I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I let into my life that doesn’t serve it…or that I can’t use to serve others/G-d/my family, etc…  For me, the most clutter comes in electronically.  Even the daily, no hourly, pull to check my email is very strong.  When my husband is at home, and I have access to his laptop, I often have it set up in the kitchen, or wherever I am working.  I am constantly listening for the beep that lets me know a new Facebook IM has arrived, I look for new mail on my email account, I have podcasts blasting; taking my mind away from what is in front of me.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I do acknowledge there is some use and benefit in all of these modes of communication.  However, I struggle with its use, and wonder what life would be like without these constant pings, beeps and electronically delivered information and communication.  I am an information junkie. I can never read enough, listen to enough, discover enough new thoughts, or bits of information.

So, a few days ago I dropped my facebook, today I dropped email.  I put all of my yahoo homeschool groups on “web only”, and wrote the following “out of office” automatic reply:

This is an automated response….
I am taking an electronic communication sabbatical!  If you would like
to reach me, please call my cell: xxx-xxx-xxxx, or Matthew’s cell:
xxx-xxx-xxxx.  Or, please send us a snail mail, my children will write
back to you, I promise!
The Dragon Family at Quarry Hill Farm
320 Quarry Hill Rd.
Pownal, VT 05261

Blessings!
Rebecca

I went to visit my very dear friend yesterday, who is a member of the 12 Tribes.  The 12 Tribes are a group of Messianic-style Believers, who live in community (http://www.twelvetribes.com/).  The work and live together in a variety of different industries such as delis, print shops, shoe stores, natural soap makers, teas and farms.  Their culture and way of life is vibrant, beautiful, and imbued with meaning.  They really get a huge bad rap for being a “cult”, but I don’t put much stock into these labels.  I myself have been accused of being “unstable” or “brainwashed” because I chose to live outside of the “norm”, so I know that the accusations and insults hurled at them must be much worse.  It takes courage, fortitude and a free-thinking mind to cast your lot into a new way of life, a whole community, to the abandonment of everything you once knew.  I have a lot of admiration for these people, as I do for my friends in the Bruderhof, my other favourite modern day spiritual community.  I don’t understand why people are so bristled when others chose to live a different kind of life.  Someone needs to be the person that can cast his lot in with others, to have no posessions unto himself, to put others above his own comfort and well-being.  Thank G-d for these people.  I wish I were so brave and willing to let go of the things that still keep me in my own world, on the throne of my own castle.

I crave and look forward to my time with my friends in these communities.  There is a refreshing of spirit that occurs when I am there, a repurposing of my life.  When I am there, I don’t miss my computer, or the sound of a vibrating cell phone.  I don’t miss the podcasts in the background of everything.  When I am there, I am content to hear the voices of others, the clanking of pots in the kitchen, the children laughing and running, the vibration of my own thoughts, now much slowed down to the quieter life around me.  Instead of a day of responding to emails, texts and IM’s, a day of staring at and interacting with screens and focusing the ear on sounds coming from machines, their days are filled only with the sounds of each other and their shared life.  Their music is created together, they need each other to sing and dance in unison.  The smells and sounds coming from the kitchen are in tandem with the sound of a sewing machine.  The voices of children mingle with men laughing and poking fun at one another.  When they hear each others voices, they turn, and look into each others’ eyes, at each other’s  faces.  All of their interactions are whole, not “delivered via device” piece by piece.

In dropping facebook, and now dropping email (well, as much as I can…I still need a valid email account to buy and sell nowadays, it seems….isn’t that a bit frightening), I can hear the well-meaning objections.  “But you NEED email nowadays, that’s how everyone stays in touch/passes on information, etc…”  “Facebook can really suck your time, but it’s how my family and friends get to see pictures of my kids”.  Yes, these are all “good” and valid reasons.  There are a lot of things we CAN do on facebook and a computer that you would not be able to do otherwise (this blog for starters), but that doesn’t mean that we SHOULD be doing them.  There is so much STUFF, so much information, so much stimulation and input from all sides in our generation.  It would be impossible to stay on top of all of it, to let it all in without serious soul damage.  When I visit my friends who live a TRUE simple life, it makes me wonder how much I just accept into my life because it’s part of the spirit of this age.  I have been asking myself questions like,

-If I could never get online again to order from Amazon, or to read articles about any particular subject, would the books I already have, and what I could get from the library be enough?

-If I never saw another fabulous etsy item that I want to try and duplicate, never saw another craft blog, would what is already in my mind, and my own creativity be enough to keep making new things?  Likewise, if I never saw another TV show on my computer, would my “fashion sense” remain the same, or would I still be the same old me 20 years from now?

-If I shut down email, and require that people call me or write me a letter if they want to speak with me, would I lose contact with a large percentage of my friends and family?  Would I still get the invites to homeschool gatherings, parties, etc….?

-What would happen to my relationships with my children, with my husband, if I lived a non-electronic communication life?  Would we connect in deeper ways?  Would have more satisfaction with my daily life?

-What would happen to my ability to hear “that of G-d” or the small quiet voice if I spent my time in whole tangible things that relate to the life in front of me, lived in “community” with those around me (namely, my husband and children)?

So, I am going to try it, a baby step towards potentially shutting all of it off at some point.  Today was my first day without looking at email, and I actually was able to make some bloomers for the kids.  A long overdue project, that really only took about 30 minutes.  I made bloomers from tshirt sleeves:

For now…I am keeping the blog.  I only have one or two real life friends who even know that it exists, and my plan is to use it as a journal/keepsake by printing it out occasionally.  Another downside of our modern age…I don’t think I own even a handful of printed photos of my children, they are all electronic files floating out there in the ether.  This gives me a medium to “scrapbook” without having to sit down with shapey hole punches and stickers…but I remain open to considering a time without computer at all, at least for a while.

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I’m not certain exactly what day I am on of my “30 Day Cultivating Life” Adventure…but this is how it should be I think…the “program” becomes just a way of life.  I was struck with a great wave of gratitude the other day, as I looked around me, and then revisited last week’s blog posts.  Everything I am surrounded with is beautiful.  I have within arm’s reach, or walking distance, all the things and “ways” I have valued and longed for since becoming a mother.  It seems I have not been forsaken after all.  All the forsaking seems to be self-inflicted; a long-practiced habit inherited from my mother, who most likely got it from hers.  G-d has given myself and my family a New Land, a New Inheritance, and a New Way.  It’s up to me to embrace it, even though it is hard, and requires much sacrifice.  I have so many idolatrous cords binding me to things that help me retain my self-defeating ways.  I was having visions of cutting them, burning them, crushing their hooks beneath my feet last night.  I crave freedom, and above that the joy and peace to be able to walk in it.  Finally, I am walking in that direction.

These past days, I have been focusing on staying present when the children are acting childish.  I have also been trying to think “big picture” instead of “immediate annoyance” when I come across a surprise situation.  During quiet time, when I thought they were all in their rooms with books, I came out to find Little Crazy Matas, in his underwear in the pantry.  He had filled several cups, glasses and jars with water, and was banging them with a spoon.  When I asked him what he was doing he said, “playing the water xylophone”.  I decided to let him continue instead of telling him the usual, “don’t you know it’s quiet time….I didn’t say you could do that!  Pour all that out now!”

Our access to local food here is amazing.  It’s time to pull out Animal Vegetable Miracle again.  We could certainly eat only food from a 100 mile radius, heck, from a 25 mile radius is my guess.  There is even local olives and olive oil.  Haven’t found the wine yet, but there has to be.  I am sure there is at least some good local beer…  At our CSA this week were chiboogi beets, pink and white on the inside.  Also in the CSA room, we buy locally baked sourdough bread..which we served with fresh mozz, local basil and tomatoes.

We found swim noodles at the dollar store, and the kids have been making a collection of lumber at the swimming hole.  They use it for “boats” and making bridges, etc…  They put the noodles under a large board, and were actually able to float on it.  No more swimming hole for me, however, until there is some rain.  The water is low, and it makes it seem a bit rank.  Can’t take the city out of the girl sometimes…after a childhood and adoloescence swimming in pools and being on swimteams, I do get a bit skeeved swimming with the fish.  But the children don’t mind, so I keep it to myself.

In terms of pushing through the hard stuff to get to something better….I finally unpacked, cleaned and organized the playroom.  It’s in a three season porch, so in a few months we will have to move it.  For now, it’s lovely, with large screened windows.  It almost feels like being outside on a breezy day.  The view is gorgeous, of the lower pond, and the farms in the distance.

This may sound strange, but I have a serious problem with libraries.  Don’t get me started on what gets passed as children’s books nowadays, not to mention the fact that at many libraries there are massive computer terminals loaded with “educational games” for the children to play.  I’ve seen countless toddlers sitting in front of those screens managing a mouse, clicking at whatever the machine is prompting them to.  In Glastonbury, we had two tiny libraries, one in an 1800’s Meetinghouse, the other in an 1820 schoolhouse.  Neither had computers, both still used card catalogues.  We were often the only ones in there, as most parents brought their children to the large main branch, with its classrooms and interactive story hours.  Our story hour was old school; a woman with a stack of books, reading them outloud until the hour was up.  Anyway, we went to the Bennington Library today, and discovered a very lovely children’s room.  It had a wooden dollhouse, a canopied area with pillows for quiet reading, and stations for drawing and stamping, etc…  Very low key, very much our speed.  And…they have a great little green space in front with a climbing tree.

I dropped my facebook account yesterday, after a wonderful trip to Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA. When we lived in CT, we went regularly to Sturbridge Village, our favourite local destination. Now, however, we are a bit far for a regular visit, so I needed a “replacement”. The Shaker Village is only 30 minutes from here, along a farm and green hill lined road. We passed what Little Crazy Matas called “a family of windmills”; their spinning heads atop tall skinny bodies.

The Village is awe inspiring, in similar ways to Sturbridge. Just one day in either place, and I am reinvigorated to declutter my life, and live in a more Plain and Simple way. The Shaker Village inspires in a more deeply spiritual way, however, as every aspect of their daily lives and work were dictated and formed by their Inner Life, and their Communal Spirit. Sturbridge is set up as Living History, to “teach” people about the past…but the Shaker Village is a spiritual community’s way of life preserved. It’s not just history if you are willing to look past the exhibit nature of some of the buildings. We learned that there are still three Shakers living, up in Maine (I assume Sabbathday Lake?) The public is invited to join them for worship on Sunday mornings. You’d better believe that’s at the top of my “to do” list now. I was also encouraged to hear that they have three novitiates there, who will most likely become Shakers themselves. It’s small, but it means this beautiful Way and Spiritual Tradition will not die or become an historical oddity just yet.

So…back to Facebook….I have always gone through cycles of dropping it, then picking it up again. Often, Facebook just feels like etheric clutter to me. I always question whether or not we are supposed to be in such constant “contact” with others, especially when we are not sharing a “real life”. I would need five sets of hands to count all the episodes of misunderstanding between myself and others, or similar stories from friends, that quick one sentence digital communications can cause.  The format allows us to think that we can have a sense of others lives through a collage of pictures, links, and “likes”, creating false intimacies.  My life cannot be shared through an electronic source, not even this one (where I can write paragraphs of personal thought as opposed to status updates).  Lives are only shared in person, side by side.  We need to look into each other’s eyes, hear each other’s voices and participate in both leisure and work together to share a life!  Now, these sources have come in handy to connect with others that are isolated in one way or another (there isn’t always going to be a neighour down the street that wants to talk about John Woolman, agrarian life, homesteading, homeschooling, Ancient Christianity, headcoverings, hormones and So You Think You Can Dance all over one bottle of wine….).  I always have the glimmer of hope that when I make these long distance connections, through blogs, Quaker Quaker, etc…that this will, at least once, turn into an in-person meeting.  At least a phone call!  No one even wants to talk on the phone anymore.  I routinely receive a text in response to a voice message I have left to someone.  I’ve even noticed that emails are looking more and more like texts.  I’ve had several people comment to me in response to a paragraph form email I have written, “wow, you type fast”, or “you are a good writer”…just because I used full sentences and separated topics into paragraphs.

But I digress…..(and you see a picture of my inner conflict over electronic media)….

These past two days, all of my list topics (beauty, health and well being, meaning, etc….) are all wrapped up into my visit to Hancock Shaker Village, and how I came out of that visit.

As you walk in, you first see huge herb and flower gardens.  The Shakers were prolific medicinal herb farmers, and marketed their remedies.  As the Tall Man and I are considering doing a medicinal herb and flower farm next year, this gave me many ideas. 

Through the herb gardens, to the round stone barn.

The inside of the stone barn is reminiscent of a Cathedral, but Plain.  Its posts and beams are magnificent in a circular pattern when you look above.  There is even a round loft surrounding the entire thing.  A wonderful example of making even the place to put animals an aesthetically beautiful environment.

We learned that the Shakers were actually fond of brighly painted buildings.  They even found evidence of bright yellow paint on the floors.

My children actually know several Shaker hymns.  We use them as part of circle on homeschool mornings.  The “Mother” talk fits right in with Orthodoxy, as we just consider this to be the Theotokos, as opposed to Mother Ann.  Also in Orthodoxy is the Divine Sophia, the feminine nature of G-d. We went to a demonstration of Shaker hymns and dancing (“labouring”), and the children were invited to dance with the instructors.  Here they are dancing to “Come Life, Shaker Life”  (Come life, Shaker life, come Life Eternal.  Shake, shake out of me all that is carnal.  I’ll take nimble steps, I’ll be a David.  I’ll show Michael twice how he behave-ed”

Another of our favourite hymns is:

“Little Children says Holy Mother, soothe and comfort one another. Bind the cords of Union stronger, wind and bind them around each other.  Make them feel your love and blessing.”

As always, I am inspired to continue simplifying our home, and what we really need to live.  We don’t have a microwave, wash our dishes by hand (well, in VT we have a dishwasher…but we just spent two years without one), and make most of our food from scratch.  We don’t have plastic bins and buckets as seen in many modern homes, and I try to have only what is beautiful and/or funtional.  There is something very satisfying  about actually having to engage with your work, instead of putting it into some device to do the work for you.  We look forward to hearth cooking in our 1734 hearth, and have already started getting into the rhythm of taking care of the goats every morning and evening.

 

The children enjoyed the little schoolhouse.  The Shakers made wooden letters on sticks, so the children could practice their spelling in a physical and cooperative way.  I might make some of these:

We listened to our CD of Shaker hymns on the way home, and I was struck by one in particular.  I have heard it a thousand times, but in this season of my life, when it seems so many things are being taken away, replaced, and overturned, it spoke to me the words I needed to hear.  G-d is certainly calling us to a new Life, and a new Way…but transitions are hard.  Having the ideals and dreams for this kind of life were easy and soothing, now to put our hands to the plow and bring it all to fruition is labour in its truest sense:

Who will bow and bend like the willow, who will turn and twist and reel

In the gale of simple freedom, from the bower of union flowing

Who will drink the wine of power, dropping down like a shower

Pride and bondage all forgetting, Mother’s wine is freely working

Oh ho, I will have it, I will bow and bend to get it

I’ll be reeling, turning, twisting, shake out all the starch and stiff’ning.

Beauty:  This post Beauty and Creativity will be combined….I made a woven seat for an antique dining chair I have had for a long time.  I had always meant to reseat them (there are five in the set), but never got around to it.  I got the idea from Soulemama www.soulemama.com who got the idea from Alabama Chanin www.alabamachanin.com  . 

I think that for the rest of them, I am going to use only white tshirts…or I am going to paint the chairs white, and do coloured seats.  With the scraps from my work, the children braided crowns, for themselves and dollies.

Health and Well-Being:  Combined with Simplicity for this post….Just two driveways up the road from us is an organic raw milk creamery.  Janka Fairy is old enough to accompany and supervise Little Crazy Matas on the short walk with a wagon to get our milk and Skyr (their specialty…a Swedish fermented dairy product similar to Greek Yogurt….but she makes one that is maple flavoured, which almost tastes like the center of a cheesecake).

Pushing Through Something Even Though:  mulched the veggies, transplanted some plants we had moved from CT that were starving in pots.  All we have a hand mower now, and I went out and mowed around the garden, as it is getting uncomfortable to go out there through the growing weeds. 

Meaning:  I’ve been fantasizing and thinking about my favourite time of year; that time in between the beginning of fall and Candlemas…wishing for crisp cool air again.  However, this is summer, and it is HOT…so trying to really appreciate all that is around us that is unique to this season.  Our neighbour, who has a pool, and is only a weekender coming up from Boston, told us to use her pool whenever we want.  We are more than glad to take her up on it.  The Tall Man took the children yesterday:

But….I am still, somewhere in my heart and desire here….

Spiritual Connection:  Working on our land, spending the day with the children at the swimming hole, and letting them help me in the garden.  All of this brought me to a place where I felt present instead of distant…

Back to Albany airport….but Papa was held up in two different airports, so we had first half of the day to tool around the house.  Went to our pick up at the CSA.  This has by far been my best CSA experience to date…instead of a box already made for you, you get to chose 15 “items”…selected from large amount of picked that day produce, and some of it, like herbs and peas, pick your own.  Ventured to Church on Sunday…the closest liturgy to us, at New Skete in Cambridge, NY.  It’s a monestary/nunnery that was formerly Byzantine Catholic, then they converted to Orthodoxy.  It’s a different experience from the Russian Church, but the environment is absolutely stunning, enough to inspire spiritual openness and calm into the hardest of hearts.  I have to admit, I am VERY affected by aesthetics and environment.  I was never the kind of girl that loved going to church in a store front or steel building with flourescents….

BEAUTY:  Since moving here, I have gone to our CSA pick up anxious to get our vegetables, then scoot home to “unpack”.  This Saturday, I took the time to take the children up to the fields and pick some parsley, basil and peas. 

Simplicity: 

Space:  Cleaned the car.  This may seem like no big deal, but we are talking about the past month moving back and forth between CT and VT.  Lots of eating in the car, lots of little pieces of garbage, Ferdinand’s missing shoe finally found….

Going Towards Instead of Away:  Again, fighting impulse to leave CSA because of all the “stuff I have to do”, we stay and spend time with new chicks.  The children and I got very excited about getting our chickens!  Finally we live in a place where we can have a rooster, and we have real coops in real barns….so hopefully they won’t be destroyed by some predator like they were in CT.

Pushing Through Something I Didn’t Want to Do:  The gardens have been neglected here for two years, and to be honest, I don’t know what is a weed and what isn’t….but I weeded the flower beds of things I KNEW to be weeds…the nettles.  Will definitely be making nettle tea.

Spiritual Connection:  Went to New Skete for liturgy.  Rogues of the Orthodox world, they actually incorporate Silent Worship into their liturgy.  It’s beautiful, in an awe inspiring place.  They even start their Matins outside, and everyone makes a procession into the Church together, instead of the priest doing it alone.  One of the Brothers came and took Janka Fairy and Ferdinand to be part of the Great Entry Procession, where the priest brings the Elements through the people.  The children love to visit the Koi Ponds there. 

Health and Well Being:  I can’t seem to separate this category from food….made a beef stew in the oven.   Put beets on the top, and fresh parsley, and yogurt.  Must be my Eastern European background, but I can’t eat enough beef with beets and some sort of fermented dairy product….

Meaning:  Family walk to the corn field.  Put the goats back into their barn, and staked some tomato plants.  Ran into huge angry snapping turtle.

Today, with Papa out of town, we spent the day leisurely going from one activity to another.  We spent time with the goats, watered our parched tomato plants, and went down our road to our swimming hole.  Many moments today of remembering why we moved here, and how it is the fruition of years of dreaming and envisioning what we wanted our lives to be.  Here’s the list….

Something of Beauty:  Spent most of the day side, taking the time to look, again and again, with what surrounds me.  The hills and pastures in the distance, the cool blue green water of the swimming hole, and the gardens.  Accompanied by good friend Joachim.

Something of Meaning:  Sat with Janka Fairy when she came to me, serious and straight, to announce that she understands now that it’s not St. Nicholas who puts the presents in the stockings…but that St. Nicholas is nevertheless real, and we can ask him to pray for us.  A strange summer epiphany.  Perfect timing to start her saints block in the fall.

Something I had to push through:  WEEDING!  We weeded the veggie bed, even though I think we came her too late in the season to really get much from it.  I had the kids beside me for the work.  They ended up playing with water in flower pots.  Pushing through, it ended up being a sweet time together. 

Something Simple:  Dinner tonight….one layer sauteed onions and garlic, one layer thinly sliced potatoes, one layer zucchini, one layer sauteed greens…the whole thing seasoned with sea salt, and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.  Some water for steaming.  Bake 375 covered for about an hour.  Eat with plain yogurt.  Tons of leftovers for tomorrow.

Something creative and new:  The children built airplanes today.  Again, not something I did myself, but I fought my impulse to tell them to leave the chairs turned upright and to get out of the box of curtains…

Something of Space:  Because I allowed them all this free reign in the main room of our house, I was able to sit and read quietly for a little while.  The planes turned into puppet show scenery, and the children put on several shows for me.

Something of Spiritual Connection:  Swimming at the swimming hole…watching the children try to catch minnows.  THESE are the moments of life!!

Going Towards Instead of Away:  The shows went on for quite some time…and my temptation was to tell them, “okay, last song, let’s wrap this up”…but if I had, I wouldn’t have seen the story of the Angry King (Janka Fairy was VERY upset…he was supposed to SERIOUS, not angry)

Idyllic VT landscape forgone for most of the day today in lieu of several hours in the car taking Papa to the airport.  Since we were already in the car, we ran errands.  I was in desperate need of popcorn (my favourite snack…covered in cumin, black salt and lemon juice), and after three different stores finally found the non-microwavable kind.

Something of Beauty:  Spent time admiring the Hollyhocks and other flowers (I don’t know their names…)around our house.

Something I pushed through even though I didn’t want to do it:  This whole day has been an example of this…driving with three children that just need to be running free outside takes a huge amount of “push through”.

-Something of Meaning: Talked to my cousin on the phone, about dealing with difficult parents, mental illness, etc….helped each other by showing some mutual support and listening.

-Simplicity:  Embarassed to say, but took my kids to restaurant in a box so I wouldn’t have to make any food, or complicate the day with trying to find something “appropriate”.  Perhaps this action negates anything I did towards health/well-being….?

-Space: Insisted Janka Fairy braid her own hair today.  After years of being screamed and yelled at every morning during the painful ritual of brushing and braiding corkscrew curly hair, I finally gave the reigns of Bella’s hair over to her.  Some days I will still do it, when I am in the mood to see everything perfectly pinned up like a German girl from the 1800’s…but letting this go has improved the start to our day.  I don’t start my day anymore with frayed nerves from all the crying and screaming that I am torturing my child.

Creativity/Something new:  Came home late, needed to make a quick dinner…took the leftover braised red caggabe with green apples (braised in a little vinegar and honey), and leftover whole wheat angel hair pasta.  Made a peanut butter and sesame sauce (also lemon juice, a little honey), and made what turned out to be the most delicious peanut noodles we have had in a while.  Didn’t take a picture, because quite frankly, it looked strange.

-Silence (but not retreat):  (I am adding to this also spiritual connection)  After children went to bed, I sat outside on my patio, and watching the Full Moon rise up from Cedar Hill, in the distance.  Picture is blurry, but this is all iPhone can do in a pinch at dusk.  I need to start carrying around the nice camera, I think!

-Health and Well-Being:  I don’t know…does drinking a ton of Riesling while talking to a girlfriend on the phone count?!  It felt good last night…..

-Going Towards Instead of Turning Away:  Janka Fairy wanted to accompany me while I put the boys to bed.  She is such a mother hen, and honestly at the end of a long day, I often react to her motherly fussy ministrations as a nuisance (the boys don’t always appreciate it)…so I have her look at books while I get the boys all settled before I come and spend some one on one time with her.  After a day in the car with silly-wild galore, you better believe I didn’t want to deal with much.  But, I let her come, and she was really quite sweet, and a good “side buddy companion” (what we call the child that needs to be by mommy’s side within arms reach…a child becomes one usually by doing something unsafe/unkind, therefore needing more direct supervision and closeness).

Well, I at least surveyed my land today, if not actually starting to till ground.  Here’s my list for today:

Something of Beauty:  Started looking at Tasha Tudor’s Garden (again), and started thinking about what we will do to our gardens here…and envisioned myself in beautiful Victorian Dress and cap…

Something I pushed through even though I didn’t want to do it:  Washed all 5, yes count em, 5 bathrooms.  Coming from a 1 bath house, this is a very large adjustment….

-Something of Meaning….well, I have to just do some mental backtracking here, because I didn’t do anything consciously, thinking, “this is meaningful”….but I guess trying to chronicle positives in my life instead of keeping a catalogue of the woes falls fairly into that category.

-Simplicity:  I turned off the laptop today.  Now, to be honest, I kept the desktop on, and I visited it…a few times….we’ll try to go all day tomorrow.  Also, I changed out the “fake old” frilly curtains in Janka Fairy’s bedroom for some simple canvas ones.  I think I could also add this act to beauty and space.  I have a very hard time when surrounded with things I find unappealing aesthetically, and then feel mentally cluttered.

-Space:  I stood and looked at my lower pasture today…which is all open space, and starting a conversation with a woman who is giving us 4 sheep.  The children and I will be able to herd them down there into that big open space!  I am thinking of nice, quiet walks down there, with nothing in the way, nothing to distract from just being together.

Creativity/Something new:  The kids built a goat “playground”, with an old kids table and some cast aside stable doors.  I didn’t create the new thing, but I will take credit for it as I am the one who told them to get out of the house and play with the goats for a while.  I also fully enjoyed watching them jump on and off this contraption, and the children’s delight that the goats were using what they had built.

-Silence (but not retreat):  Actually folded and put away laundry without listening to podcasts.  I always feel as if the only way I can get through my work is if I am being mentally stimulated.  I worked in silence today, with only my own thoughts as my company.

-Health and Well-Being:  Ate homemade lentil soup with collard greens for lunch.  I love this lentil soup with corn chips and cheese in it…but today I had it with a splash of  vinegar, olive oil and black salt.  It reminded me of a Greek Restaurant I worked in when I was in college.  The owner would make the employees meals that did not exist on the menu.  One thing I loved was a simple red lentil soup, garnished with a vinaigrette.  Greens from the CSA that we share a property with.

-Spiritual Connection:  Responded to and reconnected with an old acquaintance who gets right to the heart of the matter.  Reread and chewed on her words to me, grateful that some people and connections will never be lost to you!

-Going Towards Instead of Turning Away:  I decided to add this to my list of cultivation, as it is one of my biggest struggles.  Today, during quiet time, when I usually sit from my perch and corrall children back to their rooms with “later”, I went and looked at a village Little Matas has built out of blocks.  He was so proud of what he created, and if I had just told him to go back to it, and “show me after your quiet time is up”, I might have missed the moment.

I think I am going to change the subheading on my blog title, “Cultivating a Beautiful Life”.  I’ve been feeling my cyclical malaise with all things domestic and responsible.  I’ve been allowing the dissatisfaction of my children cause me to shut down and just basically want them to scram, ie “go play outside” syndrome…thereby filling them with more neediness and dissatisfaction.  The desire to escape has been much greater than the desire to jump in.

We just spent the last month moving to our dream house in Vermont.  We did the moves ourselves with minimal help, dragging the children back and forth the three hour ride, packing our own things into a series of rented box trucks.  We finally brought the last load here last weekend.  I’ve managed to put a lot away…but the garage is filled with boxes and bags.  The first few days we were here, and the internet wasn’t set up, and only one truck had brought its load here, I was feeling so positive.  The landscape of this place is remarkable…set on 350 acres of farmland (most of it leased to proper farmers), it’s a 1734 farmhouse with its original barn and corn crib.  We’re set on a dirt road, off of a dirt road.  Organic CSA on one side, raw milk dairy and creamery on the other.  There’s nowhere you can look and not see beauty.

Then, the moving continued, the boxes accumulated, our bodies tired (my 38 year arms can’t lift and move the way I used to in college…or maybe just that we have more, and three kids in the midst don’t make it easy).  I’ve already lost some of that amazement that I originally had at being able to live in such a place as this. 

I thought that we lived rather simply, that we didn’t have too much stuff, but as the things started coming in, intruding on this idyllic old house, it began to feel heavy and weighted.  I started to get that old familiar feeling of just wanting to watch TV on Hulu, or surf the internet, instead of unpacking.  I have been wanting to get the kids “out of my hair” instead of sharing this new beautiful place with them, actually enjoying them and our new surroundings.

We got our goats two days ago…some sheep to arrive in the next month or so, and the chickens.  Ducks for our upper and lower ponds.  We are thinking of maybe having a small cut flower farm next summer, as well as medicinal herbs.  Never before have I been so close to being able to live out my fantasies of a WHOLE life, one lived on our own land, making our own food, having our own cottage industries, in a place of beauty and serenity.  And yet, I am irritated and cranky.  Already letting the house get messy instead of picking up.  Already sending the kids away more than is necessary or even nice.  I’ve been in front of this computer nearly since I got up this morning.

I guess maybe some of this computer time has helped in some way.  I was able to connect with Lisa of The Wonder of Childhood Magazine, www.thewonderofchildhood.com,  and have a very long conversation with her on the phone about Waldorf in VT, and homeschooling, etc…and life in general.  She then turned me onto While Tangerine Dreams…a blog of great inspiration and creativity that I spent all of last night with.  http://whiletangerinedreams.typepad.com/while-tangerine-dreams/2011/02/start-dreaming.html

I am inspired, now that I am on a farm (the oldest working farm in VT, by the way!) that “cultivation” should be my new impulse and action.  I need to cultivate these dreams, these visions I have, instead of being cranky that they don’t exist in perfection already.  I am going to create a 30 day adventure for myself, where everday I have to cultivate various things in my life.  Here is what I am thinking of so far:

-something of beauty

-something that requires me to push through doing something even when I “don’t want to”

-something of loving connection with my children and husband

-something of meaning

-something of simplicity

-something that creates space, either physically or etherically

-a time of silence

-a time of frenzied and/or passionate creativity

-something that lends towards health/well-being

-something of spiritual connection

I’m thinking these things sound like a lot, but their requirements need to be little, and met through what is normally my daily life anyway.  So…my thing of beauty needs to come from what I am already naturally able to do, in this environment with my family.  It can be as simple as setting a special table for dinner.  The thing of space could be waking up 15 minutes before my children.  Something of creativity could be a craft with the children, or rearranging the nature table.  You get my drift.

How many times have I felt like this, and decided some “new plan” or WAY would fix it for me?  Too many to count.  I’ve been gluten free, dairy free, yoga practicing, journaling, waking up early, only reading spiritual books, only reading novels, no tv, all tv, no facebook, facebook all day, sewing, knitting, studying herbs, whatever it was in whatever combination, in an attempt to reorganize and pull myself up by my bootstraps for years.  All of these endeavors have been well meaning and well intended, but all involved some sort of regimen; a denial of one thing, or having to adopt yet another thing on top of the rest of my life.  Then, when boredom or realization of imperfection sets in, I quit, fall into discouragement until the next PLAN.

So yes, maybe this “30 Day Plan” I am self-implemeting sounds a bit like a PLAN, but really I mean it more as a minimum time commitment to start looking for and cultivating qualities that I want to reflect, instead of taking the overly driven attack of materialistically changing things for radical change.  Let’s hope so.  I also plan that during this time, I only get on this machine in the morning before kids or after they are in bed.  I will try and chronicle what I do.

So if any of my regular 5 reader actually read this…do you have any suggestions for other qualities to cultivate?  Anyone want to do it with me?  I’m starting tomorrow!!

This week, I suffered the loss of a what I thought to be a very dear friendship to the ravages of miscommuniations turned gossip turned accepted “truth”.  I’ve spent months unaware of what was brewing in a circle of women, and most particularly in the heart of my friend.  I was broken up with without a chance to defend myself this past Saturday night.  I went to liturgy this Sunday overburdened and weighed down by this situation, one that despite all my tears, begging and attempts to give my perspective, could not seem to affect or change.

I could not focus on the words of the prayer, I could not even fix my thought on my sweet 7 year old Janka Fairy standing in front of me, leaning into me with so much love and affection.  My mind was fixed on acual conversations long since past, and imaginary conversations never had but wish I could.  I was drawing a mental map of all my missteps, kicking myself for putting so much stock into a friendship with another woman to the detriment of my family.  I vascillated between self-pity, shame, anger, and then resignation, “oh well, who needs friends anyway!?”

Then came the part of the liturgy where we sing, over and over again…very slowly….”lay aside all earthly care.”  It is the last phrase of the Cherubic Hymn, which is in its entirity, “Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and chant the thrice-holy hymn unto the life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly care.”   At this point, it is interrupted by the Great Entry, which is when the priest and two deacons bring the bread and wine through the doors in front of the people.  It then concludes, “That we may receive the King of all, Who cometh invisibly upborne in triumph by the ranks of the angels.”

All I could hear through all of this, was “lay aside all earthly care”, again and again.  Indeed, it became to touchstone to which I tried to return when the tsunami of regret and suffering seemed to come crashing upon me again.  I knew that I had to find some way to lay aside this care, this burden that was preventing me from even enjoying the warm presence of my daughter while we stood worshipping together.  I began to think and wonder, why had this happened to me, why had I been so terribly misunderstood?  And why am I so entangled inside with this hurt, in a way that I can barely muster for members of my own family?!

I know that I must lay aside this care, though, “so that [I] may receive the King of all”.  He is not only my King, but the King of my friend, of this whole situation, of my children, my husband, the woman who told a mistruth about me, leading to heaps and heaps of suffering and lost trust.  But, if I want to receive H-m, I have to lay all of this aside.  I cannot receive him when I am holding onto this, even holding onto my own life as if it was mine to control.  I have to lay aside my efforts, my pleading, my feeling as though what I am experiencing comes even close to the experience my children have with a mother who is so distracted and withdrawn that they have to grab my face in their hands to get me to look at them.  If I want to be a vessel of  Love, then I must receive H-m, and I must be emptied for that to happen.

Can I come before G-d’s altar and lay these “gifts” at H-s feet?  Can I trust H-m to make out of this situation what will be the best for me? 

Lately, I’ve been reading about the idea of “peer orientation” vs. “parent attachment”, and how when children are SO peer attached, there is no room left for attachment to their parents, and this is where the battles begin.  The trouble with being peer oriented, however, is that peers aren’t particularly equipped to love unconditionally the way a parent can.  So, troubles and betrayals are all inevitable, and the impetus to “fix it” doesn’t exist in the way that it theoretically does in families, between parents and children. 

I was raised to be peer oriented, and I have realized through this experience, that I still am.  Sure, my ideals may have changed.  I believe that my most important relationships are with my children, my husband, my extended family, and THEN my friends.  If someone were to ask me to write a list of my relational priorities, they would be in THIS order.  However, when I am functioning full of my conditioning, full of my habits, full of my own thoughts instead of emptying myself  so that I can receive the King, I act and live as if my priorities are in complete opposite order.  I spend hours on the phone, gossiping, “venting”, or even talking about more “positive” things.  I hide from my kids in the bathroom, phone stuck to my ear thinking, “why won’t they leave me in peace so I can have this (really important, yeah right) conversation?”  I obsess over the dramas of my friends lives, with the friends they are having problems with.  I expend large amounts of mental energies thinking of the best thing for one woman to say to her crazy mother-in-law, I count the hours until I can sit with my glass of wine on the phone and hear the rest of a story about another woman’s drama with an on again off again BFF that she couldn’t fit into a text without getting extra charges.  And…when the tables are turned on me, and I am the one who is the target of all this chatter and circumspection, I spend my days re-reading emails I wrote, or received, and calling other non-involved girlfriends to get their opinions on my one side of things.  And the cycle continues.  I train myself on making myself feel better by the very activity I am suffering from.  Sin.

So many times in my life, I have continued to be involved in a situation, in a way of being that is not what G-d wants for me, but I use G-d speak to justify it, to keep it going.  As I stood there hearing again and again, “lay aside all earthly cares”, I realized that I needed to let it all go, not just this specific friend, this particular situation…but my inner peer dependance, the idolatry of my so-called friendships (or partners in crime), and my neglect of my truly important relationships, most particularly my children and husband.  There is no room for machinations and manipulations in an empty vessel.  There is no room for idle chatter and false assumptions in the same space as the King.  He is the King of all, and as I shed these layers that keep me from H-m, I feel lighter, yet regretful over the time I have wasted in these daliances; in these complex worldly things.

Far better than being “parent oriented”, which is far better than peer orientaion… is being “G-d oriented”.  I lost the chance to have true attachment to my parents, but in the eyes and arms of my Parent, I am still a child, and I am still growing and developing.  In my attachment to H-m, I can become that vessel of H-s love.  When I am full, I can shine it on my children.  And, if I have been able to shed the extras, the distractions, loose talk and inappropriate relationships, I’ll make clear for my children to hopefully see through me to their King.  With all the noise and commotion I’ve been bringing on myself, I’m sure it’s hard for them to look anywhere else but at me.  If I can quiet this restless soul of mine, and come like the Cherubim before the throne, I have a chance to guide them to H-m and H-s love…and maybe they won’t feel they need to spend their lives in wasteful and hurtful pursuits.

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