Saturday, April 23, 2016

Surprise! OR Look What the Full Moon Brought Us!

A couple of days ago I was tending the bunnies and had the sense I should prepare Petunia's nest box. Checked the calendar. It was still significantly early. If you set the mama's box up too early, they just eat the hay in the nest, instead of create a nest in it.

Saturday, I told myself. Plenty of time.

Yesterday was crazy! I had a couple of kid things happening, school, the launch to some work being done on a little house I own. Special bakery orders. Lots of multitasking and coordinating. Thomas and I were just about to head over to the little house when I saw the chicken and bunny food waiting to be delivered to the coops.

We ran the bags over to the coops to feed the troops. I noticed strange movement in Petunia's duplex. Four squirming, mewling, VERY COLD little baby bunnies!

I chided myself for a second, excitedly greeted Petunia and Prince Charming, wrapped the little things up in my t-shirt and tucked them in, next to my body. Ran to the rent house, tended that business with babies by my tummy. Got back home, set up their nest box, rubbed them with bunny fluff, and tucked them in. Evening came and all seemed well. Still alive.

I try to pay attention to that still and quiet little internal nudge. Yesterday was a good reminder! We can see more than we can see if we just let ourselves!

Happy Birthday, bunnies!

PS Black Beauty and little BunBun, Petunia's first baby, now live with our friends in their backyard. I had great ideas we would integrate rabbit meat into our locally grown protein source list. So far, we haven't been hungry enough. But the manure has already enriched the gardens. And the bunny care has enriched the lives of me and the kids!

PPS this morning the nest box was fully fluffed out by mama. One baby didn't make it through the night. Mama had separated it from the bundle. The rest were warm and safe, deep in the fluff.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Track Season

A few years ago, I watched Thomas run and leap in Special Olympics track meets. Then Patrick and Maggie, their long limbs stretched, gliding along, like music.

Rose jumped into the scene in middle school. Now a sophomore. We watched her run today at the area meet in far away Denver City. Good grief? When moving to far West Texas, I had no earthly idea I would have kids in the Athletics program at the public school here. Let alone how many miles they would cover, by their own minimally-soled feet, and by the school buses, as they covered practices and run club and cross country and track meets.

My one season of high school track consisted of a somewhat overweight coach yelling at us to "Just go run! Do those hills!"

I pretty much always came in second to last. Choir and yearbook were pretty much more my speed.

Our homeschool physical education program was directed by my late husband. He loved to run. He found an old Navy Seals exercise book at a Goodwill in town. Led the motley crew through their calisthenics by the back door on the milking pad after morning chores, then across the back field, over a felled tree, up and over a fence, down the hay meadow, over and around the barn, finally to the house, huffing and puffing and ready, well, somewhat ready, to hit the books.

Who would have guessed? The day we moved in, a couple of running neighbors saw the kids pile out and suggested we contact Rick Keith, the high school long distance running coach. I guess the kids contacted him.

The rest is history.

That man has been more than a coach to my kids. They have probably spent more waking hours with him than with me the past five years. He explained to me that his philosophy involved teaching kids to enjoy running for life. Not just a high school competitive sport, but a lifestyle. He would drive them to gorgeous ranch roads for high desert sunset runs. He would run with them to Dairy Queen for Sundae runs. He would buy them shoes, probably knowing they were well beyond a single mom's budget. He taught them how to glide and not injure their knees. To run for themselves, to compete against their times, to set reasonable, achievable goals, and then coach them, step by step, week by week, in the how to reach those goals, just a bit more challenging than they thought they could reach. And sure enough. Walked them step by step, rather, ran with them, stride by stride, along the way.

For the past five years, that man has encouraged, cheered, consoled, scolded, taught, and more than anything else, has loved my kids.

He doesn't drive alongside, yelling at the kids to run. He works right by them, teaching them nutrition, giving them books, showing them inspiring videos, basically, has been as spiritual a leader as any priest.

College kids still come home to run with him on their vacation. And love to brag on the runs they do for fun, as they run for their life! Yesterday Maggie was so stressed by her rigorous course work at St. Edwards and her jobs that she paused to take a ten mile run. The other day, Patrick joined the UT cross country run club and they ran from Austin to San Jacinto, all night long, 200 miles, for the Texas Independence Relay. They and Rose ran in the Big Bend Ultra 30k this winter.

And now, Rose, a sophomore, after making it to state twice in cross country and so far once in track, ran again in the area meet today. I decided to close the bakery and go to watch her run, all the way up in the Texas panhandle. She got first place in the two mile. Her friend was right behind her. Watching those kids run fills my heart with such joy and delight. I remember seeing Maggie conquer exercise induced asthma, striving harder than any kid should have to, training her, not for athletics, but for the real life hard stuff that requires some grit. Some go for it. Some push and drive.

You have to understand... I don't really care about athletics. Or competitions. I yell for pretty much every kid that runs along that track or across the finish line. Just ask my poor embarrassed kids!

It is the back story. The farm. The wet tennis shoes and panting kids and dad. A journey. A coach who is so much more than a coach. I will owe him my whole life through. And thank God for him regularly, as I see his fingerprints all over the lives of my kids as they fly away from here. And continue to see his gift as he offers up his presence. What more does a young, tender, growing teenage girl need if her dad dies? A young man, missing philosophical discussions and hikes? What more than a kind, devoted, dedicated, hard working man who not only believes in her, or him, but runs alongside, giving strategies for making a way into the world that awaits.

I am not sure how Rose did in the one mile this evening. I have to work tomorrow, and was afraid I would be too tired to do so if I stayed for the final event and had to get home by one oclock tonight. I know she loves the two mile and I cheered like a crazy fool. Coach Keith will be riding home with them on the bus, late and exhausted after a full day in the sun, directing his kids. And will be back at school in the morning to teach.

I don't care how she did. I am proud. And thankful.

So very thankful.

How Rich Am I?

The tomatoes are set out. Some cherry, thanks to seedlings gifted by my dad. Brought home Easter weekend in a yogurt container, tender little babies. Some yellow cherries. A few Early Girls, just cause. A couple heirloom varieties. A Solar Fire, because we live in the desert!

The peppers are set out. A couple of shishito, a japanese pepper, great for the grill. Jalapenos, of course. Several New Mexican varieties, because, well, we all know how much my kids and customers love green chili quiche. A thai pepper, because they are beautiful. And super hot. And just right for a Thai stirfry. Am thankful for a giant yard with many little cubbies. The thai one is on the other side of the house, so hopefully all the other peppers don't cross pollinate and turn super spicy!

Cucumbers nestle against the trellis. I think I saw a couple of okra seedlings pop up to say hello. Eggplant, the asian variety and the italian are tucked in their special spots. Yellow squash, near the Early Girls. Zucchini over by the okra. Green bean seeds to plant, some on one side, some on the other. Potatoes, very late, but better late than never. Dill is up. Basil growing. Chives aflower. Stevia nestled near the mint for kids who like tea. Mexican Mint marigold for moms who like tarragon. The cilantro and arugula are bringing in plenty of pollinators. Roses and irises are blooming their sweet little hearts out. Sage is begging to be browned in butter. The lime tree and olive are tucked into the gazebo, along with all the other green house plants. Leeks continue to offer savory compliment to meals. Wild sunflowers provide tasty salads to bunnies.

The established fig trees have babies the size of my thumbnail. The new fig, Chicago Hardy, is unfurling velvety leaves. Two varieties of blackberries, planted a couple weeks ago, show a tiny swelling on bare stalks, I have faith. Two years of sheet composting along a fence. Please God? A friend brought by six raspberry plants. I found dry soil along south fence to be surprisingly rich and deep. They will live in dappled sunshine in between the pecan and the neighbors giant pine.

I had the vision of berries for several years. Every vision takes a few steps, some waiting. Faith. Hope.

Claret cup cactus smile at me. Prickly pear stick out their hands to wave, ready to offer bouquets in a week or so. The desert willow is poised. For something. A party next week? The purple wildflowers my sister planted two years ago. Why? Because she said I needed them. Are giant happy greetings to me, every time I step out the bakery door. I think they were very happy to have some of the ashes of my friend, Peter, from Ontario, laid to rest among them, right by the door, where he and his wife came to inhale and devour my breads on their twice yearly visits. Honeysuckle, gifted and planted by Patrick, was it last year? Year before? Right outside my bedroom window, for obvious reasons, is sweetly surviving its desert life.

Others, so many, I am too tired to look up their sweet names, yet they give me delight as I look at them and honor their beauty. They give the pollinators great delight too!


Quite rich, says she, enjoying the bouquets, whimsically scattered about the house.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Red Skies by Morning Bakers Take Warning!

My mornings typically begin long before day breaks. Especially bakery days! Don't get me wrong, on a day off, I dearly love to let the late morning sun wake me.

This morning, a half hour before sunrise, the sky was washed with a pink glow. Rising sun painted the clouds preteen hot pink, not red like the old saying. But with the colorful early morning came a damp, cold chill. Maybe those clouds will deliver some rain? Please? Please?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

One more thing... OR a lovely kettle...

I forgot to mention the exquisitely choreographed dance Thomas and I witnessed on our walk the other day. I counted at least sixty buzzards, slowly, gracefully, an act of worship it seemed, in measured swoops, no big hurry, drifting in and around one another, honoring the moon. The creator of the moon. The evening sky, and their tribe.

I never knew buzzards to be graceful. Now their evening dances are lovely to me, as they celebrate the end of the day and move in to roost.

Yesterday, after hours of blustery wind, the air was filled with sandy particulate from the Sahara desert or somewhere dusty and dry. I could see no periwinkle skies turning purple. But the buzzards danced anyway.

PS I realize many folks are not so fond of the vulture, but they are quite helpful, taking care of highway cleanup. I don't plan on adopting any, or having them roost in my trees! But really, you should check them out. A group of dancing vultures is called a kettle. Did you know that?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Is it full yet?

Thomas and I took Brownie and Blackie for a two mile walk after dinner this evening.

The air was balmy. The wildflowers were subtle but precious, tissue paper yellow, pinks white and lavender, scattered here and there along the path. The setting sun shone through the trees along the creek as we crossed the bridge. Fluff from the cottonwood trees floated, glowing in the evening sun. It looked like fairies, flying off to a party in the woods.

Things are very dry here, so instead of blankets of flowers this year, there are meager patches here and there.

I wonder if I might appreciate them more when they are so rare.

We paused to admire the giant full moon make her way up and over the university campus mountain east of our neighborhood. Broad and generous, with a glittering star hanging directly overhead. Of course I made a wish! Rose and Nora tell me that it was not a star, but probably the planet Venus. I don't care. I think my wish counted anyway. And no, of course I can't tell you.

Pink cotton candy clouds stretched across the sky. The trees are now dressed in green. As the sun dipped further below the horizon, blue sky turned purple, mountains turned grey. The dogs were delighted with their stroll, and so was I. Thomas and I don't talk a lot, but his quiet companionship is quite comforting to me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Purple Haze

Smells like purple!

The wisteria are in crazy full bloom. The fragrance permeates our yard, both front and back. Old-fashioned and pungent, cloyingly sweet. The mountain laurels are in full flower tilt as well. They fill the chicken yard with the smell of grape soda! My mouth waters, remembering the fizzy stuff that filled our summer trips to the filling station with my dad in the early seventies. Purple irises wave their school spirit flags, and smell like Easter to me.

Walking around my yard is an aromatic, sensual experience these days! And perhaps the source of my scratchy throat and itchy eyes?


Friday, March 11, 2016

Dare we Hope for Early Figs?

Fig trees are leafing out and covered in little baby figs. The oak tree is sporting what looks like a chartreuse veil. Red buds are gaudy and tucked in the back, neglected part of the yard, partially hidden by our guest cottage (I mean, pop up tent trailer), a kerria japonica tries her hardest to grab my attention, and succeeds regularly, as you can tell, since I have sprays of her beautiful blossoms decorating most of the rooms in my house.

Wisteria that was frozen last year is now covered in an extravagant display of fragrant clusters, just poised to open this weekend.

Have you noticed how easy it is to be optimistic in springtime?

The flowers keep shouting and whispering, clucking and whistling to get my attention. "Hey! We did it! We made it through the dark days and can lift our heads up high once again." So I tell them thank you for the reminder, and let them know I am absolutely blown away by their beauty, and am really proud of them. And gather armfuls of sweet joy to bring into the house.

I read a Mary Oliver poem the other day, depicting another side of spring I like very much: Out of the Stump Rot. Not so frilly. Quite raw and real. And also wonderful in its life. So if you are not feeling the flowers and fragrance, check out her poem!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Seasons. The Calendar. Mile Posts. Row Fourteen. I love you, beautiful world!

Late morning, the sun came out and the skies became blue again. For a moment. All of a sudden, I turned around, and an ominous, almost frightening gray mist stealthily poured over the hills and into the vineyard and orchard where I worked yesterday and today. The wind gave it a boost, and it felt cold. Cold-blooded. Definitely not trustworthy.

I pulled out the agribon to cover the garden beds filled with tender peas, radishes, lettuces, turnips, spinach, beets and chard. I go out two or three days a week to manage the vines, weeding, mulching, whatever they need. I tend a few veggie beds. Today I was worried about the fruit trees in the orchard. Yesterday I noticed they were covered in blossoms and buzzing honey bees. The forecast predicts the low to be 30. Up there, in the little saddle, at one mile elevation, 30 in town means 23 or lower. Not good for the fruit.

You might have laughed to see me struggle with the giant sheets of protection, hoping for the wind to work with me. She did not care about my predicament. Not one bit. I tossed, wrapped, contorted, using metal poles to push and shove. Had hot tea for lunch, then went back to the vineyard.

It is a small, privately owned little vineyard, fourteen fifty yard rows. Seems small until you walk out to row one with a hoe. And see how far you have to go.

After one row, I wondered if I should go ahead and quit. It seemed rather unlikely I could ever manage to get to the end. Especially when I hit the Johnson Grass.

Today I finished one side of row 14 and am partway down the other side. I can see the finish line. Sometimes I dream about the rhizomes of the johnson grass, entangled among the roots of the grapevines, at times they are so stubborn, they choke and strangle. Sometimes they untangle like magic.

Definitely different from bakery work, but maybe not so different after all. Just as I have a very living and breathing relationship with the grains and honey and milk and seeds I use in my bread, I also feel an intimate relationship with those vines. And the rocks and grass and weeds. When I walk into the vineyard I say hello to everyone, and ask them to let me know if there is anything in particular they need on that day. Sometimes they ask me to weed a bit larger circle around the plant. Sometimes they ask me to go a bit deeper. Sometimes they merely tell me they love me, and I tell them I love them back. And let them know even though it might take a couple of years before they bear a nice harvest of grapes, they are worth the effort right here and right now.

So much work to bring about a delicious glass of red wine. Is it any wonder the scriptures are so full of stories and metaphors regarding wine and vineyards? Can you imagine what it would be like to tend your vines so diligently for years, only to have robbers come and steal the grapes right at the time of harvest?

I have worked in the sun, peeling off layers, toasting my skin. I have worked in cold, hat and sweatshirt, coat and extra socks. The sun and clouds and Mt. Ord down the way provide the most interesting entertainment. The sound of the birds and the sight of thousands of ladybugs gives me delight. There is not a time when I do not leave grateful for my job.

Grateful yes. But those vines have been witness to more tears than about anybody I know has ever seen. Heartbreak. Loneliness. Fears. Major breakthroughs. Grief. Sometimes I sob out loud, and I guess that sounds scary. Of course I might be laughing again in about ten minutes. Because allowing myself to feel, to be still enough to recognize what I am feeling, to allow it, to examine with compassion, to nurture myself and offer compassion to the hurt places, seems to allow more room for joy.

I have been wishing to laugh more. So I let the tears flow out, instead of shove them inside. A paradox, isn't it? I remind myself that those who sow in tears will reap in joy. Perhaps I should paraphrase and say that those who weed in tears will reap in joy? I let the wave flow over me, and tell myself that I might be sad but that is a temporary emotion. Legitimate. And worthwhile. The work is medicinal.

Can you believe that this week will mark the sixth anniversary of my husband's death? That we will now embark on the sevens? The seventh birthday without Philip. The seventh Easter. The seventh mother's day, the seventh Father's day. The sevens. How can it be? Nora has almost lived more life without her father than with her father. Definitely more life without than she and Rose can remember with him alive.

We have had three of five kids walk the stage and graduate with all sorts of honors.

When Philip died, the grief support counselor would repeatedly tell us you don't get over the death of a loved one. You adjust. You adapt. You move forward. But the loss and pain doesn't disappear after an appointed time. In fact, it can often pop up at the most inopportune time.

We often laugh about Philip memories. I smile and remind the kids how proud their dad would be of them. I smile and remind myself how he adored me. How he would woo me and make the kids laugh and help us be ever so secure in our awareness of his love. Even in the most annoying moments.


The other day I had a dream. In it, Philip came to me and said it was about time for him to say goodbye. That it was time for me to move ahead, and that he was leaving and wouldn't be able to communicate with me anymore. He said it would help me to move forward.

Ever since that dream I have been washed over with pain and grief. I have been working to let him go since I had a dream he would die. Two months before he died.

We are surviving here in Alpine, and not just surviving, but thriving. We have purpose. Joy. I can't imagine wishing for much to be different. I love our home, our little backyard farm, our bakery, the kids and their friends. It is hard to imagine I could have any type of work I could find as satisfactory as the work I have now. Truly, I feel like I am one lucky gal. And after six years, recognize that this wave of pain will pass. Again. And the misty gray will be washed away, the sun will come out, and spring will rise again on the horizon.

I just needed to write about it. Surely there might be someone else out there who knows what I am talking about?

PS I should mention that over the Christmas holidays Maggie and Patrick came out the vineyard and helped me get past the middle when I thought I might never make it. And they work so much faster than me! What a boost. They would be proud to see me at the end! Now to mulch. And to remove rocks. And to fix the drip water system. And to prune the vines.......And start weeding all over again!!!! Hello, Row One! I missed your shining faces!




Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Thomas James Hillery

February 17th, 1993, I was a mere child myself, haha! And here came Thomas into the world.

He came. And everything changed.

I know that being a parent is not the end all or be all. But for me, when he came to join our family, I became more of who I was meant to be.

It was hard. I had no clue what to do! But certain things came instinctively, like, if baby cries, check him! He might be hungry, sleepy, need a hug and change, or a change of scenery. Thomas liked to hear me sing. He appreciated books from early on. Bike rides in the basket, trips around the country and the world. Easy to please. Happy to go on adventures.

Not too into hiking and camping, but definitely into travels and food, movies and theater. And video games and computer stuff.

He loves to cook. Not too into dishes, but washes them for me quite frequently.

Sometimes he chats my ear off, sometimes he won't speak for days. Being on the autism spectrum has been a challenge for him sometimes, as the world can feel so noisy and bright and overstimulating. Sometimes the words are hard to come by, when he has a physical challenge, he might not know how to articulate his symptoms. But oh, the things he has taught the few who take time to get to know him. He is a great bowler for the special olympics team and makes his gang laugh a lot.

I love that kid. I love him a lot. We drive each other crazy, over silly things, like bathing, and apartment cleaning, and tv choices! Well, I drive him crazy. But we laugh a lot. He occasionally lets me give him a hug. We know we love each other so very much. And that's what it is all about, right?