On the coming of the lambs

Our first Icelandic lamb came yesterday.  Black with spotting and grey underneath, she has amazing chocolate eyespots and a white topknot and streak.  She is curly all over, legs about eight inches long.  She had a weak, shivering spell for a few hours but now she’s bouncing, even with what looks like some pulled tendons in one leg.  Their legs are so fragile!  Then in the night, two tiny and dark ram lambs from our horned  Mouflon, one of whom did not pull through.  The other one moves like popcorn.  My terrific gardening pants are de Kooninged — covered with vibrant slashes and dabs of blood, water, meconium, soap, vitamin drench, Betadine, slime and milk.  I’m so grateful for Dusan and for the three incredible sheepwomen who’ve been on the phone with me over the last 24 hours.  I’m stunned speechless watching my children being with us in this.  I have two huge scrapes on one arm and no idea how or when they got there.  My forearms have been new and exciting places.    My heart has three new homes, and one of them is now buried under a cairn next to the new apple tree.  All the other creatures and family and home and clients still need tending.  I have a fever of 101, am worn, thrilled, sad, proud.   There are brand new baby white doves in the loft and more lambs still coming.   I am so lucky in this life.

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On reconciliation, sheep and taxes

I have tax creatures.

Me in a light pool in the dark with a Jack Russell on my feet, the breathing of children who have sneakily fallen asleep on the guest bed, and many months of QuickBooks bank statement reconciliation under my belt.  Wrapped around one and a half bottles of beer and half of a chocolate orange I had stashed for Dusan for non-Easter months, and I start to feel unrepentant and out of hand but remember that PMS lends to a magnified sense of my own sins.  It tends to be a time of atonement, of apologies for bitchiness unrecognized by others as such, for puzzled looks and me stomping off reassuring myself that I can be bad-ass if it’s really warranted.  The QuickBooks is perfect — steady, focused detail work that makes me bark at it too, but which kind of deserves it, doesn’t require emotional reconciliation afterward, and steadies me out through sheer mass.  And it reminds me why I liked political economics:  you learn things about people’s lives when you know the numbers around them.  I am tutored about this our life, what we care about, what we need, what’s worth spending money on, which costs were under my radar that we may want to reevaluate based on what is now important.  Reconciliation.  

 I’m reminded of a game I need to play again.  More than ten years ago I made a list — based on the Buddhist principle that life is suffering — of 20 problems that I would like to have in my life.  The idea is that you will always have problems in your life, so why not make them the ones you want to have, the ones you have when you have a slightly chaotic, ravishing and hilarious life?  It works best if you are quite detailed, the kinds of items that tell you a lot about one.  It doesn’t count to say things like, “I have too much money,” or “I’m too famous.”  It should be things like, “My sheep got out last night again and ate a new path right through the sunflower folly and ended up baaing under my open window at five in the morning as the sun rose over the mountains.”    That might have been one of mine from before.  I need to find that list, too.  

I think I made this list with the vague idea of using it as a conscious guide, something to work toward.  It’s a sneaky and powerful thing, this list, though, so be aware, (before you stash it away in copious files and it does its dangerous work years later).  I wrote my list long ago.  I haven’t seen it for years.  I remember it a bit, but I don’t think you even have to remember it for stuff to happen.  I have a rangy and lippy European who brings me sweet hot coffee outside and makes me crazy sometimes.  I slept a lot when I was pregnant, twice.  And on Friday four pregnant Icelandic ewes of many colors are arriving home to settle in down by the chicken coop that nestles under the mountains.  

I’m sure I didn’t mention taxes in that earlier list.  But in the spirit of starting anew, “My small business accounting takes place at the full moon, involves swearing and bleeding and livestock feed bills, fresh flowers, stolen chocolate, beer, and a Jack Russell.  No apologizing.”

Make your list, and reconcile to it.  I apparently in my folly will be planting sunflowers.

 And tell me about it.  


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On falling in love, a window.

Fifteen years ago we crossed the Pass coming home in the dark in an ice storm. We followed semis so we’d know where the road was and still tried to stay away from them as they staggered across the lanes in the winds. Something landed in front of the truck and we struck it. It took D. a hundred yards or more to bring us to a safe halt. He trudged out and disappeared into the swirling snow. What he brought back to lay on the opened tailgate was a great owl, still grasping in death the tiny owl it had intended to land on the road to eat. And for a bit we were grasped, too, held together there in an infinity of swirling flakes, regret and awe.

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On sneaky fostering of handwriting letters

“a lady’s traveling box” from Thomas Sheraton
The Cabinet Maker And Upholster’s Drawing-Book (1793), with accessories for both writing and dressing… visit http://www.hygra.com/writing.html  for more fun!

Or BLATANT fostering.  I promised some further resources to those who (thanks again!) all came to play with letters and letter-writing toys this terrific afternoon at the Bozeman Public Library.  The homing pigeons had a great time.  I had a great time.  I’ve decided to share the letter writing prompts again one at a time later so you can play with them over the days.  Here are some further promised resources:

  1. Margaret Shepherd wrote The Art of the Handwritten Note.  A terrific book to own and open if you’re even considering sitting down to write one.  Graceful and provocative, human and funny.  
  2. You don’t need to do envelopes!  There are many, many ways to do this, but look here and here for great letter-folding sites for turning a letter into its own envelope.
  3. Visit ‘Letters of Note’ and Shaun Usher’s sister site ‘Lists of Note’.  The inclusion in both sites of the originals and transcriptions along with introductory notes make these sites fascinating, historically priceless and hilariously, tragically and fabulously human.

Note:  Letter writing is your avenue and invitation to explore other things — calligraphy, antique lap desks with secret drawers, sketching, painting, field kits, journals, marginalia, travel, gratitude, romance, forgiveness, extra desks, new business clients, appreciated old business clients, family memory, historical wit through the centuries, battle strategy, handwriting, insertions of leaves, scents, herbs, fabrics, or feathers; children’s letters, and personal signatures, among others.  Figure out which are yours and claim them.  

Yes, we’ll be doing all of this again.  Let me know if you want to be included in more play. Or subscribe to the blog over to the right, here.  

Further questions? Ask! 

And I tell you this.  I set these balls rolling, start these pebbles lobbed out into the water, and yes, I would really, really love to know some of the ripples that are rolling out.  If you will, please let me know when you wrote, how that was for you, what happened?  It will make me very happy. (Blog comments are just fine, don’t worry that you have to write me longhand (-:)

Be brave.  Be silly.  Use terrific inks.  Write well and be happy.

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On Adjectives for the new year


Celebrating the new year’s eve by wearing everybody out cold, cleaning and culling myself into an unstoppable, obsessive daze (no, no dinner, really, please), going outside for a little chat with the stars, drinking apricot nectar with tonic water (no, not a new favorite — interesting, but too sweet with fairly bitter.  doesn’t really balance), spinning wool, collecting adjectives for the new year, reading some lightly snarky gems, writing a dammit list, wondering if there’s a company selling the really terrific tights because I have these really terrific boots, thank you very much.  Writing notes clearly and cleanly saying ‘no’ and why.  This last is pretty great.

Abundant.  Illumined.  Inventive.  Medieval.  

Not resolutions.  Adjectives for the year.  It will be delicious.  So looking forward to being with you.



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On saying uncle

Tonight had melted butter poured over it.  The last night of a visit of a beloved brother and sister-in-law and baby in waiting.  Spinach salad and wine, roast ham and gratin.  Watching a little girl vagabonding in fairy wings under the tre lights and feeling puppies angling for the most perfect rub, and then another.  Fire burning, spinning wheel whirring while I listen to this brother, the last to wed and indulge in children, as he reads the cream of our childhood books to his wife and her tummy and our children.  The children’s shyness disappeared rapidly this visit, and they have had time to revel in each other — these people whom I delight in so incredibly much.  So special to pass on knitted baby clothes that were worn by our father, so fun to share books and stories and ideas.  Then glasses of milk and everyone down early — one round of banjo and “Do you Ever Hear Me” and one of “Across the Great Divide” puts little ones brilliantly out — legs up on the wall, head off the edge of the bed in an impossible kink.   Tomorrow’s early flight will put uncle and aunt back into their city, remodeling their houseboat for new life, changing work, preparing for the third person joining them, joining us all in this clan of the finest kind of fools.  

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On celebrating the handwritten letter

I have asked the Bozeman Public Library to help me with a long-held project.  In January the Library will be celebrating the extraordinary beauty of handwriting letters (and sending them!)  We invite you to join us in an exploration of thousands of years of history through letters sent in love and battle, business and play, and to expand your own understanding of what a letter can be.  We are all burdened by the unsent.  We all have letters that we need to write, wish we had written, correspondences we want to start and then cherish.  What ideas might start if, periodically, a modest wave of handwritten notes washed out into the world from Bozeman, Montana?  

The tsunami of electronic correspondence has led some to declare handwriting letters a “dying art”, but the qualities of the handwritten letter are also exactly those that so many are actively seeking a return to.  A letter brings out the best in both the writer and the reader, and inspires both to write more.  It connects.  It sets you as a writer apart, carries the grace of centuries of civilization, and says that you care by its sheer existence.  It is private, and courteously waits for your full attention.  It can be created with an infinite combination of colors, textures, scents, insertions, quotations, poems, calligraphy, shapes, emotions and methods of delivery.  It pays debts of thanks, apology and sympathy with weight and aplomb.  It is a great equalizer, as anyone may write to absolutely anyone.  It is a simple and frugal pleasure, and an art form capable of infinite surprise.  Each one is unique. 

Come visit the letter-writing pavilion in the Library this next month.  Bring donations of cards and stationary that have been sitting reproachfully in your drawer, and start fresh, surrounded by inspiration and assistance.  And then put a stamp on it.  And mail it — a pebble tossed creating ripples unknown.

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