Now, where did I leave that?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Once More, With Feeling!

Wishing you peace, love, contentment, abundance 
& laughter in the new year!

And in the wise and inspirational words of Neil Gaiman:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!!

Welcome Christmas, come this way
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp
Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer
Christmas time will always be
Just as long as we have we
Welcome Christmas, bring your light.....

(Y'all know where this comes from, right?)

May your days be merry and bright no matter what you do or don't celebrate this time of year as the light begins to grow and a new year peeks around the corner. May there be peace on Earth and sugarplums dancing in your head and heart. May the gifts that can't be wrapped shine even brighter than those in packages, boxes and bows. 

Miss you all, be back very soon!!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More Gratitude

October is a feast....of color, abundance, bounty, beauty. Every year I try to gorge myself on it like a child who knows that birthday cake only comes once a year and so eats until sick. Of course, unlike that child, I never get sick of or from October; I want more and more....and its inevitable passing breaks my heart.

Ah, but then, cooling balm to the riotous color, peace to the frenzy of activity, November arrives. Its winds blow away the warm Summer evenings' haze, and there's a delicate, naked beauty in the blue-black night and bare trees adorned only by the waxing Moon and Venus.

November can be harsh and intense; even as I began to write this yesterday,  the stiff breeze had the wind chimes calling out in alarm and the sun shades banging the window frame. The fire was up, we wore double layers, and I was tucked into red alpaca socks all day. It was a gray day, but the kind of gray that is unmistakably November, the perfect backdrop for the golden browns and and lingering yellows, a day that requires the simmering of soup & burning of cedar incense, and so I embraced November with nary a glance back at October. A farm market visit was followed by the making of an amazing roasted squash and apple soup (with bacon!), not a creamy and refined soup; no, this soup is hearty, chunky, beautiful and comforting.

I will say the recipe has a few vague moments, and the end result was a tad too sweet. I recommend leaving the bacon in large pieces and removing once the simmering part is done. The recipe uses "white wine or water"; water seemed a bad plan, and I didn't have white wine in the house, so I used cider. Next time I'll use a dry white wine, and tarter apples, and perhaps a wee bit of ginger. I also suggest not mincing the garlic, but instead throwing in a generous amount of halved cloves (I think I halved about 10 good sized cloves) with the apples and squash and onions. I mashed the veggies just with two big spoons, purposely leaving some chunks. Oh, and I added a bay leaf to the simmer pot. It's a soup worth experimenting with, and will go well with grilled cheese sandwiches for a comforting dinner tonight.

We took a ride through the encroaching dusk, dogs in the back of the car watching the world pass by; our destination was the piece of property we're in the process of buying. We have a contract but it's an odd and convoluted story that may take quite a few months to iron out. It's several acres about 40 minutes from here, elevated just enough to change horticultural zones from 5b to 5a, and just a wee bit cooler, 5 or so degrees, from our own house. The wind blows nearly all the time there, sliding off the slopes of the northern Catskills, a living being ever present.  We've yet to manage photos that truly capture the beauty, 

so it will have to be enough to say that the mountains are right there, so close they look like you could walk to them, so close the land feels nestled into their lap. I'm learning alot about patience and trust (as my sister & I say about patience & trust--blech!, although she's so much better at them than I) as we wait to see if it will all untangle. 

This morning I stood out on the porch, coffee in hand, surveying the yard and the vast amount of buttoning up left to do, telling Linda it'll be easier to just move than try to get it all done. And then I realized that the back yard was filled with birds: gold & house finches, bluebirds, chickadees, juncoes, at least three kinds of woodpeckers, and more....gorging on coneflower and black-eyed susan seedheads, in the weeds and trees and quince bush, in the raised beds and tomato pots. I love watching the birds; next weekend's chore list includes setting up the feeder stations in the front yard, but to see so much activity in the back was such a gift, and an affirmation of our plan to begin turning part of the back yard from lawn to meadow. I can watch birds for hours, but alas, too many tasks are lined up for the day, from creating storage for a large quantity of Winter squash to making room in the freezer for several more quarts of soup, roasting veggies for dinner later this week, and cleaning two cupboards to make room for the plethora of spices we purchased while on Cape Cod.  But the window shades will stay up so I can watch the birds as I work. If you're not seeing so many birds today, perhaps a visit to this webcam will make you smile and give you a taste of November's peace. Because amidst the chores and the impending holidays is an oasis of calm. November (in this hemisphere, anyway) invites us to prepare for Winter but also to begin hibernating, snuggling in, to sit by a fire and take time to watch the birds; to simmer soups and stews; to knit and spin, sew, read, write; to dream and plan; to savor this moment. November has moments of such quiet, almost the hushed whisper of a Winter snowfall but not quite...November is our chance to catch our breath, recoup, and prepare for the months ahead. And for that, I'm deeply grateful.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Giving Thanks

Do you ever catch a recurring theme out of the corner of your eye? Maybe you're bringing in groceries and catch a glimpse of shirttail as it disappears behind a tree. Perhaps it flits past your window just as you look up from your desk. Or you're outside watching the sky at sunset, hear a rustle in that pile of leaves, and it's gone. And yet, each time you spy juuust enough to recognize and name it. In this particular case, its name is Gratitude. Suddenly a call to this particular grace is appearing like pumpkins in October, glowing without a word, waiting peacefully if not patiently for me to sit up and heed the call. There was this post by one of my favorite bloggers. There was an invitation in my email inbox for another 21 day meditation challenge (I admit, i never get farther than a week and a half, but this invitation came at just the right time) dedicated to 21 days of....gratitude. I was working on a post for Sagewomon blogs on resolutions for the spiritual new year, and the one that was most insistent on being included was--come on, say it with me--gratitude.

I like to think I'm good about being grateful. But when I'm being honest, maybe I'm sometimes a tad cursory about it, flipping off a thank you in the same vein as saying "have a nice day" to someone when you honestly couldn't care less about that person's day....not that you wish them a bad one, just....not invested in whether their day is good, bad or indifferent.  I've never been all that fond of Thanksgiving day, believing that what we learned about it in grade school 'history' class was a revisionist fable, and self-righteously declaring that we shouldn't need a government-appointed day to give thanks. But November really is a big lead-up to that day; it permeates the air like wood smoke this time of year. So it seems I need to take the not-so-subtle hint and take some serious time to revisit gratitude, to learn from Kelly at Minding My Nest, to take part in the (free)
21 Day Gratitude Meditation Challenge, and work on honing general thankfulness into something rich, deep and tangible, to experience Gratitude as a state of grace, and share it with you, if you'll allow me to.

Yesterday's meditation thought  (please note; you can pick it up at any time, even if you 'missed' the first day or two or ten...) was "With profound gratitude, I live my purpose." Well, this may not be the most thankful of thoughts, but as soon as I heard that, I was in a tizzy.  Purpose?!  Live my purpose?! Not by a long shot, buster! What I do to make a living is most definitely not my purpose and I'm not doing it with gratitude, that's for dang sure! 

Sigh. There goes the enlightenment train, speeding away from the station, me waving my arms like a fool as I run and trip along the tracks behind it.

But then my brain stopped clamoring. I let myself take in the glorious photography that accompanied the meditation, let the words roll over me, and then, like a butterfly landing in my open palm, I knew. I knew what I've known since I was--seriously, not making this up--eight years old. My purpose is a version of translation and expression: observing and taking in the world around me, processing it and then expressing it in a way that lets others--even just one person--recognize it & think that's what I felt/saw/thought but didn't know how to say! Forgive me if that sounds like hubris, because it isn't meant to be. I want to meant to be....a voice. I judge it, belittle my efforts, hide from it, but that is my purpose. And today, with profound gratitude, I'm claiming my purpose. Living it will come, perhaps in baby steps, but owning it here and now is worthy of heart-felt thanks.

How about you? Interested in sharing this gratitude journey? What is your purpose, and are you living it yet? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Home….the four letter word stuffed with so much meaning it looks like an ‘after’ photo in one of those flex trash bag commercials. It can be as simple as a shelter, as complex as love. It can warm the cockles of your heart (wherever cockles might be located; beside the left ventricle, perhaps?) or chill you to the marrow. 

When I was a child, home leaned more to the cold bones side of things. It wasn’t usually a safe haven, a place of warm fuzzies. Oh, there were moments, but home was found in the branches of the willow tree, or in the hollow behind a big lichen-speckled rock, hidden from view by shrubs. Always there was a book involved, and my refuge was in those pages. Every year my family loaded up the car: parents, three kids, camping gear, luggage, and set out at 2 am to head for some mid-Atlantic beach. It was a migration my parents—and I—lived for, landing somewhere between Ocean City, MD and Topsail, NC and we’d settle in for the week. I anxiously awaited the moment we hit the sand and I made my way to the water’s edge, standing juuuusst out of reach of the tide, imagining that with each wave that hit the sand the Sea was rising up to greet me; that first moment chilly, foamy water hit my toes I was being greeted, welcomed…..welcomed home. I would dip a finger into the water & taste it, a sacramental wine that was more communion than anything I’d felt at church. In moments I’d be up to my waist, then diving under, floating on my back, riding the waves to shore and heading back out again, a mermaid restored to the sea from whence she came. Sure, there were rough moments when She got a tad rough, and I felt like a cigarette butt being ground into the sand, but mostly I felt cradled, safe, at peace and joined, blood to salt water, like I belonged there above all other places. I always, always intended one day to live in sight, sound, smell….soul….of the ocean. As an adult, responsibilities conspired to keep me from the sea. There was a day here & there, but an awkwardness prevailed; it didn’t feel quite right to abandon the family to spend hours in the water, turning into a happy prune. Still more years later, I fell in love with the place I’d always lived, this river-kissed valley punctuated by assorted mountains.

I came to know sprawling farms, sunset mountains & dappled woods as my shelter, my place of peace. I’ve mentioned in other posts how, during the year spent living in Baltimore, I longed for the Hudson Valley, how we came off the Thruway on a house-hunting trip, came around a bend in the road, and suddenly tears poured down my cheeks as the snow-draped Catskills came into view, because I had so missed this place. Fast forward to this past week. Linda & I took our first vacation in four years, and went camping on Cape Cod. 

The weather was good, the Moon was full our second night there, we laughed long and hard at Kate Clinton & Karen Williams, ate fish and roasted marshmallows, snuggled under blankets and listened to fog dripping off the trees onto our tent. 

We bought spices, herbs and more at the Atlantic Spice Company, watched the sun set over the salt marsh, 

meandered Fall-bedecked New England roads. And on Saturday, we finally made our way to Herring Cove Beach. In season, this is Provincetown’s most popular beach according to the brochures, but on this cool, sunny late October day, we saw maybe two dozen people. It was mostly just us, sun, sky, breeze, sand, cormorants, a seal…and the sea. As we strolled at the water’s edge, I dipped a finger in the water and touched it to my tongue. The briny cool was as familiar as if my last visit was days ago, not years. 

But later, sitting in the sand with Linda, I realized it no longer felt like home. It was lovely and peaceful, but like visiting….a friend’s home, not mine. I looked at my beloved, wind-blown and lost in thought, her mind spinning with inspiration and plans. We’ve been together 9 years now….we’ve dreamed, planted, painted, learned, worked, laughed, cried, shared dogs, cats, chickens, bees (okay, we don’t actually share the bees!), planned, imagined, risked, sowed, reaped….together. It doesn’t matter whether we’re snuggled in a moon-bathed tent or sweating in the garden, caressed by a blanket of fog on the piece of mountain-view property we’re trying—hoping-- to buy or smushed on the couch with Yeti, Lola, Pip & Elf—one happy, eclectic pack. Home is no longer a place; it’s a state of being, a state of grace. Home is with…no, home is this womon. She is as simple as shelter, as complex as love, and the only home I’ll ever want.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

She's Here!

And She's most welcome: Fall...Autumnal Equinox...that time when changes fly through as quickly as flocks of Canada Geese...

Local apples are becoming sauce in the crockpot, sweetened with local maple syrup. Yesterday's root veggies, gathered from assorted local farms, are about to start roasting in the oven to be enjoyed through the week. Linda is up working with her bees,  I have wool calling my name, the wind is blowing liquid gold light through the already-turning leaves. 

Blessed Fall to all whose hearts sing and souls dance this time of year!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cuspin' It Up

I don't know about you, but for weeks it's felt like I'm balancing on a cobweb thin line, teetering and slipping, one foot landing on this side, the other foot landing on that side....back & forth, over & under. Everything feels like it's living on the cusp, not quite here or there, then or now. Some of it is the seasonal seesaw; in one morning we picked Concord grapes to make jam

and bought a half bushel of San Marzano tomatoes to make batches of pomodoro sauce to freeze, a culinary preservation of two seasons in one day.

It's a strange time of year, one day crazy hot (a week ago we had a heat index of 104), two days later we're longing for a fire in the pellet stove. The hummingbirds are more prolific than they were all Summer, and the chickens are calling it a day before 7:00. I'm antsy for Fall to begin, but those cuspy weeks between late August and the first day of Autumn are my busiest, most stressful at work, leaving me too exhausted to enjoy the aforementioned chilly evenings. I was at work before the sun was fully up, and arrived home after it had settled in for the night. Incidentally, that's why I've been absent from the Land of Bloggers; I've been thinking of so many of you but have scarcely been on the computer for anything but work in weeks. This evening I finally had time to start meandering through your worlds again, trying to catch up with all I had missed.

The purple asters and goldenrod have created a symphony of color, the opening act for the foliage fireworks to come, but some tree disease has pre-empted the maples' show; all over our part of the Hudson Valley the maples are spotted and wilting, leaves falling with every breeze, not with the grace of final bows but with a dread finality of lingering illness. 

I'm grateful to be returning to hearth and home at a more reasonable time, to reacquaint myself with the menagerie (Linda is currently fostering two litters, several weeks apart in age), but antsy to make our escape to Cape Cod in 4 weeks. This past weekend we wandered to a neighboring county and began daydreaming of a life spent waking up to this view:

I'm restless, yet tired, longing to be out in the crisp days and curled up near the fire with wool and tea. There's work to be done, garlic, kale, snakeroot & a spice bush to plant, soups to cook and freeze, apple & pumpkin butter to be made and preserved, but I'm aching for the hibernation of the seasons to come, wanting to just sit somewhere and allow body, soul and mind to knit themselves together again.

I want it all, kids....and I'm not even sure what all is.  Are any of you feeling this same betwixt and between tug these days?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Never Enough

Time, that is.  A staffing issue at work as September marches relentlessly closer and we get busier daily, and days lost to feeling crummy (in part because of the prescribed antibiotics which are almost worse than the illness!) have left me wishing I'd planted at least one bed of seconds this Spring. Why, imagine if I could be out there right now pinching off a few minutes here, digging up an hour there! How awesome would that be???? 

When time gets short, writing is the first thing to fall by the wayside. I come home too tired to do anything but stare into space and hug the critters. But having made a commitment to the Sagewoman blog channel, I snuck a little time away from chores to do a post. And now I'm going to cheat a bit, and rather than write new content today for this blog, I'm going to do a cross post. I know many of you aren't of the Pagan persuasion, but I like to think this post below has something to offer, even if you change Goddess to God, Her to Him.

And I promise to do an original Confessions post later this week! Wishing you a gentle week...

A Different Harvest

We're researchers, Linda and I. We don't just grab a bunch of seeds, stick 'em in the ground and wait. No...we think it to death, researching heirlooms, tracking down companies with organic seeds, amending our soil, measuring rainfall. We were the same way with getting chickens. I knew what breeds I wanted because I spent hours comparing the merit of Australorps versus Orpingtons. We built the coop to ensure the appropriate roosting space, and spent hours discussing placement of the nest boxes versus the roost. I have this idea I need to do things perfectly. A mistake at work costs me lost sleep and spiking blood pressure. A botched dinner prompts numerous apologies to Linda (who honestly couldn't care less), and when my sons run into life's walls, I just assume it was a flaw in my parenting that is causing them anguish. As for my writing skills, well, no one is a more brutal critic than I. Yeah, bring on that cat o' nine tails and hair shirt!
So when all that research is done, when we've planted things just so, in perfect organic soil, with organic fertilizer, watered exactly as we should, provided just the right sunshine, it's kind of a rude slap when the harvest is...well, nada. This year forty heirloom tomato plants yielded a grand total of a dozen cracked and blemished tomatoes. Our peas barely produced. Heck, even my kale tanked!  Seriously-who can't grow kale? The gardening year started with such promise, and is winding down with anything but a fireworks display of produce. 
But we did have a harvest. You know what grew this year? The fruits and flowers we didn't touch. As I write this, I'm snacking on sweet, juicy grapes, that aside from a March pruning, never received a moment of care. We never even got around to covering them to keep away Japanese beetles. In the freezer, there's a tray jam-packed with blueberries from the bushes we haven't fertilized or pruned. The garlic hanging to cure above the living room window was planted last Fall, covered with straw, and untouched (except for harvesting their scapes) until two weeks ago. Coneflowers, black-eyed susans and morning glories fill the yard with color, but we didn't plant them this year or last. We just let them be.
And so it can--and sometimes should--be in our walk with Goddess. Many of us have created or shared in elaborate rituals; even when solitary, we've smudged, cast the circle, invoked the elements, tossed in more than a few thees & thys. We've chosen the right colors and written poetry, researched which aspect of Her to call upon. Perhaps the ensuing ritual was profound and mystical, took us to a deeper place with Her and ourselves. and that's good. But it's so easy to over think, to strive for the perfect prayer, perfect ritual; it's easy to lose sight of what we seek because we're lost in the planning. 
There's a peace that comes with stepping outside with your coffee first thing in the morning and raising it in toast to the One that gave us that morning. There's a simplicity and contentment that comes from taking a walk in the woods and just having a conversation with Her. The whispered thank you breathing from our lips as we fall asleep can be the perfect prayer. The mundane can become the sacred with our intent; as we put our gardens to bed and preserve our harvests for the Winter to come, we can ask Goddess what in ourselves, in our lives, can be preserved or put to rest. We can wash the dishes or organize our desks while singing our favorite Goddess chants. I'm blessed with a short commute to a less than ideal job, and often use that morning drive to say a prayer and ask a blessing for the day (sometimes, it's simply Goddess, give me strength !). 
Don't let your mind shout over your heart and soul. Choose one small act to bring Her into your here and now without perfect words or the right incense blend. Just one. Maybe tonight, when you lock the doors before bed, whisper a hello to the waxing Moon and ask Her to shine on and protect your hearth and home. Take just one moment to see and feel Her with no preparation. I promise, you'll reap far more than you've sown!

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Thursday was Lughnasadh for those of us who call ourselves pagan. It's a holy day in honor of Lugh, an ancient Celtic god often represented by light and a powerful sun. My path is Goddess-centric, and so I acknowledge the day as the first of the three harvest festivals (the second is the Fall Equinox, the third, Samhain--Halloween). The very first seasonal ritual I consciously observed as spiritual practice was Lughnasadh, about 17 years ago. I remember rising at dawn so I could go into the park across the street from us before the neighborhood awoke, and there I made offerings of corn muffins, gave thanks, and rejoiced at the turning of the Wheel. This year I honored the day in part by slow-roasting and then freezing tomatoes from a local farm, giving thanks for the bounty that will sweeten Winter evenings. 

But I don't like alot of things about Summer; it's a season that leaves me squirming in discomfort, languishing in heat and humidity. I'm deeply grateful for the bounty of this time of year; I know this morning the farm market will yield apricots and plums, tomatoes and zucchini, herbs and corn. And I love that the place I work is closed on Fridays most of the Summer. Friday mornings on the porch, drinking coffee while soaking in the glory of the morning glories and the songs of the birds are a blessing I don't take for granted. I'm kind of backwards; this is my hibernation time, the time when I have little choice but to dream and plan. I come awake as the days grow shorter and the nights cooler, when pumpkins and apples replace tomatoes as farm market staples. But still, there is a harvest here in our corner of the world....

We gathered our first garlic today!  We've never grown it before, and got 28 heads for 72 cloves planted, but there it is, hung in a never-gets-direct-sun north-facing living room window, with a window fan below, our very first homegrown garlic! We have several notes of things to do better in the future (remove the Winter straw mulch and fertilize come Spring among them), but for a few months, we'll savor this very first garlic. 

Garlic is a fascinating thing; for those who haven't grown it, you plant individual cloves. About nine months later (!), after it has lived in the dark, put out tall green shoots into the world, and those shoots have danced in Summer breezes and then died back, you get big heads of the stuff, and you plant individual cloves from the best of those heads....if you get it right, you sow what you reap and then sow the best of that harvest. Isn't that a great metaphor for spiritual growth?  

What are you harvesting this month as Summer begins her final songs?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Furry Friday

Linda's been bringing home kittens (and a cat) this Summer for fostering. The last batch was a mom and five babies, left abandoned in an apartment after the owners moved out. Mom stayed with us about a week, the babies another two weeks, and I'm sorry to say we never took photos. They were a wonderful bunch, too cute and playful. 

They left us a week and a half ago or so....and today she's brought home a batch of 3 week olds, surrendered with no mom. They should be brief visitors, just a couple of weeks, but it's a beautiful litter of four. 

There's a very very fuzzy black one as well, but so far no good photos. We've named the orange one Bellini (even though neither of us drinks), but it may be a few days before the others get their own call signs.

Gorgeous weather, dry and more...appropriately warm. Wishing you an abundantly beautiful weekend...go hug something furry!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Odd World of Blogging

Blogging is kind of weird. For me--and many like me--it's both writing exercise and semi-journal. I began this one just before the end of 2009, I think in large part to make me write, somewhere, something. Two years later, I bid you all a fond farewell, having decided it was keeping me from Serious Writing, giving me a false sense of written accomplishment, and announced the end of Confessions of a Would-Be Mountain Womon. That lasted a whole whopping month. I wasn't writing any more elsewhere, and I missed the act of electronic journaling, of sharing my thoughts, fears, joys with others. And I especially missed the comments, the interactions with you.

I also love reading your blogs. We share some assorted similiarities, and some big differences. Not one of us has the same life as the other, although one or the other travels the same spiritual path, or is a would-be homesteader as well (or provides an example to emulate), or knows what it is to feel less one's self without wool in some form nearby, or feels more complete when writing. We may not know each other, but perhaps we've both watched our children grow up and leave. Maybe we've both begun new lives unrecognizeable from what they were before. I like to think we bond with certain bloggers on some level, perhaps not all, but certain ones whose journeys resonate with something in us, whose written postcards awaken memories or inspiration.

But even as we bridge the distance between us with words and thought, the realities of physical distance and relative anonymity are a gulf we sometimes never manage to leap. Awhile back, the blog My Farmhouse Kitchen abruptly fell silent. One day there were posts, and then....not. It was months later that another blogger posted the heartbreaking news that the My Farmhouse Kitchen's writer had fought valiantly but lost a battle with cancer. Her blog, and more so the glimpses of her spirit in that blog, are missed.

The blogosphere seems a delicate web to me, made with silken threads that can withstand the darkest night's rain and glisten in the rising sun, but can be torn to shreds with a wave of the hand.

And so, perhaps we make friends with some fellow bloggers as our souls recognize kindred spirits, reaching out past the pages of cyberspace. And for the rest, well...we celebrate their presence, honor their hearts spilled out on our computer screens, and mourn when they disappear, grateful for the time together.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

To Write or Not to Write...

I'm a writer...really--look at my profile! So then, one would assume I write, right? Yeah, not so much. Oh, I write this blog which I love, although this nasty hot and humid Summer has found me sprawled in front of a fan with a book rather than in the office with the computer. I'm part of a new collective group of bloggers writing from a Goddess-centric perspective (my blog there is called Day by Day). I write the occasional essay for Sagewoman magazine, and once in a  great while, a poem will spring from my pen. And that's it. Doesn't make me much of a writer, huh?

Funny thing is, I've always wanted to be a writer, since my earliest days of shamelessly plagiarizing The Bobbsey Twins at the age of 7, and discovering haiku when I was 8 years old. From even that young age, I wanted to be able to write in a way that would make people say "that's exactly how I feel, but I didn't know how to put it into words!". Something has always stopped my attempts at it, a monster as insidious as mildew in a Summer like this one, with dozens of small razor sharp teeth, judgemental blood-shot green eyes, an evil, grating whisper of a voice whose every word is like barbed wire shredding flesh and spirit, a shape-changer who can assume the guise of stranger, critical friend, trusted parent, even--especially--the face in the mirror. Fear of Failure is the demon's name, and he's held me captive for decades.  Once in a while, I'd muster the strength and will to slip from his grasp, to run barefoot through the forest exalting in my escape, tossing glances over my shoulder and ducking ominous shadows, searching for pen and paper. But always he would hunt me down and drag me back into the dark, wordless dungeon. Sometimes the monster was truly seductive, reminding me oh so silkily, if one never tries, one can never fail; isn't that right? Why put yourself through that? In a world simply bursting with real writers, why expose what a poor imitation you truly are? You're safe here with me....

This past weekend, when I was at a very low point, stressed about work to the point of breaking, Linda asked me a question. Ashling, if you could do something, anything else, what would it be? And what would you need to do to make that happen? And once more the answer I've been giving for 45 years echoed in my head. I want to write. Coincidentally (or not so much coincidence?), the day before she asked me this I had picked up my copy of The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron off the altar where it has lain untouched for over a year, and begun reading it, and had actually done two days of Cameron's foundational exercise--morning pages. This week Linda's question and my rote answer have run through my brain in an endless cycle. The monster's words chase the answer, but in a voice oddly like my own. It's the same old story: be safe, don't try. Dabble if you must, but stop calling yourself a writer, stop saying "I want to be a writer" like some tutu-wearing four year old declaring she wants to be a princess when she grows up.

But a strange thing happened this morning as I was rather petulantly doing my morning pages on the porch, wondering why I'm bothering, what it will accomplish. Another voice, shaking a little but sweet and clear, piped up. So what? What would 'failure' look like and what would it change?

"What would it change?" the demon roared. "She would finally know she's a failure, that her dream has been a waste of time, an impossibility, a bad joke!"

"You haven't answered the question. What would failure be? She doesn't publish the great American novel? She isn't declared the next Mary Oliver? She doesn't win the National Book Award? Those particular fantasies might not come to pass, but how necessary are they? If she wants to write, to touch others' souls, "to write in a way that would make people say 'that's exactly how I feel, but I didn't know how to put it into words'", it's time. The days, the years spin by faster and faster....the real truth is it's now or never.

The demon's sly smirk grows triumphant. "Then never it is!"

Ummm...hang on just a minute. NEVER? Never to write? Never to break free of  the monster? To spend every moment of the rest of my life in its embrace? Seductively safe, maybe....but with some pretty awful morning breath, ya know. I'm not so sure about never....I'm not willing to commit to never. Never is forever, and I just don't think I'm okay with that. It's about damned time I kick the monster to the curb, don't you think? What do I have to lose? So what if I 'fail', whatever that looks like.

At least I'll go down fighting.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Blossoming

Summer is in full, sodden, muggy, hot swing, the air soupy and the sun blazing. While that's a tad rough on those of us who don't love the season, the flowers are brazenly blooming, luring hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Some, like the mandevilla, are downright wanton,

while the oxalis tucked into the Japanese maple pot 

and the toronia gracing the shade garden are more quietly alluring.

Like these more subtle blossoms, I too have been quietly venturing out into the world. I'm honored to be part of a brand-new Goddess-focused blogosphere that just launched this week. My blog will focus on the day-to-day relationship we can have with Goddess, a relationship that takes time, effort..and showing up. I hope you'll stop by and read my first offering: She Never Promised Us a Rose GardenMy deep thanks go out to the amazing Anne Niven, and my fellow bloggers; I feel blessed to be part of this gifted group of Goddess-centric writers. I'm definitely not abandoning this blog, just taking on something new as well. 

What's blossoming in your life today?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's a Good Day

These were victories not just for those seeking same sex marriage rights, but for generations to come. Every step we take towards all people being considered truly equal is a step toward the country we can be.

50% There!

It's a very good day...can we go for a great one?!

Make It So!

Here's hoping that today this country takes a huge step in the direction of true civil rights and equality....c'mon Supreme Court--you can do the right thing!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Garlic Scape Pesto

I've been asked to provide a recipe for this ambrosia. Here's the thing....I don't really follow a recipe. I just start combining ingredients until Linda & I declare it perfect. If one goes poking about on the internet, one will find multiple renditions, some with pine nuts, some with almonds, walnuts or pistachios. There are those folks who miss the point of it being Garlic Scape pesto and insist on using basil. Don't get me wrong, I looooove basil, but if I want basil in my pesto, I won't waste those fleeting bright green curly gems on it. The point is, there are many variations on the theme, but I'll go ahead and get you started:

10 garlic scapes, chopped into 1/2"--1" pieces (use all of the scape, every bit)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (freshly grated, not the dry powder stuff that tastes so good on spaghetti)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2-3/4 cup olive oil (choose an olive oil you would use to dress a salad)
Salt to taste

Put the scapes into your food processer & process until they are very finally chopped & starting to break down. 

Add some of your olive oil,. process for about 20 seconds.

Add the parmesan and some of the olive oil, process for about 15 seconds. Scrape the bowl, process a few more seconds.

Add the pine nuts & some of the olive oil; process at leats 30 seconds, even a whole minute, until it's looking kind of creamy, no obvious chunks of cheese or pine nuts. The pesto will definitely have a coarse texture, but you don't want to be chewing anything. 

Taste it....adjust as desired. Some people add a squeeze of lemon (I don't). Add your salt to taste. If it's too chunky, turn on the processor, add more olive oil through the chute, process some more. If it's too biting, try adding a few more pine nuts and a little cheese. It will mellow slightly after a day in the fridge, so keep that in mind. The key is to taste as you go along until it's the perfect-for-you flavor & texture (okay, yes, I'm also one of those people who sits down to Thanksgiving dinner no longer hungry because I've been tasting and adjusting all day--especially the stuffing; I could be a professional stuffing tester!). When it's done, serve with a rustic bread or crackers, toss with pasta, add to soup, eat it out of the bowl. It does freeze well (okay, I know it freezes for a few days....only once has it survived uneaten in the freezer for a whole month--and it was delicious; I usually pull it out of the freezer looonnngg before that. Have we ever discussed my instant gratification tendencies?). 

Bon appetit!

WARNING: The author of this blog is in no way responsible for any reader's subsequent addiction to Garlic Scape Pesto. She has considered creating an appropriate 12 step program for it, but is currently unwilling to abandon the green demon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Time in the Country

I've never been a city person. The year I joined Linda down in Baltimore was a tough one, and I'll never forget coming off the NYS Thruway at exit 21 and bursting into tears at the glorious site of the Catskill Mountains, so sharp and clear on a Winter's day. I hadn't realized how homesick I was until then. My soul needs trees and green, birds and open spaces, sunset over the mountains and early mornings when the air itself is sun-promising pink. 

So I get a kick out of those days that really personify and embrace the joys of a semi-rural life. Last weekend was kind of like that. Friday we braved pouring rain to go to the Country Living (magazine's) Fair:

Despite the rain, there was a good crowd, and lots of eye candy:

We lusted after this potting bench....this was our style more than anything else we saw.

Bad photo, but behind those flowers is a lamp made of small lights in a woven burlap net. Beautiful!

We ended with lunch....pancakes! Sadly, we didn't see the Beekman Boys; they were there the next day. The rain finally sent us home before we'd seen everything. It was fun to check it out, but I confess we probably wouldn't go again (unless we win Powerball, maybe!).

Saturdays are Farm Market day, followed often by a visit to Eger Bros., one of our favorite farm stands; they don't do the market. Eger's had sweet, luscious, perfect.....

We have nearly 15 quarts tucked in the freezer (thanks, Linda!!) and have been enjoying every bite.

And the surprise at the farm market was garlic scapes! There are plenty of things one can do with these intensely flavorful garlic tops, but for me, there's only one way to use them:

Last year, every time I made garlic scape pesto, I would put some in the freezer. The next day, I would pull it back out of the freezer and eat it. the goal this year is to sock away one cup every week and not pull any back out until Fall. It's highly addictive, so it's a challenge. If you like garlic, you'll love this: ambrosia made with scapes, parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil & salt. Try it!

And Sunday, we planted. There are still a few dozen plants left to go, but at long last all the veggies we bought as seedlings are planted, and we've moved on to flowers! Rain is coming again, at least 2" they say, but by Sunday, maybe we can get a few more square feet of porch back.  

Wishing you the peace and beauty of country living, no matter where you are!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today my mother would be 72 years old. She wouldn't have been happy about that; she wasn't one for aging gracefully. Maybe that's a good thing; as Dylan Thomas urged us:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

She raged until cancer, not age, had the last word.

I sometimes envy those people, like Linda, whose mother-daughter relationships were uncomplicated love stories. That wasn't my experience. But I miss Mom anyway. She had a wicked, sometimes bawdy sense of humor, was smart, perceptive, and eventually--though far too late to repair all the damage she did to her kids--got past enough of her own baggage to be a more loving mother than she was most of our lives. She was a fiercely loyal friend to those who earned that friendship, a trait we share. Alas, we also share the capacity to rip out of our lives those who hurt us or hurt someone we love, with never a second glance. I have her to blame for my explosive temper, but I think & hope I've learned a little tact, diplomacy and the ability to look at both sides and admit when I'm wrong; some days I smile to myself imagining her reaction when I am having to be my professional self, the one who says what she should and not what she's thinking; Mom is somewhere laughing so hard she can't breathe! 

She was...theatrical (okay, yeah, she was a drama queen, but also once longed to be in the theatre); one day I looked at a faded yellow newspaper clipping she'd saved all her life and wept to see her young, lovely, hopeful face as she appeared in a high school play, listing her 'stage name'--Terry O'Banyon, imagining her in a 1950s teenager's bedroom, trying on different names to find the one that encompassed her desires. Sometimes I ache imagining all the dreams she had that never quite happened, and hope she was okay with that in her later years.

Three years ago I wrote about her here and I still miss her now as I did then. I think she'd have loved coming to see us (if we could have gotten her to do it!), would have savored the contrast of the mountains to the flat coastal city she and my father retired to. The critters would have made her smile, and maybe she too would have felt some of the peace that occasionally drifts across the porch with scent of lilac and honeysuckle. If I could give her a birthday present now, that's what it would be: a sweet gentle peace, soft as a warm Spring evening, abundant as a Summer Farm Market, bright as a Catskill Mountain Fall, and as warmly comforting as a firelit Winter night; a peace to fill her soul and surpass her long-ago dreams. And I say a prayer that she's already found it...