Tuesday, September 13, 2016

beyond the scenery habit, in Taproot: Wander issue

We have three children back at school for their first full week and I am eager to get back to writing.  And I can't think of a better way to jump back in than to have my essay, beyond the scenery habit, be included in the most recent issue of Taproot: Wander.  This issue is, as usual, visually gorgeous, and full of good things.  My essay is about our family's road trip, taken last summer, and specifically about Yellowstone National Park and our time there.  Several images I took of the park are also included.

My copy of the issue arriving in the mail inspired me to pull out our photo albums from our trip and sit for a while with them, remembering our time together there.  Such a perfect activity to do with our children as we all transition back into the school year and schedule.  The difference even just one year makes, their faces longer, shiny now with orthodontia, legs longer, those shoes now in the hand-me-down bins.  It makes one realize all that can change within one year, within one person, within one place.  And makes one excited for the year to come, aware of all that a year can hold.  
We used to visit our national parks most often by car.  Families took time and experienced the gradual approach to the park being visited.  Anticipation was part of the journey as was the wildness of a family spending time together for hours and days, traversing states.  Today we arrive by plane.  We miss the trek across the vast expanse of this nation.  
from The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams

Part of an amazing 3000 mile road trip last summer for us, Yellowstone National Park is a fascinating and complicated place, and being there as a family with eyes wide open and bodies stretched and exploring, it's all the good stuff of parenting these days.  And there was much wildness of a family spending time together for sure.  For me, I had visited as a child and now twice as a parent.  We returned to the park this summer as well, and experienced it as a family who had been there before.  We did some of the same things, responded to each can we do that again? with yes as often as we could.  But we also explored new scenery, and had different knowledge about the park and its history than we had before, different capacities for taking it all in, and even just a year later it felt different, was different than we remembered, and we were different within it.  And certainly, I now have a different understanding of the complexities of preserving land, history, story, and wilderness in the United States having done the research for my essay.

Today, I watch from here in the East as wildfires close access to our beloved campground there in the West.  The distance erased by the Twitter account I followed upon entering that park more than a year ago, and will not unfollow. And I think of those woods, those trees, the sounds that held us while we were there.  I look through photos of woods that burned, tree trunks charred, and green grasses and wildflowers thriving at their bases and remind myself of the natural processes at work.  

I am currently reading The Hour of Land:  A Personal Topography of American's National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams.  We have visited as a family over the past two summers many of the parks, each chapter devoted to one that she has a personal history within, .  I am learning more.  I am watching as Maine begins the process of creating another National Monument in the northern woods of Maine, after years of advocacy and of dissent.  This newly protected place near the woods of my own childhood, so familiar that I can, here at my desk, conjure the smell of the lake water and cedar and dirt, squint in the dappled light filtering down through the thick branches while listening to the lake lap against the old wooden dock.  And Nicholas, our oldest, has just returned from a week spent near those woods.  I can smell those woods in his backpack, and he is full of stories of sleeping under shooting stars beside a lake.  Now he has been to a part of those woods that I have never visited.  And that is...where we are now.  And it's good.
This is what we can promise the future: a legacy of care.  That we will be good stewards and not take too much or give back too little, that we will recognize wild nature for what it is, in all its magnificent and complex history -- an unfathomable wealth that should be consciously saved, not ruthlessly spent...Humility is born in wildness.  We are not protecting grizzlies from extinction;  they are protecting us from the extinction of experience as we engage in a world beyond ourselves.
from The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams

I hope you will find a copy of Taproot and enjoy all it holds.  

Here in Portland, Maine, it is available at these shops.  And it can be ordered online here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

sandwiches are beautiful

We apparently have needs for things that I do not typically provide.  Like bread that is square.  And bacon that is not weird (don't worry, it's not bad bacon, its just the bacon pieces and ends from Trader Joe's).

Just days ago, the kids and I found ourselves all home together on their half school day.  They come home in time for lunch, a time that I used to love and we would head to the beach for a picnic and a wade and then home all sandy and tottering and sweet.  These days, half school days, especially as the end of the school year approaches, are more like a frantic shuttle service provided by me as I ferry children about the city and pick them up all dirty and tottering under their guitars and athletic bags and sweaty. And needing food.  Desperately.  I love them still.  But they do smell worse now. And they may be a little less sweet.

But as we drove home this day, they began waxing poetic about eating out.  And reliving the perfect sandwiches of some past lunch time restaurant.  I do not judge the sandwich love.  I have a song I can sing you about sandwiches and their beauty.  And there is one sandwich, a sandwich of such fame and glory and perfection, that I often will tell about, salivating as I remember it.  It was delivered to my hospital room in what seems now like rather odd timing, as the way I remember it was that I ordered it on the phone from the menu left for me almost immediately post birth.  Maybe the doctors had not left yet?  Likely not.  But that's a good part of the image.  

And this sandwich, post gestational diabetes induced dietary restrictions?  Was the BEST.  SANDWICH.  I.  HAVE.  EVER.  HAD.  I just drooled a little bit thinking about it.  

We could make yummy sandwiches, I suggested.  

Can we stop and get real bread?  Someone said from the back of the minivan.  I held my tongue. (I do make most of our bread.  It is often delicious.  But, to be fair, sometimes oddly shaped.)

Can they be club sandwiches?  Cut into triangles?  With pickles?  And toothpicks.  And Mommy, club sandwiches have bacon.  Do we have to use...your weird bacon?

I careened the minivan into the grocery store lot and the four of us piled out and had the first four person grocery shopping run we have had in ages.  

Can we get lettuce?  That's clean?  And doesn't taste like dirt? asked Nicholas, strangely excited about this possibility.

Supplies selected, we headed home.  They actually jumped right into helping me cook, but a few minutes in to trying to cook in a kitchen still uncleaned up after breakfast and I shooed them out.

Can we watch funny YouTube videos while you make lunch?  Given the chaos in the car, I was hankering for a few quiet moments before what would likely be a raucous afternoon ahead, so I gave in.  I was being Fun Mommy today.

the unfed three

store boughten bread.

shhh.  it's my weird bacon.

Mommy!  Julia called from the other room.  Can you toast the bread?  But don't burn it like usual.  (It's true).

note to self.  the children do not seem to know how to cut with knives.

You may wonder.  Just why was I being so lovely?  Well, because I just am, of course.  

Or, I was hoping to get them all plump enough to throw them in the already hot oven actually.  No.  I wanted to coax them to go for a kayak ride with me.  It's been that kind of week.  Weeks.  Busy, running around, everyone in different directions.  I had plans.  And the children are more compliant when well fed.

Turns out, all I had to do, as they settled back into the chairs gasping for breath after licking the pickle juice off their plates, was ask.

They even took charge, so fortified with potato chips were they.  Nicholas sent me out in my kayak first and handled the rest of the carrying.

Ah.  That's better.  And all it took was the perfect sandwich.  And pickles and potato chips.  And toothpicks.  And me holding my tongue.

Friday, May 27, 2016

minivan taxi service

I installed a package hive a few weeks ago, that colony a bunch of worker bees and an unrelated queen, arriving in a box and dumped into an empty, though built out by a past colony, hive.  A package colony has the work of getting to know each other, of waiting for the queen to get to work laying eggs, then waiting for those eggs to grow into bees and then for those bees to be old enough to fly before things really get going.  It's a longer more tenuous process, a package of bees, and the bees come from the South and have adaptations to that climate, rather than to what we have up here in the North.  

This year I also purchased a nucleus colony from Phil and Meghan Gaven at the Honey Exchange.  I can't tell you how excited I am about this.  These bees are a small colony of Maine made, Phil made, overwintered bees, their small hive box bursting with an existing colony of bees and brood and supplies already, and ready to grow, once they are placed in a full sized hive.  I headed to the Honey Exchange to pick them up.  I swear they have the best use of a backyard deck at their store I have ever seen.  

I didn't quite get the timing right, and I needed to head straight for school to pick up the kids.  I placed the hive box, on loan from the Gavens, next to my bee equipment and the lacrosse sticks and game snacks and drove like mad across the city.  Despite covering the hive with a blanket to disguise it from the four children in the car, I really wish I had a picture of the looks I glimpsed in the rear view mirror when they figured out that they were belted and trapped inside a minivan with a sizable box of bees.  That was humming.  Loudly.   

Kids deposited at their warm up, Elliott and I drove like mad, again, this time toward home.  And I got to work getting the nuc down to the beeyard.  

I popped it on top of the full hive stand that it would be going into, admired it for a few moments, grabbed Elliott, and we made it back in time to watch the lacrosse game while we sipped water on a blanket in the shade.  No one would have known what we had been doing moments before.

Next day, I headed back down to the beeyard.  I took a quick peek into the package hive and found eggs and larva and capped brood in the cells.  This was a good sign.  The queen is not only alive therefore, but she is mated and laying.  

The nuc bees were out and flying.  I needed to move them from the small nucleus colony hive to a full sized one.  I got to work, transferring two boxes of five frames into two boxes of eight frames, with the added frames having built out foundation (comb) and having some honey and pollen in them already from past colonies.

I missed the queen as I worked, and I kind of wanted to spot her, just to feel a little more confident that all was well.  I found her.  Eventually.  She's wearing the blue dot in the pictures below.

I even made it back to school on time to pick up the kids.  I met Jonathan in the streets near school.  He had a box with our four newest chicks inside, just having picked them up from the farm store.  I took that peeping box from him and headed home to get them under the heat light.  And he snatched the borrowed nuc box out of the back of my car and headed to the Honey Exchange on his way to piano lessons.

Because in May and June?  That's just how we roll.