Friday, October 17, 2008

Small Things

As I get older, I'm beginning to realize how our lives are composed of small things. The inconsequential, strung together like beads on a string. As the seasons change, I'm drawn back again inexorably to the sense of rhythms and the piling up of small things that make up the balance of our lives.

The leaves are falling and we begin plowing paths through carpeting over the yard. Bug is reveling in the piling up of leaves and jumping into them. He even got so ambitious as to pile up a mound at the base of the deck and jump into it. From the railing of the deck. Fools and children, I tell you.

The maple trees are making me glad that I live in New England and that Fall is a more brilliant affair than the sudden bleaching of brown that marks a Southern autumnal season. As we scrape the lawn clean of the bright litter, we stack up banks of it at the end of where the luge will be when the snow is deep enough to launch saucers down our back yard. Gotta have a back stop or there'll be no slowing down until one fetches up with an obliging tree. Permaculture at its best, no?

The garden, such as it was, is pretty much finished. I only have left the root crops to pull out. The shallots, if they didn't produce, at least survived and I've yet to explore what has happened to the chance yam that I stuck in the ground on a whim. There will probably be some butternut squash rendered up from an obliging volunteer vine. It was the volunteer fruit that saved me this year. Not many of my intended plans came to fruition.

Other markers of Fall are around. The nuts from the tree shading our house are falling on the roof, sounding for all the world like the squirrels are having a bowling party over our heads. They might actually be...Dog would probably know, given his intimate acquaintance with the roof. The chipmunks run around like a band of rodents with the mumps...their cheeks stuffed almost further than the diameter of their holes will permit.

A friend of mine called to pass on a message to me and made a chance remark about the washing of her windows...on just the day that I'd decided to drag out the ladder and hose and tackle ours. Some of the last of the warm, sunny days for Fall cleaning.

The piles of winter clothes cluttering the master bedroom. Too warm to put out all of the heavier clothing and too cool to put away the summer clothes for good. After seven years, I've still not worked out a seamless transition. So it goes.

As the Hobbits are growing, becoming independent, and assuming more responsibilities, I'm finding myself with--gasp--actual time on my hands. One of the matriarchs has inspired me to resume knitting. Which in turn has inspired Bug and Princess to become interested in needlework themselves. After teaching me the lacy stitch that is in short order becoming scarves, she's begun teaching Bug to crochet the basic stitches and even Princess is progressing with "finger knitting." Generational ties...

Small doings in schooling. Dog is progressing in his writing. We're working on formatting paragraphs and paragraph construction. Bug is tackling spelling with alacrity...okay, at least not outright resistance, which amounts to about the same for him and Princess is working on actually writing. It brings back memories of my childhood to watch her try and construct words from the letters she's mastering. I can remember stringing together random letters and bringing them to my own mother, asking if these spelled an actual word. Never happened. But of such attempts writers are born.

We've hung a poster of Roman numerals on the wall. Dog spotted an architectural cornerstone with Roman numerals on it and we've been working on decoding the date on the building since then. We inherited an abacus and Bug has developed a fascination with the beads on it. I've never learned how to use one, but I suspect I'll be proficient before all is said and done, if he has anything to say about it.

The chicken tractor is almost finished and awaiting its new tenants. I imagine that raising animals will add even more texture to our awareness of the passing seasons. All of this feels like putting down roots and planning to stay a while. This year I branched out into putting in asparagus and red raspberries. I'm finally settled into this settler's mentality, thinking further ahead than merely this season's crop. Who knows? Maybe next year I'll be planting apple trees...

One of these years, I'm going to plant potatoes. We eat so much of them and it would be simply delicious to be able to harvest new potatoes out of our yard. And given food prices, I'm looking for more ways to incorporate potatoes into our diet. Like tortilla de patata, which is becoming contagious in our homeschooling group. As a reciprocal gesture, one of the moms shared her favorite potato recipe with me:

Dill Mashed Potatoes by T.C.

Approximately 7-10 potatoes
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. powdered garlic
1 tsp. Real Salt

Dice potatoes and boil until soft. (I never peel my potatoes.) Using a balloon whip, mash up potatoes and mix in ingredients. Garnish will additional dill and serve.

I must be a Hobbit at heart, because small things have always given me a sense of connectedness and contentment. "You do not know your danger, Theoden," interrupted Gandalf, "These hobbits will sit on the edge of ruin and discuss the pleasures of the table, or the small doings of their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and remoter cousins to the ninth degree, if you encourage them with undue patience."*

Small things pile up like the markers on Bug's abacus. "Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom."

*The Lord of the Rings(Book 3, Chapter 8).

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