A hard day and a beautiful one.

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For a brief moment, each creature is the youngest being on the planet

April Snow, one of twins, the first of the year.

April Snow, one of twins, the first of the year.

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On being outdone in story and storm

A new laundry meditation under dark skies and a warm wind, feeling my feet in their clogs, the lack of bite in the breeze on my neck, the sensation of each pin under my fingertips  as I nip it from the line before disassembling the umbrella for the season.  Came out from the news update on the uber-storm coming into the East to take in more Montana winterization.  It’s the odd disconnect between the images of tense preparation on the other coast and the brief warm spell we have been given between the first snows and the full Montana winter settling in.  There’s this pride in our Rocky Mountain winters, in the dry sub-zero cold, the north winds, the avalanches, the impacts on herds and calving, the toughness called forth, the pioneer self-sufficiency leaned into.  Our gardens are brought in, our woodpiles stacked high, our haystacks covered tight.  Yet in this week we are the lucky ones, the ones with it soft, easy.  We’ll have power, supplies in the stores, no floods, no mind-boggling images of devastation.  We’ve been temporarily stripped of our stories, outdone, unable to either complain or stubbornly endure.  So we bring awareness back into simply touching where we are, neither in story nor storm.  The leather of the last of the potatoes on fingertips as they come into the afternoon light.  The windscatter of green hay onto the black velvet of a shorn sheep’s back during winter feeding now the grasses are gone.   Children playing with the light skiff of ice on the watering buckets.  Lighting the oil lamps on the dining table in the early evening darkness and taking a glass of wine outside the house to see the lantern glow of the windows.  And wishing that lantern glow for those even now growing into their new stories, this new kind of storm.

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This I believe.

Seeing what is there.

We are all together on this ship and some of us will die sooner.  Some young.  I will grieve again, and comfort.  It may be me.  Those of us who are lucky will know ahead of time and not be incapacitated by pain and exhaustion and messes we have not cleaned up.  If we are luckier this heightened awareness that is the gift of death may be seized  by us periodically and good and great things and moments will be brought into the world as a result.  

What do I want to have been in my life with my mothers?  my fathers?  sisters and brothers, loves, clients?  And my children (may it be me first!)  And thus what lives in this new day as a result of these questions?  What letters, what plans, what gifts and tending, what humility and bravery and art?  What songs go out into this my world?

So I am, at my best, what I came here for, a deep gladness that where it touches meets the world’s needs.  It is not morbid to befriend the awareness of death, the sandpaper that sensitizes you to the astonishment of living.  Having this astonishment, and its attendant humility, gratitude, grace, hilarity and vulnerability is our mandate, what I owe to those living and those gone.  Life as honoring.  Such a life will have a very different death, one that transforms the experience of loss.  I have lived this.

So with every guided retreat client, every dove release, even every grin on the street corner, this is where I stand with you, spoken or unspoken:  Next year or fifty years gone, what will your good death be? How do we get there?

When you have worked to create a good death whenever it will come  — simple, loving, remembering, giving, clean — will you not have lived a beautiful, an extraordinary life?

And imagine a whole world of such lives.  That Earth.

It is possible to heal even what has not yet happened.

This I believe.

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On grin wrinkles

“They tell me that you’ll lose your mind when you grow older. What they don’t tell you is that you won’t miss it very much.”

Really,  my life goal. No matter what else you build, when you work toward this, you have a good life.  Everything leads to this — keeping mad friends, carefully working on laugh wrinkles, a nice rug collection.  I’m well on my way.

This is a card I’ve hoarded for years.  Can’t send it.  Need it for reference, a gentle reminder and strategy brainstorming.

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On the last of the lambs

Having gloried in the decision to wear a sundress and wedge heels to a child friend’s Saturday birthday party, I yet launched myself upstairs (yay wedge heels!) and ripped myself out of them and back into work pants as Tullia went into labor this afternoon.  Just my girl and me at home, and mile-wide Tullia down in the shrubbery stomping and spinning and showing her gums.  Her firstborn showed front feet first, perfectly, and we withdrew to the upper slope, N. still bright in Mexican party dress, me answering questions.

The little one came in a hurry, a tiny black smudge in the buffaloberry bushes — quick breaths and perked ears being summarily licked dry.  She has white stars the size of a fist, one under each ear.  After she was afoot but before she could nurse the second labor came, Dusan and our boy arriving home and joining us, whole family stretched out on a hot sunny slope in May, listening to different birds, watching a life.  As with our very first girl, this second lamb had one front leg folded well back, and she got stuck after one leg and a head.  Dusan caught and briefly held Tullia for me.  There isn’t a great deal of room to maneuver in there and I didn’t really wait to finesse but hooked the leg, then down and out, swiped her nostrils and then all of us were up and away, fleeing up by the house like black birds to let them be together and bond as three.  After seeing both onto their feet at her side I scrubbed my arms, precipitated back into the sundress and scooped N. off to her birthday party.  Seven minutes later we’re seated in front of rainbow layer cake and watching a gyroscope of little girls moving through the sun of a back yard.

Eleven o’clock at night and I chase the geese in, check the littlest chicks and take a flashlight out into the field, bringing each mother and child into brief existence out of the dark.  All are resting except Tullia, wandering the slope under the moonlight whirr of the snipe with her dark shadows — Sindri, Old Norse, “sparkling” and Njola, “night”.

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On puppy Zora’s lamb

The quick snowstorm with its giant fluffy flakes took a toll on the newest and littlest arrival from friends, a recently weaned bum Icelandic lamb named Moses.  He was the only one without a mother nursing him and knowing to bring him in out of the worst of the weather.  Dusan brought him inside, wet and alarmingly too weak to raise his head.  I went to heat water bottles and buckwheat bags and when I came back Dusan had wrapped Moses and Jack Russell Zora (you’ve seen her here before)  in one huge towel.  She wasn’t clear on the necessity, but she stayed quietly and settled in because we asked her.  

Raising the deep body temperature of a creature takes more time than is comfortable, and even with the layers of blankets and warmers we were grateful to have her there.  We couldn’t offer him warm milk until the temperature in his mouth was warmer than my finger and it took more than an hour.  When we moved Moses into a box from my lap she went in too.  And when Sasha stuck her nine month-old German Shorthair nose into the box, Zora bit her, twice.  Not an irritated snap but the teaching grab and hold that says, “You WILL know that this lamb is mine, and what is mine WILL NOT be messed with.”  And she curled back down around this thing that was hers.  

Twenty-six years ago this day I and others were in a climbing accident where hypothermia took lives.  I don’t tend to know how the anniversary will find me, and usually it comes and goes quietly.  Most years I like to make or give or donate something to mark it.  This year I found myself on the mudroom floor, arms full of hot water bottles, towels, limp wet lamb and small protective dog.  Two hours, one dog, and half a cup of warm milk and molasses later we had shiny eyes and popcorn legs out again in green grass and returned sunshine.  I mark this year with warming, tending and interspecies shenanigans.  It’s all good.  

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