Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Warm Rain

Where's the snow?

My husband and I decided to have a child when we were in our mid-thirties. I snuck in just under the "we test you and your unborn for everything" age of 35. I conceived at age 34, and when asked my age  I answered confidently, "Thirty-four," even though halfway through my pregnancy I would turn 35.

I knew all would be well. I knew it even as my pregnancy reached its eighth and ninth months, during which my midwives were less sure and ordered tests and tests. Some I avoided like a "bad kid", canceling appointments via after hours answering service, avoiding return calls from their office. I knew all would be well.

The only time I felt like things would not be well was sometime during a test. My confidence would waver. A flush of heat would rise to my cheeks and chest. Jared would squeeze my hand. Every test came out ok, baby arrived ok, and the dent in the back of his head is ok, his diaper rash healed, his colic passed, all his teeth came in, he finally began to talk, and so on. Everything is ok.

We also conceived our child in the Age of Climate Change. I would like to be an optimist. I would like to be a denier. I would like to think everything is ok. Instead, I often chose to be a non-thinker. I just don't think about it, or at least I try not to.

I do what I can, teach my child about the plants. He brushes his hand across the cover of Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs, pausing on a photo of Arnica montana. He rubs each of my cheeks gently, then his father's. "Yes, these are the plants that heal us. Momma made a salve from flowers. We rub it on our cheeks in the winter," my husband says. My husband taught him this gesture, I suppose, because I didn't.

I would have never brought a child into a world I thought was doomed. But still.

I turn off lights, recycle grey water into our washing machine. We garden. We hardly have anything, we hardly buy anything but groceries. I navigate the shopping cart through organic, natural, and non- (conventional) labels, picking what I know my family will enjoy, what we can stomach, and what we can pay for.

This weather is strange. Will my son know snow? He knows it, loves it now. What about when he is ten?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Icy Rain

 January 16, 2013

I was predicted to be a "bad" winter. Not necessarily cold, but snowy. It's been neither. With our post-Sandy illnesses now mostly behind us (a dry cough still lingers in Beren's chest, though he no longer sounds like a power tool when sleeping), we have spent as much time outside as possible.

The recent dip in temperatures, to actual winterish temperatures of both freezing days and nights, kept us inside for a few days. Our work schedules abetted that, and I noticed we were all very grumpy. 

Wednesday, the 26th we awoke to misty rain and icy trees. "We're going outside," I told my son. We got soaked (you're probably thinking, "No wonder your kid has had a cough for weeks.") while stomping puddles and walking in the stream. 

Beren gamely used branches to balance as water rushed over his boots. We found a frozen frog, held it for a few moments, and did what we thought was best - put it back in the water beneath some leaves. We observed cardinal flower rosettes and stepped on and over multiflora rose. 

"Are you cold? Do you want to go back home?" My son didn't reply but kept walking. "Are you wet?"  He nodded. "Ok, let's go home."


On one cold evening, 25 January 2013 at 21:15 to be exact, someone edited the entry for cabin fever on Wikipedia: 

Cabin fever is an idiomatic term, first recorded in 1918,[1] for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations.[2] 
A person may experience cabin fever in a situation such as being in a simple country vacation cottage. When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail. The phrase is also used humorously to indicate simple boredom from being home alone.[3]
When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail. 

What an odd combination of characteristics. Tend to sleep? When? Where? Distrust? Even in the rain? What's wrong with walking in rain, snow, dark or hail?

Friday, January 25, 2013

in a gravel drive, scat, puddles, and flowers

Baltimore checkerspot and water hemlock - this butterfly seems to emerge when this plant is in bloom.

I wish I was a butterfly, and my only task was to search for flowers, and maybe a tree. Then, my name would be Pearl Crescent or Wood Nymph. 

I would not have to suck in my breath when I saw $223.14 flash on the screen at the grocery store. I would not have a hungry toddler in tow. I would never have to replace tires or get oil changes. No credit card, no library card. No vacuum, no humidifier, no dehumidifier, no propane tank, no phone, no email.

I would find riches in a gravel drive, scat, puddles, and flowers.

 Cabbage white and Corydalis sempervirens

 Pearl crescents and Rudbeckia sp., Delaware Water Gap

 Little wood satyr and sensitive fern, Hopewell

  Spotted purple, Sourlands

 Spotted purple, Sourlands

 Baltimore checkerspot, Sourlands

 Little glassywing and poison ivy, Mercer Meadows, Hopewell

 Great spangled fritillary and New Jersey tea and red clover, Sourlands

 Common buckeye, Sourlands

 Wood satyr, South Branch of the Raritan

 Common wood nymph, Sourlands

 Great spangled fritillary and wild bergamot, Sourlands 

Red admiral and wild bergamot, Sourlands

Skipper species and blazing star in the Sourlands. This is before I took a field trip with the North American Butterfly Association's New Jersey chapter. I promise to do better with the skippers every year. 

Sulphur species and blazing star in the Sourlands

 A butterfly of the Oak Openings preserve in Toledo Ohio and New Jersey tea

A hairstreak species and wild quinine at Koshkonong prairie, just a postage stamp along the roadside, but so lovely.  

 Fritillary species and red clover at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Eastern tiger swallowtail and Japanese maple, Sourlands

White admiral in parking lot, Balsam Mountain, Catskills

Friday, January 18, 2013

Can you guess what these things are?

These are some of tired, old things around our house. The top image is our pick up truck with balding tires - it is growing lichen. 

That's pretty inspiring, the lichen anyway. The decision to replace the tires has been made, now we just have to pay for them.

Then, there is the mouse-chewed label on my camera case. Even less inspiring than buying new tires. The bottom of which bag of mine is covered in mouse droppings? 

We've been exporting dead mice all winter. It's not a mast year, but not to worry, they have found necessary calories in plastic. They also chew on each other when we leave a sprung trap in the basement for longer than a day or two. Is that necro-cannibalism or waste not want not?

Last, a lunar landscape or my son's diapers? Yup, diapers. Jared and I have been meaning to replace them for awhile now. Beren's using the potty here and there. No rush, right? I cut down some of the bigger diapers we never used. The above diapers have been demoted to rag status.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Busy day

"I AM TRYING TO MAKE DINNER!" every syllable was accented with my slamming shut the cabinet doors. Mid-sentence, the force of air caused the adjacent cabinet doors to blow open. Beren looked up, blinking.

I had trying to keep my temper under wraps but was failing badly. I had plied Beren with snacks of all kinds, two new Play Doh colors, my chatter, my requests for Beren to retrieve toys that might 'be hungry for dinner', and assurances that dinner would soon be on the table and that soon we could play.

It had been a busy day. Our morning playdate canceled--runny nose, sniffles, sneezes. "I don't want to pass this on," my friend said over the phone at about 9:30 AM.

Plan B was to attend a Toddler Sing Along at Mary Jacobs Library in Rocky Hill. Beren looked a tired and requested to stay home. When I said we would go to the library to "play with the dinosaurs, sing songs, and play with kids," he pointed at the floor.

"Stay home?" I asked.

He nodded and when I pressed on, describing our day's loose plans, he put both palms on the floor. He really wanted to stay home.

A half hour later, I carried him across the lawn towards the car, and he pointed back to the house. I wavered, but buckled him into the car and drove off at 10:28 AM. The sing along was due to start at 10:30. The clock is about 3 minutes fast - not too much lead time. I wavered again, as I so often do, considered other options, and sped down the road to the library.

Beren paused at the threshold of the children's section, the sing along was already in full swing. The dinosaurs were exactly behind the singer's chair. Beren sat on my lap and asked to nurse. "When the music is over," I whispered in his ear. When the sing along wrapped up, Beren played with other children.

We picnicked outside the library. I never travel without food.

From there, we spent an active hour in the very large and busy Shop Rite. Beren skipped down the large boulevard at the back of the store, pointing. "Big stack of cans [canned tomatoes on sale], a big stack of boxes [cases of soda], a big stack of toilet paper," I narrated as he noted the skids of pallets.

Each aisle, except the meat aisle, had something for children at child height - Thomas the Engine "Training" toothpaste and brush set, a wall of Beanie Babies, dolls, knit caps with animal faces, and the bin of Play Doh on deep discount. Got suckered at the last one, there. While on the check out line, signs of hunger and fatigue appeared.

We sat on a bench, and I cracked open a box of organic snap peas. I have learned to stop quickly to address signs of hunger in my child.

Back at home, we put on boots and joined my husband and father-in-law as they worked on a construction project. Beren's stuck numerous times. I think he enjoyed it.

Then, up to the garden to chew on some spinach. Then, back to the house for our dinner-making meltdown.

It was a busy day.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I love my lawn

Dandelion seed upon sweet vernal grass

I know that winter is essential to native plants, but I miss when my lawn looks like this. Spring beauty, dandelion, heal-all, violet, chicory. I have had three different illnesses since mid-November. I'm ready for fresh, cool air flowing through the windows.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy new year. I didn't follow news items on the last predicted world apocalypse - this one having been Mayan.We know that the Maya developed a sophisticated and accurate calendar, so why not believe that they also could prophesy the world's end.

About a year ago, I was told that 2012 (roughly) was the Maya year of transition and that those who could swim with the changes would emerge ok. I was happy to have this advance warning - for us, as a family, as individuals, we traveled through dark tunnels, down deep pits, up to the light, down, and then, out again.

I have been told that religion is a crutch - why live in this life, if another life, a better life is coming? Why face uncertainty, if one can be certain that one will live on? The Maya calendar was a bit of crutch to me, "If we can make it through this year, we'll be fine," I repeated to myself.

I suppose that's the cynical way to look at it.


Christian values - faith, charity, forgiveness, and kindness, are not exclusive to Christian religions. Instead, they are the basic character traits that allow us to of live with others.

It feels better to pick some one up, than to step on them. It feels good to let bad things go. It feels good to give. It feels good to believe in something - yourself, your choices, fresh air, humanity's goodness.

And I, sadly, have left a good portion of my religious structure behind. I left because women are not equal in the church, because I believe all people should have access to knowledge and family planning. I stayed away because I learned children were not equal and not protected by the church. I attempt to attend mass once per year - Christmas - because I love the music.

2013, you are very welcome.

 Making bread, January 2, 2013