Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Dark swallows the Light

Until the Light is reborn.


The Shortest Day of the Year

Crescent moon hangs low
Lakes birth black ice - nothing more
Solstice closes in.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Love Me, Hate Me

My guitar taunts me.

It leans nonchalantly against the wall, behind my favorite chair by the stove and mocks my intentions.

When I approach, eager to pluck a tune or strum a melody, I can hear it laughing, in a silent smug way that only inanimate objects can do. While I tune the strings against themselves, turning the keys, humming the notes - we both know it's a joke, because once I start - well, best laid plans and all.

Nevertheless, I pick it up. This time will be different. The smooth, warm wood of the body is comforting. The neck is thick in my hand and the strings gleam in the light. Looming large in my lap, arms wrapped around, I lightly pin down the strings, moving my fingers against the frets in an attempt to recreate Iz's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle", (yeah, you know the one). I begin to play.

Then I stop.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

I've played guitar since I was 10 years old. Wait, let me rephrase that.

I've "played" guitar since I was 10 years old.

I can still remember Alice, my guitar teacher, patiently teaching me the chords of A, D, E, Em, G, F, C in the sunken living room of her house, with the big black baby grand and velour covered chairs. Her husband, a man I had never actually met, kept an enormous stash of alcohol behind a mirrored bar, complete with stools, on the far side of this room. A gleaming, glittery promise of adult sophistication that both fascinated and distracted me during our lessons.

Did I mention I was ten?

I had asked Alice, after listening to her play in church, to teach me guitar. In exchange, I would sweep the sycamore leaves from her back patio and scoop them from the kidney bean shaped pool out back. She readily agreed.

Alice was a large woman, with tight graying curls set against her scalp and bright blue eyes sunk beneath the folds of skin and framed by the apples of her cheeks. Her demeanor was warm and joyful and she had a lovely alto voice that was all the lovelier listening to her pound out the hymn "Oh When the Saints" against the steel strings of her Yamaha. I was enchanted by the idea of making music when I heard her enthusiastic renditions of "Saving Grace" and "Jesus Loves Me" and I began to dream of a career in music, on a lit up stage, in a lovely dress, singing to a mass of fans who paid hundreds of dollars to listen to my music.

Alas, it was not to be.

Not three lessons into it, I began to get bored. Learning chords, practicing chords, strumming the strings and then doing it all over again while my fingers ached and the callouses couldn't possibly form fast enough. This isn't what I signed up for! This was stupid!

A - strum, strum, strum - E - strum, strum, strum - D - strum, strum, strum - A - strum, strum...

Gawd! No more!

I went home and asked my mother if I could stop the lessons.  

No, no stop. 

Please? I tried hard to make my brown eyes look big and pleading. Like a sad puppy.

No, Elena Sun, no stop. Sing for Jesus.

Dammit. She brought God into it. Again. 

At this time in my life I had some serious doubts about religion and God, but I was in no way prepared to go there. Remember, I was 10 and like most ten year olds, I did what my mother told me to do.

So, week after week, every Tuesday afternoon, I dutifully showed up to sweep the cement patio and scoop leaves from the water, feeling resentful of my mother for being so mean and resentful of my guitar, for being so big and cold and difficult to play. I sat in that 70's era sunken room, with it's gaudy bar and big Alice, playing my chords over and over and over, my distaste showing all over my face. Yep, I was a brat.

Eventually, over the course of the summer, I learned a few hymns and nursery rhymes. Not a one was close to the glorious songs I had originally envisioned and my mother, no doubt exhausted from having to fight with me week after week, finally let me off the hook.

You can imagine my mother's surprise, when one year later, I was still playing. Albeit, not very well as I lacked the discipline to practice, but I played because I liked to sing and how else was I going to accompany myself on stage?

Now, quite a few years later, in spite of my best efforts, I have finally admitted defeat. I still lack discipline, yes, but add onto that the fact that my desire for fame and fortune withered away when I decided I would grow up to be a veterinarian and it was a recipe for mediocre guitar playing for the foreseeable future.

But all of that is going to change. Tonight, I look at that curvy bit of wood and string, sitting in the corner, a play thing for my children and challenging company on cold nights by the fire, and I've come to a decision.

I'm going to find me a teacher and learn to play all over again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Early Morning Yoga + Wood Stove = Good Life

The full moon is setting into the western sky as the morning light begins to wash the dark in pale blue. It is a beautiful morning. Windless. Cold. The wood stove is hot and I am feeling satisfied after spending the better part of an hour, practicing poses in the dark.

Even so, as I write this, I must confess - I am really just watching the clock. I am anticipating the build-up of a typical Monday morning with sleepy kids who will be, inevitably, 5 minutes late, no matter what I do.

I will help the littlest one seek out her good wool socks that are hiding in a pant leg somewhere tricky. I will help the oldest by keeping the younger ones out of the bathroom for 10 minutes so she can do whatever mysterious, private thing she needs to do every single morning. I will help the middle-est throughout, redirecting him when he is distracted by a book or his Legos or by watching the wool carpet pill up on the edges. As the hands creep toward 8 o'clock, I will gather permission slips and homework, backpacks, instruments, lunches, jackets and boots, head out the door and over the hill to deposit my offspring, one by two, so that they may learn.

Then, and only then, will I let out my breath while I drive to work on the winding Route 14, watching for still waters and ice on the lake and replaying the morning in my mind.

Then, and only then, will I remember to appreciate the good life of early morning yoga in front of a wood stove followed by the joyful chaos of children and life.

Then, and only then, will I look forward to doing it all over again - tomorrow.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Overheard Today (Burlington, VT)

1.   Walking from Church St. towards the waterfront. The view is amazing and L is inspired.
  • L: I want to be an adventurer when I grow up, that makes cookies and travels all over the world. And sings along the way. And people will give me lots of money for singing.
  • G: Why wait? You could do that now. Mom won't mind. She'll probably think that's cute.
2.   We are eating bagels for breakfast. G bites into hers and a glob of cream cheese drops onto the table. M is across the table, neatly eating his without mishap.
  • G: Oh no! My bagel pooped 
  • M: (laughing) Mine is potty trained! 
  • All of us are now laughing hysterically.
  • G: (laughing, then stops and looks at me) You're going to put this on Facebook, aren't you?
3.   While sipping hot drinks outside, we watched a small group of protesters walk down Church St. among the holiday shoppers. They bore signs about "Occupy Wall St", corporate influence on our government, financial inequality, etc. and were chanting something.

G asked me what was going on.
  • Me: Well, it's complicated, but you know how I talk about large corporations and politics and the importance of buying local? That's kind of what is going on. 
  • G: OK, but how does the homeless guy fit in? 
  • Me: What do you mean? 
  • G: Those guys are mad about other people having too much money, right? Well the homeless guy over there just asked them for money and they ignored him. Isn't that the same thing? 
  • Me: No, it's not really the same thing honey. It's more complicated than that.
  • G: Whatever Mom. No offense, but grown ups always make things complicated. I'm gonna give the homeless guy a dollar. He looks cold.

Monday, November 28, 2011


"When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren't grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude." - Cynthia Ozick, author

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sleeping In on a Snowy Day

Glittery, soft and thick.

From my vantage point, snuggled deep under down comforters, I can see that last night's snowfall has covered everything in a carpet of white, hiding the gardens not yet put to bed, the pumpkins still left from Halloween and the black plastic pots I left by the drive in the spring. My cat, stark black against the white, is sitting on the step by the front door, watching his newly transformed domain with yellow eyes.

Everything is silent...or almost silent. Cars travel slowly, their tires muffled against the snow and sand on the road. The voices in the village that carry down the street in the summer are no more than tones on the wind this morning. The town plow truck, rumbling with power, whooshes through, spraying wet snow to the sides.

In a few hours, my children will arrive- laughing, jumping, shouting, talking - the sounds are comforting, welcome even, in a house that echoes with quiet when they are gone. Their boots will break trails around the house and my carpet at the back door will be covered in snow. Toys and books will be scattered every which way - joyful chaos. I will coax a hot fire from our wood stove and we will read together on the couch, eating hot popcorn and drinking warm cider. We will talk about their week at school and what they did at their dad's. We will call California and chat with my family. We will snuggle.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and there are lists to write, pies to make, eggrolls to stuff and custards to set. My not-quite-clean house will be less clean than usual and I will turn a blind eye for the sake of my good humor and sanity.

In the meantime though, I will lay here a bit longer, warm and sleepy, writing for no other reason than to express my gratitude for cold snow and hot fires, noisy children and messy houses. It's a good life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tiny and Squishy

I have had the utter fortune to bask in the pleasure of holding newborn babes these past few weeks.

Tiny and squishy babies.

I have loved every stage of childhood with my children, but there is something completely primal and basic about babies and the response their very presence brings out in me. Their scent is intoxicating, their skin silky and the way their tiny fingers curl around mine draws an audible and obvious squeak of pleasure from me.

My own babies are too grown up for me to poke, grab and hold in the crook of my arm, but I do still get a wonderful cuddle now and again that brings me right back to the long past days when I would fall asleep with them curled into my chest, their bodies imparting a delicious warmth on a cold night.

And their toes! I do miss baby toes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pies for People, Soup for Supper - One door closes...

Hardwick, VT, November 15, 2011 -With just hours left before our first of two bake nights for our annual Pies for People/Soup for Supper event, I find myself with a rare and quiet hour to reflect. Not on recipes, nor logistics or even hunger, but to reflect on kitchens.

Since its inception in 2009, when Julia Shipley organized the first pie bake, the kitchen at Sterling College, with its u-shaped counter sitting squarely beneath the hanging pot racks, has welcomed a cadre of volunteers to roll dough, simmer soup and bake pies. The ancient stoves and ovens never failed to fire up, every imaginable pot and gadget was within arm’s reach and we blasted the music from the beat up speakers that sat high above the stainless steel sinks. This year, sadly, is our last year to bake in this wonderful little kitchen on the Common.

Read the rest of my post on the Center for an Agricultural Economy's blog.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Samhain in the Village

The air is cold and the night is dark. Jack o'lanterns grin brightly on porches and lawns, beckoning witches, princesses, knights and ghouls.

"Trick or treat!"

Bags open, small, excited hands reach in.

"Just one please...OK, go ahead and take two."

The wooden bowl of lollipops and chocolate quickly disappears. Quick "thank yous" and "happy halloween" give way to the next group of trick-or-treaters and it starts again.

Eventually, candles burn low, porch lights are dimmed and windows turn dark. Inside warm houses, late dinners become mere condiments to the main course of candy hidden in pockets. The usual bedtime routine is replaced with unzipping costumes and scrubbing faces clean, while tales of spirits and lost ships are told to sleepy children.

Tomorrow, the magic will give way to the sun rise, but tonight the ancient rite of All Hallows' Eve marks the end of autumn and ushers in the cold and quiet of not-yet-winter.

Happy Halloween!!

-A story written by Grace, Mason, Lillian and Elena

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sleeping In on a Saturday...

 ...and the room is icy, but the bed is warm. The light is soft and gray while the promise of hot coffee is very tempting.

I am reading about haiku this morning and fascinated by the complexity. There are the sounds units of on and its difference from syllables; the skill and art to kireji, a "cutting word" that has no English equivalent except for the use of ellipses and dashes; combine all this with a stage subtly set by kigo which is meant to suggest a season, but not necessarily be about nature. Even the physical way of writing haiku has me intrigued. I love how the Japanese write haiku vertically, lending visual art to the form and then contrasting that to the horizontal, familiar lines of English.

And now, I am inspired by my surroundings to write haiku. Please forgive me Matsuo Basho, for being unabashedly American.

Old dog, snorts and snores

We snuggle in wool blankets

Yikes! Your toes are cold!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No Dead Dogs Today

I work hard. Long hours and intense effort define my work style. My To-Do list is separated into multiple columns and pages. My desk is covered in paper and books and folders and "tasks". I sit for long periods of time, doing this hard work, week after week.

Unless of course, it is a near perfect day outside. Then I play hooky.

This particular afternoon, the mountains are covered in foliage, close to peak, and the clear blue sky holds a bright autumn sun. It is futile to resist and easy to rationalize my afternoon escape. So, I decide to take a hike - specifically to the top of Mt. Pisgah.

Mt Pisgah and her sister Mt Hor, flank Lake Willoughby, a deep, blue water lake hugged by near vertical cliffs. The effect is nothing short of stunning; a beautiful calling card left behind by an ancient glacier. Not even the motley collection of summer camps ringing the shoreline can mar the beauty.

The tiny lot holds four other cars, so I park at the end and with enthusiasm, walk briskly toward the mountain. Blowing past the shrubby parking lot and stepping lightly over the buckled walkways bridging the small wetland at the base, I set out to summit in less than an hour. As I approach the trailhead, a large yellow sign with faded lettering reads, "Please Keep Your Dog Leashed. Numerous Dogs Have Died". I pause for a breath, taking in the weight of the warning.

The summit of Mt. Pisgah is 2751' up a well marked trail that saunters and ascends at a pleasant angle. On occasion, the trail opens up for a view of the lake and across to Mt. Hor. The canopy covering the trail provides ample shelter to aggressive, frantic mosquitoes. I pick up my pace, if only to outrun the hungry,  buzzing bugs.

As I move upwards, my breath becomes shorter and the sweat begins to drip. My mind begins to clear and open up as I focus on my feet, the path and my breathing. It feels good to think of nothing. Yet, eventually "nothing" turns into something as stories begin to form in my head and I notice the color, texture and sound around me. It's a pleasant way to pass the time as I continue to climb toward the top.

Halfway up, an outcrop of rock opens up through the trees. It's an invitation to stop and peek. I walk cautiously to the edge, shifting my feet and resisting the urge to take a running leap towards the blue lake in the far distance. I am reminded of the sign below and imagine more than one dog running mindlessly over that edge, too excited to realize the trail gave way to nothing more than air - and a 500 plus foot drop to the road below. I take a picture.

After 40 minutes, I hit the peak. It's a bit anti-climatic after the climbing, sweating and views, but I am pleased. I head back down, intent on food and the promise of a hot shower. I stop to click a photo of the sky and some trees, but the lens cannot do justice, so I delete the images.

At the base again, a young man with a dog that looks like my own dog, but with a red bandanna and a decidedly nervous disposition, jogs toward me and stops to say hello. As I chat with the man and scratch Chuck's doppelganger behind the ears, noting the leather leash, I gently probe to check the latch is secure and the collar isn't too loose.

With a smile from the man and some whining from the dog, the two head up. I wave good-bye, glad to know there will be no dead dogs today.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Turn, turn, turn

Yellow buses rumble down the road, carrying the neighbor kids who have traded in their bare feet and shorts for sneakers and back packs. Twice now, I've heard the geese call as they fly south and the maple in our front yard, once full of green leaves with spreading branches, has taken on a distinct hue of golden red. As our pumpkins grow ever larger, becoming heavy and orange, they can no longer be camouflaged by their green vines and the golden rod, once glorious in August, is bent over, making way for the deepening pink of the sedum and the pretty blue rays of petals that cheerfully announce the asters. Autumn is here.

All summer long, I have bathed in the heat, relishing the humidity and green. I hung my laundry on a line, swam in cool waters and enjoyed coffee on the lawn. I've relished the frogs and fireflies, herbs in full bloom, black compost, cut grass, ripe tomatoes and bitter greens. This change of season, from hot and sticky to cool and damp, makes me a little bit nostalgic for days not yet gone by.

Yet, tonight the house, full of friends and family, was warm and loud while the rain fell soft and steady outside. My counter was covered with dishes of meat, vegetables, pickles, cheese and bread. We ate with plates balanced on our knees, wiping fingers on our shirts for lack of napkins, talking over the din of laughing kids about alligators, surgeries, bike rides, leaving home and coming back again. Windows flung open all day, were pushed shut against the newly familiar bite of cold that caused us to pull our sweaters across our bodies and leave the socks on our feet. All the while, the sun set, invisible behind the gray clouds, a backdrop to clinking glasses of wine while we settled into the comfort of friends and conversations.

Now, with children in bed, the dishwasher running and a full glass of wine to end the night, I'm looking forward to long bike rides along foliage lined back roads, homemade applesauce, raking leaves and the warmth of the woodstove. I'll admit, I'm not ready for the inevitable snow or the bitter cold, but I have time still, to relish the turn of the seasons in this pretty little State I call home.

And my apologies to the Byrds...

Friday, August 26, 2011

California. Random thoughts thus far.

6:30am and 77 degrees.

Fescue covered lawns covered in oranges - juicy play things for large, gray squirrels.

Blue waters reflect cloudless skies.

Adobe tiled roofs on stucco walls.

Sycamores. Jade, lavender, star jasmine, sage, tea roses, birds of paradise.

Familiar birds call above the drone of traffic.


Fifteen degree fluctuations in temperature - from season to season.

The wry irony of an elaborate weather station in my parents' backyard.

Fences - picket, privacy, wrought iron, cedar walls, chain link - hide homes from neighbors.

Riotous color - skin, clothes, cars, homes, flowers, billboards, lights.

 Cars. A lot of cars. A lot of old cars. And Toyota Tacoma trucks. From the 80's.

Heat radiating from asphalt and cement, distorts the view of expansive parking lots. "Step on the white lines", I told my son who had removed his shoes while walking back to the car.

Sound - language, laughter, music, construction, dogs, crosswalks, buses, trucks - wait...and birds. Lots of birds.

My childhood home looks exactly the same. Minus the lush green lawn and the elm tree that shaded our front door.

Stories of old friends - married, divorced, careers, scandals, too fat, too skinny, plastic surgery and obvious attempts at retaining our youth, bankruptcy, foreclosures, moved away and moving home. No one has died though.

The warm familiarity of pushy Korean women who feed you too much and talk too loudly. Korean men sit silent and apart, but the women - they poke, pull, gesture, cluck and smile...always smile.

Hot, spicy, sweet, sour, grilled, creamy - bulgolgi, galbi, kimchi, carne asada, avocados, fresh tortillas, fruit everyday, wilted greens.

Year-round patio furniture.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Running down a dirt road this morning, taking in the sun as it rose above the clouds from last night's storm, I watched from a distance a mother and her small son jog playfully along the side of the road with their dog. With their backs to me, their silhouettes glowed with the morning light and I was painfully aware of my loud, hard breathing and the slap of my shoes on the road. Yet, as I got closer, the boy, all of 2 or 3 years old with a mop of blonde hair, turned to watch me, finger in his nose, as fascinated with my approach as I was of theirs.

Next thing I knew, the boy was running alongside, picking up his pace to match mine while I slowed down to match his. He laughed, I laughed and then let him surge ahead of me just before getting to the post at his driveway. With a wiggly little dance and arms raised like a victor, he shouted to his mom that he "won". I kept going, waving good-bye and picked up my pace to take on the hill in front of me.

A little competition is a good reminder of how far we've come...and how much further we still have yet to go.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

On Your Birth Day

Small children running, shouting, laughing. Grandparents, when they were still a matched set, sitting on the patio, drinking lemonade.

The smell of charcoal burning, the sound of Uncle Bob cursing, the feel of sticky, wet heat on my swollen belly. A sudden tightening in my back is followed by a solid kick as you squirm in your too small cocoon. I ignore it.

There is green everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Green grass; green trees; green shrubs; green, squishy caterpillars hiding near the tiny green cherry tomatoes planted in a pot. I close my eyes and still I see green on the backs of my lids. Glancing down at the bowl below me, filled with mesclun, there is relief as the tender leaves reflect burgundy, cream, moss and celadon

Tiny black flies: buzzing, biting, bleeding. What was tightness becomes cramping. You stop moving, but there is now real discomfort, borderline painful. I glance at the clock. It's not quite 6 p.m..

Your sister is all cheek, the scar on her lip white and stretched as she smiles at me. Your brother is rolling a ball on the carpet. Your father is telling a story and laughing.

He passes me in the kitchen, hand on my shoulder, a kiss on my cheek. He asks if I'm okay and it's just then I realize I am holding my breath.

So I let it go.

Meat is grilled, salad is tossed, plates are set on the table. Dinner is almost ready. But so are you. I feel an urgency to the evening, unable to focus on the conversations. The labor pains are frequent and more intense, but still I refuse to leave.

Your brother squirms as he tries to find my lap beneath a belly that is filled with you, unaware that his 22 month long battle with your big sister for this same lap, was about to get a whole lot harder. Your father announces suddenly that we need to go soon.

For a heartbeat, it is quiet. Until it is not. Everyone is talking at once. I eat in silence, but then ask for a glass of red wine.Your brother looks at me with large eyes not yet framed in glasses and says he wants to go too.

An hour later, breathing through the pain, we speed through the night. Fields are dark and the sharp odor of manure fills my nose. I think about unpacked boxes in a house that is not quite a home.  I wonder if your siblings will sleep tonight, without my body for comfort or my voice that sings them to sleep. I regret not getting outside this morning to finish painting the west exterior wall the beautiful blue that everyone else insisted was purple.

The nurses are efficient and smiling. Dimmed fluorescent lights do little to warm the cold room, but a tub filled with water beckons my bloated body. Naked, I climb into the warm pool, euphoric as gravity leaves me.

Labor progresses and I moan, breathe and draw further within myself, not really aware of your father anymore. I worry you will slip from me into a mass of blood, fluids and tissue into the water, so I climb from the tub and walk.

The rest is a blur, except for the moment i glanced at the clock and realized you were just about here...and it was not quite midnight.  And then I pushed.

And at a quarter past you were born into the arms of a stranger with kind eyes, who checked your vital signs and laid you on my bare chest. You cried with gusto as your father, with shaking hands and tears in his eyes, cut your cord. With eyes screwed shut, you mewled until I put you to my breast.

Named for a flower of purity and beauty, born in the year of the green monkey, we kissed you and whispered hello.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spring, Summer and Dinner

Rain, wind...sun?

Right now, this particular transition from spring to summer, seems unusually swift and forceful. Buckets of rain, tornado warnings and flooding is occasionally punctuated by periods of humid heat and blissful sunny days. Everything feels delayed and I continue to hear about the hardships many farmers are facing with flooding, fields too muddy to work in and moist conditions that raise concerns of pests and disease.

That said, some things continue to persist, even thrive. Purple and white wild violets compete for their time in the sun among the thick patches of ever green and ever growing grass. The blossoms on the lilacs, choke cherries and crab apples are prolific and fragrant. My patch of rhubarb is ripening and chives are topped with tight buds of blossoms. The black flies are numerous and hungry.

In spite of the challenges, A few farm stands and most Farmers' Markets opened this weekend with the typical abundance of vegetable and flower starts but also cool weather crops of spinach, bok choi and swiss chard. The greenhouses have given birth to european cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, herbs and mesclun. Fresh cheeses, maple syrup, pullet eggs, crusty bread, frozen meat and spring sausages round out the offerings, making it possible to leave the markets with all the makings of a week's worth of meals.

Spring, with its unpredictable weather patterns, is still here and summer will come eventually, but in the meantime, I feed myself, family and friends.

  • Pan-fried trout; wilted, garlicky swiss chard; savory rosemary bread pudding
  • Simple, roasted chicken thighs topped with rhubarb chutney; creamy polenta
  • Linguini with spicy sausage, olives, herbs, chives, cherry tomatoes and parmesan; mesclun in balsamic vinaigrette; maple sweetened ricotta with wafers
  • Chevre and chive souffle; barley, cucumber and cherry tomato salad; spring onion soup
  • Tacos of black beans and chevre topped with sweet chard-cilantro slaw and pickled red onions
  • Homemade paneer with lentils; chicken masala; basmati rice; naan
  • Bibimbap with leftover meats, fried egg and bok choi; miso soup

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Dance Parties and Old Maid

There are times I am reminded, with sudden and absolute clarity, my purpose. 

It started with an impromptu, after dinner dance party in our living room. Cleaning up dishes and pots, we swiveled our hips and bounced around to Beyonce, James Brown and Green Day. The littlest did her best rendition of a Go Go Girl, while the middle practiced jerky robotic movements. The oldest, most in control of her body, spun and jumped and bounced to every beat with certainty. It was a blast and I found myself laughing out loud.

Eventually though, the energy slowed down and I found the kids sitting on the living room rug, playing the card game, Old Maid. Giggling, teasing and chatting, they were focused only on each other. It was lovely to see and I felt a surge of  longing to be a part of their camaraderie.

But it was then, while they sat together and apart from me, that I acknowledged the bittersweet reminder that these three do not belong to me. Yes, I am a devastatingly powerful influence as their mother and they are mine to protect, love and guide, but only for a tiny window of time - because ultimately, like all of us, they belong to the world.

The enormity of it scares me.

This same world is rife with famine, civil wars, pollution, environmental devastation and horrific violations against the most basic of human rights. What, exactly, am I preparing them for? How do I instill in them respect, kindness, and service to others? How do I teach them that strength is not always with muscle and humility does not denote weakness? How do I show them that to love others is a blessing and that hatred will destroy you? How do i teach them to stand up for themselves and to stand up for others?

I've been told by those much wiser than I, that the only way to do this is by example. That by living with sincerity and love and wonder, my children cannot help but rise to my expectations. That by being accountable to these three small, frail and mighty humans, I will rise to meet the challenge. But tonight, cradling a cup of tea, eyes stinging from lack of sleep, I have my doubts. It's been a long day...a long month actually and I've lost my temper, said things I didn't mean, wasted time with details that didn't matter....shouted too loudly and too often. None of this is easy and frankly, I don't know if I'm up to the challenge or even that it is enough...

...but I guess it will have to do.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Finally, spring is truly here.

The temperatures are rising, hovering at 65, sometimes more. Skin is being exposed at alarming speed. I hardly recognize friends and neighbors as men shave their beards and women don tank tops. Even the dogs are shedding tremendous amounts of fur, looking all the world like half-blown dandelion blossoms, with soft tufts of fuzz gathered in awkward places.

There is talk of fishing, boat rides, summer camps and potlucks on the lawn. The maples have budded, the grass is growing by inches every day, the daffodils are blooming. Peepers are singing in mass numbers, beckoning would-be lovers into the wetlands. New life is everywhere or will soon be. Babies in the barn, birds building all feels so ripe and ready!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring Haiku in 3 parts

These past few days have been warm, overcast and wet. Everything spring ought to be.  A haiku, times three, in celebration.


Peepers sing at dusk.

The loons swim on pristine lakes.

Rivers swell and roar.


Warm rain pounds tin roofs.

Snow melts away like sugar

dissolved in water.


Lightening flashes bright.

Thunder shakes windows and walls.

Still - the peepers sing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Right Now

When it's over, I want to say: All my life, I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms."
--Mary Oliver

I want to go through my day, present and aware. I want to listen to the spaces between the words.  The short sigh before a breath. The pause and glance that punctuate a thought. I want to revel in shadows cast by the light, drink in the color of water, feel the thumping bass of music in my chest, the light touch of a friend on my shoulder.

Going through the steps of each day - waking, eating, working, sleeping and glossing over the details, can be a comfort when the chaos and pressures of life are relentless. Yet it is not sustainable, this robotic march. It is the details of life that make it worthwhile, distinguishable from any other life.

So, in spite of the gray sky and threat of snow this morning, I'll take in the sharpness of the cold, feel the pull in my muscles, relish the heat of coffee in my belly. and be present.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's For Dinner - Part II

It's April and I've had my fill of roots, tubers and winter squash. I am craving the smell of dirt, the sight of leafy greens, the feel of crunchy textures and the taste of ripe fruit and herbs.

Alas, this time of year, fresh food is still pretty scarce for someone who tries to eat seasonally and locally. The last two weeks, I've tried to balance my craving for fresh food with my increased need for calories (yay for running and cycling!) and keep it affordable, balanced, kid-friendly and in season.

Last fall's frozen pork, beans, cheese, preserved and lacto-fermented foods from last summer have dominated my menus. I've tried to mix it up with some greens here and there, finding that some of our local folks have harvests of the leggy, but pretty miner's lettuce, baby spinach and baby kale, not to mention the wonderfully crunchy, fresh pop of sprouts - sunflower, radish and pea. Yum!
  • Black bean, chevre and swiss chard tacos w/ sofrito (made with last summers' cilantro, chilies, parsley)
  • Yellow split pea soup with local ham and topped with cheddar. Fresh baked bread and cold hard cider.
  • Lacinato kale and white bean soup. Key is lots of onions and garlic and don't skimp on the salt.
  • Cheese Souffle. It's not as scary as it sounds. I use Fanny Farmer's recipe for Sturdy Souffle and pair it with spinach salad dressed with dried cranberries, walnuts, apples and balsamic vinaigrette. It's a snap. And really tasty too.
  • Red wine risotto with wild mushrooms, tomatoes (frozen from last summer), fresh parsley and shaved aged, sheeps cheese. Inspired by one i had at Burlington's Church & Main. For the kids, I make it with veggie broth instead of wine and let them pick out the mushrooms if they don't want them.
  • Baked local ham with mustard, cream and maple syrup. Serve with roasted carrots, potatoes, fresh parsley and lots of butter.
  • Crepes of ham (yay for leftovers!), apples and cheddar cheese.
  • French lentils topped with sauteed kale, bacon, fresh pickled red onions and blue cheese. Add a fresh farm egg, fried sunny side up in bacon fat with a glass of chewy red wine and you've got my favorite meal by the wood stove on a rainy, spring evening.
  • Kimchi and pita chips. Don't ask. It's an addiction.
  • Mix of whole wheat and white penne served with 3 hour meat sauce and bechamel (white sauce), layered side by side and topped with radish sprouts and aged sheep cheese.
  • Take out Indian food. Rutland. A one time thing, but still thinking about it. A lot.
  • Grilled, 3 cheese sandwiches with herb pesto or sliced apples.
  • My version of bibimbap. Chewy, fried, sweet tofu marinated in maple syrup-soy-ginger and served with steamed rice, barely cooked red cabbage, carrots, spring onions and kale. Topped with kimchi, of course!
As I type this, I just noticed the thin, bright wisps of chives in my herb bed poking up above the brown grass. I'm thinking snipped, fresh bits on a warm roll with chevre.

Happy spring!

    April Rain

    The rain is coming down with purpose this morning, so here is some Wednesday morning, rain inspired haiku.

    Winter's cold soil
    receives warming rainfall.
    Green tips push and peek

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    20 Days Later...

    ...and I am still practicing my poses two or three times a week. Slowly, quietly, I'm getting better.

    Bending. Stretching. Breathing.

    Each pose is a challenge, dampening my enthusiasm. Every pop and click and ache, reminds me that I'm getting older.

    Touching. Pulling. Breathing.

    I feel the frustration of not touching my heels to the floor when I push up into Downward Dog. A sharp pain through my abdomen causes me to retract from a hip opening pose, whose name I've forgotten. I hesitate before bringing down my knee and sitting in Pigeon. I take a deep breathe and try to relax.

    Standing. Sitting. Resting.

    I stand on the edge of my old, blue mat, my hands at my side, conscious of my posture. Looking out my window to the expanse of brown and green grass before me, I remember to breathe.  I take in the light, the clouds, the dead leaves in my garden. I look inward, humbled by my smallness and my limitations.

    The past few months have been hard and it's been a lesson in patience, easing back into yoga. It's also been a lesson in forgiveness. I sink into a seated position, close my eyes, allowing the music from the radio to fill my mind.

    Spring in the Village

    Red robin swoops across the road,

    landing on a patch of bleached brown grass.

    Blue sky is laced by glinty snow,

    icy, crusty, mounds.

    Boys playing soccer,

    and girls jumping rope.

    Boot clad feet dangle from tree limbs.

    An old woman across the street,

    sits with face turned to sun,

    hat pulled low, mitten clad hands folded.

    An old dog, sleeps at her feet.

    A butterfly hovers by her shoulder.

    Friday, April 08, 2011

    Poem: The Life of Umbrellas by Rachel Dacus

    The Life of Umbrellas
    I want to live the life of umbrellas,
    full of sudden openings, of stealth and travel.
    To sometimes fold my bat wing heart away
    and reach over your head
    to close you in a bubble.
    On the path across the Ponte Vecchio 
    in light drizzle, I would parasail you, keeping out 
    the scorch of a moghul-arched cloud,
    the rattle of a strong gust. I might turn 
    inside out, becoming the reverse 
    of myself, and you could follow,
    unsuiting as fast as gypsy fingers
    find a pocket on a March day 
    in a square dotted with drops.
    by Rachel Dacus
    Courtesy of Gumball Poetry   
    Artwork by Claudio Parentela  

    Thursday, April 07, 2011

    Shake the Dust

    Performed by Anis Mojgani in 2007. Beautiful.

    "This is for the fat girls. The little brothers, the wimpy kids in the school yard and the bullies. Shake the dust."

    Wednesday, April 06, 2011

    A Late Spring

    The walk down to the school's farm is slippery, slushy and cold. The rain feels icy and the wind whips my hair into knots. Carefully, tentatively, I pick my way over sloping, frozen ruts.

    Drawing closer to the barn, I feel warmer, the building acting as a shelter from the wind. I swear there is heat emanating from beneath the doors and swirling up around my legs.

    Stepping inside away from the weather, my eyes slowly adjust to the darkness while I listen to the clucking, scratching and chewing of the animals. It smells of damp hay and something else. Maybe it's my imagination? I breathe in the odor of pungent animals and old wood. It is not altogether unpleasant.

    A small gate separates me from the stalls. Feeling a dozen pair of strange eyes - penetrating stares - watch me as I fiddle with the rickety gate, I am self conscious. I glance over my shoulder, sheepishly, but no one is there to smirk at my ineptitude with latches.

    Be strong. Carry on. The promise of infants draw me in.

    I head to the back where tiny heads, revealing tiny horns, poke out between the boards of their stalls. Kneeling, I reach out, remembering the last time I pet a goat, I was in a city zoo with my toddler children.

    One kid, covered in a silky white coat, steps away, startled at my assertiveness. I notice the tag, pierced to its ear. I talk softly. He or she, (does it matter?) filled with sudden courage, pushes at my hand and nibbles the cuff on my coat. I am in love. I finger the green, plastic tag, unable to read the writing in the dark barn.

    Friday, April 01, 2011

    In B flat

    Music and spoken word. Play one, two or all of the videos at the same time. They work harmoniously together no matter the order or volume.


    April Fool's

    Today, the first of April, marks April's Fools and  today, on April Fool's, we are in the midst of a snow storm.

    This snow storm, at one time, was predicted to dump a foot of snow on all of us spring-obsessed mountain dwellers here in the Green Mountain state. Now that it is here, a mere 4 to 6 inches has made its way to the ground, perfect for some springtime skiing or as one friend put it, "enough to make me sit in the house and cry".

    Cry not sweet friend, for today is also the first day of National Poetry Month!!

    I look forward to this month every year -- the same way a cat waits in anticipation for a mouse to scurry along the wall. Wait for it.

    Wait. For. It.

    A whole month that celebrates poems! Written, spoken, illustrated in countless ways! It's such a wonderfully contemplative way to spend mud season, that once it arrives, my brain twitches with all the things I've wanted to express and hope to experience through the eyes, mind and words of others.

    Because I read poetry with only an innate understanding of rhythm, rhyme and lyrical prose, I do not pretend to have an understanding of good versus bad poetry. Or good versus great poetry. Yet when I read something I like, it stays with me a long, long time. It makes me think, laugh, sometimes it has made me cry. I've read poems that leave a warmth inside me the way hot tea on a cold day, tracks heat from my mouth to my belly. It's delicious.

    So, in honor of national poetry month and snow on the first of April, a haiku for you.

    The snow falls quickly

    Red-winged blackbirds fall silent

    The fools of April

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    The Last Two Weeks

    A really full moon.

    Stolen moments with a new book. And getting lost in the story.

    Sharing food with friends.

    Long walks and short runs.

    Deep conversations. Comfortable silences.

    Belly laughs and kids that giggle.

    Hot woodstoves on chilly, spring mornings.

    Boot sucking mud.

    A letter in the post.

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Back to Square One

    I am still in bed, much to my alarm clock's disgust.

    It's been 2 months since I've done a yoga practice. My body feels stiff, cold and soft. Still tentative after hurting my back in January, the process of healing has been painfully slow and depressing. Now, as I lay in bed taking in the cold, weak morning light through my window, I am tempted to snuggle back down into the covers and pretend I will begin tomorrow.

    But I shouldn't. I won't.

    It's been a long winter. A mixture of sadness and joy, stress, pain, exhilaration. Now it's time to ignore the chilly air and unfold my tired body from the self-imposed confines of warmth and softness. I will pad down to the wood stove and unroll my long-ignored mat, wiping the sleep from my eyes. I will begin slowly as I stretch to the sky, bend to the earth and will my numb fingers to grip with purpose.

    It's a start, anyway.

    Thursday, March 03, 2011

    Pete's Greens Outlines Plans to Reinvest Donated Funds

    Owner Pete Johnson says community support will inform and inspire their work for years to come.
    Destroyed barn was heart of farm operation.

    Craftsbury, VT., February 22, 2011—Rising out of the ashes of a barn which was destroyed in a fire on January 12 at Pete’s Greens is an initiative to ensure that funding is available for other Vermont farmers in the future.

    Recent donations through a variety of fundraisers will provide Pete’s Greens with an opportunity to rebuild the barn as a more efficient building that will better suit the farms needs. However, Pete Johnson, owner of Pete’s Greens, anticipates that within two to three years, the farm will be able to pay the money forward and has plans to create a fund that will support Vermont agricultural businesses.

    “We have been so overwhelmed by how generous everyone has been and we want this money to live
    on again another day,” said Pete Johnson. “The idea is that in a few years from now, we’ll start to put the money into a fund that will be managed by a committee or board made up of local folks. That money will go back out into the community to be used in a variety of ways: farm disaster relief, farm to school programs or loans to new or small farms. We are committed to paying it forward. It’s being given to us with such love and thoughtfulness that we really want the funding to do more good work down the line.”

    The barn that was destroyed in the January fire housed the farm’s wash-house, stored vegetables and
    meats, vegetable coolers, vegetable washing and packing equipment, a walk-in freezer, tractors and a
    significant amount of supplies. Johnson indicated after the fire that the structure was under-insured. He had set values on the barn in recent years but hadn’t added the new additions or equipment to the insurance policy. The result was an under-insurance policy for approximately 50% of the replacement cost of the building and the equipment. In addition, the $250,000 worth of stored vegetables and meats were also not insured.

    “We’ve been focused on getting permits and developing the plans for the new building with the goal
    of breaking ground in early March,” said Johnson. “If all goes well, the building will be in full use by mid-June which means we’ll be back to full production capacity.”

    Despite suffering the catastrophe of the barn fire, Pete’s Greens is gearing up for a successful spring
    and summer growing season for its retail and CSA membership programs. Sign-up is underway already for Summer CSA shares and joining the CSA offers an additional way to support Johnson as he and the farm crew begin to plant for the summer harvest. A spring share will also be offered and is anticipated to begin in April.

    Pete's Greens is a four season organic vegetable farm located in Craftsbury, VT and owned by Peter
    Johnson. The farm's top priority is growing a wide variety of crops to feed Vermonters year round. Good Eats is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model in which customers pay up front for vegetables and other farm products receiving a share each week. Shares at Pete’s Greens save members an average of 18% per week over retail prices. Pete’s Greens vegetables are also sold at regional stores and restaurants as well as local farmers’ markets. More information is available at

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Coldest Day of the Year...

    ...translates into -23F this morning as I held my breath and turned the key in my car. The girl started up, not without protest, and made her way up the hill to drop my kids off at school.

    Coming back down, pillars of smoke lit from behind by the morning sun, reached fingers across the road. Beautiful.

    Village cloaked in smoke.

    Engines sputter, cough and groan.

    Snow squeaks underfoot.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    It's Been a Week

    So...I wrote this today. Thanks to Tim for being my "editor".

    Seven days and seven hours ago, I was sitting in the warm office of my friend, neighbor and former employer, Pete Johnson. I joined a group of other friends, neighbors, the Johnson family, and his farm crew. We ate cookies and muffins, drank coffee, answered the phone, talked to each other and sometimes just sat quietly...all the while watching our volunteer fire department put out the smoldering remains of what was the heart of the farm.

    Read the rest of it here, at the Center for an Agricultural Economy.

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    It Hurts in a Good Way

    Recently, I've been introduced to a team sport that requires the ability to get up after falling down on ice, swing a cleaning implement at a ball (or an opponent) and constant running, shoving and sliding.


    My hands are covered in scrapes, my legs and hips have purple bruises, I am sore in places that I didn't think I had muscles and last week, I narrowly missed having my eye taken out by a wily broom-handle that got away from a player.

    I love it.

    Maybe it's the fact that we never played organized sports as kids (does kickball count?), or that the bloodthirsty ways of my Nordic ancestors roars to the surface when I'm on the ice or maybe that I sit at a desk all day, but there is something immeasurably satisfying about throwing my full body weight at a man, twice my size, in order to stop him from getting the goddamn ball.

    For those of you in milder climates or for those who have yet to be introduced to this particular sport, consider this definition a friend found on the Wiki site::

    There is no known fully accurate history of broomball. The consensus is that modern broomball originated in Canada.[citation needed] Some think it came about by trying to play ice hockey without ice skates. However, recent research indicates that a sport similar to broomball, known as knattleikr, was played in Iceland in the 10th century. The sport was almost considered warfare, with the occasional death not uncommon, and games could involve whole villages and lasted up to 14 days. Writer Hord Grimkellson reported that, in a game between Strand and Botn, that "before dusk, six of the Strand players lay dead, though none on the Botn side."[1]

    Yeah. It's just like that.