Month: March 2015

Celebrating Life

Today is my husband’s birthday.  The children are always excited for anything ‘birthday!’  So we did it up right; we blew up balloons, made cupcakes, and wrapped him up a big present (work gloves, a watering can, some ‘real’ cinnamon sticks and a photo book of a recent vacation).  Rob is a modest man.  He rarely takes notice of his important achievements or events, so I take it upon myself to show him just how much he means to us!  We decided to have a midday party, and invited two of Rob’s dearest friends for lunch. It was such a blessing to have members of our growing community participating in our family event today.  I was rejuvenated by the presence of meaningful friendship.  We meandered through discussions of seeds, cooking, Lego, Permaculture, passions, inner transition work, and the dental hygiene of pirates – thanks to the chocolate cupcakes.  Then the boys headed out to survey the latest forest garden project in the sunshine.  We shared joy.  Laughter.  Gratitude.  It was everything a birthday should be.

Today marks a day for me to revel in how amazing Rob is.  To take notice of all that he offers this world and how blessed I am to have his presence and love in my life.  How marvelous it is that he is.

In the course of our days filled with the busyness of having a family and multiple other pursuits, it is easy to lose sight of how sacred our relationship is.  Somehow the years have flitted past, not without notice, but without a consciousness of the changes. It is hard to remember my life before Rob was part of it.  We started our life together when I was only sixteen years old.  As I reflect back on our teenage selves, I feel so excited about where our lives have taken us, and the potential for where we will go next.  We have grown together.  As we have taken shape alongside each other, our roots have become so intertwined that it now difficult to tell whose are whose.  I am so blessed to have this man by my side.  One who loves me unconditionally.  I never knew I could love someone so deeply.

I have such gratitude for this birth day.  The one that celebrates a beautiful gift to this world.  The one that changed my life.  The one that sparked the lives of my children.

Look at all we’ve made.

Happy Birthday Rob!

Seasons of Consciousness Raising

As I was driving this morning in the rain, I was thinking of how ‘dreary’ Spring can be.  For a season which bears such abundance, why is it that I perceive it as so messy?

Immediately following this thought, I had the idea that when I raise consciousness on an issue, it goes from dormancy (Winter), through a very messy period (Spring), grows into new understandings (Summer), finishing finally with the letting go of old paradigms (Fall).  This cycle continues, bringing dormant thoughts into the light for messy growth toward beauty and change.  The seasons edge into each other.  Sometimes they shift suddenly, and other times they blend together so I’m not too clear on where one ended at the next began.  They are natures pattern of growth.

Suddenly the mess of spring – both inside and out, just became a whole lot more beautiful to me!

Relinquishing Control

Last night we were reflecting on our gardens, how when we tried to plant in certain cover crops, we ended up not being successful.  When we were able to give up on trying to control what came up, we ended up with lambs quarters, plantain, and dandelion.  These were the plants the soil needed to be healthy – both for soil regeneration and to keep it covered thus preventing erosion and drought.  They also all happen to be edibles.

With parenting, I often will try to ‘take control’ of a situation.  This usually leads to the situation escalating and  everyone feeling miserable.  There are days where the power struggles never seem to end, ending up in a whole day cycle of negativity.  If there is behaviour happening that I don’t like, it rarely works to demand it be changed.  I have been much more successful setting clear limits with choice attached.  It is so very easy to feel I’m getting somewhere by imposing a ‘time out’ (which still happen from time to time in our home, only now they look more like ‘a self-selected independent activity’).  Sometimes these are warranted to calm ourselves down (I’m purposely including myself here!) but the manner of delivery and attitude toward the shift is what matters.  Similar to the garden, if I swoop in too soon or too fast, I will only end up missing an opportunity to cultivate something worth while.  Behaviours, like weeds, are always filling a void.

Nudging.  I am working to call my awareness toward nudging in the right direction.  I am building trust that things will work out, because they will.  When I push too hard, I am met with resistance.  From outside myself (the garden, the children, my spouse), but also from within.  My mental attachment to controlling a situation or achieving a desired outcome creates stress.  Wanting to maintain control also limits my capacity to accept that which deviates from my plan.  The harder I try to control something, the tighter my grip is fixed to an ideal.  Focus on ideals inevitable leads to discontent, since real life never measures up.  It isn’t supposed to.  It is what I do not intend to happen which actually allows change.  Deviations are what bring about evolution.  They need not be forced, they come when there is space.  They come when there is a need.

So what would happen if I were able to let go of ‘control’?  More aptly put, what could happen if I let go of ‘control’?

Morning Ritual

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

(Almost) every morning, Rob will get up with the baby, or whichever child wakes first.  He lets me get in at least an extra 15 minutes of solitude before breaking into my day.  I have recently started a morning meditation before I allow my feet to touch the floor.  It seems this is the only way I can manage to integrate it into my day!  Once the children get sight of me, and I get sight of them (and all there is to do!) I can’t seem to make space for myself.  I am one who believes in ‘do what works,’  so I meditate before getting out of bed.

The last two days, Rob has been sick with a head cold.  This has meant that I’m out of bed as soon as I hear someone awake, in the hopes that they won’t wake the others.  It is a futile effort, since we sleep in close quarters.  Most days they’re all up shortly after 6am.  As a result of my abrupt entry into wakefulness and ‘mom-ness,’ I have really noticed a difference in my ability to roll with the events of the day.  Having just 10 to 15 minutes of daily meditation practice really helps to centre myself; to catch and store energy for my coming day.

What a blessing that morning solitude is.  I thank Rob often for his daily sacrifice, but I’m not sure he realizes just how important a gift he gives his family!

The Rocky Road to Simple Living

“The purpose of life is to unlearn what has been learned and to remember what has been forgotten.”

~Sufi Saying

This week, a friend of mine said that she has been finding ‘living simply’ to be really stressful.  Perhaps it was the five children whirling around us, or lack of sleep, but whatever it was, when I heard this I didn’t quite know what to say.  I looked at her in a way which I hope was supportive (but really I’m not sure), and remained at a total loss for words.  At the time, I was unable to understand what she meant.  Now, a few days later, I am going to take a stab at a response.

For me, the moments I have which resemble simple living are the best.  They are the moments where my heart sings.  Moments where I caress the soft rosy cheek of the baby, build a snowman with the boys, or take pleasure in watching the naked limbs of a tree dance against the clear blue sky of late winter.  The moments of simplicity are the ones that bring joy for me.  They come in the spaces I create between and within my activities.  They happen when I am able to be present.  ‘Simple Living’ is a goal I’m aiming for, but it’s an elusive one, since ‘simplicity’ is always being redefined for me.

Life is anything but simple, it is a web of emotions, actions and events.  I have little control over most of it.  What I can control is my reaction to it.  I can choose what to engage with and what to filter.  My journey toward a more simple life is a slow one.  I’m constantly recognizing more ways to pare down; things, activities, mental clutter.  I understand what she was referring to now, but I would call it my pursuit of simple living that erupts into inner turmoil.  To me, the ‘hard part’ is not the simple living, but the process of letting go of convention.

Transition toward simple living is like a slow journey up a spiral staircase.  I often become impatient with myself, wanting to have the changes already figured out, or feeling like they should have be resolved the last time I addressed the issue.  I have to remind myself that nature evolves too, and knows no perfect.  I don’t want to find myself missing out on the journey, for this is life.   My resistance comes, not because I don’t want to grow, but because the growing itself is difficult and often messy.   I have had so many times where I have felt overwhelmed; crushed by a parade of ‘shoulds.’  Times of guilt where I have felt like I should have been doing this or that ‘all along.’  Times when I’ve felt useless, like I should know better, or do better because I can’t get it all right, or anything right for that matter.  But the feeling that I need to ‘get it right’ only suggests that I’m currently doing something wrong, when I’m already trying my best.  Moreover, it suggests that there is somehow a defined ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in a world that is anything but black and white.  Feelings of not measuring up are based on what someone else thinks I should be doing, or even more frightening, what I think someone else thinks I should be doing!

What is simple living anyway?  For me it is changing enough ‘out there’ so that I can create space ‘in here.’  It is a reciprocal relationship, because as I create space ‘in here,’ I am able to let go of more ‘out there.’  Since the only thing I can control in this life is myself, for me this process of simplifying my life has become more about my inner journey than the outer one.  This is a difficult concept, as most approaches to simple living are based on the outward and therefore more visible changes.  These are far easier to quantify.  Culturally we are bombarded with messages that we will be successful if we seek happiness outside of ourselves, as if it is something that can be consumed. It makes sense then, that culturally we would be encouraged to seek a simple life by only changing what is outside of ourselves.

Change is hard.  It would be a whole lot easier if someone could just tell me what to do.  But then, I will not have managed to effectively transition through change at all.  I will have only changed which oeuvre of ‘should’ I follow. Our culture also touts ‘experts’ as the solution to my problems.  I have been ‘taught’ what to believe by others, which does not allow for the great wisdom I carry within myself to have a voice.  It also assumes that someone else could be an expert in how I should be living my life.  It takes such courage to listen to my intuition, because I’ve been taught that it has little value, and ultimately that it shouldn’t be trusted. The best and lasting changes I have made in life are the ones that have come out of a communion of information and my intuition.  Take cloth diapering for example, I don’t consider my conscious choice to have extra laundry as a burden since it was my inner voice that dictated that this was what our family should do.  For me, it would be more burdensome to not live with integrity by using disposables.

We live in an era and culture rich with information, which is both a blessing and a burden.  What a blessing that I can consider my overabundance a burden!  Nevertheless, it is all too easy to get over-saturated and lose focus.  I have become a master at calculated avoidance.  I can only let so much in at a time.  My life can only change at the pace I’m taking, because that’s all I can handle.  I can only change myself so quickly.  If I push too hard, I overwhelm.  I do the best I can, and forget the rest…for now.  I have learned that when I am ready to take something else on, it will still be waiting for me, along with a host of other new challenges.

It seems so much easier to ignore a problem, to pretend its not there and carry on.  This is what we’ve been culturally conditioned to do.  We are taught to not feel things, to pretend everything is alright and carry on despite ourselves, when clearly it’s not.  The truth is, whatever ‘thing’ is creating waves in my life won’t ever just go away, no matter how much I wish it were so.  The only way I’ve been able to work through my feelings of guilt, sadness, and overwhelm have been to face them head on.  My best learning comes through asking myself good questions, not by the answers I come to.

I am working on my tolerance of sitting with uncomfortable ideas and feelings, accepting them for what they are.  When I can accept something, it mysteriously loses its power over me.  When I attempt to control the shadows of unresolved issues lurking in the corner, they impact me in deep and unexpected ways.  When I try to ignore issues that are nagging at me, it only causes them to shout louder in order to get my attention.  I accept my feelings as my teachers.  They indicate that I need to pay attention.  Often my strongest feelings of resistance come just before a shift of consciousness.  Usually it means change is imminent, it’s a good sign…if I can trust it!

Squirrel Stew and Oat Biscuits

Last week we finally cooked up the squirrels that have been waiting in our freezer.  Being as we are not ones to waste anything, we kindly took the squirrels from my father-in-law who had been ‘culling the herd’ in order to protect his birdseed.  Rob skinned and dressed them around Christmas time, and they have been waiting in the freezer ever since.  It was our first time eating squirrel.  The taste is much like chicken, which is a statement that is thrown around a lot, but in this case true.

Our stew was nothing too special.  Some onions and garlic fried in butter, celery, potatoes, frozen tomatoes from our summer harvest, and the squirrels, lovingly busted up into smaller pieces and herbs were placed in a large pot on a slow simmer for the afternoon.

The result was quite nice.  The kids liked it, which is always a good sign!  I served the stew with my favourite biscuits.

Oat Biscuit Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cups oat flour

5 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 TBSP oil

2 TBSP maple syrup

1/2 cup water

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix oil and maple syrup in a separate container.  Add to dry ingredients and mix.  Add water until soft dough is formed.  Spoon dough onto a greased cookie tray.  Flatten with a fork.  Bake at 425˚ F for 15-20 min.

Spinning and Whirring

On my recent photography foray, I drove out to the country to find some interesting subject material.  As I was taking photos, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the giant turbines dotting the industrial agricultural landscape.  The way they rise up from the barren land is quite something.  As I snapped unrelated photos, I was stricken by the whirring vortex of their blades, pulling me in.  Even with my back turned, they still had an impact as I could hear the noise of their spin even at a distance of a kilometer or so.  It was a strange grinding pulsation of sorts.  I got back in my car and headed for the next subject.  I passed a long plowed drive, leading to the base of a turbine.  I drove past.  Feeling compelled for some reason to investigate further, I pulled over to the side of the road, and turned the car around.

Heading down the narrow corridor of a driveway carved in the snow, I stopped at this puddle.  I had the feeling that I shouldn’t be there.  Not only that, but I surely did not want to get stuck out here by myself.  I got out of the car and took the above photograph.  The whir of curiosity was now beckoning stronger.  I stuck a toe in the puddle, and deemed it only a few inches deep, thereby passable by car.  I drove on, around a bend, and stopped where other vehicles had before, based on visible tire marks in the mud.

I grabbed my camera and stepped out of the car.  I looked up.  I gulped.  I really had not expected this.  The turbine TOWERED above my head.  I felt so very small.  The visceral power generated by this structure was intense.  The blades were pulsing down toward my car and I.  I was afraid.  Not that, ‘I think something bad might happen’ type of mental fear, but a guttural fear.  A feeling of ‘get me out of here, NOW!’  The whirring was intense, vibrating my innards.   I took a deep breath, put the camera to my eye and pointed it up.  I captured the following shot.

With my heart racing, and my hands shaking, I clambered back into my car.  I didn’t want to back up down the long driveway and through the puddle.  In my ‘fight or flight’ state, I didn’t take time to think before acting.  I pulled forward onto what looked like fresh dirt and gravel.  Being that we’re in the middle of a thaw, I thought all tire tracks had dissipated with the snow.  I pulled forward and to the right to turn the vehicle around.  As I wheeled it around, now quite close to the base of the turbine, I felt the tires relax against the gravel.  My panic started to thicken.  I reassured myself.  Thoughts of ‘I’m going to be stuck here, under this turbine’ still took hold.  My tires were spinning like the turbine blades.  I backed the car up slightly, turned the wheel hard left and gave a few good thrusts on the gas pedal, easing my car out of the deeper gravel.  With focused intensity I got myself heading in the direction of home.  I shook, inside and out the whole way.

Rob and the children were at the end of the driveway when I got home, having just picked up the mail.  Upon parking up the car, Rob asked what had happened to the car.  Thinking he was perhaps referring to the mud I had sprayed up the side in my efforts to free myself from the turbine’s grip, I claimed to know.  After getting out of the car, I realized I had dislodged part of the wheel well in my efforts to plow through the gravel pit.  In my effort to hurry home, I drove despite the grinding whir of my own vehicle.  The plastic wheel casing is now damaged, and will need to be replaced since Rob had to cut half of it off this morning in order to get himself to work.

I wanted to have shared the experience with someone, to have my experience fully understood by another, because I will never go back to the base of a turbine.  Human efforts to harness the power of nature are just plain scary.