Try, Try Again

Ah, the best laid plans.

A meltdown or two, plus a murderous cat, can go a long way towards derailing the relaxation train. A good many of the nice things on our list actually happened: bread was baked, projects saw progress, sketches were sketched, “the best lentil soup I ever had” was consumed, and biscuits were baked in the shapes of hearts and teddy bears. So, there was a decent enough balance. I just think we’ll have to try again for a true day of Retreat.

The hike, well that was the kicker, really. It ended up being a funeral procession for our little friend Gillian Gilfeather, known by his loved ones as “Gil,” who we found deceased in his tank late yesterday morning. I had spent the last month and a half researching and rehabilitating him from a sick critter into a once again vibrant, interactive and funny little (well, if little is being at least as long as my forearm) aquatic friend. We’ve had him around for quite some time and when he got sick, I was sure there was nothing I could do for him. I mean, it’s hard to even just describe what the heck he is, let alone doctor him. The details probably aren’t interesting if you don’t have an axolotl amongst your family members, but he made a most remarkable recovery and we were very fond of him.


I don’t know why it took so long, now that I think about it, but a few days ago, one of the cats discovered that there is a gap in the aquarium lid, right next to the filter, and that this gap is just big enough for him to fit his paw through. He had his arm in up to the shoulder when I caught him in the act. At the time, I didn’t know he’d done damage, and we placed a rock over the opening in the tank lid. I’m sure I don’t need to tell the rest of the tale, but Gil (the guy on the left…Li’l, on the right, had passed some time ago) is now buried under a mound of snow by a stream and the cat is in my lap, licking my chin. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue with calling him the cat but he’s in the mushpot right now, as far as I’m concerned, even though he likely thought Gil existed solely for his sport and potential sustenance. And yes, I know it’s not as heartbreakingly tragic as losing a…different kind of pet, but it was a bummer, especially after making him well again, and it just sort of set a somber tone for the rest of the weekend.


The Murderer. The handsome, purring murderer, rubbing all up on my fiber. I forgive him.

O was sad, surely, but is already wondering when we’ll get a new axolotl. So it goes.

After the burial, we did make quite a bit of progress with planning for this year’s garden. We can probably get by with a minimal seed order this year, as we have quite a bit of seed leftover from last year and we’re going to try starts for some of the longer season veggies like onions, tomatoes, peppers, and melons. We just don’t get enough light up in these dark woods to start everything from seed and with the greenhouse demolished, we have a lot less space for growing our own starts this year, anyway. Point: Spring dreaming is in full effect.


So, this morning, it’s hearts for breakfast and warm tea as we get ready for another wicked cold snap to set in. A slow start today, hopefully starting our week on a positive note.

I’ll save up the chia recipe for tomorrow. We weren’t really feeling like photographing comfort food yesterday…we just wanted to be comforted.



…there it went.

A week or so.

And, also:


Our Greenhouse. RIP.


Clockey, the best rooster we’ve ever known. RIP.


Li’l, the Littlest Axolotl. RIP.

Harsh climate + farm life = constant lessons in the art of Letting Go. Somehow, it just doesn’t stick and we have to learn it over and over and over again and it’s harder every time.

In more pleasant news, I’ve been around the Sparkle blog here


and here


and updating my shop here.


It’s not to late for the holidays, btw. Free upgrade to Priority Mail between now and Saturday, December 21st, and of course, there are always clubs and gift certificates, too:


Whew. Well, back to regularly scheduled programming henceforth.

precious. all of it.


This candle has been here before.

I wrote these words to accompany it:

“It comes to a point where there is just not much more you can do…you say goodbye in all the ways you know how and then you try to fill the hole, to answer all the existential questions, to weave this new thread into the fabric of your life and then…go on.

It was not the first time I’d experienced the loss of a loved one, but this…was different. He had not lived to a ripe old age or even long enough to reach and enjoy what we all thought to be his potential as an adult person making our world a better place.

Looking back, we can find the lessons, the gifts, and maybe even come to understand the importance of really knowing that there is no such thing as saving it for later. But, time inevitably goes by and it’s easy to get caught up in the daily junk and shove the knowing into a dark corner, to have a shitty day or five in a row, and say “in a minute” until it’s a meaningless phrase.

It’s all precious. Until we forget that it’s all precious.

Today, we lost a beloved young member of our little community. Even though I never had the pleasure of meeting Lexy in person, I knew her story. I rooted for her. I hoped for a miracle.

O wanted to know what cancer is, and why this girl he didn’t know is gone because of it, and it’s as unexplainable, as unfathomable, as Gavin’s death by drowning. All I could do was hold him close, spend a considerable amount of time reading Paddington and giggling with him in the dark. Remembering, in an acutely painful way, just how precious it all is.

Twenty: 52





 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.


O, this week you…

…keep asking me when kitty will come home and all I can say is that I don’t know, that he may not, but we can still love him forever.

…took apart your old bike, just to do it. You broke it down completely, dividing up the parts into piles of what you might like to keep around for repairs and what you will repurpose for building projects, like that robot you keep talking about. Nothing is trash, and I think that’s pretty great.

…were really interested in the process of getting our bees situated this time around. We’ll enjoy watching them work this summer.

C, this week you…

…made it through, even though it was a tough one. We are stretched thin and feel a lot of pressure from many sources. We’re strong for each other, and I am grateful.

…felt disappointed when you didn’t get as far with the garden prep as you wanted to this weekend. Breaking new ground with only hand tools…it’s punishing, exhausting labor and, being the observer, I’m amazed at how much you were able to change the landscape. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

…set up the beeeeeees, and they seem happy in their new digs.

…kept yourself distracted and busy, as did I, so as not to constantly wonder if kitty will ever come home again.


Liquid Gold

The first day of Spring came and went, drenched in a thick blanket of fresh fallen snow.

It was only the week before we were basking in warm days, a whole string of them, our ears filled with the sounds of melting snow and the drip, drip, drip of sap into the buckets, while brown patches of earth began to emerge.


We collected sweet sap all through that blissfully warm week, and through the pain of mid-week news that broke our hearts. A bright little light in our circle of friends had faded from the earth, leaving behind a deeply grieving community, a mother and father walking the most difficult path of letting go, a path my heart rebels against even imagining.

As the sap boiled, I watched it go from clear to golden, and then to the characteristic rich caramel brown, where it stayed as we waited for it to reach the perfect temperature. I noted how quickly the change occurred, from gold to brown. It looks like liquid sunshine for just a few minutes.

On Monday, my friend wrote that her son’s light had been so strong in life, that now he is gold. In the sunlight rippling on the water, in the return of every dawn, we can behold his brilliant golden light for just a few precious moments.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

-Robert Frost


And here is my liquid gold, now maple-y brown. I will always let the sweetness linger on my tongue, a reminder that nothing precious to us will stay forever. Every breath in and every breath out is an opportunity to honor the beauty of the present moment, because all we can truly hold onto is right now.


There you are, and there I am…27 years ago…shaping dough I’ve undoubtedly dyed with enough of each color to make a disgusting-looking blob of gray. I suppose I thought I would have those sugar cookies all to myself that way. How many times did I try that trick? It never worked, but after a dough-eating-induced bellyache, I didn’t much care who ate them, anyway. The joy was in the making, in the time we spent together, the flour-coated afternoons in your kitchen.

In later years, your house would be my Safe Place. I could leave the pain and awkwardness of a school day behind me, and feel a bit lighter with every step from the bus stop to your front door. Every hateful moment washed away when you called me Lovebug and set me up with some pine nuts to nibble on while I did my homework.

It was always that way, so comforting to be with you.

In later later years, there were many personal struggles I did not share with my loved ones. I battled alone and somehow still expected everyone to understand me while I guarded carefully the faces I showed. I made impulsive decisions…my demons led me to believe I was entitled to be entirely selfish. And I was. And as undeserving as I felt, you always loved me, anyway. I never took that for granted.

The day after Christmas, I looked into your eyes and there were so many things I wanted to tell you, forgiveness I wanted to ask for, love I desperately wanted to express. The tears that roll down my cheeks as I write are full of all my unspoken words.

I ache for how you must have suffered this past year. I ache for Grandpa, who poured all his being into taking such good care of you and who now will have to learn how to continue on his life’s journey without your physical presence. As much as I ache for all of us who will miss you, I take comfort that you are released from pain. I take comfort that you are all around me, that all the ways you touched my life are within me always and there is nothing can take that away.

I love you, Grandma. May you peacefully rest.