Friday, September 28, 2007

Shore Books

Last time I was at the beach, I read two books - the first book I purchased on the way down and the second was in the bookcase just waiting. Funny thing, both the books had similar themes that when combined moved me to think thoughtfully about my own life.

Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry was the book I bought because I walked past it in the bookstore seeing the word tides and a white crinoline showing beneath a child's white skirt. You know it looked and sounded beachy.

William Shakespeare wrote "What is past is prologue." Between the Tides explores the reality of the middle ground between the past and future, between high tide and low. Nine months after her father's death, Catherine still could not bring herself to sprinkle the ashes in the Carolina Low Country river of her childhood as her father wished. By sending his daughter back to her childhood home he hoped that she would be able assuage guilt, find truth, and change her perceptions, so that she could live fully in the future. Encouraged by Forest Anderson, her father's assistant professor, Catherine makes the trip, finds answers, and is able to embrace her true self and a future full of love and expectation.

Having heard of The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, yet knowing nothing of it, I picked it up to finish out my weekend of relaxation. Jessie Sullivan goes to the Barrier Islands of South Carolina to care for her mother who has intentionally severed a finger while cooking at a monastery. Though being contentedly married for years, Jessie falls in love with a monk who has not yet taken his final vows. Through this love she reignites her life and breaks out of her metaphorical box. In the end, she decides to reunite with her husband, but before she does she makes a commitment to herself.

OK, I guess everyone is wondering what sprinkling the ashes of a father and an affair with a monk have in common. Seeing it written does make it seem more improbable, yet each of these women chose a safe place, rather than finding a place of growth and full living. Each put life and love on hold while living a truncated life. True, one was trapped by the past and the other trapped by the needs and routines of life with a family, but what each failed to do(and in my opinion what many women fail to do) was to devote time, space, and energy to nurture herself.

There is a scene at the end of The Mermaid Chair when Jessie walks out into the water to complete a ritual that she had seen her mother and her mother's friends perform when she was young in which they tied some yarn together and cast it to the sea to show an enduring bond between the friends, but instead of making a vow to family or friends she makes a commitment to herself - a commitment to make room for her inner spirit.

I let the demands of family, work, and home smother the person I am. Even without having an affair with a monk or losing a parent I realize that I, too, need to commit to myself. I think I will walk to the top of the highest hill on our farm in the almost full moon, tie a knot in a ribbon and cast it into the breeze, thereby vowing to make a little time for me - not the mother me, not the wife me, not the daughter me, not the sister me, not the useful at work me. What about you?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Will you pour?

I'm feeling a bit left out after I found this picture on my camera this morning. Rubber Dinghy obviously had a tea party. Or someone had a tea party for Rubber Dinghy. I wonder why I wasn't invited?

Did you get an invite?

Do cats drink tea?

Monday, September 17, 2007

First Calf of the Season

Our first calf of the season arrived last week. To make this one even more special the mom is a first time momma, and she was born and raised at our farm - a complete circle of sustainable life. She's such a crazed, hormonal maniac so protective of her calf that it took me three days to get a picture without risking death. Mr. W finally followed them into the shed to snap this one, but the photo op was short lived. She charged.

Charolais cows are big; Charolais bulls are enormous; and Charolais calves are many times a little too big for the first time heifer. To avoid the scary need help with labor issue, we had the bright idea of renting Sarge, a neighbor's Brangus bull, to guarantee small calves for all our first timers. No, the calves won't be true to breed -the tell-tale signs of the Brangus bull are written all over the small calf's grayer white coat (rather than creamy white), black nose and hooves, and compact head - but we can sell all of these calves so as not to sully the picturesque views from the porch with mismatched cows.

My husband is going out of town for the next month or so. He plans the calving around his seasonal absences. Isn't that nice of him?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pyramids, Temples, and Coliseums

I found a great beach book. Honestly, it was easy to find since my mother left it on the table for me and the children to find and use. My mother does things like this a lot - thoughtful gifts, well placed, at just the right moment. Anyway, the book is Sand-tiquity by Malcolm Wells, Kappy Wells, and Connie Singo.

Sand-tiquity demonstrates the building of ziggurats, step pyramids, coliseums, temples, the Parthenon, a pueblo, and the Pyramid and the Sphinx. We tried to build them all this weekend. Of course, ours didn't look as fabulous as the pictures in the book, but the instructions were simple - a swipe here, a cut there, and eureka! you have all of ancient history lined up on the beach.

Thanks, mom!

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Few More Days of Summer

I drove south to capture a few more days of Summer at the beach. We left after ballet on Thursday night from the city, which is not my usual path and I learned so many useful travel lessons on the way.
  1. Never leave the house without a map - a real map - if your route is not as familiar as the back of your hand. Looking at a MapQuest map minutes before you leave doesn't count because even if it looks like a straight shot that any fool could find blindfolded, chances are once the journey begins the Highway 49s and 59s will get confusing, bypasses will become available that look similar to the roads you actually need to use, and the food and bathroom needs of your 8 year old passenger will require you to get off the path.
  2. Your vision of what things should look like and how things appear in the dark are two different things. Road signs seem to fly by in head-lighted, heavy traffic of metropolitan areas. Chances are you will miss the turn and not recognize landmarks that would guide you in daylight. Bring a map so you will know for sure.
  3. Even if you think your sisters will be available for a directional consult since the route is their usual, don't count on it. It is possible that they have a life separate from yours in which they have school conferences, meetings, and other activities. They may not answer their phone, bring your own map.
  4. Sometimes logic doesn't rule road size. Any reasonable person would assume that as you draw nearer to a major city the number of lanes would increase rather than decrease. Yet they don't. When the lane number decreases and the only signs are for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, a map would be handy to avoid that chest tightening, forward leaning panic that arises when you've already been on one too many wrong roads and the clock is moving closer and closer to a new day.
  5. Finally, if you don't have a map, don't be tempted to cut through on rural roads to make it back to the major highway for which you missed the exit 10 miles back. It's just not worth it. Unfamiliar backroads dimmed by darkness may not go all the way through making it necessary to get on other backroads, and then other backroads. While this exploration may be a fun-filled adventure during the daylight hours, when driving at night with a child who is rightfully worried that you don't know where you're going, it's not a good idea. Lose the 10 miles and backtrack.
You would think, after all these lessons, I had a miserable trip down, but I didn't. All the snafues (Can I use snafu that way? I doubt it.) began to be funny. By the time I got to where I knew the way for sure, I could barely drive for laughing. At least, I didn't get sleepy and clean the ditches for the Department of Transportation. But seriously, bring a map, a full sized, detailed one. Who knows, you may not need it, but you may.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Caw! CAWW- CAWW! caw-CawW! aw-aw-aw-caw!

The crows have arrived. Every rooster crow is punctuated by a CAW. Every squeak of the gate is preceded by a caw-caw-caw. Every bark is interrupted by Caw-caw. Every step is accompanied the cacophony of caws.

Fall is here. The crow tells me.

No, the temperatures haven't dropped, not much anyway. Yes, the humidity is still oppressive. But early in the morning I feel what the crows tell me.

The crow says it is Fall - the time of collecting and preparing. Yet, they don't come because it's Fall per se, they come for a feast - a nutilicious feast. The pecans are full, yet still green and the crows show up in hordes to eat - to prepare for the winter.

Because the Summer is dead.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Chicken Wisdom

Chickens have a reputation for being stupid. Though some of their antics appear foolish, I have found watching their interactions and behaviors gives great insight into human deportment. I'm not joking. Really.

Take this rooster for example. He is the same Buff Catalana rooster featured on my banner art, only now he is in molt which leaves his tail feathers and the rest of him lacking a bit.

Funny thing. He knows it.

He is not the same rooster when not fully plumed. He is not as haughty. He is kinder with the hens, not chasing them down for a quickie. He doesn't scream "Look at me!!!" with the same aplomb. He doesn't rush over to the scraps I throw out the back door thinking he is entitled to the best.

Chicken Wisdom
  1. Looking your best gives you confidence to demand respect.
  2. Balding men are probably more attentive to the needs of women since they are not so fixated on themselves.