for pete’s sake

rhae grace:

on this day when ol pete has moved on, a grand legacy left, generations touched and inspired, i wanted to come back and read this quote that had moved me so. and it seemed fitting to just repost this one.

94 years of constant good. few others have lived such a life.

Originally posted on one bit of grace:

just finished watching “pete seeger: the power of song” and suddenly the world seems so much more DO-able.

and his closing quote pretty much sums it up, for sure.

” once upon a time wasn’t singing a part of everyday life?  as much as talking, physical exercise, and religion. our distant ancestors, wherever they were in this world, sang while pounding grain, paddling canoes, or walking long journeys. can we begin to make our lives once more all of a piece, finding the right songs and singing them over and over is a way to start. and when one person taps out a beat while another leads into the melody or when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher then they also know there is hope for the world.”

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hardboiled eggs and nuts

right now, in this phase in my life, it seems that the thing that makes me the most happy is:

foraging for nuts

no matter how physically and mentally and spiritually exhausted i may be, no matter how stressed by my daily hemorrhaging of care for my grandmother, no matter how frustrated and pushed to the brink of my sanity and patience by this current situation, no matter how much i want to shove myself down a flight of stairs, no matter how lonely and unsure of the future i am, no matter how much i need to just talk to someone sane now and then, no matter of all of that…

when i go to the woods with jollydog and a backpack and spend an hour foraging for and gathering nuts, i am happy.

sure my mind is still zooming around 3087 things that feel like they need settling, but there is a center there that is momentarily peaceful.

just me, and the trees, and the sky, and the dog, and NUTS.

it’s simple and basic and i very much want my life to be more simple.

that and i like nuts.

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(and, for those of you that like to pay attention, my post titles are often a hint to some bit of culture: a quote, a book, a song, a film; if you get this one, i guarantee you a laugh or two.)


branches

i had a birthday a few weeks go.

one of those milestone kind of birthdays, one where i wasn’t feeling so young anymore, and one that i probably didn’t handle all that well mentally.  that’s ok, they’ll keep coming around, i’ll get a handle on them.

but i went to nevada; did some camping and hiking, drove around, spent some time with the mountains and desert, watching and riding trains, being quiet and alone and thinking.  A LOT.  not that i really needed to be doing more of that, but…

i had some good days, i had some bad ones, i saw some beautiful historic places, and stayed in a few grand old hotels in the middle of nowhere, refurbished to their former booming mining town glories.

probably one of the best moments was this one, getting out of the car to stand under this old cottonwood, just beginning to shake its summery green, out along a canyon, one formerly strewn with farms and homesteads and train towns, all now abandoned and wiped from the surface of the earth.  i’d read a book about this place, this canyon, and took a long and quiet drive through it, remembering the stories, visualizing the lives here, the history.  it was just the grand old trees and i, watching the freight trains that still rumble through, over old bridges and through old tunnels, all along the dry desert wash.

 it was quite a lovely thing.

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seeds

today’s post is brought to you by the word:

resilience

it was not reported here that last month, during a freakish flash flood, the creeks surrounding our farm rose to levels never before seen in the history of my family being on that land (at least a hundred years or more).

11 feet

11 feet of water that churned right up and out of the banks and washed away my huge organic toiled-over garden.

it was quite a crushing blow.

veggies were just reaching their peak and a bountiful harvest time was beginning, its climax to be about a week or two away. not to be!

after the waters receded and the nearly knee-deep mud dried we salvaged a few things, a few rows of late corn not yet eared stood themselves upright and we replanted some things, more beans and beets and sweet potatoes. then a cold spell descended and who knows if they will grow enough to produce anything before the truly cold weather is upon us.

today the fam and i were out in its weedy overgrown midst, tying up beans to poles when we noticed…tomato plants. all of the tomatoes had been underwater and were subsequently pulled and carted away to the ever-needing-to-be-filled hole in the middle of the hayfield and all the soil tilled up. we traipsed about all over the countryside to greenhouses and amish farmers and contacted friends but there were no tomato seedlings to be found to replant in our patch. yet, somehow, now strewn in a haphazard trail throughout the garden, where apparently hardy lil water-logged tomato seeds had held onto the tiller blades and let themselves be churned under…tomato plants have sprouted. it’s funny. we may have some tomatoes after all.

and the thing that surprises and thrills me the most?

my glorious patch of cosmos, that were about a foot tall when the waters raged, somehow withstood its forces, and have grown now taller than me (and that’s tall!) and are the most gorgeous thing. everyone that travels up and down our country road has lamented the loss of our big wonderful garden, and i hope that they now are rejoicing in this odd square of beauty.

cosmos make my heart sing.

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book love

i love books.

you will never find an e-reader in my hand.

today i am in a smallish college town, visiting friends, and on my list of things to do was visit the local/used book store.  there was a book i’d read a review of months ago that was by a local author here, about the old insane asylum and its history, and i’d wanted to get it (i seem to have a thing for the histories of old insane asylums.).  i’d planned on walking there after breakfast at the cool lil local-sourced bakery/cafe.  while eating said breakfast (a terrible quiche but a wonderful date/custard bar) a random post on facecrack informed me it was book lover’s day.

fitting.

the post included this quote:

“Books are everywhere; and always the same sense of adventure fills us. Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.”  – Virginia Woolf

yes, i do agree.

i can’t resist old books.  i’ve lately been browsing through all of the various shelves and cases and piles and baskets and closets filled with books in my grandparent’s house, my recently deceased grandfather having been a voracious reader, and though his taste in reading is not my own, there have been some gems amongst the drivel.  i’ve now read through all of the ones of interest to me, and my next plan of attack to keep me busy and intellectually-entertained and sane for the upcoming winter exile with the dementia-burdened grandmother was to get a library card, and to start picking up used books when i ran across some good ones.

though, anymore, i am not allowed in used book stores.  i tend to not be able to stop myself from walking out laden with yet another purchase of far too many books to add to my constantly box-filled/storage-unit lifestyle.  i own so little in this world, but i have moved too many heavy-ass boxes of books around this country way too many damn times.  it must stop.  it’s downright silly.

and, right now, of all the things i miss about my usual quiet reclusive lifestyle the thing i miss most is my books.  i miss my handmade salvaged lumber weather worn bookcases, overfilled with all the book friends i have made over these traveling years, most of them musty and molded and mildewed and page-stuck-togethered from surviving too many flooded rooms and leaky old adobe haciendas.  i miss my book friends.  i miss their stories and the stories of our finding one another.

but today i made some new friends.

a rather pedestrian assortment, but they smell good.

they smell like home.

and since home is a thing i long for regularly, these guys will help me feel a tad more settled in a non-homey place.

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saved by the bear

this is jon dee graham

i first came to know of him in the summer of 2004, he stalked out onto a stage in indianapolis, where i’d gone to see another great songwriter, one of my favourites, and this guy, this ambling bear of a guy, came out first, in this intriguing brown hat, in his plodding stride, and he opened himself up and out came one of the best things i’d ever heard.  a low sweet crunchy granola voice, filled with heartbreak and hope and a life lived the hard and long way, yet never losing sight that it somehow always might get better, and by the second line of the first song, i was hooked.

9 years now, i’ve followed his words and music, pondered his sage advice and been grateful for his wisdom and guffawed along with his unflinchingly sarcastic sense of humor.

somewhere along the line he also became my friend.

and he’s one of those people that i am humbly thankful to know, to have listen to my stuttering awkward thoughts, to carry some of my heart’s burden, and to always give a good solid swift kick to my rear when i need it.

i can’t say that i have much of anything to offer him in return for all of the music and the laughs and the tears and the hope that he gives me, so all i can do is try to tell others about him, share some of what he has brought to my life (and the lives of so many others) and hope that i can somehow turn a few more listening ears his way.

so, here we are.

he’s in the process of making a new album.

there will be no record label deal, no a&r, no agent, no fancy kickstarter campaign, no there will be none of those typical shenanigans.

it just comes down to me, and you, and you, and you and jon dee.

you can pledge $10 to his recording fund by simply pre-ordering a cd, he’ll do his usual round of brilliance, and in a few months’ time you will have some wonderfully luscious music to listen to.

it’s that simple.

and in a world that is ever increasingly complicated and confusing, we need more things that are simple.

we need to support and encourage and give to those that give so much to us.

so, head over to his website, place your pre-order and know that you did a good thing, and that in october he will send some music your way.  how could that not be all right?

you will be getting far more than what you paid for.

jon dee graham

(and i will encourage you to utilize the $25 option, which will cover his recording costs that much more, and in return you get three hauntingly gorgeous rare instrumental tracks for your immediate listening pleasure.)

in a related note, i have added a round of new links and info to the “try it” page, other folks and orgs that inspire and sustain this silly lil life of mine.  please check them out and i hope you will discover someone and something new that will inspire you as well.


waiting for a call

as a child i would lie here, in this same room that i live in now, and the world seemed so magnificent.  yet just as this room has changed in my now adult perceptions – it seems smaller and darker, the windows not as tall or high from the floor, it feels cramped and clawing and claustrophobic – my views of the world outside this room have changed greatly as well.  when i was young, this place seemed to hold EVERYTHING, so much mystery and wonder and awe and excitement and sounds and smells and adventures and work and play and joy and happiness, and being here, here at my grandparents’ farm, was pretty much the best thing a kid could ever want.  or so i thought. maybe it was true.  maybe i just didn’t know any better.

now of course my life has taken me so many other places and it seems to me that “out there” there is EVERYTHING, but still this farm, this house, this soil, these hills they still are such a special and dear part of my life and while i have been coming to terms with the reality that i will not always be able to physically return to this place, i am storing away the old memories, and these current ones and i am catalouging every sight and sound and smell and sunrise and sunset and hoping that i will always be able to remember these things.

but one sound is missing.

even now, right now, as i lie here in bed, the fireflies blinking outside the windows, the bugs and frogs and birds and whatever else (that eerie screaming fox has been around a bit lately) creaking and croaking and chiming out their nightly broadcasts, i wait for it.  four months now and it has not come.  it is the sound i remember most from those nights here as a child, nearly every night of every summer, and many in between, that i was here, after long hard hot but joyous days in the sun, in the garden, in the hayfields, in the barn, roaming the hills with the cows, and every evening after supper as i would carry the loaded pail of kitchen scraps down the hill and across the creek for my favourite part of the day-to slop the hog.  the hog and i always got along the best, even though it was a new hog every year, but my young mind did not quite gather all of that info. i recall those worn boards under my feet, as i would stand upon them to reach the hole in the pen wall through which the pail would be poured, grunting nose shoving its way into the pail and rooting about for the best morsels.  and then i would climb the hill again, to eventually retire drowsy and tired and happy to this room and though i’m sure it probably didn’t come every night, in my memory it does: the hoot and song of the whippoorwill.

i assumed it would still be here (not the same bird of course, that’s a silly notion) but my mother says she has not heard the whippoorwill in many years. now, most nights, depending upon the weather and cloud cover and humidity, i mostly hear the whine and  drone of 18 wheels on the new 4-lane highway that slices through this rural countryside.  that road, and its ugly scars upon the hillsides and the land that it changed, the homes that it took, the pace that it brought, breaks my heart.  yes, i know progress is often necessary, but i still am saddened by it.

and even though my recent research has revealed that the whipporwill’s song was popular in folklore as a warning and/or harbinger of death, i don’t mind that. it’s a beautiful sound that always filled my child’s mind with wonder and mystery and awe, for the bird was never seen, only heard, and therefore it was magical.

that is a feeling that i want always to be able to feel and to remember.

so, whippoorwill: i am waiting for your call.

(sidenote: today marks two years of this “online sharing experience” project.  i want to thank each of you that read it, and especially to my newest round of followers, (you know who you are) for understanding that having you here is important to me.  i’m grateful for your reading ears.)


you’ve got to give to live

many years ago when i first met my now-ex-partner (who is still my closest friend and more family to me than my actual family) one of the things that drew me to him was a conversation in which he stated how he believed all people could be put into two categories: magic and non-magic.  at the time, it made sense to me.  it often still does.  of course his theories changed throughout the years, and his categorization varied from the magic and non-magic to republicans and democrats, texans and non-texans, to tippers and non-tippers (that one made the most sense to us, since we were both cab drivers at the time and you could tell quite a lot about people from how they tipped).

from time to time i think about this, this one or the other grouping of people and while i know nothing is ever quite so clear cut, i do believe there might be some truth to the matter.

a few weeks ago i went to visit an old friend, someone i know from what seems such a long time ago, a whole other version of me that i can barely even remember.  it is always good to see him, he is such a joy and someone i admire and look up to a great deal, someone that always makes me feel as if i want to strive harder, focus more, be wiser and stronger and better at being the person i am supposed to be.  he and his new partner (who isn’t really new anymore, but i haven’t had the pleasure of spending enough time with him, so he still seems new to me) are so kind and caring and funny as hell and things are always just EASY.  and easy is what i need right now in the midst of so much constant chaos and exhaustion with the current familial/living situation.

so it got me to thinking again about people, and kinds of people, and after seeing another friend that weekend, someone i don’t know all that well but who is always such a kind and gentle spirit to be near and someone that appears to really LISTEN to the words you tell him (amazing!) and who is probably one of the best damn huggers i’ve ever encountered, i drove away from the whole weekend summing up my observations about such things and it kind of came to me then on the long quiet drive back:

givers and takers

those are the two kinds of people there are.

and of course even givers sometimes take and takers sometimes give, but the majority of the time our personalities divide us into one or the other.

i think i’ve come to realize this because i have so many wonderful givers in my life, but yet have also had so many really crappy takers.  we all have i suppose.  and while it’s impossible to completely eliminate the takers from your realm, and we need them to help achieve some sort of balance, i do say that i have spent the last few years trying hard to better establish boundaries, so that the takers don’t take quite so much and to allow the givers to actually give.

it could be said that there is another, third, category: the takers-disguised-as-givers, (and these are the most harmful ones to know) but in the end they are just takers.  they are the ones to watch out for though, they are the ones that cause so much hurt and frustration and confusion and pain and heartbreak, for those that they take from, and for themselves.  though i suppose that’s true for all takers, for can one truly live a good life if one doesn’t know how to give?

the trick about the takers-disguised-as-givers is:  they don’t know it.  they honestly believe they are givers.  while, yes, there are takers that consciously try to employ giver qualities in order to be able to sneakily take, the takers-disguised-as-givers don’t wear their disguises in conscious malice. they believe themselves to be good and kind and generous and while they may confess to a certain level of faults (which good givers often do) they really have no clue as to how much life they are sucking out of your veins.

i then concluded that a fairly good litmus test for distinguishing the givers from the takers-disguised-as-givers is in how they hug.  (though, granted, this isn’t an entirely foolproof method of distinction as i know some very lovely givers who aren’t much into hugging.) but while reflecting upon all of this i thought back to some of the more notorious takers-disguised-as-givers from my past and i realized that, in hindsight, ALL of them could be noted for their big seemingly bountiful hugs, but yet every one of those hugs just seemed “off”, even though they were wrapping you up and supposedly giving you something good and loving, there was an underlying feeling that they were draining some of your life force.

i’m certain this makes me sound crazy, hopefully some of you will connect with what i am meaning.

so, on a recent trip back to chicago, to immerse myself in music for a few days and catch up with some old friends and coworkers, i surrounded myself with givers.  it wasn’t so much a conscious choice, i just began to notice throughout those days that every single person that i was sharing time with was a tremendously good-hearted giver.  and while i certainly have my share of infamous takers in that handsome city, i resisted the urges to call them up, meet for a meal or slice of pie or a walk, because FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE i decided to just be all out good to myself.  finally.  i’m hemorrhaging so much giving right now with my grandmother-care that i very much needed to be the recipient of some major giving.  which is not the same as taking.  i am beginning to learn this balance, i hope.

the grace in all of this?

i know so many wonderful people.

kind and talented and caring and gifted and hugely-loving and smart and wickedly funny and beautiful

GIVERS

i’m going to do my darndest to give just as much back to them as i possibly can.


the fruits of my labour

it’s simple.

food can grow on trees.

surely that sounds very stupid, but it’s so simple and so amazing that sometimes i can’t quite process it.

growing a garden is one thing, and this year i do have a huge and magnificent one going, but gardens are a whole lotta work: the plowing and tilling and planting and hoeing and weeding and maintaining (after so many windy thunderstorms, the corn keeps falling over)(and the maintenance of the electric fence to keep the deer and coons and rabbits and groundhogs out as well as continuously inspecting the other chicken wire fencing to keep those and other tiny critters away from my veggies.) and the harvesting and canning and finally THE EATING! i’ve been voraciously eating broccoli the past week as it was the first thing to be ready but i am anxiously awaiting the time when i can cross the bridge over the creek, pluck my entire dinner from the garden, and savour its goodness.

but trees, trees i already love so dearly, and the fact that food grows right on them, without much work or fanfare, that rather astounds me. it’s always bothered me so when i would see a fruit tree, laden with a bountiful harvest, standing droopily in someone’s yard, unpicked, unused, ignored.  it frustrated me.  i wanted to stop and ask if i could have this food that appeared like magic every year, if i could put it to good use somehow.  it seems so wasteful.

so last week when i was atop the tallest ladder i could find on the farm, dangerously attempting to balance on one leg, reaching as far as my gangly arms could reach, my brown eyes turned to cherry symbols much like a slot machine’s, i was downright happy.  and when my grandmother kept saying, “oh, let those go if you can’t reach them.” i refused, I MUST HAVE ALL THE CHERRIES.  and it wasn’t a greed thing, or a gluttonous thing, it was simply fulfilling a gleeful desire to honour the tree, and the food that it was giving me, this simple basic thing that seems to fall right out of the sky.

well, that, and i knew cherry pies would be made.

by my calculations, knowing that the peaches and raspberries and blackberries and blueberries and apples will be dumping their gifts upon me over the next few weeks, i will have enough cherries stored away in the freezer to make two pies a month until the next harvest.  and for those that know me well enough, that’s about as far ahead as this gal has ever planned anything.

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the sweet smell of success

it’s honeysuckle season.

if you’ve never lived in a region to bless you with the experience of this aromatic wonder there isn’t much i can do but use heavily dense scenty words to try to describe it, poorly and awkwardly.

it’s as if one has drunk thickly rich sweet freshly squeezed and pureed pineapple/peach/mango juice through the nose.
(but in a wonderfully good way, not a “OH NO, i’ve snorted pineapple/peach/mango juice up my nose!!” nasal-passage burny way.)

driving around the country roads here, windows down, nostrils and brain receptors swimming in the heady lusciousness of the thick ambrosia air, it’s downright intoxicating.

lying in bed at night, windows up, drifting in and out of my usual restless sleep, rich air wafting in to blanket and drowsily caress me, it’s olfactorily gorgeous.

and every eve when i step out onto the back porch to hug jollydog goodnight and pat his big lunky head and tell him how much i love him and how grateful i am to have him in my life, i stop before heading back in to take a long deep sniff of fragrant magical honeysuckle.

reveling in that sweetly sweet moment:

i call this success.


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