Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chapel in the Hills
This weekend marked the end of my 4th decade on this planet. I did not dread it like so many stereotypical birthday cards suggested I should. There was no angst, no sudden realization that “oh no, my life is half over!” No shopping on for a red convertible or figuring out what medical methods I can employ to retain my fading youthful appearance. No, the weekend, and new decade, ushered in rather peacefully, despite my 19-year-old’s constant reminders about how “old” I am now. Reflecting back on my life so far, I can see it just gets better and better. My teen years were full of anxiety, lack of confidence and lack of direction. All I knew was that I was ready to be out of the house and into the wider world, and leave my small-town and small-school labels behind me. My twenties were also full of anxiety, lack of confidence, lack of direction, lack of finances, and to top it all off, several dysfunctional relationships and a large dose of single-parenting. There is not enough money in the world, if it were even possible, to pay me to go back and relive my twenties. But there were bright spots, too. I met some of the dearest people, whom I still cherish as my closest friends. I finished my college education, while working full-time and single-parenting, graduating Summa Cum Laude as my 8-year old cheered from the audience, “Yea Mom!” I faced my fears and jumped out of an airplane. I faced my fears and learned how to navigate using a map and compass, to travel by canoe through the wilderness, to sleep alone in the dark woods. I traveled to Germany and Ireland and Africa. Yet I was still eager to leave those tumultuous twenties behind and enter my 30’s. My fumbling as a na├»ve new parent was behind me. All of my dysfunctional relationships had been terminated, and the required amount of grieving and emotional detoxification (not to mention years of counseling) were under my belt. My thirties had to be better than the last twenty years, I sensed, and I looked forward to them. At age 31 I met my beloved. We were married two years later in a storybook setting in a Norwegian Stavkirke outside of Rapid City, SD. The rest of my 30’s were a blur of financial difficulties, parental struggles dealing with my daughter’s increasingly bizarre and scary behaviors (results of her anxiety disorders), and health challenges for my daughter and husband, culminating in three hospitalizations in 11 months, all of which were for life-threatening conditions. Through all of this turmoil and chaos, my beloved stood beside me like a rock (well except for the time HE was hospitalized for 10 days… then he laid beside me like a rock). I could not have made it through this last decade without his unwavering love and support, and for that I will always be grateful. Somehow, we all survived all of the challenges. I will always remember my 30’s as being exceeding difficult, but also blessed in so many ways. My daughter grew up into a beautiful, endearing, entertaining individual. And of course, more adventures. The purchase of my ultra-light 16’ cherry red Epic kayak, in which I have spent hours upon hours of delightful paddling and wildlife spotting. Camping, canoeing, the “Superior 35” (35 miles on the SHT for my 35th b-d). Back to Europe - Scotland, then Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. Then a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to New Zealand and Australia over Christmas and New Year’s. And now, my 40’s. What lies ahead? What new adventures, what new lands? I am so excited to find out. Life is more stable than ever before. We have gotten through most of our financial challenges. Our child is safe and stable and happy and healthy. I am contemplating how to incorporate even more writing into my days. I believe I have a book or two in me, about getting through those tough times. I am no longer anxious or lacking in confidence or direction. I have my entire life ahead of me. And I have no regrets. Bad choices, yes, I have made many – experience is the toughest teacher of them all, but the end result is wisdom and compassion and a strength that cannot be forged any other way but by braving the depths of hell and coming out the other side. Yes, I look forward to the next 40+ years of my life. But, I could still use that little red convertible…… Blessings -

Friday, May 22, 2009

pile of robin babies
The babies are gone. Those incredible blue eggs which hatched into a vulnerable pile of blind, featherless beaks, barely strong enough to lift their heads up when mom or pop arrived with a mouthful of worms… whose collective dog-pile barely made lump in the bottom of the nest, who grew bigger daily before our eyes, popping out feathers, changing colors and growing until they outsized their nest, decided yesterday, on exactly their 14th day after hatching, that it was time to go.
mamma and 2 beaks At 7:00am yesterday morning, all 4 were still piled into the nest. By my 9:00am coffee pot trip, 3 remained. I searched the ground under the nest – no sign of the 4th. All day I checked back on them from time to time, and all 3 were still piled in there. Two of them took turns standing and stretching their wings, preening and sitting on the edge of the nest, but neither dared make the jump. The third seemed content to sit still beneath the other two, contemplating what lay ahead perhaps. At 6:30pm when my beloved got home all 3 little birds still stared at us every time we passed by the kitchen sink window. When I returned at 7:00, only 1 baby remained. He/she looked a bit lost now, all the siblings suddenly gone, the nest which was overcrowded moments before, nearly empty. But this baby didn’t seem to be in any big hurry to leave. I had to wonder if it was perhaps the 4th baby, the one that hatched the day after the rest, the one we had dubbed “slowpoke.” It was impossible to tell which was which, they all looked alike to our non-robin eyes. Would it take yet one more day to mature, as it did to hatch? We wondered, and the robin wondered back at us through the glass. We started to prepare our dinner on the counters near the window, glancing over every few minutes to see what it was up to. Then suddenly, I looked and the nest was empty. We had missed it, we had missed all of them take that fateful leap. We scrambled up onto the countertops in order for a better view, and searched the ground below our windows and the bushes and nearby trees. My beloved's keener eyes saw it first, in the nearest tree, its spotted breast differentiating it from one of its parents. It was hopping from branch to branch, mamma robin not too far away, calling to it. We watched it for awhile, until it had hopped up too high and out of sight.

3 amigos Slowly we climbed back down off of the counters. We took our plates to the table and enjoyed our meal. But each time I walked back over to the sink, I couldn’t help glance into the empty nest, half expecting some curious baby to have returned to the safe and comfortable place it had known for the last 14 days. And every time the empty nest stared back at me, I felt a little sad. I had come to enjoy checking on them throughout the day. Any time I was at the sink, all I had to do was look up, and four pairs of eyes looked back at me. Or one pair, with three pair shut sound asleep. Or no pairs, just four beaks agape in what I imagined were robin snores.

lone ranger Today, after checking the empty nest at least a half a dozen times, I headed down to the basement to see if my teenager was ready to go to work. She had been working on tidying up all stuff in the boxes and bins she recently moved back home with, when things fell through with her roommate in town. It is, in a word, a big mess. I sigh but acknowledge she has made some progress over the last two days. Our nest was empty for 6 months. No longer. Our baby has fledged and flapped her wings about in the wide world beyond, only to return again when the world was a bit too much to handle.

empty nest Where will the robins go when the winds blow and the rains torrent this summer? Will they have a safe place to take shelter from the storms of life? It won’t be back in their little nest, that is for sure. But I send a prayer out to the universe that wherever they are right now, they will find shelter from the storms, and that perhaps next spring, they may grace our window again with new life and new hope in the spring sunshine. And I send another prayer out, that our own little fledgling will also find her wings and the strength and courage to leap from the nest again, ready to explore the world once more on her own. Blessings - Victoria

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Merino kisses Last weekend, over Mother's Day, was the 12th Annual Shepherd's Harvest Festival, a celebration of all things wool and natural fibers, and the animals they come from. Sweetie and I spent all day Saturday cruising the vendor booths and animal barns, admiring wool products in all of it's stages, from still on the animal, to raw fleeces freshly shorn off the sheep, to rovings and yarns and wonderful fiber products.
braided roving rug I thought spending an entire day at the event would be enough to see all of the booths and the animals displays - I was wrong. I could have easily spent two or three more days. I did also attend on Sunday, but spent the entire day happily learning how to braid wool roving rugs, a class taught by Letty Klein, co-author of the book The Shepherd's Rug.

Karakul ewesIronically, when we walked through the sheep barn the day before, I was struck by a pair of adorable jet black ewes, with silky lustrous curly locks that reminded me of angora goats. The sign over their stall indcated they were owned by Letty, part of her flock at Pine Lake Farm Karakuls. I had never heard of a Karakul sheep before. I was intrigued, and even more so after meeting Letty and hearing about this ancient breed that has all but disappeared from the US. Karakul may be the most ancient breed of sheep. They originated in the deserts of Africa and Asia, and have the ability to store up fat in their tails, thus being categorized as a "fat tail" variety. The adult wool is of a courser quality but felts excellently and is therefore highly prized as a rug wool. But whatever their history, one thing is certain - the lambs are outrageously beautiful. spinning off the hare Aside from the many wonderful breeds of sheep, we visited goats, angora rabbits (including a woman spinning directly off of her rabbit!) and of course, my beloved camelids. Although the barns held more llamas than alpacas, I enjoyed perusing the stalls and viewing the animals getting groomed for the shows the next day. I look forward to the day I might have some guard llamas or pack llamas of my own. Not to mention some of those Karakul sheep... perhaps a milk goat or two... the possibilities truly are endless, and an event like Shepherd's Harvest really does incite one to dream big.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We are so excited to announce the baby robins hatched yesterday! Well, 3 out of the 4 did anyway. The 4th blue egg is still in the nest. We've been keeping a close eye on mamma robin, who moved back into her nest about 2 weeks ago, which happens to be on the utility box right outside the kitchen window, offering us a great view. We've been respectful of her, being quiet in the kitchen, trying not to scare her off of the nest. When she leaves to relieve herself or eat, we have clammered up on the countertops to peer inside the nest. We were delighted when 4 bright blue eggs were discovered. robins eggs And ever since, we've kept a close eye on the nest any time she leaves it. But it was the kiddle's sharp eyes yesterday evening that noticed a tiny beak just barely visible from our angle. We all clambered for our cameras, eager to snap the first pictures of the newly hatched babies while mamma was still away. mouth agape That picture wasn't quite in focus, but was the only one we have so far of any of the babies with their mouths open. They were all pretty sleepy yesterday, not that I blame them. This morning, while I was out for my walk to the lake, sweetie was busy with the camera again, and we were amazed that the little naked babies have already sprouted fuzz! snoozin' We are just overwhelmed by all of the signs of spring here, so different than the muted signs in the city. Yes, we had birds at the townhouse, but not like this - not nesting outside our windows, not singing like crazy by the thousands right outside our doors. The green of chemically treated and pesticided lawns was not like the fresh green we see here, and the air did not smell so dewey clean. fuzzy babies We are indeed inundated and delighted by all of these things, awed by the abundant blessings we see and here around us each and every day. Peace and blessings - Victoria

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. I snuck out for a walk yesterday, around sunset, and again this morning, after sunrise. Here are a few of the scenes that greeted me.
Sunset over fields pink clouds fog
ditch dock
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