Tag Archiv: gifts

Uncertain and solid things

photo compliments of morguefile.com

photo compliments of morguefile.com

Once upon a time I was camping with a group of girlfriends. The man I was dating was nearby and invited me for a canoe ride. He arrived early.

Go, said my friends.

I’m still reading my Bible, I said.

Read it later. (They were very insistent.)

I wore my lucky yellow shoes and got in the canoe.

Let’s explore this island, he said.

Maybe later, I said.

The man argued poorly but steered the canoe to the island anyway.

There was a lot of consternation about where to land the canoe. There seemed nowhere flat enough to pull it up onto the bank.

Forget it. I’ll swim for it later, he said.

I protested. A spot was found.

Two bounding steps later, he was fiddling to get something out of his pocket.

It was making sense now.

Will you marry me? he asked and held out the ring to show me.

Yes, I said.

There was nothing else to say so we didn’t say it. It was like holding hands with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh as we walked up the path to find a rock to sit on.

We went from zero to sixty in opposite directions. He from frazzled and uncertain to the top of the world. Me from confident and assured to blithering idiot. Tigger sat down content. I sat down and an entire river system smashed every dam holding me together.

I cried uncontrollably.

I kind of thought it was going to make you happy, said Tigger a little worried.

I am happy, I whispered.  Then I couldn’t talk. I was shaking inside down deep where you don’t let anything touch you. You don’t know how much more it can take in there, you just know it’s not much.

Tigger was relaxed and happy because he didn’t have a clue how dreadfully wrong things could go. Tigger was already so far into the sunset he probably wouldn’t even come back for a year or so. I didn’t believe in sunsets. Didn’t trust them.

An hour later I had stilled the terror enough to stand.  The sun on the lake and the old pines sang something like a lullaby that I recognized. Pieces of the Canadian Shield jutting up all around reminded me that come what may, some things would remain solid.

I like remembering that day.  It was the biggest leap I have ever been asked to make. Now it’s one of the solid things I go back to look at when it feels like too much is shifting around.  Yesterday, Tigger cleaned out the chicken coop and got it ready for winter.  Last night I asked him what he thought of a piece I had written. He hemmed and hawed to say he didn’t like it.

For some reason that made me happy. I woke up wanting to say thank you for those lucky yellow shoes.

tiny treasures

It is hunting season around here. My neighbour always kindly reminds me, or I might forget. Forgetting wasn’t a possibility the other day. It was so loud that I looked out the kitchen window to see if there was a confused hunter out shooting our sheep. Whether it was target practice or boredom, the dog and I stuck to the roads for our walk.

The kids and I call the woods that I usually walk through, “The Magic Forest.” It’s pure Narnia. Especially in winter. Kids who are ambivalent about walks in general, almost always accept invitations to the Magic Forest. Hunting season is short, but I miss my magic trees. Gravel, pavement, telephone poles, and plastic food wrappers (reminding me that living in the country does make the one immune to self-indulgent stupidity) are just not the same, even without the cars.

The only magic on the roads is when I happen on some of the creatures passing by. Skunks, deer, racoons, rabbits, a family of foxes, wild turkey. I always slow down to look. One night a porcupine stopped to look back so we had a conversation in the dark until he finally ambled off.

I think my favourites are the turtles. Every year in May or June, there is a week when the turtles line the gravel on the sides of the road like vacation destinations. A road just around the corner from us seems to be prime real estate. At dusk, huge snapping turtles dig nests in the gravel and lay their eggs. I always want to explain that the benefits of warm blacktop can’t possibly outweigh the danger of cars. I never see the babies, only mothers in the spring. But despite the fatalities, they keep showing up to lay eggs, so something must be working.

On my unmagic walk, I tried to convince the dog that removing the burr from her tail would make her more attractive. We have been having this discussion for about three weeks now. Turns out she doesn’t care what she looks like. Every time she paused to sniff something, I would give a futile attempt to grab at that burr with my fingers. Bent over trying to grab the burr in motion, my eyes caught sight of a hole. For a second I thought some moron had buried their white plastic garbage in the gravel, but logic prevailed and I took a closer look.

On the side of a most un-enchanted and ordinary road, magic. Turtle eggs.  Already hatched. No baby turtles, but I dug out five or six dusty white broken shells and took them home to show the kids. In the dance down here between miracles and madness, mark one for the miracles.

Surprises from trees

Mondays is farm project day. It gives my husband and I chance to see each other for free. Also,  keep things from falling apart around here. This week the project was to clear the old road that winds through our woods. Now instead of a path you can walk, stepping over logs and around things, there is a clear road to drive a tractor through.

There is really nothing like taking care of the land that you own. It was a nice feeling sitting on the wagon as my husband drove it through our reclaimed road. We were doing a test drive for the birthday party hay ride we are planning later this week. Testing was a good idea. We found two problems. The first, came approximately 5 seconds after I told the driver to trust me to keep his eyes on the road ahead and to trust me to watch behind us, when a tree with serious curvature of the spine made itself known. The wagon, shaped like an L, was completely flat except for a five foot panel at the back. The base of the wagon passed the deformed tree just fine. Unfortunately for us, at about the five foot mark, the trunk grew out into the path. “Stop,” was not shouted energetically enough and the back wall of the wagon was relocated rather quickly to the mud of our new road. Wagon shape has moved from capital L to lowercase.

Problem #2 was more easily solved. Three cedars with trunks four to five inches in diameter made the entrance back to the field a little narrow for our wide wagon. I suggested we wait to get the chain saw, but the manager of the operation decreed that his bow saw would be good enough. A little effort later, he was right about that too. It was a very good day for him.

Getting the old road I’ve been nattering about since spring would have made me happy all by itself, but there was more. As we cleared the path, there was a log lying across it too heavy to pick up. We sawed it in sections and kicked at it. One of the rotten pieces came off the top half of the log as I lifted it. Lying there a Queen bee. I’d never seen one before. But there she was, all groggy and hunkered down for the winter, surprised by all the light. Twenty years ago I might not have stopped, but thank goodness one picks up at least a little common sense along the way. I went and found a tiny see through plastic case that once held fasteners of some kind or another and put her majesty inside so the kids could see when they got home.

Her plastic kingdom is now on the kitchen counter beside the pumpkins, where she will reign somewhat stupefied until further notice.

Birthday Girl

Dear Birthday Girl,

When you were born, I was so afraid I was shaking. Outside I was smiling but inside I was scared down to the deepest parts of me. I wondered if God had made a mistake – not about you, just about letting me be your mom. I wanted you so much the words for wanting you couldn’t get out without closing up my throat and coming out in a whisper. But you were a girl.  And a girl was me. And I didn’t have any idea how to be someone that you would want to grow up to be like.

You took care of that part, being so much yourself that I didn’t have to worry about you trying to be like me, I just had to love you. And that was easy.

I’m glad I got that little jean jacket outfit for you when you were a baby. Otherwise, I would have never seen what my kind of clothes looked like on you.  As soon as you could walk and open drawers, you tore off anything you didn’t like. Only the frilly stuff stayed on, so I could dress you in what you loved or find you playing naked and search the premises for whatever reject outfit I’d chosen.

Here’s a picture of my favourite present you ever gave me. You made it for me when you were about five, wrapped in tissue paper in a box and you danced while I opened it.

“You’re going to love it. I made it myself.” And then leaping and pointing. “See! It’s a rosary. There’s the beads. And the cross. I got it off the bottom of a toy car. I couldn’t believe it. Doesn’t it look just like a cross?”

Eventually, when summer came and the sun got hot on my dresser, I found out that you had used molasses for the glue to hold it all together. Three years later, the top of the coffee lid  medallion is still sticky. It was too perfect to change so I didn’t.

So much you have taught me, my curious, artsy, feminine, non-conformist.

Love,

Mom

Plastic coffee lid rosary

Birthday Season

By Sunday we will be three quarters through birthday season. Birthday season is something I should have been warned about. At my high school we had an entire semester devoted to reproductive education. Hours upon hours on basic mechanics and never, not once, ever, did anyone give so much as three seconds to such a thing. My mother, that matron of proud practicality? Also silent. Ten years ago, the fact that she was unfortunately only here for the birth of my first child might have excused her, but I’m Catholic now and that means the little line between death and life on earth isn’t quite so cut and dried. Believing now that death is no match for love and that if anything she loves me more now, there really is almost excuse for the oversight. I’m not holding it against her, but really as my mother – surely she could have found a way to say something, after say child #2, about the importance of NOT creating a birthday season.

It isn’t the number of kids – we’d have been happy to have more if had worked out that way – it’s inventing a new holiday season when there are already enough. It’s having four birthdays in ten weeks. And all. those. parties.

Because we a) live in the country  b) are a tiny bit introvertish and  c) live in a world where everyone we meet runs madly from thing to thing to thing, birthday parties are the last best piece of kids being kids together. . . at least that’s the kind of parties we try to have. Our kids really look forward to their parties, so that means 4 friend parties plus 4 birthday dinners with extended family . . .all in 10 weeks.

Did I mention that it was birthday season that brought Misty and Shorty here in the first place?

It’s ok, Mom. I forgive you. Besides, I’m already half way through it again this year. :)

Tears for Shorty

After two weeks of searching high and low, and following even the faintest of leads, a man is on his way with a trailer to pick up Shorty. Although I have been praying madly, beseeching, growling, and otherwise making a nuisance of myself at the gates of Heaven, I now feel like crying. The horse I thought might want to kill me now looks innocent and misunderstood. I am reminding myself that this is how he looked right before I let him out last week and he turned into Happy Days, Fonzie/Get away from my woman, in 3 seconds flat.  But I feel sad anyway and my thank yous that he is going are softer and less festive than I had imagined.

This is what having children has done to me. They have squirmed in when I wasn’t looking and set about enlarging the chambers of this grinch’s heart. The living ones are obvious enough. Having been away last week, the hugs to prove how much I was missed have almost cracked bones (mine, not theirs). It’s the lost ones that teach me more quietly. Maybe because they can’t talk. Years I have prayed for the gift of tears on the outside. Some sort of acknowledgement that the tears on the inside are real too. I wouldn’t have known that lost babies who never saw the light of day would hold those keys. That they would know how to sit it out inside the depths of me, kneading with tiny fingers at the hardness of my heart until it softened.

So that is me now. All those years of lip biting and tough talk and I am ready to cry at the departure of a danger to hearth and home. Albeit hiding in the innards of a cute little 300 pounds of small horse.  I am a shadow of my former strength. A whisper only now of togetherness.

Still wouldn’t trade those tiny fingers. For anything.