Friday, August 29, 2014

Seasons Converging & Edwards Apple Orchard {favorite finds friday}

It is that time of year - when anticipation propels us forward - when seasons are converging.

There is no other season for which I feel the anticipation that autumn creates.  The coming of other seasons are marked to greater and lesser degrees by different feelings; but I feel a subtle longing for the arrival of autumn that is unmatched.  As the days grow shorter and the nights steadily cooler, it is as if nature is ushering us back inside; readying us for the coming season of hibernation. 

Perhaps we are programmed by this anticipation.  In youth, autumn is a season of beginnings - school starts, we progress through grades, a ritual that seems to mark the progress of our lives.  We change schools.  We graduate and the autumn that follows is our first beginning on our own. 

We have come to anticipate change.  A nervous excitement that signals something new.  I experience that newness now in enveloping atmosphere, in a return to the intimacy of the home, in the turning inward that marks preparation. 

Harvest, it is the gathering in of the crops.  The beginning of regeneration - a movement from out to in. As we move inward we seek solace and community.  We seek to be gathered together.  There is no more beautiful a place to be gathered together at this time of year, in this part of the world than Edwards Apple Orchard

It has been a regional gathering place for fifty years.  Ushering and marking the changing of seasons, issuing a cry to pilgrimage; join us here. 

They feature acres of apple orchards, pumpkin fields and berry picking, both self-pick.  They offer wagon rides through the orchard, and pony rides.  On weekends, a collection of bluegrass musicians fill the air with an uplifting melody, and the baked potato tent is open for service.

It is a family destination and a girlfriends retreat. 

I love the mutual opportunity to experience this moving of seasons both outside and in.  Their shop and cafĂ© capture the longing of the imagination, providing sustenance and collections to complement one's experience.

And don't leave without an apple donut.  You must not leave with out an apple donut.  Or a dozen.

This place is a harvesting of experience.  Its' opening is something anticipated.  It is a reflection and a fostering of our longing for the next season. 

It is a place where we record our memories both in print and in our minds.  A place that has become a tradition for generations.  It has become a tradition for my family in the five short years we have lived here. 

The coming of autumn is the season of anticipation.  It signals our season of coming together. 

With gratitude,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

looking through

This has been a week of looking through; of riding the ebb and flow of seasons converging. 

Life is an ebb and flow, a storm and its passage, sunrise and dusk; a pattern that repeats and changes.

Life has seasons, they ebb and flow.  The sun does not shine through the storm, but it is revealed after its passage, and everywhere within it are signs that it will be; the brilliance of the green being washed anew; the power of the wind and the steadfast patience it signals.

These days have been changing so quickly, from dark to light; cool air warms and then scorches as the sun is revealed again.  And as another storm approached and passes the light and the air change again.  

I want to turn on the lights in the house at 2:30 in the afternoon, but that would wash away the reflection of the landscape and the deluge it is enduring.  I can endure it too.  I can let myself be wrapped in its changing colors and sounds, the brief and lasting transformation it ushers.

I have seen storms and brilliant sunrises.  They do not always usher and follow one another in tidy succession, but they reflect upon the others power. 

The light is brilliant when it shines us on the face; its illumination we must carry, for it is always shining above the clouds.

With gratitude,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

nourishment by the roadside {favorite finds friday}

They signal the changing of our seasons: roadside stands. 

In the spring, late spring by the pattern I was accustomed to in the West, the farmer's markets open, first with asparagus and greens, it seems we wait an eternity for tomatoes.  Then the roadside farm stands, with a variety of local and regional fare.  My favorites are the modest stands that people establish in their yards or at the end of a driveway; almost always on the honor system.  In mid-August corn stands start popping up, in front yards, farm driveways and convenient parking lots.  As autumn arrives fully the farm stand will transform its fare from produce to pumpkins, gourds and canned apple butter.  And by the end of October it will close.  The corn stands will be long shuttered and we will find ourselves looking toward winter.

But now, pre-September, we have a full season yet to look forward to, and the festivity is still ahead of us.  I have been nine years in Illinois, five in the rural landscape and one of the greatest challenges for me has been adapting to the dramatic change of seasons.  Autumn I love the most.  Winter is hard.  Spring with its potential promise, I find disappointing, I am impatient for beauty and I am still cold.  Summer is nice, long days, thunderstorms and time outside.  But autumn is my favorite, and the first signal of its coming is the arrival of the corn.

I have always loved the experience of driving.  As a child our travel was always by road trip and there was something magical in its anticipation.  I drive a fair amount now, past fields and along rural roads.  I made the decision after my second winter in this rural setting that if I were to be able to continue living here, happily, that I would have to find a way to fall in love with the land.  I would have to discover its beauty.

And beauty I found is not just in breath taking scenery, but in the experience of the land you are in.  The being in of the land, the awareness of it, the seeing of it. 

I do believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  My technically minded husband and I have taught each other that lesson.  The rust and decay that I am captivated by is a painful sight to his function oriented sensibility.  And from this I have learned the value of varying perspectives.  And that ones perspective truly colors experience.

So I have chosen the perspective of exploration, of discovery.  Discovery of the day-to-day.  When I drive I make mental notes, I stop and take photographs when I am able.  My daughter is already leaning this pattern and sometimes offers the suggestion of a stop.

These roadside stands represent so much.  They are regional, seasonal, they provide nourishment for the body, and for me the soul.

They provide the opportunity to connect.  To stop. To get out.  To be in the land.  They are the essence of the roadside, which has been a lure for as long as the road has called to us to go.

I have been captured by this land that I have begun to capture in return.  This sense of discovering a place keeps me captivated, interested and surrounded by beauty.  This nourishment by the side of the road is a treat for me.  A treat in brevity that I eagerly anticipate. 

With gratitude,

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

the waning hours {of summer}

These are the waning hours of summer. 
It is 7:30 p.m. and the light is low. 
It is time to put thirty toes in the tub, but I will let them play a little longer. 
For my desire to be out is as great as theirs. 

Free in the grass, shouts and giggles.
I sit and watch with my pen. 
The crickets are waking up with their song, signaling the nearness of our slumber. 
The fireflies too, sharing their occasional glimmer.

The air is thick, but tolerable. 
This is the evening of summer.  
Maybe if I join them running in the grass I will forget for a moment that I can not make it last, that this season will change, and these toes so fervently running in dimly lit grass will travel in a multitude of new directions. 

And I will find myself sitting in different scenes.
Content and wishing at the same time. 

With gratitude,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Wherein is the record of life stored?
What is held in the objects we leave behind?
Tidbits of our activity, pieces of our passion.

Today I opened a suitcase and was flooded with the musty, desperately familiar smell of my grandmother's house.

Inside tiny things that have been gathered up; lots of thread, books, towels, trays, jars, pieces of this and that.

What are these pieces -- items I have stored without a place to put them, I will never let them go.

Her hands touched these, her eyes gazed at them, her mind worked at them.

My my heart is captivated by their thick and delicious aroma, moving me back and forward through time, through the lense of my memory...

I am a small child running down what seemed to be an infinitely long hallway.

I am a teenager navigating a visit to a foreign and familiar dwelling: a new house.

I am an adult touching each tiny piece I come upon. Moving my eyes up and down walls and across surfaces, surrounded by the evidence of a life. Each object like water in the desert, quenching my wish to be with her again.

And today I am grateful as my connection to her springs anew with the opening of a suitcase.

With gratitude,

Monday, August 18, 2014

the long thin day

The long thin day turns into night and I follow its path.
I let it weave my way, I go humbly along.
I go humbly along.

The long thin day is all I have,
the path through here,
the path though now.

My thoughts become stagnant as I search for new words.
And my mind turns over on an empty field --
seeking to sew its wares.

The long thin day spills into night -- I am not ready to be still.
I want something more from these hours.
Teach me more I pray.
Teach me more.

With gratitude,

Friday, August 15, 2014

History in Place & Old World Wisoconsin {favorite finds friday}

Thatched roof barn at Old World Wisconsin

Since I was a child I have loved visiting places of history.  There was one in particular, a place my mother took us occasionally, that I loved.  The Kerbyville Museum in Kerby, Oregon.  It was located on a rural highway not more than 20 minutes from our home.  I loved visiting this quaint spot.  A house museum, adjacent history center and outside grounds speckled with tools and equipment, perhaps some of them we could touch and climb on.  I was happy to discover upon writing this piece that this museum is still in operation, while another of my favorites was shuttered within the past eight years due to lack of funding. 

Photograph Kerbyville Museum Facebook page

As a child there was a little bit of magic at the Kerbyville Museum, it was a place that made me feel as though I was somewhere else, and it spurred my imagination.  Always I remember a lady showing us around and it seemed as though we were often the only ones there.  I have to admit as someone who now works in the small museum industry, sparse visitation is never desirable; but as a child I loved it when we were the only ones; as if I had this land all to myself, imagination unbroken by the intrusion of other souls, representing the outside world.

Entrance drive at Old Word Wisconsin

The desire to engage with places of history has always stayed with me it is a passion and now a part of my profession.  Historic places still engage my senses and imagination.  As an adult visitor I love even more the experience of a historic place.  And now as a parent I have the glorious opportunity to tour my children around the grounds of places that stood long before us.  I think, at not yet five, my daughter is still too young to fully grasp the concept of history.  But the idea that something is different and has existed for a long time, seems to have some resonance. 

It is not my intention at this stage to provide history lessons to my children by taking them to these places, but to give them the experience of place; that I believe was also my mother's intention. 

Here in rural parts of the Midwest, that experience often includes the vast landscape, nature at their fingertips.

This past weekend we visited a place quite steeped in both history and landscape. Old World Wisconsin located in Eagle, Wisconsin is a vast acreage, home to more than 60 structures relocated from around the state of Wisconsin.  It opened in 1976. The academic in me first winced at the thought of so many buildings being relocated.  But upon visiting, I was fully enveloped by this gem.

The grounds are sprawling, dotted with buildings reestablished in farmsteads, and villages; there are working animals and growing crops.  Gardens that produce vegetables to be used in workshops and cooking demonstrations.  Interpreters, bake, sew, build fences, shave shingles, play games in addition to a host of other period appropriate activities. 

And amongst it all visitors are welcomed to roam the roads and farms, and help themselves in and out of houses, churches, barns, hotels and city halls.  There is posted information, but if you don't look you will almost miss it; this place seems to offer only what you are seeking.

Old World Wisconsin is an entirely immersive experience.  It equaled in me the experience of my youth; of feeling fully enveloped in a place.  And although there were other people there, this time it did not seem to matter, we all moved about at our own pace, it seems, the space around us conforming to those movements, nothing was obtrusive. 

It is this kind of experience that I still relish and I relish bringing my children to.  It is a place of discovery and learning, but also a place of reflection.

With gratitude,

on facebook

Monday, August 11, 2014

I remember {a soft breeze}

I remember being a small child, in a small house, in a large forest.

I remember my bedroom on a perfect spring day, an window open, a breeze, wildflowers.

I remember the air, even though I can not describe it, and I remember curtains blowing in that perfect breeze.

I have always remembered this scene and how perfect and hopeful it felt. 

Sometimes when a soft dry breeze blows across this flat landscape that I now inhabit I see a glimpse of it again, quickly in my mind.  It is a short scene wrapped in much hope.

It is hope that rides on a breeze. 

I do not always welcome the winds that blow here.  Harsh they blow sometimes.  Wild in the night, wild across the day.

But sometimes they are sweet and light and carry back the hope that lofted though my woods all those years ago.

With gratitude,

on facebook

Friday, August 8, 2014

my kitchen {favorite finds friday}

Ok, so this week's favorite find may be a bit of a thematic stretch but I have two justifications for it.  It is a piggyback on last week's organic farm, and it is in the spirit of seeing things that we look at everyday. So here it kitchen...

There is a kind of day that happens in my kitchen, and it is usually unplanned, that is one of my favorite kind of days.  It is the day when I come home from the grocery or farmers market or farm stand and suddenly the counter tops are full and pots are boiling or the oven temperature is climbing; always a mess is building.  Sometimes my thirty toes are sleeping, sometimes they are crawling under me.  But that day suddenly orbits around what will happen in the kitchen.  It is activity that runs away with me. 

The majority my of days are busy days in the kitchen, I approximate that I spend about 80 percent of my at home time in our kitchen, it is truly the deep heart of our home. Architecturally it sits in the center of the house, open and easily passed through.  It is the place where all aspects of our life come together. 

I am often so busy in this space that I am not really present there; not really seeing what is happening around me.  I am doing many things at one time, a chore, a project, a meal, often eating one and making one at the same time.  I am often rushing, often thinking about 'other' things.   

But it is those times that I find myself carried away by the kitchen that I find myself most present there.  The tasks that have this power are not everyday ones, but the special ones, the ones that create something extra; something that will be frozen for later, something that will be baked and kept aside until the next morning.

I love the preparation of the kitchen, the creating of something that will nourish and satisfy.  I love the mess, I truly love a messy kitchen, for it means that something meaningful happened there. 

I love the dirty hands and the varied smells and a full sink.  I love that I have created something that will feed.  And in the process I am fed.

My kitchen is the place where I am most, I love it when I actually realize I am there. 

I realized this week that I do not always know when I am in the kitchen, for the wish of being elsewhere.  But when that presence of mind comes to me I am truly fulfilled.

And it is that presence that I seek to bring to the daily multitude, the dishes washed and rewashed, the cereal, the banana, the crumbs on the floor.   

So while I relish being carried away by the special tasks, I seek more to part of the everyday ones.  Knowing fully that I may at times or often wish to be else where, but that it is only presence of mind that allows us the true fulfillment of either one.

With gratitude,

Thursday, August 7, 2014

a silent house {written last night}

The house is sensationally quiet tonight. 

It is late, and quiet it should be.  But this silence is somehow palpable tonight. I am awake alone, mildly sick, and it feels almost as though I am getting away with something.

The dog is sleeping at the foot of my bed and my daughter fell asleep beside me.  I went downstairs to make tea when I should be sleeping.

I should put my daughter in her own bed, but I relish the sound of her soft snoring and the sight of her slightly contorted posture; half atop and half under the covers. 

I am sipping tea and writing when I should be sleeping, but perhaps these feed me more.

I am comforted by the thick silence of the house and I want to soak it in -- or maybe just rest in it -- but I don't want to miss it in slumber. 

Soft snore after soft snore fade in and out of the enveloping silence.  My awareness of it like the wave of my mind in meditation, riding in and out of now.

She stirs and her breath softens to a whisper. 

My eyes are heavy, but I am content.

The tea in my cup is still warm, so I will indulge my pen for a while. 

With gratitude,

on facebook

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

saturday morning {tuesday artist date night}

I wanted to get out early, to feel the world when it was fresh, I wanted to soak up its newness and feel renewed. 

But instead I am out in the early afternoon, when the world has warmed and the fresh eggs have all been purchased from the local growers at the farmers market. 

Where am I to find inspiration amongst my dashed expectations?

I sit down on the grass in a sweet town square, the vestiges of the market standing and coming down at its perimeter.  I look at the time -- I have a limit.

I need to find my inspiration fast or I will return without it -- what a waste. 

And then I catch myself.  What impossible circumstances have I created?  This pressure and conjecture will not create what I long for. 

And at first that is all I know.

And then I begin to write.

Without a plan.

My pen meets pad and my heart breathes a sigh of relief...

With gratitude,

on facebook

Friday, August 1, 2014

Angelic Organics {favorite finds friday}

To me the Midwest is a vast collection of things to be found, discovered.  Nested here and there are oddities, and jewels born of interest, passion and necessity.  The landscape so open that the face of time is written clearly across its surface.  

In rural areas in particular old and new sometimes stand side by side; the modern neighborhood and the crumbling barn left to natures devices.  While urban centers such as Chicago provide vibrate and eclectic experiences.  And while I am quite thankful to live in relatively close proximity to an urban environment I have found myself growing increasingly captivated by the eclectic collage of the rural landscape that I now live in the midst of.  It is this possibility for discovery that has helped me fall in love with where we live; the numerous little places that can be come upon, the barn that can be photographed from the side of the road, the endless sky that illuminates an unending path. 

This new Friday series will be a place for exploring some of these happened upon places, these finds.

For my first installment I am sharing one of my absolute favorites, a slice of heaven on earth to me, Angelic Organics, in Caledonia, Illinois. They are an organic farm and CSA (community supported agriculture)with a great learning center where they offer a wide variety of classes and resources.  

This is my first year as a CSA shareholder and I am smitten, but beyond the fresh organic food, u-pick garden and inspiring community loft I have fallen in love with the well grounded peace of this place.    

As I am a half-shareholder, I pick up a box of fresh produce every other Wednesday, June through October. This pick-up has become a kind of pilgrimage for me and my dear friend Jillian, who encouraged me to join with her.  On these mid-week days we meet at the farm to pick up our glorious boxes, we stow them safely in our cars and then head out to the u-pick garden.  My thirty toes tag along with us, running, hopping, sometimes being carried and then we all gather up just a little bit more.  Perhaps the best part is simply being among the plants, hands getting just a little dirty, hearts filling.  

It is a place that invites experience, I must linger.  I love seeing my children in the natural world, that experience is, to me, one of the most important I can offer them.  These are different wilds than I grew up in and I learn new depths through their eyes.

I exhale when I come to this place.  It is like stepping outside and stepping in at the same time. 

And there is art, and there are messages.  Pieces of this and that collected and placed, none of it expected, and that is the best part. 

An organic farm with an artistic flair, that is about heaven to me.

With gratitude,