Feb 26, 2009

Dam seeds ordered

Many of you have asked what we're planting this year. We finally made our order with the high-quality, mostly organic company William Dam, and are now busy charting out what goes in the ground when, what it needs to be ready, etc, so that we can start issuing work party call-outs. Please do let me know if you want to turn your sword into a plowshare sometime this year. Here's the 47 nature creations we will have to play with:

Basil, Beans (dried), Beans (pole), Beets, bright lights, Broccoli, bush beans, cabbage, Carrots (2 types), catnip, chamomile, cherry tomatoes, cilantro-coriander, Corn (popping), Cucumber, edible flowers, Kale, Lettuce (2 types), Onion, paw paw, Peas, Peas - Sugar , nap, Peppers, pinto beans, potatoes, Pumpkin (2 types), pumpkin (saved), quinoa, Salad greens, scarlet runner beans, shelling peas, Spinach, Sunflower, sweet peas, Swiss Chard, Tomato (3 types), Winter Squash, Zucchini (2 types)

I suppose that represents a bit of work, but right now it just looks like a spectacular and yummy contribution to our kitchen and community.

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Feb 23, 2009

Fathers Day

My Feb.17 entry about Love reminded me of a poem I wrote back in 1995 called "fathers day":

his hand was heavy, calloused-touch
his laser eyes would spark and pierce and sing
he rumbled rough and hairy in the dark
to lock out daemons, save me from the night
and his banner over me was love

her eyes would swim a rippled wake
her touch could draw my name in autumn fire
she breathed in yesterdays in painful shivers
and whispered through tomorrow's deepened shadows
and her banner over me was love

his eyes are diamond-sparkled waves
his breath the clap of cornstalks stiffly bending
his touch of fingers drawn through tussled hair
of cloudy curls set soft on untamed vision
and his banner over me is love

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Feb 20, 2009

Tis better to offend

'Tis better to have inspired and offended
Than never to inspired at all

I made that up mid-way through Chopin's Valse in E minor this afternoon, during an impromptu performance at my Aunt Ella's nursing home. What started off as a quick show-off of Galen and my The Lion Sleeps Tonight duet evolved into a medley of Chopin, Cats, Simon & Garfunkel, and a marvelous original creation by Galen.

Throughout the show my grandmother - my beloved nana who has loved and been proud of my music more than anyone, who treasured the annual tapes I would make for her, who forces me to play at every family party - this same grandmother asked me to stop, then asked that I at least play quietly. "The people here are crazy; they're already angry at this noise." I looked over at her proud, slightly-teary 95-year-old twin sister, delighted with the show and the chance to share me with her friends, and knew that neither request was possible. "I can't play Chopin quietly," I simply and honestly replied.

When I emerged from my music and looked around for the sea of angry seniors, I found that several had shuffled their walkers and chairs over to listen, one was still humming along (and one was still playing with the Whim-a-Whey African theme from 3 songs ago.) Yes, one or two probably were annoyed that they missed a few minutes of Oprah, but many others had shared in a joyous moment, opened to the magic of music.

Should I have denied Galen and my Aunt and her friends this beautiful sharing out of fear that one or two others would be inconvenienced? In general, the sad answer is yes. My grandmother is right, the prevailing rule is to reduce to the least-common denominator, to at all costs fit in and not offend anyone, not make anyone uncomfortable. Paint the apartment grey, play Neil Diamond muzak instrumental covers at the office, wear black to the opera, keep the curtains closed and for God's sake don't sing as you walk down the sidewalk.

Well grandma, my Texas neighbour's bumper sticker said "Well-behaved women rarely make history," and polite people rarely make ripples let alone waves of change. I say let's rise to the highest, connect with the best in others, bring more positive energy into the world even if a few people would prefer to lie low. Paint that cohousing wall purple; throw open the curtains and let some light in if the majority are ready to wake up.

This is either my true gift or greatest vice - probably both. I just can't respect or be shackled by people's petty fears and comfort levels. If 10 of us want to get naked in a stream and 2 are uncomfortable with that much flesh, it just doesn't make sense that the group would settle for a restricted experience. If those two had some deep religious convictions about nudity that would be a different matter, but respect for a person's true world views and respect for personal preferences are very different matters.

"But would it hurt you to wear a bathing suit or paint the wall beige?" is the comment I'd be expecting after this rant. In truth, yes. It hurts me, and hurts the world, anytime we aspire to less than we want and believe in and are capable of. We end up with a world that is restricted, less colourful and fun and spontaneous, less natural and real. We become less.

Today I brought Joy to a dozen seniors and a pleasant distraction to a dozen more, at the expense of putting out a few others. Nana might think I was being rude or inconsiderate; I believe the true inconsideration would have been denying beauty to 24 open people, just to not offend the other two.

So, if this article has offended you, just know that probably 6 other people are nodding or laughing or rising up charged at this very moment. I'm OK with that math.

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Feb 17, 2009

All you need is Love

In grad school I bought a big white shirt and scrawled "All you need is love" across the back. I would fall in love atleast once a day - often with a child, a cloud, a beautiful woman, a bus route... Love was always on my mind, pure, beautiful, colouring my world and my view of the world.

These days it takes a Valentines Day party to bring the word and conciousness to the forefront. I like to believe I daily live out my deep and deepening love for wife-children-land-community-chickens-world. But it's not a familiar name or face in front of me, not a dance partner I reach out to twirl. Like the other party guest who read the first love poem he'd written in 11 years to his wife, I find it hard to summon words or awareness of something so fundamental. I finally understand why I wrote all those poems back then, why artists start young, why we fall in love at a time when it's still fresh and tangible.

So here's to love, and to more than once-in-a-while being fully conscious and appreciate and really totally swept away by the magnitude of love, of the many many people and places and things and experiences that make up this rich warm soft blanket. A line from the Bible that should be quoted much more often (from the Song of Solomon, which should be read much more than it is), and his banner over me was Love.

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Feb 13, 2009

Neighbours go free

Best thing about renos is change orders. You know, the classic moments of "why don't we move this here" inspirations that are so hard to do once a place is Done and you live there. In the past 24 hours of the big garage-to-rental-suite project, we've decided on a traditional hot-water tank instead of an on-demand system (too much electric load for our panel), a storage shed tacked onto the side of the garage, a grey-water system for the sinks and shower instead of everything going into our non-functional septic field, and a triangle window in the corner of the shower.

To get that triangle window, plus one pane of the great old door we got from a salvage place, I called Dobson Glass in downtown Duncan. "When do you need it?" asked Luke. "Well, sooner than later, but no big rush," I calmly replied. "Well then, I can do it before I leave tonight. When do you want it?" Kinda like in France, when they'll only speak English to you if you try your highschool French first, things seem to get done faster when you don't push your urgency on people.

Now's when I got clever. "Actually, are you the guy who's my neighbour over here at Koksilah and Bench? I see the truck in the driveway all the time." "Oh, that's my dad," says Earl. One hour later, Roger rolled up the driveway with my two pieces of glass. The triangle required a few more custom trims, giving him the excuse to look inside the garage and see the property he'd always wondered about and never visited. He pointed out the flat spot where the old highway used to run through our property, across the creek that divides us, and up his backyard to behind the school (explaining why we were a good location for the original community library and Methodist church).

We shared a laugh about the stereotypical busybody cityslickers who start complaining and trying to reorganize the countryside the moment they arrive here. I promised not to be one of those. I guess he believed me, because 20 minutes later when we'd finished gabbing and I asked if I could call in to pay up tomorrow, he just waved his hand and said, "Don't worry about it - neighbours!"

I wasn't in my britches, but I was in very very dirty purple jeans (my Incredible Hulk look) and jean jacket and hat that I've been wearing for 3 week straight since this reno started. Wasn't chomping on hay either, but as I wandered off to put the chickens away I felt fully the rural farmer role, and basked in the high compliment he left me with - "neighbour."

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Feb 7, 2009

I'm a real Sapsucker this time around

This time last year we made our first exploratory visit to Duncan, and happened upon the first annual maple sugar festival. "If we lived here, we could honour our local foods commitment and make our own syrup!" Just one more compelling reason for us to dream more about moving.

Now one year later we are indeed "Sapsuckers", returning to the festival as volunteers and as sap donors for the syrup-making demonstrations. In the 1911 schoolhouse in which we ran art activities, we were visited by no less than 8 families from our Waldorf community. Just one more marker that we are "in", we are here, we are Home.

This time next year I'll have learned how to thicken up my syrup enough to be worthy of entry into the contest. For 2009, best I can do is enter the Best Cake Baked By A Man contest at the summer county fair. Possibly a re-creation of the Puke/Poop/Worm cake I made for Galen's "Gross" birthday party - so visually horrible that even the 6-year-old's had trouble putting it in their mouths.

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Feb 4, 2009

Friends in deeds and whispers

Good friends are there when we need them. During this week of hard reno work (creating a garage rental suite), one friend had us over for dinner two nights in a row, while another took both our children for the full afternoon (with another friend watching Zekiah for the half-hour before Galen got out of class). It's so uplifting to feel friends hold us up, and even more gratifying when they give us the chance to hold them at other times. The give-and-take of real relationships builds trust, makes us feel safe (and today, lets us complete the subfloor and roof beam supports).

During today's playdate the kids created fairy houses, ate homemade muffins, learned card tricks and other bits of magic typical of their magical mother. But when I asked the boys what they did today, Galen said they made paper airplanes, and Zekiah said they drew pictures. My advice - only do one fun thing a day, and make it the last thing you do, since that's all they'll remember at the bedtime check-in anyways.

Bed-time check-in: each night after stories and before songs, we lay down in their bed and ask their best and worst things from the day. At that intimate, unguarded time before sleep, sometimes the most guarded secrets and wonders are finally released. We recently finally found out why Galen didn't like one of his classmates from last year - he'd been holding it, not responding to our daytime queries about it, and finally he could breathe it out into the dark night.

These were, I thought, two random thoughts that arose today (helping friends and bedtime check-in ritual), but I see that they're really both about learning how to be there with and for our loved ones, making a safe space to meet their spoken and felt needs.

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Feb 3, 2009

Prize Papa

At the certain risk of being one of those too-proud parents who quotes his kids too often, here's two more moments for reflection from today.

1. Galen, trying to get a bite of Zekiah's food, offered, "In the morning snuggle time, you can have Papa to snuggle with anytime you want." Morning snuggle time is 7am, when they're officially allowed to wake us up by climbing under the covers for a divine family cuddle (as opposed to the
multiple unofficial wakings starting at 6, usually to the whispered tune of "It's 6:02... it's 6:05...")

2. Driving to the gravel pit before school this morning, we came to the top of the hill and Zekiah screamed in absolute delight, "SUNRISE!" Galen was equally wondrous in pointing out the frost on the farmer's field. My feeble attempt to add to the moment - "Yes, sunrise on a frosted field is so beautiful" - was instantly dwarfed by Galen's tender "Isn't it like we're living in a dream?"

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Feb 2, 2009

Advice on Warthog Day

Really all I wanted to share tonight is a new article in which I pretend to have all the answers to getting kids out the door on time. It's interesting writing these advice pieces, because the mere fact that I would write it implies that we do have our shite together all the time. In this case, we actually do have remarkably good and on-time mornings most of the time, but even so I find/fight a compulsion to drop in some comments about my screw-ups just to be more approachable to the readers. Why can't I just share some good ideas, whether or not I follow them?

Zekiah's last words tonight were that he is going to have sweet dreams about "Warthog Day." They also talked about how happy Papa is to have 6 more weeks of winter to collect maple sap. Speaking of which, better get back to my syrup witches brew on the stove, steaming up every window in the house and probably greatly contributing to future mildew problems (see, we don't have it perfect...)

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