Friday, May 27, 2022

Friday

I am that person: I get a vaccination, I'm out of it for a whole day after. (Shingles, yesterday, totally out of it today.) So you may think I have second thoughts about vaccinations? Au contraire! It makes me think how much worse it would be if I got sick with the disease I was avoiding.

Still, it was a groan-filled day. 

A slow walk to the barn...

(I have seven clematis vines climbing various trellises and poles, but they're "tucked into" the property so that few people ever see them. They all bloom early. So here's one!)




I have a frustratingly Dance-filled breakfast.




And from there it was couch time: a nap never tasted so delicious... until I just had to get going on house organization for the weekend ahead.


In the afternoon, Snowdrop is here. 




We spend a heck of a lot of time showing her that facts matter. She had opened a wee bag of chips and insisted, absolutely insisted that it had less than what she'd usually find in it. I claimed that's not possible. There are laws! Cape Cod chips cannot lie! Ed settled the dispute by taking out the scale and weighing both the opened bag and another. Turns out we were both right: it was less full by one chip, but it was within the specified amount!

Separately, I was putting away papers and I came across a letter written some years ago. Going through it, I found about fifteen false claims on each page. Which lead me to think -- how is it that we get anywhere in life, when we don't bother seeking out real facts?

(Here's a real fact: the girl loves to jump, especially when she is happy...)




Toward evening I finally face the flower fields. We got close to three inches of rain yesterday and you know what that means... So many weeds! I don't even make a dent today. But that's okay! We're getting to the point where maintenance is going to drive my outdoor work. And if I dont do it all in one way, I have tomorrow or the day after. Summer is long. Plenty of time to tidy stuff up!


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Thursday

How can it be so muggy outside? It's like there is a perpetual invisible mist. You step outside and are surprised that you can see past your nose. All that moisture in the air! Let's shed the sweatshirt, we've entered a steamy bathroom in the wild.






This did not stop a raccoon from doing damage around the coop at night. Well, you didn't succeed, so there! Chickens accounted for. Wait, where's Henny? (Eventually we find her. The girl is broody and she can sit in one place for a very very long time.)

It's definitely warm enough for a breakfast on the porch.




I'm in a state of contentment. Or relief. Or both. Yesterday, I handed Like a Swallow to someone who was not part of the book publishing industry. So, the first person who is reading it for pleasure. True, it's my daughter, so not without bias, but I can tell she really liked it. Mothers know these things. Or at least this mother knows these things. 

It is rather mind boggling that I never let anyone I know pre-read any draft of the book. I did not want to be swayed away from the narrative in the way that I felt it had to be delivered. I did not want praise, I did not want criticism, except of the type that the publication editor ultimately provided (so many more commas in the final version!). There's plenty of time for discussion and reflection post factum. But it was really really gratifying to hear her enthusiasm now. One more piece of evidence that our kids' voices matter in our lives. Hearing what they have to say sometimes takes courage, but most often, it provides sweet rewards.

And at the farmette, the bold swallows dart in and out of the garage shed, bringing food to their young, eyeing me with suspicion, daring me to get in their way.





The afternoon is with Snowdrop, who proudly took her violin to school (the music class teacher asked for instruments).




I have never heard Snowdrop play and to my knowledge she rarely practices, but for some reason, she really loves lessons, loves Vivaldi, loves thinking of herself as a violin-playing person, so there you have it. 


(Pink next to pink and white.)





(Afternoon at the farmette, where she never wants to listen to music but always wants to read books with me. And climb a tree. Same tree.)




The next few days weeks are going to be fast paced, I think. House cleaning, family celebrations, big meals, holiday exhale with all the kids, peony magic in the flower fields, clean up at the farmhouse, launch book, pack up and go. Not across the ocean, but still, go! All that, in less than a week. Hop on board for a crazy ride!

With love...


 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

to be happy

1. What I'm Thinking

It is hard to celebrate happiness when there's a senseless war to the east and a senseless shooting to the south of you. Very hard.

Still, the war wont stop for you and the gun violence will not go away so you can't put your life on hold waiting for people to start acting sane. You continue. You celebrate birthdays. You celebrate the everyday. You celebrate your luck if you happen to be born in a place that hasn't been attacked from the outside or from the inside. No war, no atrocity.

At the same time, you never grow numb to the pain of others who were not so lucky in life.

Sigh....

 

2. Celebrations

Our own celebrations continue. And I actually have two today. First of all, we have a birthday. More on that in a bit. In addition though, on this very wet and cool spring day, I'm celebrating the arrival of my book: Like a Swallow, in my hands right now, for the very first time.



It feels odd to look at these words on paper rather than on my computer screen. I suppose this is true of any long term project: you work on it forever and suddenly you're done and then said item is put to use, or enters circulation and you feel a little off kilter. Like the person who builds her own canoe then after years and years of work, goes out to paddle and suddenly the boat isn't on her workbench but out in the water. Weird!

I am being interviewed about the whole writing project tomorrow and I swear I will think of something clever to say about it, but right now I just keep thinking that it certainly was a slog and honestly, as I reread the text yet again, all I can think of is that 1. we all missed a couple of typos! And 2. I'd like to tackle certain paragraphs once more. Because they are never good enough and the human brain is always capable of coming up with something better. Is that the way all book authors feel? Poor guys.


Breakfast is with the next batch of blooms from the garden: it's lily-of-the-valley time! Oh, the fragrance!

 



In the afternoon, I prepare for Sandpiper's birthday. Meaning I shop -- for party drinks (actually there's a lot of partying coming up this weekend so the party drinks list is long!), for cupcakes, for balloons. [Me to sales person: I'd like you to blow up a bunch of balloons for me. Here, these! Sales person: the balloons are between $3 and $10 and then we charge $8 for each blow-up. Me: did I hear right? $8 for each blow up? Sales person: there is a shortage of helium, you know. Me: I'll just get three balloons.]




And then the young family arrives -- after work, after school, in the thick of a  heavy rain shower. Happy first birthday sweet, active little guy!




(The non-birthday sibs)




Birthday dinner: today Sandpiper sits at the head of the table.




Helping him blow out the candle.



May you keep that good fortune with you all through your life!

Happy, happy birthday!

With so much love...


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

audience

A cool spring day, where I thought I would have no more planting to do -- until I saw that the nocturnal beast had once again dug up newly planted lilies and lavender. What's with this animal? He digs, carries it to the driveway, dumps, and digs out another. I may have to stage a night watch to catch him red handed. 

Well, maybe it's easier just to keep putting the plants in. So I plant. At some point he'll get tired of this game. Wont he? Wont he??

Morning walk.


(our oldest hen)





Breakfast.




And soon after -- a long conversation with my Polish friends. Their reaction to my book (Like a Swallow, which is officially released next week, though it can be pre-ordered either at the Little Creek Press or at any of the Amazon, Barnes & Noble and usual book-selling venues) is predictably different than that of friends on this side of the ocean. Here, people are curious, with little idea as to the story that fills the pages. There -- well, they may be curious, but also a touch defiant. Perhaps apprehensive? How exactly did I present this time that we all lived through in Poland? Where were my allegiances?

I can only answer that I did not push a point of view in the book. I offer a life story and I leave it to you to understand the reasons behind choices made and steps taken. The hope is that the reader, the non-Polish reader will gain insight into what was at stake for those of us who grew up in Poland in the post war years. People's ideas are too often shaped by brief media reports and rumors about Poland under so called communism.

So was this written for an American audience? Initially, I did approach the project with that audience in mind. In fact, I start the book in a place familiar to an American reader -- New York. And I write about what's it like to be Polish in the America of the 1960s. And then slowly I take you back to Poland.

But since my 100th rewrite, I've shifted my thoughts on this: I want this book to say something as well to those who were with me in Poland then. Fact is, I looked at Polish life differently through my Americanized eyes. Sometimes being just a bit on the outside (Americanized and non Catholic) helps you frame questions in new ways. So maybe I suggest some additional layers of understanding to this shared time that we had in Poland.

Did I succeed with both audiences? I don't know. You tell me!


And in the afternoon, after school...



... Snowdrop decides to write a book -- her own take on the writer Josh Funk's method of debunking classic fairy tales. (Hers is called -- No, this is NOT Mary Had a Little Lamb. It's funny!)



She has chastised me several times for not telling her about my book. I explain that she wasn't even born when I started writing it and then she was so young! She retorts -- well you could have told me when I was seven!

She finishes writing and illustrating her story and it is late and I take her home.

 

 

And yes, I do think and worry about the drama unfolding in Texas. We all should think and worry about this. Every day.

With so much love...

Monday, May 23, 2022

work all day

 This was my last entirely free day in the planting season (there is a lot going on in the next two or three weeks!) and I used every minute of it. Doing what? Planting! Lots and lots of planting. 

I moved irises. (I have such mixed feelings about this flower. I love it, I planted it in a number of places and yet... It has such a short blooming period! So much space for a fleeting appearance early in the season and then boom! You have to wait another year for a rerun.) I moved hostess (I'm always moving hostess. I'm sure every person who works with plants is always dividing and moving hostas.) I finished planting the lavender (and winced at some of the replacement plants: they looked if not dead on arrival, then certainly terribly ill on arrival). I put in the last day lilies (this is a real milestone for me in each year: to be done with lily planting means that I have to wait until January before I can start dreaming about new varieties). All this took many, many hours. I did not pause for lunch, I did not pause for rest. I just planted.

Ed is nearly finished with planting trees and I want to help him, really I do, but my plate was full today. Exhaustingly full.

I did have a very nice, very leisurely early walk to the barn, camera in hand...









And Ed and I and Dance had breakfast together...




And then we plunged into our respective planting work. The weather was perfect for it: spring at her best. Partly cloudy, a touch cool, but pleasantly so.

I am absolutely positive that we will not survive a show with popcorn tonight. The only question is who will fall asleep first on the couch -- a very tired Ed or a super tired me!


Sunday, May 22, 2022

farmette Sunday

To work the farmette lands -- just the two of us, no help coming in from anyone -- to plant, cultivate, maintain fertile growing spaces, to create flower fields -- all this requires enormous amounts of patience. You can mind the destructive force of a late frost or a storm or a dry spell, you can groan when you spot powdery mildew on phlox, or tiny red bugs covering your heliopsis stems, but you cannot despair. In growing things, you meet the challenge, adjust your strategy, and continue.

This is what I told myself when I went out to survey the fields looking for a place for the additional lavender that arrived last week (as an "oops, we're sorry" gift from the nursery for sending us a bunch of dried up and mostly dead lavender back in April). I checked on the lilies that I planted yesterday. Hey wait, where are they? Oh! Some animal dug each one, carried it off, dumped it on the driveway, and went on to do the same for the remaining two. What nerve!

But, you cannot despair. You take out the shovel and replant the lilies and think of ways to protect them from the devilish pranks of whatever nocturnal beast came this way by the light of the moon.


It is a gorgeous if cool day! Good morning, world! 




Good morning, Happy!




Good morning, Dance!



Ed and I both have a list of projects to attend to outside and we get to them right away. After a quick breakfast.




Just saying the names of what I have to put into the ground makes me smile: lilies, strawberries, lavender. Lots and lots of lavender (this batch looking somewhat better than the last, but still, it's not 100% strong and healthy. We'll see what comes of it).

We work hard, all day long.


In the evening, the young family is here for dinner. 

(Girl in tree? How could that be!)



 (boy with his favorite d'Affinois cheese)



Mom, dad, Snowdrop, Sparrow, and Sandpiper. It's a challenge to pay attention to all. There are Sunday dinners where I hardly say a word to one, because number two and number three are chatting away to me in the kitchen, or I want to exchange a few sentences with my daughter.  Today, Snowdrop and Sparrow go off to play and Sandpiper shows off his recent accomplishment: confident walking. Not just a step or two, but a real saunter that makes your pulse quicken as you try to keep him within a safe space.







(And finally -- dinner.)




And the world outside is beautiful and inside -- pretty special too.


Saturday, May 21, 2022

the return

It's never fun to leave Chicago. I mean, I can't really gripe -- it took me all of two hours and twenty minutes to drive from my daughter's home to the farmette. Obviously a hiccup of a moment in the scheme of things. But to me, it's far enough that you can't just pop over for a meal together. Or a drink, or cup of coffee. Or an evening of sitting around and poking fun at the ridiculousness of life. Or to put one child or the other to bed while parents move about their tasks in a more relaxed mode. 

Still, I'm there lots of times and, too, they like to drive up to Madison, so our paths do cross and we do have many many wonderful meals and evenings and mornings together. So, once again, I think of myself as exceptionally lucky: two young families, within a reasonable drive of where I live. 

Still, it's never fun to leave Chicago.

This morning for breakfast, my daughter sliced for us two wonderful bakery treats -- a challah bread and a chocolate babka. I love both. I ate both. I savored the moment!

("me too! I savored the smell!")




Of course, Primrose was there, right by my side at the table.




But soon after, I had to leave. A few more words, hugs, and photos, this time not on a timed release, but with the photographic help of my daughter.




She of me, me of her!




Oh yes -- how quickly they all grow...




And now I'm back at the farmette. In my absence, it surely turned lush and yes, very much in need of a "haircut!"




I work all afternoon in the flower fields. Plants, waiting to go in, weeds, always the weeds, encroaching. And as I dig, I think about my daughters: they're such good people, fine moms, and, too, they work hard at finding a professional balance so that they can feel connected to both family life and their work. They manage this better than I did. In fact, they do lots of things better than I did, which is exactly what you want from your grown up kids. It makes me very very proud. 


Evening: it is true that I'm still tracking the day as if I were in Chicago. Seven o'clock? Juniper eats, Primrose squeezes in last minutes of play. I'm wondering what books she'll pick for bedtime reading... 

Transitions take time. Still, Ed is here and we walk the farmette lands, reviewing the trees, the tomatoes, the methods of planting a few strawberries so that no animal can get to them. I scramble cheeper eggs and steam some local asparagus for supper.

And the lilac is still blooming and the clematis flowers are exploding and all's right with our little world.





With so much love...

Friday, May 20, 2022

Chicago week

Good Morning, Chicagoland! So, you're promising storms today? I can't be surprised. First comes the hot air, then come the winds and with them storms.

I'm off to a late start because I am moving: from the lovely pied a terre, to the beautiful home of my daughter. Too, Juniper has a morning date with her working dad (who is taking her to a meeting -- she is much in demand) so that I don't quite have to be there before the school bell rings. We make complicated plans, don't you think?

Other changes, or rather additions to note here: you can still preorder my book, Like a Swallow,  directly from Little Creek Press, following my link at the side bar. Or, if you prefer to stay with Amazon, you can now order it there. I will write a tiny bit more about the book on its official release date (June 3rd), but of course, the best way to understand what went into the writing of it is to pick it up and dig in! (Insert cartoon here of girl digging a whole into which she drops book with a smug smile.)

Okay, I'm out of my pied a terre, out of the interesting Lincoln Park/Sheffield neighborhood...




... and back with little Juniper. Hello, Juniper!



As I bathe her, play with her, feed her (we eat breakfast together, albeit it is my first and her second), I think back to an awful dream I had last night. It was so bad that I asked all those around me (dream people, all of them) if maybe this could please be a dream from which I could wake up. Pinch me! Nothing happened. Dream continued. For however long dreams last. And I thought -- my reality is so wonderful, but the dream, too felt real. I suppose the only perceived difference was in the length of time it took to bring an end to it. The greatest luck belongs to those of us whose reality is so good that we don't want to switch it with whatever dreams come our way. Ever. Of course, there are people like Ed who rarely have bad dreams. His reality may be better, but his dreams are not so bad either. How fair is that?! Still, you need only imagine how many people have nightmares that are the real deal. That's tough to accept. Everyone should have the joy of waking up to the promise of something good.


Okay, Juniper: splash, read, bounce.




Eat, play, nap. A baby's good life.

And I get my last selfie of the trip. I'm returning to the farmette tomorrow and this is my last solo day with Juniper. Happy break for me: she loves our camera games!




In the late afternoon, Juniper and I take a short walk to the small grocery store that happens to also sell flowers. The young family has been feeding me and attending to my whims and needs -- surely I should leave some bunches of blooms behind. Tulips and sweet peas! 




Flowers are my balm -- perfection, even with all their rough edges, bent stalks and faded petals. I suppose it's trendy to discover your own thirst for a connection to the natural world. Me -- I've been lucky to have been immersed in that world before I could even walk. Sure, I had some city years -- rough going for me! -- but good parks were always within walking distance. And my daughters -- both are lucky that their homes, even though near urban centers, have plenty of sprouting things and leafy trees everywhere. Just from my brief walk with Juniper, I could admire this:




(Juniper loves looking up at trees! I can't blame her -- they're all magnificent.)




The Chicago neighborhood where the young family lives is mixed -- some very old and very modest homes, some apartments, new condos, old condos (theirs is that), and then of course, the expensive homes that belong on the Netflix series I've been watching -- The World's Most Extraordinary Homes.  One can only hope that these blocks will retain a mix, so that these trees -- some of them quite ancient -- can always provide shade for you and me and that old lady sitting on her porch in her plastic chair, taking sips from a chipped cup that must be as ancient as the trees towering above her.




Toward evening, we pick up Primrose from school: it's a super windy day! Can you tell?




So here I am, siting at the dinner table with this wonderful young family and thinking -- I hope my life isn't one big dream. It's nothing I would want to wake up from. 


(Primrose works on her art, parents cook up a fantastic dinner, we eat.)










How good it is to spend this time with all of them!


Don't you just find yourself wishing that good fortune, as measured by the peace in your community and the deliciousness of fresh meals eaten with those we love wouldn't be so concentrated in so few pockets in this beautiful yet complicated world? 



With love...