baths, good work-sore bones, and coffee and fresh juice waiting for me in the morning. Time flying, but on golden wings. Forgive the radio silence, the music here has been too sweet.

Lucky Spring

4leaf

Found this little guy in a patch of dark rich soil that had accumulated at the corner of the woodshed, in theory from years of sawdust and leaf mold and right in the spot where the badger knocked over the grill last summer. Maybe that was the tipping point. Ash and leaf and earth and dirt and dust become soil. It takes a while for the hard clay of this ground to turn into the kind of fertile anything that will encourage growth beyond wild asters, but, like most things, with the right combination of work and the fortune of circumstance small wonders can spring forth. Can you call it luck? I’m not sure what is more miraculous, that a tiny patch of delicate clover sprung from the nothing of a cool and shady previously inhospitable corner of my world, or that I noticed the little shoots yesterday in the midst of my big-doing-striding-purposefully-around the domain rehanging a broken clothesline and picking up the wreckage of winter… and that the tiny majesty stopped me in my tracks and I turned around to bend over the patch and take in its sweet small gentleness, and among them, there was this: a tiny four leafed clover. Good things are happening and good things are going to keep happening.

Snow Day, Snow Birds

snowbirdtracksSix inches of snow yesterday in our quiet little farmhouse world, Mama and Daddy got “stuck” here in the name of icy road safety, so we spent the afternoon holed up at the kitchen table nestled by the woodstove watching the songbirds have a total freakout at the bird-feeders (which D and I had judiciously refilled on Sunday when it was 65 degrees out and the bees were flying). Flurries of sparrows, titmice, gold finches cloaked in brown for winter, blazing red cardinals and their dun lady friends, (Robert) downey (jr.) woodpeckers, red winged blackbirds, and the occasional bad grackle and squirrel are all swooping down and around, 30 at a time (!), a serious all-you-can-eat buffet. And this morning, Mama found the tracks of a solitary wanderer among the ice diamonds on the front porch. It’s probably safe out there in the world, but we’re going to keep it quiet, snuggled in, and snowbound for as long as we can. Time to go refill the feeders.snowbirds

Happy Valentine’s Day

valentineschainsawSo, yes, I know that Valentine’s Day was over a week ago, but but but there were literally FEET of snow on the ground on the actual mostromanticredrosebannerdayoftheyear so, I wasn’t allowed to actually break out my valentine until just this weekend, when the temperatures inexplicably were in the low 70’s. Let me just say: after an incredibly long winter of incessant snow-fall, shin-deep city sidewalk slush, and muddy-pawed squirrels tirelessly breaking into my birdseed, 70 degrees on the naked skin feels totally, utterly, soul-rising-in-the-body-like-sap-in-a-maple incredible. But, I have to say… it doesn’t feel as incredible as the revving and rumbling motor horsetremble of my very own gorgeous gas powered lady sized Stihl chainsaw. Which is what I got for Valentine’s Day this year. To be fair, Sweetheart and I actually got it for each other (and we’ve decided this is how we’re going to roll on Valentine’s Day from here on out: an excuse to buy the big-ticket-thing we’ve both been jonesing for together), but, per usual, even though it’s “ours”, he’s letting me take the reins, letting me wear the orange-kevlar-pants, only yelling from the side (he has to yell since I’m wearing safety ear-muffs) “PLANT YOUR FEET! DON’T SWITCH YOUR HANDS WHEN YOU TAKE OFF THE CHAIN BRAKE! DON’T LET THE CHAIN HIT THE GROUND”. Bellows which, honestly, are sweeter than any sweet nothing whispered into a naked ear by a moon-eyed-cassanova. Be still my beating heart, it’s revving at 2.3 HP, fully oiled up, and ready to take on the world.

Free Feathers

plumes-green-gfairyOh, bonjour ma petit oiseaus, what’s that, you say? You are completely and absolutely enamored with this ridiculously awesome plumed image with its many and exotically lovely birdies all over it like Portlandia was unleashed inside John Derian and polar vortexed into an ancient Parisienne apothecary? Why, yes, me too. Oiseau aussi. And, yes, ma petite mésange enrobés de sucre, these (and a host of other awesome vintage birdie images) are available here, fo free. I’m just dreaming up what strange wallpaper-large-scale-print-paper-teepee project I might tackle next with these lovelies. In the meantime, I’ll just change my desktop background. Infinies grâce à la meilleure Maman for le link.

bird nest evergreen graphicsfairy Eggs-Nest-Vintage-Print-GraphicsFairy birdcolorfulgfairy006b

Calf Mountain

calfmountainclimbOh, our valley. Our little farmhouse is nestled, as we like to say “in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains”, and this isn’t necessarily, literally, true since the honest, round shouldered mountains I look up at from my kitchen sink are too kind to throw their shadows over us. Instead those mountains, my mountains, Buck’s Elbow, Calf Mountain, and the big mama, Afton, lie quiet and strong, old and wise, the Farmer’s Almanac to the Rocky Mountains’ Motorcycle Diaries, close enough to touch, and easy enough to climb. In the winter sunlight, their bare branched sides look like tawny brushed velvet from the middle distance, and in the far away reaches of the valley, they do, indeed look blue. We’ve explored up and down the back side of Calf Mountain from the windy switchbacks that rise above the peach orchard, an adventurous drive that requires kicking it into 4 wheel and along which live several beekeepers who keep their bee yards fenced in electric wires (by necessity they have to be more serious about bears than we do), but we hadn’t ever taken the swift and easy hike to the top of it via the Appalachian Trail.calfmountainappletreemeadowCold, clear, and winding through golden chaffed meadows dotted with relics of ancient apple trees, the most amazing thing about the simple hour or two we spent taking our time was (duh) the view from the top. Calf Mountain rises, stately, and, again quietly, between two valleys, ours, the Rockfish to the east, and on the other side, the legendary Shenandoah to the west. From the top of it, you can sit quietly in the still, warm, shadow of the wind, and see the valleys, spreading away from Afton in front of you like slow honey off into the distance, the peaks bluer and softer as they hold hands and walk farther and farther away, chiaoscuroed by the smokes of a thousand woodstoves as far as the eye can see.calfmountainpanoramaForgive the awkward stitching on this photo, it was too majestic not to even try to capture it…

You look good, Virginia

2014.2.6.virginiaAnd back in the bosom of the sweet sunny south, where it is pretty much never a kick in the guts and when, after a day of glorious physical labor stolen from the computer desk, after filling the bird feeders with dark seed and fresh suet and watching the menagerie return one by crimson-feathered one, when the sun is setting over these mountains, beers are are only $3.

You look good, Manhattan

manhattanOh, New York, you beauty. Sometimes the city is a real kick in the guts, and sometimes it is a gilded wonder full of love, flower crowns, good music, old friends, and truffled egg toasts. Guess which one it is this week?