Saturday, October 10, 2015

Are you seeing this?

It was one of these autumn weekends when the woods are bright with color. Peak season they call it. If I thought the day was nice, it was nothing compared to what came out as the sun approached its set time. The yellows deepened into golds dusky and glossy. The reds were even richer with the veins full of green or gold, contrasting the color more and more with each variation. The browns were dense and leathery.

This color is ridiculous.

As I get closer to the ground I see things that might get overlooked in all this autumn glory.

I drink hot herbal tea and try to resist the urge to pick up each and every perfect leaf. I resist the urgency to absorb the season around me. It seems to be moving fast through the change. Once it is done winter will be here and I don't want to think about that. Yet.

I want to but I haven't been able to completely relax on the bench. Every time I look at it I think about the cushy quilt like thing I want to make for the seat. Sure the bench is already getting its cozy on but I sit across the fire pit from it and consider its character and my own. I learned a lot from that project and I learned a lot about myself. I've learned that I can lean far over to being a perfectionist and I also can let it go. These days there isn't so much angst in the settling for "good enough". Because the bench itself is sheer perfection sitting in its woodland setting.

I try really hard to slow down, resist the tugging change of the season. Even as I'm painfully aware of all that is ending. The farmers market will be closing and the little one won't be seeing her little Mennonite friend over the cold winter and I won't be seeing her mother who has inspired me with her lap quilts and handmade dresses. The daytime temps will drop to the point of preventing us from going out on the river. The experience of sharing summer with a five-year-old girl has come and gone.

As I start to slow it down I realize somehow our woodland retreat has become so much more than a quick getaway from the city. Through our child we are interacting so much more with the locals in the region: the farmers, the bee keepers, the furniture makers, the Hmong, the Mennonite, the white family who has a part-Native grandchild in their midst, the owner of the Mexican restaurant in town, the tough old Wisconsin women that run all the restaurant-bars that are nestled off to the side of long stretches of wood-lined roads. There is a surprising amount of diversity in town. We add to that and it makes me feel like I belong. I have a relationship with this land, the local people, the wandering animals and birds. I feel more present and in those moments the experience becomes so much more intense. I experience each moment in a way that makes up for not being able to muster all those perfect autumn leaves drifting and falling to the ground.

I am changing as much as my growing daughter. I'm changing rapidly with the speed of the season. I feel like my only satisfying response is to slow everything else down. Slow enough to absorb the vibration of all the changes. I don't know what it all means right now but I think that's the right path for me.

I do think I need another project though. Soon.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Autumn begins

Holy moly! A ton of geese, fifty at least, just flew over our heads. We could hear them coming for a distance. Our excitement built as their raucous honks grew louder. Then a V formation burst over the tree up above. The Vs kept coming and coming. We tracked them through the clearing in the trees. It was the most exciting start to Autumn!

Our early Autumn activities are much the same as the ones in summer but by late afternoon the sweatshirts and wool socks and fleece hoodies are going on. Which will be followed by hats and fingerless gloves.

Last weekend we had fall break allowing for four full days out in the woods, some canoeing and a night out for pizza. 

I spent late nights working on my bench. Finally got the last coat of stain this morning. The first went on just before midnight. It was cold, somewhat frosty but I kept the fire stoked high and the radio on. I would choose to lose sleep over projects like this anytime.

Turned out nice, right?

I had a lot of learning to do. I had planned on a paint but ended up with a teak stain which doesn't cover my mistakes, the few that there were. Yet I'm pleased and feel a huge sense of accomplishment! This bench is wide and inviting. I think it is perfect for looking at the stars with a comfy cushion below and snuggled in a blanket. I want to make a couple more and scatter them throughout the woods. Even one for the city. 

The weather has turned cold with temps dropping into the thirties at night. Our furnace is on. I hadn't expected this sudden change despite the fact that it is October. 

The geese were arriving at all hours, the late group arrived right about midnight when I was making my way to bed. The days have been full and the nights are cool. The corn is yellow and dry. Throughout this change there is also a sense of waiting. Yet change is here which makes me want to get busier. There will be plenty of time to rest when winter arrives. Now is the time to enjoy autumn. 

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

last days of summer

We considered waiting for the next day's clear skies but the thought of waking in the morning woods swayed the decision. So we crawled through the thick after-work traffic to get out of the city. I wonder if the geese ever experience traffic jams. 

The geese are coming back for the nearby pit stop pond on their way south. Last weekend I saw three cranes make their way to the wetlands that lie just to the north of our property. I've never seen this pond yet I feel I know it somehow. Some aspects of it anyway. The pond makes its presence known by the sounds of all the different birds that stop be. The geese are the most prominent raising raucous long into the night. Toads and frogs in the spring are just as loud but in a different sort of deafening way, one more high pitched and at times sustained. We often hear coyotes over there and an occasional wolf howl.

I'm never prepared for the first cool weather weekend in the woods. I thought I had learned that lesson but here I sit out in a night air that is dropping into the thirties. The wind is still so at least I don't have that additional chill. I should have brought a hat, some long underwear, my fleece jacket. In my defense I didn't know that the nights were going to be this cold. I have summer scarves and leggings and a fleece vest. I thought these items would suffice. The fire is warm enough when I'm sitting right next to it but I am totally dreading the move away from that warmth. Which is going to be a problem when I have to pee. Sometimes all that matters is that moment when you know you must perform a bodily function that can no longer be put off, damned the cold. It must be done.

Also their is the annual re-learning that goes along with cold weather apparel. Which combinations of clothing provide the right amount of warmth without losing flexibility? Are the wool socks going to make my feet sweat to the point of freezing my toes as the sweat cools? Can't this sweatshirt work without long underwear underneath? I thought it would be fine. I was fooled by the hip little sleeve ending that attaches to my thumbs. I suppose this blog post is testament to the fact that my palms are plenty warm.

I find myself again thinking about the basics, only this time it's my clothes.

I want to pile the fire high with logs. It is a frustrating and peaceful impermanence on a chilly late summer night. I ask for more and he points me to the woodpile. I know that that chopping will warm my muscles but that doesn't stop me from the shuttering cringe I feel as I see my breathe in the air.

I don't mean to complain. Not all in. I'm just caught in the intensity of cold as it clenches the muscles of my body.

I can't believe I didn't bring a hat. Worst of all, I forgot the flask of whiskey.

Sure enough the next day is bright and beautiful. We do our usual visit with the farmers at the market. The little one has struck up a friendship with a Mennonite girl. The two of then run all around only stopping when other vendors offer apples and pears and cucumbers, little treats to keep their energy up. I shyly make my way to her mother and admire her lap quilts and handmade dresses. We are nothing alike, us two mothers, but we come together over our girls. Later I wander away to get my eggs and realize I haven't seen Lotus Bud for a long while and I stretch my neck to scan the market. The other mother notices me looking and walks over to assure me that the girls are near. She just knew that I was looking and now I find we have something in common, the things that is most important, we share the responsibility of keeping an eye on the precious ones at the market.

When we went out on the river we saw both an eagle and a loon. Should be good fishing was my first thought. A very large woodpecker is doing her business on the shore where we stop. She is loud and thundering through the trees. Another eagle flies up above. No kidding. It is a quintessential American and midwest moment.


Time to pour the libations and celebrate. And then get our lines caught in the trees.

The decision to stay on the river late into the day, nearly until sunfall, at least til the sun fell behind the shoreline trees, was the best decision of the day. That decision allowed us to capture a few more moments of summer memories.

Although it felt very much like early autumn. We wrapped ourselves with blankets and the little one huddled on the chilly ride back to the launch, a ride made even chillier by the speed of our return.

I'm making a park bench. At least I'm trying to find the time to put it together. With all the projects and boat rides and visits to the market, it is hard to get some spare time. Also I'm working around Dave who has his own building project going, trying to share his tools without getting in his way.

And then there are the little interruptions by the girl who has found a feather and wants to display it somehow, who is always misplacing her work gloves and generally needs to be in the middle of everything as this makes her feel helpful and part of it all.

Even in these are last days of summer, there is still so much to see. The prettiest caterpillars come around, the prettiest ones are always the moths.

Mushrooms are thriving in all the bright colors alongside the neutrals.

The first rounds of apples (Zestars) have come and gone. All that are left in this area are the seconds, free for the taking at the market, full of bruises and cracked skins.

Sometime this summer, my girl grew up. She is tall and smart and beautiful. She is curious, adventurous and at times, mischievous. She is helpful, silly and always ready to go. I love every aspect of her personality and it is a delight to see her learn more about this world and the woods.

And this man. He makes the best daddy in the world. We've been together for over twenty-two years now and I love seeing the gray coming in on his beard. It looks much better than the gray coming out on my head. These two - they make quite a team.

Despite all the busyness we still find plenty of time to laze around and stare at the tops of the trees.

So, you see, this summer was the best that I can remember. All of us heading in different directions all the time, yet coming together in the moments that define our family. We might be looking in different directions yet we are doing it together. Either that or we just need to work on our selfie skills.

I am ready for the Fall, my favorite season. I'm ready to move on to the adventures we've got planned for this season. And the new school schedule that has changed all of our lives for the better. The early mornings, the homework, the way we come together in the woods.

Cheers to the last days of summer. May the Fall be just as fun and bright!

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