Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nature's Visitations: Bring Me Enlightenment

Beautiful Wood Nymph Wikipedia photo

This creature  disguises itself as bird poop!  Imagine my surprise when one slipped into our farmhouse and found its way into the downstairs bathroom and is fast asleep under the ever-glowing nightlight. When I first saw it, I thought what is that! Then I realized that it wasn't bird poop, but a moth, with the most remarkable furry boots. I want a pair just like them!  You can see them illustrated in this photo.

I have been spending many hours weeding the  North garden this week.  Nearly  done. We are truly three weeks behind in plant growth and production.  Starting to see the first tomatoes now.  Because of the constant rain, the row of carrots (literally, 500 strong) were pushed in a wave, like ridged sand at the bottom of the lake. Weeding this row was so time consuming.  I really  had to be careful to only take the weeds. In that row is a variety of lettuces, which are doing well, especially now, without the competition; and anise, and beets, and Swiss chard. Only found four Swiss chard plants (sadly), but maybe just enough for us. We're going to have a stretch of sunny days now.  This is just what we need to give everything that booster of sun, and hopefully a major growth spurt.

In all of this garden work, I have been meditating on my writing life.  Wondering about the significance of character's actions (verbal and nonverbal) and how they create judgments. I am working on a full length collection of these micro stories ( 30 have been published individually, thus far).  Hoping that despite the quirky and "survival behavior," readers will find empathy for these characters. I live in a small town in Western New York, which has been so instructional in my understanding of character sketch.  In a small town, every member of the community has a significant role. Actually, they  are part of the function or dysfunction of the day to day life. I think my intention is to shine a light on the dark side of this survival-- the side few have the privilege to see or take the time to understand.  It been fun writing these stories-- all fiction, mind you, except the concept of the small town-- that's very real.

In  the kitchen, I'm still busy making jam. Peter and I will be heading west today to pick up some apricots from our Amish friends who have a fruit tree nursery business.  They have very graciously offered some of the fruit from their "test" apricot trees. I loved listening to the "science" discussion on these fruit trees, which can be challenging to grow. Where our apple and pear trees thrive, our apricots and peaches do not. We were advised to plant our next trees in raised beds.  Even getting them up 4-6 inches will help them endure a wet season.  I love  the Amish and Mennonite  community. They have been wonderful to us, in so many ways.

I just heard the jars pop-- let the day begin!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

So This is Summer . . .

 This is the strangest summer.  Every day— is it every day?  I think so.  It rains.  Today will be no different. We have been waiting on our gardens.  The delay in the growing season has taken some adjustments.  The weeding has been difficult.  The ground has been quite soggy and the quack grass is something to content with.  Since childhood, I have been gifted with the ability to concentrate on a repetitive task for a very long time.  In truth, I think I work both consciously and unconsciously, while doing such work.  It’s a good time to write (and edit) in my head before actually sitting down to write.
So this is what has been happening, day to day, a lot of farm work.  I have put by many jars of jam, which is what I have harvested thus far.  On the dining room table in straight lines sit the (4 oz-16 oz) jars of  It’s My Jam!  Strawberry, Red Raspberry, and Blackberry.  Shades of red!  I love looking at the jars. The rain-kissed fruit has been sweet and perfect. My recipes are organic, using raw sugar instead of refined, which is gives the jam a hint of molasses. 
I think the berry picking has become a metaphor for my life.   I usually average 2-3 quarts every two days.  Red raspberries produce until mid-august.  The thorns on the bramble in our berry patch are really out to get me every time I enter the berry domain.  The blackberry canes are worse.  All I can think of is wolf teeth.  The scratches on my arms and my ankles illustrate the degree of battle. It doesn’t help that  there are legions of flying insects (black flies, deer flies, mosquitoes) that  see  me as fair game. Everyone knows you can’t slap a biting bug while holding a quart of red raspberries because you will miss the bug and spill all of those gorgeous red juicy thimbles— everywhere.  I truly have learned to practice “Zen” (mind over matter) in our berry patch.   So far, so good.   However, the metaphor has been  an eye opener for me.  I think I am learning to go forward without yielding to what could potentially harm me. I am learning ‘to walk through’ the bramble nearly untouched, and what does touch me I can live with.
Yesterday, Peter and I traveled West to find apricots, which apparently aren’t ready yet.  However, peaches and cherries are presenting at the farm markets.  We didn’t buy any yet, but I think I will today.  I really want to make some apricot jam.  Last couple of years the Apricot trees have been challenged by  weather.  I am hoping  I will find some, somewhere.  Peter was lucky tho’ and purchased another new-to-him lawnmower in Elba, NY.  It was just what he wanted.  We ate lunch at the Elba Diner, which was wonderful. Really Good Diner Food.   On the chalkboard there were, at least, 15 kinds of pies, from Butterscotch to Coconut Cream (homemade). Too full to order a slice (so disappointed!). Next time we are in Elba, I’m going to start with dessert.  I recommend this spot, if anyone is out for a country drive and wants a bite to eat.  It’s a calm atmosphere.  Neighbors meet and greet there.  You get a sense of the Elba community.   Once we left Elba, we headed towards Medina NY, which has an interesting historic  canal town (perfect movie location) and on the outskirts (rolling hills! Who knew there were rolling hills here!) more great farm landscape.  It felt like we stepped back 100 years.
This morning, I made more half-pint jars of ‘Blazzberry’ Jam. This is a combo of red raspberries and blackberries and lemon.  Its name invented by my littlest grandson, George Emmett, last year. So, so good.
Soon, I will be venturing out to the gardens to do some weeding.  It’s hard to believe that next week will be the last week of July.  In five weeks, the Fall semester will begin. Summer is on wing . . .
I have been writing every day.  Some of it is good, and some not so good (needs revision).  Last week, I taught my first summer class, My Name in Print, in SummerWrite at Writers & Books.   It was such a joy working with these 8-11-year-olds.  I think I had a majority of 9-year-olds, or children who will be going into 4th grade. They were thoughtful and completely invested in their writing.  All of them immersed in the making of art (both writing and drawing).  Their anthology was one of the best I have had the pleasure to type up!

O life, you can be good and gentle, can't you?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

A beautiful sunny day, what more could we ask for? Happy Fourth of July!

Later today, family will be coming over.  We're BBQ-ing a homegrown Turkey, making potato salad, baked beans, cole slaw, fruit salad, pasta salad, preseco with cranberry and peach mocktails "Bellini"
and general good cheer!


We have been slogging our way in the gardens.  Hoeing has been a challenging exercise, but we're getting it done.

A large pumpkin plant has suddenly emerged in the yard, near a spot where we fed our turkeys last year, and they ate a lot of squash, zucchini, pumpkin.  In  the North garden, a lot of goddess given squash family plants have sprung up, and  instead of planting them in East garden, I have made an 'Isle of Green,' arranging these squash, cucumber, zucchini varieties in a heart shape around the large pumpkin plant. It looks quite pretty, and so far, everything has adjusted to the move.


 June went too quickly, and here it is the beginning of July. I have been diligent in keeping my morning hours. Writing for a couple of solid hours every day, mostly 100 word stories, in hopes of finishing the collection this summer.  I have been  fortune to have many of these micro stories picked up for publication in Otoliths, 100 word story, Jellyfish Review, Dime Show Review, Eunoia Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, Synaeresis Arts +Poetry, and others.

This past weekend, I finish a 3230 word story called "She Was a Good Listener." 

I have been enjoying myself, occupying these different landscapes and social interactions and characters' mindsets. Why they do what they do seems to be my motivation.  My fiction  is beady-eyed, I think.  It takes a hard look at characters behaving badly; yet, there is room to have empathy for them and their lives and how they think day to day to come up with a solution.