Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve

On the last day of the year, do you look back, or look forward? Do you count down with a sigh of relief? With a twinge of hope?

As you know, on New Year's Eve, I don't count down, I don't stay up, I don't do anything that's very glitzy or celebratory.

But I take care of my world.

And so today, from the minute I get up until significantly past noon, I scrub the farmhouse. This is no ordinary house cleaning, but rather the Japanese style "everything must sparkle" cleaning (I read that the Japanese welcome the new year with a clean house and a clear head). The take apart drains and soak the shower curtain type cleaning.

I pause only to glance outside as I pass a window.

But during those furtive glances onto a rather monochromatic landscape, I get fleeting images that make me smile. A cardinal, so vibrant in its redness that I think it must be an illusion, a trick of the mind. A deer who stares at me until I move just a little too quickly...

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The cheepers: they hike over to the garage for the first time in weeks (as watched through the porch screen)...

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A possum who seems to be hovering near the garage, but maybe not, maybe he'll move on, maybe we wont quite have to remove him to some distant place.

None of these images are unusual at the farmette and yet they make me feel like I have buddies in my world. We are not alone here. We have company all around us.

"Breakfast" is too late to even call "lunch" and yet I bring out the usual morning foods for me and Ed eats his leftovers and it is a fine meal because it signals a fresh house and therefore a fresh start of sorts. New Year -- we're ready for you!

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In the afternoon, the skies clear -- I mean really clear! -- and Ed and I go out for a walk. Not a huge walk -- just to our local county park.

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It's a brilliant walk for its quiet, understated elegance.

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We commemorate it.

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Ah, the colors of December on a sunny day!

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They give you hope.

Hope: such a malleable idea! It flexes to your circumstances. So may I wish you plenty of it?

We end the evening with a supper of... scrambled eggs, leftover veggies with potato and... lobster tails! The 4 oz ones that kind of look like enlarged shrimp on your plate, but still! Delicious!

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I open a bottle of Catalan Cava -- the poor person's champagne to the idle observer, but a real nostalgia treat for me, who remembers all too well Catalan evenings on our way to Sorede...

We have memories, we have hope. That's as sure as anything. May you have plenty of beautiful moments in 2017. Ones that create the best memories.

To your New Year.

With love.

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Friday, December 30, 2016


My daughter asks me -- so what are you and Ed doing for New Year's Eve?

She knows we don't like to go out on that day, but she is curious if I have planned a more special evening. And I realize only now, the day before New Year's, that not only haven't I planned a damn thing, but I've mentally relegated the most boring quick fix supper to that evening. Scrambled eggs, some copious amounts of a leftover veggies and a salad.

It's the first time I think in my entire adult life that the event of New Year's Eve has completely passed me by.

True, I'm not a reveler. A dinner party with friends -- yes, I like that. But waiting until the ball drops at midnight? And then have dishes to do after everyone leaves? No, not for me.

(Ed would shake his head here at my compulsive "have everything in order for the new year" preferences, but he knows that this is me and yes, I would like to have everything neatly put away before I breathe in the air of 2017.)

Well, I have a few hours in the afternoon to rethink my plans for tomorrow. But in the meantime, let me roll back to the morning.

In the winter, Snowdrop does not wake at dawn, even with the late sunrise, and even at the farm house. I had thought I'd show her the sunrise through the window...

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... but she slept right through it and then some. The girl needs her winter rest.

But once up, she is excited at the prospect of the three of us eating breakfast together.

("Can't you please get me into the chair already??")

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I don't fix the usual pancakes or waffles that I do when she is our guest. Ed has his Friday meetings to rush off to and so we settle on various combinations of oatmeal, fruit and cereals.

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Snowdrop is in a superb mood -- ready to take on the world!

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But first -- a bath. I'm thinking that one of these days I'll have to address the issue of not having a tub for her at the farmhouse. Thus far, she thinks it's terrifically fun to resort to her baby tub. But in another month, she wont fit into it. Though for today, it serves its purpose and she spends way too long pouring water from one receptacle to the next, while I mop up the numerous splashes that inevitably wet the spaces around the kitchen sink, where I place the tub.

And then we play. With the train.

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With her baby.
("Can't you stand up yet??")

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With toy foods. Which lead her to ask for some real food. Orange segments are perfect.

(She correctly identifies a photo of her mommy when she was very young, but then, understandably, with a confusing mix up of epochs and decades, she says -- that's mommy and Snowdrop! True, the person next to her mommy looks so very much like her, but it is, in fact, her aunt. She stares at the photo for a long long while, in great disbelief. "It's not me? Really? Truly?")

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And then we play her recent favorite -- hide and seek.
("Here I am!")

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And she is in her sweet, gentle mood and so the morning is gone before I even notice that we're quickly moving toward the noon hour.

(We go to the barn to give the cheepers some bread. Snowdrop's expression here says it all -- the hens look awful right now: at least two decided to do their annual feather turnover now. Too, we've given up on them ever producing another egg. The two old girls -- I can understand that. But the two "young" ones? Well, we were clearly duped. They're obviously old as well. So here we are, tending to four old hens without an egg to show for our daily efforts.)

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I return the little girl home, as promised, but I linger for a while and chat to my daughter...

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And I watch Snowdrop run from one room to the next and then round and round again, all the time laughing and spinning incredible tales of intrigue and adventure.

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(A pause to examine the holiday cards that came to their home...)

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And then I hurry to the grocery store and pick up some foods that will complement the scrambled eggs for New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Right about now you have to find ways to love winter. Days like this -- gray, short, cold, snowless and on top of it all, pretty early on in the season, so you know it's just the beginning -- don't make it easy, so you have to do some work.

Many people start leafing through catalogues of spring plantings. I think that's not helpful. It's the now that has to have beauty and meaning, not just the tomorrow.

So I come back to the routine of a lovely breakfast. In the summer, it's on the porch of course, but right now it's in a warm farmhouse with plenty of greenery inside and today, I have an impish Ed across the table -- all this is just wonderful!

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My morning has me in the car quite a bit -- I need to pick up a replacement hinge for one of our cabinets before Snowdrop comes over (it's the one used most frequently -- under the sink) and I need to make a run to the library and the grocery store. I do not mind that the container of soda water cans rips open and they spill all over the parking lot. No, I do not mind. Soon I'll be inside, where it's warm. Soon I'll make myself a cup of infusion (that beloved winter drink that I have so often in Poland -- where you mix in lots of fruits with just a bit of fruited tea, maybe some spices and hot water). All good!

And then I pick up Snowdrop who is happy to put on her boots for a trip to the farmhouse.

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It's been a while since she has been here and so things feel a little new for her again. It's familiar stuff, but she has to remind herself how to plunge into play. We start by building a city of towers -- like Chicago! (She steps over it all with such grace...)

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Ed comes over from the sheep shed ("is that ahah?!")...

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....and makes her a melted cheese and mushroom sandwich. If it comes from him, it has to be good. (She finds a stray rubber band on the floor and, shockingly, asks me if I would make a pony tail for her!)

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I put on familiar music, but again, it's a change because just a week ago we were listening to Christmas stuff.  (Oh, how she loves this particular record cover!)

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To Snowdrop, seasons are still irrelevant. Indeed, a gray cold day isn't a burden. Especially when she is still on vacation from having to go to school. I follow her lead on that.

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The Christmas "tree" is now undecorated and returned to its rightful spot by the window, but I string the tree lights around the banister of the farmhouse stairs, just to bring a little more color inside at night. Outside, too, the porch lights remain lit, giving just that much more sparkle to a day where the clouds refuse to let a blue sky take hold.

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Early evening. Snowdrop is now rested and full of ideas. Trains! She is always happy as anything to play with trains. We weave the track (made of extra pieces from her set at home) around and under furniture.

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("Wait, who just climbed on my back?!")

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Ed puts on a youtube of a train, toot toots and all. She is mesmerized by it.

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She is really into trains... -- Ed muses.

Snowdrop is sleeping over today.  and so, as is our habit, we make pizza together for supper.

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As always, she eats every last bit of it.

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And of course, this gives her a very strong second wind. She suggests a game of "peekaboo I see you."

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She is delighted with the fact that she can actually hide from me.

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And then, much to my surprise, she goes right to the balance bike, the much neglected balance bike, and insists on riding it, helmet and all. Where did this new burst of confidence come from?

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It's hard to get her to think sleepy bedtime thoughts. Even the act of putting on pajamas does little to bring out her dozy state.

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That's okay. Play late sleep late. Right, little one? Remember to sleep late tomorrow!

Good night, good night. Tomorrow is another beautiful day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


I have to admit it: these kinds of days are, theoretically,  not my favorite. Gray, cold, snowless. I know we could do worse and of course it's too early to hope for spring (some 80 days away, though who's counting), but still, we could do better...

And yet, as I sit down to a very late breakfast, I think -- this is so good! We are so lucky!

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In the afternoon, Ed and I go for a walk in a city park. You'll see it in the photos - the colorless palate, the icy trail...

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And still, it's a lovely little jaunt. We come to the lake...

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... and the skies clear just a little bit. I see skaters! This is unbelievable! You could not pay me any amount of money to go out in the middle of the lake right now! I'm sure it's not solid! And yet the kids always assume the best. Is that a good thing? I don't know...

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Ed claims that you don't need s sled to enjoy a slide down an incline.

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I laugh, because it turns out that you do.

Later, I go to Snowdrop's home to help them with the post holiday tidying. It's a lovely time to be there, because the little girl is at once delighted to play with new toys, and, too, adjusting to the demands placed by life itself.

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(Goldie the cat is just such a demand.)

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(Family, working together.)

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There is a lot of sweeping to do and Snowdrop wants to be the leader in this effort. Small brooms, big brooms -- she takes charge of them all.

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This then is our day. A take charge kind of day. Don't let it slide! Take charge! And we do. Yes we do.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

going north

Three days ago, a city view out my window was only to be imagined. And now -- it's the new normal. And yet even in these handful of days, each time I look outside, that same set of buildings is completely different, depending on the time of the day and the weather.

One last set of photos then: the skyline just before dawn...


... and then again, just after sunrise.


My Chicago daughter and her husband return to work today and me -- I return to Madison. Originally I was going to travel back in the afternoon, but in the end, I decide to leave earlier. I've had my great fill of the city. I'm anxious to unpack and set things in order back home.

Breakfast: again, I'm the first one down and again, it looks like a morning straight out of Paris.


I glance out the hotel lounge window. There's the El that I should be catching back to the airport. Of course, the more popular traffic pattern right now is toward Chicago's downtown.


I'm packed. I head out. One last glance up this neighborhood's main commercial artery...


... and now I'm at the El station. Not in a hurry. Not glancing nervously to check on the time. I've given myself plenty of time. For once, I have it  -- time.


And then puff! I'm on the bus, going north.

The snow has melted substantially since I left on Saturday. Ed picks me up at the bus stop and as we drive to the farmette, I think how quickly something can change for you. In a rural landscape, you notice this constantly: raise the temperature a handful of degrees and everything looks different.

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And of course, it is so good to be home. Even as I have wisps of longing to be there with the city people. Never mind. The distances, by American standards are small. They'll be up here soon and I'll be down there again, and so it continues. And that's such a good thing!