Sunday, March 25, 2007

After the rain...

This morning I took a walk in the garden, under cloudy skies. Nothing was blooming, but I saw a pansy with a soft roll of purple, almost ready to open. I saw the swollen golden buds of crocus and a dark purple iris still encased in it's celadon sheath. As I walked, fat drops of rain fell across the garden slates.

A steady rain fell softly but insistently for quite some time, urging the on-again/off-again creek to flow. After dinner, I took a pair of scissors and headed to the garden with the intent to cut away some of the dry brown evidence of winter. In the garden, I found the first blooms of spring: two crocus, a pansy and a tiny iris. Each had unfurled in the warmth after the rain.

The boys have been playing amid the cattails all afternoon, while down by the lake the seagulls are screaming in wild joy over the arrival of spring. They are not musical at all, but they are loud and exuberant and they have a really good point: "Hurrah!
Hurrah! It's Spring!"
photo 1 by Aisling, photos 2 and 3 by Haiku, March 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thinking Blog Award...

It was an honor to have my Quiet Country House nominated as a "Thinking Blog" by my friend Nan of Letters from a Hill Farm. Unfortunately, the rules of the Thinking Blog Award prohibit my nominating Nan in return, though I surely would if I could. Her blog is a lovely respite from the sometimes frantic world in which we live.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote(here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

I used to read several magazines faithfully. These days I read the blogs of kindred spirits living the quiet life, or of "foodies" and "crafters" with incredible color photographs. It is so hard to offer you a list of five favorites, but I've chosen these because I find myself returning to them again and again hoping for a new post. You may also browse through my blog list at the right, which includes many other blogs I visit frequently and truly enjoy.

1. (Inside A Black Apple) This lovely blog is the only crafting blog I return to week after week. The 20-something author, Emily, has a quirky, engaging writing style that makes me feel like I am visiting with a friend instead of reading a blog. She writes about her art, but also includes movie reviews, recipes, and occasionally some light, witty social commentary.

2. MorningRamble This is one of the first blogs I began to read on a regular basis. The blog's name says it all; reading this blog is like taking a Morning Ramble with Patty over the fields of her Texas farm. Her topics range from the simple pleasures in an ordinary day to contemplations on her spiritual journey. No matter the topic, they reveal her love of home and family and her appreciation for the natural world. I wouldn't miss catching up with her daily.

3. Beyond the Fields We Know I have discovered this blog only recently but am so impressed with the author's organic, lyrical writing style. Since finding this blog while looking up names for the March full moon, I have returned each day, eager for the wisdom this writer seems to have in abundance. She is deeply rooted to our Earth, yet open to all the beauty and mystery of the entire Universe. Her poetry blog, Trailing Light, can be linked to through this blog and is worth the side trip. There is so much to learn here!

4. The Village Vegetable This is a fairly new blog, but shows so much promise. There are beautiful, well established, food blogs with large followings, but I think this is my favorite. When I think of my interest in this blog, I am reminded of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse (You can guess which I am!) The "city mouse" who writes The Village Vegetable includes original recipes, restaurant reviews, and "slice of life" vignettes. If you link to her site, please find this post about the man at the farm market selling vegetable peelers. Linda brings this character to life for her readers through her vivid storytelling. I feel as if I saw and heard him myself!

5. Rapunzel's Castle Of these five blogs, Rapunzel is the only blogger I knew before our blogging days. Her posts are by turns poignant, turbulent, informative, or just plain fun. Whatever else they are, her posts are always thoughtful. Rapunzel is not just hurrying through life. Instead, she is living mindfully. She is my dear friend, true, but I am nominating her blog because of the inspiration it provides.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Everyone has a story...

The flower in this photo has an interesting story hiding behind the sweet pink confection of it's petals. Long ago, the this plant was named for the wolf, because the lupine was considered to be an aggressive plant which leeched the soil of its nutrients. It is now known to be a survivor which thrives in poor soil. Many of the plants in my garden have special stories in their names or in age-old beliefs about their usage. Many people have planted lupines in their garden without giving any thought to their story. On the other hand, some gardeners like to "dig a little deeper" for as much of the story as they can find.

As I go about the routines of my daily life, I encounter many people whose story I do not know, though I know the stories of so many of the flowers in my garden. I have never asked the librarian in our town if she wanted to be a librarian as a child, or was there something else she dreamed of becoming. There are mothers I see coming and going at the school several times a week. For the most part, I don't know where they are hurrying to or from. Are we all too busy to hold still and listen to each other's stories these days?

I am requesting a little reader participation... I encourage you to learn someone's story over the next few days. Ask an elderly person at church about their childhood. Ask a new friend where they met their husband. Ask a community volunteer what started them on a path to community service. If you take the time to do this, I'd love to hear about it.

One day while shopping, I learned a great deal about a retired woman's life in Florida. She asked about a product I was purchasing, and perhaps encouraged by my friendly reply to her question, she launched into a full scale conversation. By the end of my circuit through the grocery store, I had encountered her several times and knew that she had five grown children, all boys, and that the Italian gentleman that lived next door to her place in Florida made the very best spaghetti sauce ever from the simplest garden ingredients. He grew his own tomatoes, she assured me. I also know that she was as proud of her crop of boys as the Italian Gentleman was of his sauce!

photo by Aisling, June 2005

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Interview Day...

Tiggy is sleeping in her favorite spot as I write this (the warm spot on top of the computer monitor!) She opted out of participating in one of our family traditions (Interview Day) in favor of a nap!

Each year I survey each family member and then print their responses. After they have completed a small drawing at the bottom of the page, I place it in a ring binder with the responses from earlier years. Thus, we can see whether someone's favorite color has changed or remained constant over the years. We can see that when he was 2, Sijo wanted to be a race car driver as a grown-up but now, he wants to be a librarian. We can see how much trouble some members of the family have picking a favorite song or book, giving a list instead of a single answer, and how others have the same concise response year after year. Our "rules" for this activity are only that one can't look at the previous years' responses until they have answered for this year, nor can they read anyone elses' responses until they have completed their own.
Our current list of questions follows, but we add another question every year or two as things occur to use that we would like to be keeping track of. The answers included in this list are my own.
Favorite Color: Periwinkle Blue

Favorite Food: Avocado and Hummus Sandwich

Favorite Beverage: Pomengranet Izze and Blackberry Izze

Favorite Treat: Dark Chocolate

Favorite Kind of Animal: Cats and Wolves

Favorite Playtime Activity: Hanging out with my family and playing in my garden

Favorite Toy: my new cell phone

Favorite All-time Song: "One" by U2 (maybe, there are so many!!!)

Favorite Current Song: Lithium by Evanescence, Fully Alive by FlyLeaf, Famous Last Words, My Chemical Romance

Favorite Movie: Princess Bride and Serenity

Favorite TV Show: ER

Favorite Book: Too many to narrow down to one

I collect: plants for my gardens

When I grow up I want to be: a published author

My pet peeve: trying to pick a favorite song or book!

This year I want to learn: (actually relearn) Yoga

I can't wait to: hug Senryu.

For those of you who don't know, Senryu is my oldest daughter. She is an exchange student this year. Her responses were sent via email from Asia. That will be interesting to think about in years to come: "Here are the answers that came from the other side of the planet." If we carry this tradition on when the children are all grown, I wonder from where else the answers will be sent!

photo by Aisling, March 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Paying Closer Attention...
I read this Henry Miller quote today in a little book by Adair Lara called "Slowing Down in a Speeded Up World":

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."

I think this is why I love the zoom feature on my digital camera. Through it, I see things in a way I never would have seen before... such as the lovely, exotic blossoms of my Christmas cactus, which have decided that March would be a good month to bloom. In the summer, I found myself lying on the grass to take a slow, close photo of a spider in her lovely tulip shelter and of the intricate details of the underside of a mushroom.

Adair Lara's book urges us to "notice colors" as a way to improve the quiet moments of our lives. I am a noticer-of-colors by nature, but I still need the reminder once in a while to pay closer attention. I did that this afternoon as I took a walk with Sijo and Haiku. We were calf deep in snow in the low places, but the cold air was fresh with the foreshadowing of spring. We noticed the swell of the buds, the blue of the sky, and the yellow-green shoots of the early daffodils.

By the way, I agree with my Christmas Cactus: March is a good month to bloom!

photos by Aisling, March 11, 2007

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Glories of March...

March blew in "like a lion" on a wild wind, but has been behaving like a lamb for the past couple of days... a white and sparkling lamb beneath a blue, blue sky. The morning glory seeds in this photo that I took in the garden yesterday will have to wait a few more months before sprouting. Winter weather will make several appearances before June, and our "frost free date" arrive. Despite that wait, I feel hopeful as March progresses.

I caught only a glimpse of March's full moon: The Crow Moon or the Full Worm moon, according to my two usual references. Feeling that neither of those names summed up the feeling of March for me, I used the internet to look further afield. I learned that the Celts called the full moon of March the "Moon of Winds." Ah, that is exactly it! I caught my brief glimpse of the full moon the other night as the wind swept the clouds across the dark sky.

I believe my response to March is inborn, inherited from my pagan ancestresses rather than my Christian forefathers. Each year in the early days of March, a surge of wild expectancy courses through my veins. I feel as if I am coming back to life after long gray months of dormancy.

photo by Aisling, March 7, 2007

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Allure of a Cottage...

From across the sea, a land I have never visited beckons to me. Why have I always dreamed of England as if it were a place of myths and enchantment? Perhaps because, to me, it is. The stories of King Arthur that I devoured as a child are rooted there. The windswept moors of the Brontes are there. The manor houses peopled by Jane Austen's unforgettable characters are there. And always, indisputably romanticized in my mind, tiny cottages with lovely gardens are strewn across the countryside, awaiting my arrival for a long, lazy fortnight. Nevermind that no-one does anything by the "fortnight" in my real world. Never mind that I have no imminent plans to travel to Great Britain. A cottage awaits me. Of that I am sure.

Have I been making scones more frequently of late because the Anglo-mood is upon me once again? Or have I induced the interest in All-Things-English by consuming so much tea and so many scones? The latest batch, laced with apples and cinnamon, was consumed just before I piled my bedside table with a few modern novels set in an English cottage. The two I intend to read first are Thornyhold and Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart. These are old favorites of mine, and I am looking forward to visiting old friends as I read them again!

This afternoon, I watched Emma Thompson's movie version of Sense and Sensibility as I did my ironing. I've seen it many times, but still cried my way through a favorite emotional scene. I'll pull out a few more Jane Austen adaptations as the month goes on. I have to admit, February and March are the months I am most ready to head for "anywhere but here." By this time, late in winter, I am ready to fly thousands of miles to find spring. I'm ready pack my bags and leave a note on the counter saying, "Call me when the first flower blooms and I'll come home."

Why do I imagine that in England it is always late spring, or the soft early days of summer, and flowers always blooming? Why do I imagine that rain there does not ruin plans, but rather softens the hard edges of one's life? I know that I have "picked and chosen" the things I love about England and made of them an imaginary place in which I would love to spend idyllic days. Never mind what my intellect tells me. In my heart, I know that tucked inside a cheerful tangle of rosevines beyond a garden wall, a cottage awaits me.

photos by Aisling, 2006 and 2007