Friday, September 30, 2016

their thoughts, my thought

Sometimes I have a better clue as to what my beloveds are thinking than I let on. Other times my guess is as good as yours. 

Today,  I think I can do some second guessing. Follow along.

Morning walk to the coop. Ed's happy -- I'm doing the early walk. What's there not to like?

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Breakfast. He's been a tad under the weather. But if you ask him -- how do you feel? He'll always, always say -- great!

I know better.

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The girl comes to the farmhouse after school. Here's her "Italian old man" walk:

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She insists on taking the stroller out. I oblige. I push her up and down the rural roads. I retreat.

She insists then on taking the wagon out. I oblige. Up and down the farmette lands.

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She wants so much to go out into the fields to the east of us. I oblige.

She says then -- eat peppers!

I say no way, no no no! These peppers are so hot that if you touch them, your fingers will be tainted for days.

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She goes to the flowers. The farmers have always invited me to pick as many as I want for myself. I never have done that. But today I let Snowdrop do the picking for me. Sure, she only tackles one or two blooms. Half spent ones at that. But still, I am grateful that she is welcome here.

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I am also grateful that she just manages to avoid sweeping her hand over the bloom with the bee intensely occupied and possibly not welcoming a Snowdrop interruption.

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Here, she's for sure thinking: why aren't you rolling forward? I want to pull you! Why are you stuck??

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Snowdrop has her n'th "I've just begun school" cold. After her nap, she learns to wipe the nose of all her stuffies.

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You can see the tired look in her eyes... And still, she plays full steam ahead with her necklace and her owl bag. Snowdrop loves owls.

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Grandpa Ed, you know -- the guy who's feeling great, the one who spent the whole afternoon sleeping, comes down and reads a book with her. She is happy. He is happy.

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It all falls into place at the end of the day. For all of us.

And that's a good thing.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


This is the way Fall is supposed to be: sunny, crisp, windy, brilliant. With a few flowers still giving us the much appreciated color outside.

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But breakfast is now certainly indoors. I don't even check the porch. It's no longer tempting -- not in the mornings anyway.

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I have a similar Snowdrop pick up as I did a couple of days back: I come with the stroller, we push it together...

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... and we stop by the coffee shop. By the noon hour, it's lovely to sit down outside.

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The coffee shop is right by the playground and though this truly should be her resting hour, she so wants to go to it that I give in -- it's been a while since she and I have been to a good playground together.

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And this one is just grand! She of course loves the swing...

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But I notice changes in her: first of all, no more crawling up stairs.

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And more significantly, she loves the slides! Indeed, no more small slide for her. She goes for the big one!

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(On one slide down, she leans back and goes too fast for grandma's comfort. I hover near the base!)

Later, at her home, she is determined to do it all for herself. This toy necklace has a clasp that still defies her, but she wont stop trying.

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After her nap, the little girl and I weed her mommy's garden.

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True, she does not quite distinguish between a weed and a desirable plant, but that's a perplexing mystery to many of us and besides, toward the end of the season, it doesn't much matter if she pulls out the wrong thing.

Happy child, happy grandma. I'm not the first to understand this.

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And still, it makes me smile just to recall her utter delight in discovering all that's beautiful about this world.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

to be Polish

It's not often that I write about being Polish. Some would say that I've assimilated here, that I don't think too much about being once so exclusively Polish, that I've turned my back on it all. I suppose it is true that I've turned my back on feeling that any one country is more beautiful or important than another. Despite the seemingly global drive toward the stubborn insistence that nationhood is defining and deserves boundaries, I run from that kind of vision of our world.

I think it's telling that I never wanted to teach Polishness to my daughters (which is not the same as teaching the Polish language, though I avoided that as well). I don't believe in imposing belonging. My childhood memories are of Poland, but their memories are completely American. Let me not push them toward something that truthfully is more mine than theirs.

In being rather quiet about my Polishness (with others, on Ocean...) I'm sure the announcement that I was buying an apartment in Warsaw seemed rather out of the blue. Oh, tax reasons. That must be it!

Well no, that's not the whole story. I want to spend more time thinking about that other side of me. I want more of those times when I am with people who share the world that I inhabited before I became so totally American.

But even when I am here, in Madison, I spend time thinking about the familiar stuff over there. For example, late last night, well after posting here on Ocean, I searched youtube for some Polish pop music from the 60s and early 70s and I listened to it and read the comments of people who, too, felt a connection to the artists and their lyrics and tunes.

This retreat into Polishness was prompted by an email from my architect/designer who is this week finishing work on my Polish apartment. She included a brief reference to something taking place in her world right now and the immediate thing that struck me was how very Polish was her choice of words. Three sentences spoken (or rather written) like a true Pole -- like you'd never hear in the U.S.

I love words, of course, and I was suddenly so aware of how much language play I'd lost by switching over so completely to English (gaining, of course, what English has to offer, but last night, I was feeling the loss).

But here's a funny twist on culture and Polishness and ultimately the mix that really defines us (rather than any one nation or community): there is one very beautiful Polish song that sets to music a poem by Julian Tuwim.

[Tuwim was a beloved Polish writer. Born to a Jewish family in Lodz in the 1890's, he immigrated to the U.S. during the Nazi occupation. In America, he supported the International Workers' Organization (and in that capacity he met my grandfather who was very active in the IWO). He returned to Poland after the war. He died in 1953, the year I was born. Here's a photo taken in 1944 of an IWO ceremony. My grandparents are both to the far right, top and bottom. Julian Tuwim and his wife are in the front center.}

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The song I listened to is called Wspomnienie and you can hear it here:

Everyone my age knows the famous lyrics:
Autumn begins with the flowering of mimosas... (wrote Tuwim).

In truth, autumn in Poland does not begin with the flowering of mimosas. Tuwim mistakenly identified the goldenrod that covers the hills of southern Poland in early fall as a mimosa plant. And so many of us sang those lyrics and loved those images! And those of you who think that the goldenrod is a very American flower -- well it is. It's not truly Polish. It jumped to the Polish mountains in the way invasives often jump -- unexpectedly, forcefully, expansively.

Polishness! What does that word mean? Tuwim disliked nationalism in much the same way that I dislike it. Perhaps it means caring who Tuwim was and what songs we listened to in that country in our youth.

So I sing along as Ed dozes on the couch next to me and then this morning I go back to being quiet about Polishness. Except for this brief foray into that world here, on Ocean.

Morning. Breakfast of course.

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And at around noon, I bring Snowdrop to the farmette. She has a brief conversation with Scotch.

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But has little interest in staying out right now. She marches to the farmhouse and to her favorite play corner.

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It's cold enough that the slippers seem actually useful.

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She hops and skips and indeed, insists on taking her nap in them.

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We read (a book about a grandma who just cannot wait to spend time with her grandchild) and then she naps.

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Post nap? A snack of course. At the table.

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She wants to go out then and we do go out, on the strangest of walks. She wants the stroller. I'm agreeable. But she doesn't want to be in the stroller. She wants to go on a joint stroller pushing adventure with me.

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Ed hasn't mowed the lawn in weeks and so it's tough going. Eventually Snowdrop gives in to being a stroller child and I huff and puff pushing my way across the farmette land, then out along the rural road. Our skies are dramatic, but they're clearing and that's such a good thing!

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It's hard to convince her to come inside but the girl never holds on to her seemingly intense wishes and once in, she is a whirlwind of happiness.

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Ed joins us then and we spend a wonderful set of minutes working the puzzles of this big box of activities.

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As I said yesterday, happiness is having us all around a table doing something together.

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Oh! Is that a Polish thing?!?

Just kidding.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


It has been a while since I grabbed my camera on my morning walk to let the cheepers out of the coop. Today the colors from the rising sun were so autumnal and warm that I thought it worthwhile to get a photo or two.

(Sunrise, as viewed through the hydrangeas.)

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(All dressed in gold.)

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(Toward the sheep shed.)

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(Early morning sun.)

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These days, a sunrise is nearly identical to a get up and get going hour. Still, our morning is relaxed. Breakfast is late.

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I do some random writing on the computer and then I am off to pick up Snowdrop. It's definitely walking weather and I have a stroller ready for her. She appreciates that, but says the equivalent of a "no thank you" when I offer to place her in it. Instead, we push it together, eliciting smiles from passersby.

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I have a hankering for a second cup of coffee and indeed, I'd made myself a second cup of coffee at the farmhouse -- and poured it into my travel mug and then left it on the counter. So I suggest to Snowdrop a walk to the coffee shop and the little girl happily agrees. Oh, the joy of having house, school and coffee shop all within a few minutes' stroll!

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At home, she is somewhere between wanting to climb everything in sight and wanting desperately to nap. I nudge her toward the latter.

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She wakes up spirited and  ready to take on the world.

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These days, more often than not, I bring Snowdrop to the farmhouse after her morning in school. It's always a surprise, therefore, to watch her at her own home -- she will have developed a new love, a new interest, even in the short while we've been away from playing there.

Today she affirms what the teachers at her school have already noted in her: a love of dressing up. She has a few toy "jewels" and she'll spend a long while figuring out how to put them on and how to close the clasps or slip on a bracelet.

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And she just loves to sport a hat. What does it mean to a child who is not even two to pretend? To dress up? Sure, her mommy will wear a necklace, but the hat play is quite outside Snowdrop's everyday experience. Are you born to love imagining yourself to be someone older? Fancier? Is she our next milliner extraordinaire?

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Her mommy and daddy come home just a few minutes earlier than usual and so I propose to go out with my daughter for an evening aperitif. It's been a tough work week for her thus far and it promises to be a tough month going forward.

But first, mom and daughter take a minute to snuggle...

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A quick drink then with me...

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... and a return home -- daughter to her family, me to the farmhouse. Today, we each turned on the furnace. It's getting to be chilly out there now. Fall weather. And that's a good thing.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday in photos

Well, there will be few words here today. I was busy! Let's run through the most smile-producing moments: breakfast!

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And of course, my pick up of Snowdrop at her school. The girl is in a super independent mood. Go to car by herself. Get into the car seat by herself. No no no -- she'll tell me if I offer help. With a smile and a plead for understanding.

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At the farmette, she surveys the possibilities.

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What is that house? -- she seems to ask.
A writer's shed. I'll tell you about it one day...

The chickens listen and wait and then move on.

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At the farmhouse again. Play with toy food! That's her favorite right now, hands down. (Note the animals carefully arranged in the chair, waiting for the "food.")

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I'm mixing soup!

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Thank you, Snowdrop!

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Can we add some stuff from the fridge?

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It's time for your nap, Snowdrop.

Afterwards: cookie baking!

I can't eat all the cookie dough I want? You sure?

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You can lick the beaters, Snowdrop.

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Happy times: to sit around the table. Together.

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The day draws to an end. Snowdrop takes out rubber bands for a pony tail. Well, okay. Here's the little waif, trying to figure out how to work small rubber bands.

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And now it's evening and Ed and I listen to the debate.

It's been an incredibly full day.