Seeing the wine harvest brought in and crushed, has been on my bucket list since forever. I will be down in Oregon, having a peek at the process. In order to have the privilege, I have offered to clean toilets, pick stems, or do dishes for the family and friends loving Sineann Wine into being.
I go, hungry to sense and absorb the aspects of this process. Lord, help me see.
Sophie moved her large bulk slow. Even so, the homestead work was accomplished with thoroughness. In between relentless chores, she planted flowers along the rock wall which she had hauled and stacked one stone at a time. Stones were plentiful and unwanted in the fields. She reframed them.
She is famous in the family for this: Doctor suggested she only have one piece of toast in the morning, instead of two. A keen mind in an aged body outsmarted him. With gumption, she told the family she would follow orders, but she would be sure to cut it thick. She pronounced it tick.
When we go back to the prairie, poking about the old places jog memories. Asking a question about some unfamiliar object becomes a story starter.
This tin can sieve with lid is for holding minnows. It was dropped in water to keep the fishing bait alive.
When I was younger, I lusted for the object left along the prairie trail. Now, I hunger only for the stories to pair with the digital proof. Often, the story is as wispy and fragile as the rotting curtains.
The ungainly rug loom held a place of honor in the small living room. Sitting by the hot stove under dim light, they toiled all winter turning straw into gold or rags into rugs.
The rusty story starts to loosen as you turn the handle. Flimsy questions echo up the stairs.
Her carpet was printed on linoleum. A good faux, easy to clean. The flowers are still bright.
Her bottom knew the frozen wooden seat of the outhouse ~ intimately. Paul would dig a tunnel from the house in winter. His aim was good as the tunnel always ended at the door of the outhouse. It was a two seater. There's a delicate question I have never asked about!
This old jar of hollyhock seeds whispered how a homemaker, in spite of lean times and a hard life, knew how to save color for her soul from one season to another. I'm learning what she knew. It was and still is, an essential.
No matter how severe the drought, or how meager the crop ~ one common saying frequently heard among those homesteaders after harvest was, "Oh well, maybe next year." A shrug of the shoulders flipped the burden of failure away while their hands found the next needful thing to do. They couldn't waste any energy for they needed to survive winter's sour winds.
Each spring, they picked up the handle of that dream one more time, and with calloused hands dug a place to plant seeds.
Wilfred wooed Thelma for five years before he married her. Letters diverted from a disapproving mother didn't cool his determination. His constancy continues now from the place where she lives full time and he lives day times. Her thick brown hair is still lush, but grey. A stroke ten years ago changed the direction of what they had envisioned for their golden years. They have gone far past plans A or B.
Their view is one we can only partially empathize with as we look inside, and they look out with acceptance.
Fifty nine years of deciding to honor their vows is an epic story. The prairie yields many similar stories. The staying power of love thrives here. We have seen it up close ourselves. Too close. Perhaps roots grow extra deep in this lonely sod?
Thelma was a stunning young woman on the outside. Being in her presence for even a short while reveals a woman who is stunning on the inside, too. I was the one who felt visited. And blessed in her presence. All heaven will welcome one such as she. She stays because we need her light and love.
They felt the need to leave their names carved in the woodshed's planks. The McHenry Loop was a dead end. A tricky little turn around. If they wanted to keep going west, they would have had to walk across the prairie to the main line.
Some wrote their names like a brand, with flourish. A couple drew a profile, perhaps unable to write. Indian Dave, GA Slim, Red, Omaha Kid, Hank the tie tramp, and Rock Island Whity left permanent proof that they had passed through. No amount of paint layers will obliterate their ~ I was here. 1904. 1917......
It is art, hidden mostly in tall prairie grass. What was graffiti then, becomes a creative record of a hobo's wandering now. If only we could follow their trail of carvings left behind across the wide expanse of America's railways.
No till is the accepted way of planting now. It was disturbing to see such progress up close as we visited family in North Dakota. The fields were being harvested. Sixty bushels an acre instead of the meager eighteen of thirty years ago. Afterwards, they spray to kill weeds. With poison. Round-up ready or poison coated seeds are then drilled into the clean, weed free fields. More toxins are sprayed on throughout the growing season. It is dead dirt, not to be mistaken for loamy soil, alive with living things.
I felt sad for the young farmers trying to survive and feed their families. They sit high and removed on the ways of monoculture's big tractors, insulated from the dying moans of the soil.
I feel sad for us, that we eat bread, made with dead wheat, poisoned from the beginning and several times after. It is altered, bleached and separated from its center of life.
We willingly eat bread made from poisoned wheat without a kernel!
When our bodies react as if violated, we are told we're intolerant of gluten and believe it.
This is my second fall of planting bulbs. Daffodil. Tulip. Paper Whites. Hyacinth. Crocus.
Memories of last spring gave me momentum to be extravagant.
It seems futile. My back aches, my hair gets frazzled, and dirt finds its way in under the gloves. I'm soiled and sweaty this morning. Instant gratification won't reward me any time soon. The bulbs and I wait.
Two hundred pockets of hope were buried in the dirt this morning.
When they burst out next spring, so will I.
Buried treasure. Buried pleasure. Buried dreams. The deep darkness grows it, knows it well.
Tessa left home with her car packed yesterday. She snuggled with me in bed before we had coffee. As we hugged good by I couldn't quit sniffing her neck and cheeks and hair. Her scent is her own. I have already misplaced it. This makes me feel blind. Crippled. Numb.
I made her two aprons. One, a girl apron in pink floral and polka dots. The other a plain, John Deere print with tractor pockets - farm girl wanna be apron. She is an amazing cook, infusing her creations with sensuous passion. I think she stays pure and virginal physically because she can release and transform her desire into the food she shares. We have been blessed by many meals where the only sound at the table was a soft moan of satiated hunger.
Tucked into the aprons was a love note. Her middle name is Rose. Another gift to the world is her music. I will miss the piano throbbing the windows silly. The girl has soul. You can't learn it or buy it. You can only be born with it. It has nothing to do with perfection or performance.
On the back are taped tickets. Unlimited tickets to return home or ask for help if she needs to.
This was a love letter printed with crayon on first grade tablet paper.
It seems like yesterday when she was practicing cursive on it.
I want to know what is outside the perimeters of what the camera lens is panning, or framing. If it looks catastrophic, I want to know the rest of the story. Is there help? Is there also a flower bursting through the blood stained ghetto street?
Then, the happy pictures and posts of everyone else's wonderful lives, happy families, and idyllic vacations ~ you know, the Christmas Letter version of successful living? The kind that make me feel like a loser? Our vacations seem like a disaster? Our real lives extremely, painfully dull, and real?
Let this comfort you. Please.
Look at two pictures from the album I posted on Facebook from our last camping trip of the season, this weekend.
Idyllic. Pristine. Premium spot by the quintessential babbling brook. Luci Shaw's Breath for Bones, a journal, and falling leaves surround my peaceful interlude with nature. This is how what I show you looks:
Here is what you can't see, can't know. We got rained out the first night. The ocean was socked in, so we came inland the next morning. I cried with disappointment. We set up our soggy tent in what seemed like a perfect spot. By the time it dried out, we were regretting our choice. Our neighbor had his radio on full volume. Loverby asked him politely to turn it down. It canceled out the lovely quietness for the rest of the evening because he refused common courtesy.
The next morning, he fell out of his motor home cursing the dogs tangled with his legs. Two young boys with a live, beeping geiger counter started scouring the empty space next to us. This was all before seven o'clock in the morning. We forgot a flashlight, the dutch oven lid handle, the briquette tongs, and hot pads.
Loverby got cranky at a new rip in the tent. I got cranky at a slow leak in the air mattress. We both became cranky at the non-stop traffic on the way home.
There is a "however" ~ We did make glorious coffee. The brook did babble all night only a few steps from our tent door. The aromatic steam from the dutch oven meals probably made the neighbors drool. We did stay warm and dry. We did snuggle like a puzzle all night. And oh, the stars.........
Next time you see a disaster framed, know that somewhere there are beautiful hands taking a swipe at the ugly. There's more beyond the frame.
Next time you see someone's marvelous vacation pictures, realize they aren't showing you the blisters, disagreements, leaks in the tent, or breakdowns. There's more beyond the frame.
And that steep granite mountain I'm nose to nose with right now? Thankfully, there's more beyond the frame. I can't see it, that's all.