It’s been a spectacular week in the PNW. I had the week off from my usual Monday/Tuesday trip to Seattle for time with grandchildren because my sister from Virginia was in town. We three sisters spent Monday painting trim for our house renovation and, after dinner, going through several small boxes of audio and VHS tapes. I found some treasures to add to my growing stash of material for my new writing project—a video and an audio tape of family reunions—a reel-to-reel that includes footage of my 5th birthday party, which I think was the costume one, and the Weyerhaeuser ads that featured my father shown on NCAA football coverage in the 70s; but most of the rest were non-keepers.
Tuesday, though, I went on my first adventure of the season. It was the last day of winter, and my father’s 102nd birthday. I picked an easy hike to ease my body in, and because it was close by and I wasn’t getting my customary early start so I could see my sister off to SeaTac. (Alas, no Road Trip Latte.)
The Porter Falls trailhead in Capitol Forest is just 45 minutes from home; and the falls at the trail’s end only a bit over a mile in. I’ve driven into Capitol Forest, but never hiked, so the first adventure was a newbie. I had the road and the trail all to myself: just me, the moss and licorice fern covered trees, the filtered sun across the sword fern understory, the birds, and the constant rumble of the tumbling river, er “creek.” Except for the water feature, it is not unlike the woods behind my house, but it was good to be away from the tasks that distract me at home.
I sat at the falls, where two branches of the creek rejoin to continue their downward rush together, and ate some of my lunch—an experimental homemade trail bar (needs chocolate chips, what was I thinking?) and apple slices— while contemplating eddies, then headed back to the car.
I wound upward for a while through the labyrinth of logging roads, through clearcuts that opened a commanding view of the Olympics. I got a little lost making my way back down toward Highway 12. Capitol Forest is a 110,000 acre trust land that has multiple entrances on all sides, connected by DNR logging roads that wander sign-free around the mountain. One has to pay attention to landmarks at intersections to get back out the same way you came in. I didn’t. I was grateful for my new dependable car.
Back down in the valley after the unintended sidetracks, I picked up the creek that had rushed down the mountain, but here spreads out in a placid meander through pastureland before joining with the Chehalis to become a real river headed for the Pacific.
There was still plenty of day left, so I decided to go on to Lake Sylvia State Park outside Montesano and hike another short trail a friend explored last week. I’ve never been to Lake Sylvia either, or into Montesano—a cute small town with many beautiful historic homes, it turns out.
Lake Sylvia is a small lake with a 35-site campground and a swimming area. Perfect, I’m thinking, for a camping trip with the Littles at some future Camp Gigi. I ate the rest of my lunch on the picnic table at Site 5, my pick for a solo campout, maybe soon!
The hike around the lake was even shorter than Porter Falls, but completely different. The Porter Falls trail is through an old conifer forest, nearly a rainforest, along a fast-moving creek. Lake Sylvia has more hardwood rising up through marsh with skunk cabbage just beginning to bloom and waiting for the promised trillium to show up next to a placid lake.
It was exhilarating to be out again after the long winter. The rains are returning—and we need it, less than an inch in March to date—but I’m already plotting my next adventure when the sun shows up again. I turned toward home past a sacred grove of ancient trees that looked as if, if I placed both palms flat against just the right one, I would be whooshed back in time.
And now spring. Time to start a new thing, adventuring and a new writing project; and let go of the old, the memoir manuscript is out of my hands for now. I wish I could let go of yard care, but I continue to try to see it as a privilege, to see it as lighter than air.
#ilovewhereilive, #michiganfolkschool, #notesfromthreeofearthfarm, #staeblerfarmcountypark, #ThreeofEarthFarm, farming in the 1900s, gratitude, hummingbirds, living in my childhood home, Michigan Folk School, spring, Staebler Farm County Park, Sunrise, this old house
Despite last week’s surprise snow, things seem well on the way toward a season change now. Other people have crocuses and daffodils. I don’t know where mine are; maybe the moles ate the bulbs. My Lenten rose is MIA too. Weather Underground boasts 71º next Monday and Tuesday and I will have to decide if one of them is an adventure day or if they are both work days.
Monday is definitely a work day. My far away sister will be in town and it’s my in-town sister’s day off (this month anyway) and I’m putting them to work on the “farm,” pre-installation painting of 450 feet of trim for baseboard and door frames. But there’s still Tuesday. Perhaps next week’s blog will be an Adventure Log.
After the Friday snow, Sunday was a spectacular day and I pulled on my boots and headed outside while my cute floor installer and his weekends-only side-kick finished putting in the beautiful hardwood floors that didn’t quite get finished while I was away.
There were maaaaannnnny tasks to choose from and there is no point in prioritizing them because they all have to be done. Maybe I should have chosen preparation of the raised beds in my vegetable garden, but I haven’t even ordered seeds yet, so pffft. I could have repaired the fence and gates, or pulled out the bricks in the walkway the moles destroyed last autumn. (I’m considering inhumane measures for those fiends this year.)
I could have picked up winter blowdown in the woodlot that used to be meadow that I didn’t pick up the last two springs, which was a big mistake. Or maybe the fir branches in the meadow that have to be gone before the first mowing. Or cleared trails from overgrowth and downed limbs. Or returned to my mother’s garden (read that story here), or any of the other flower beds that need to be weeded and mulched. I could have cut up the small tree that collapsed into the far corner of the meadow and is in the way of the mower, and is where this year I hope finally to follow through with my idea to mow a labyrinth.
But I arbitrarily chose to scrape the fir needles and silt from the edges of the driveway before it started growing. It was a task I knew I could finish and that wouldn’t take all day. I gained a foot of pavement on each side and hauled three wheelbarrow loads of the rich loam down to a long abandoned strip of vegetation where the soil washes down the hill. I will probably never try to make it beautiful, but I will show it what love I can. Maybe the daisies and euphorbia will be happier. I can hear my mother saying, “Nothing will grow there. It’s not worth your money.” It’s almost enough to make me want to try.
As I continue to read stories my father and his siblings wrote about life on the Michigan farm where they grew up, I ran across one about how my grandfather eased the plow-pulling horses into spring work after the relative ease of their winter workload—mostly just pulling the wagon of milk to market or the sleigh for Sunday family excursions. He took care of his horses so they could take care of the farm, and hence the family.
I’m taking a page out of his playbook and easing my aging body into the work of spring. There was much more to do, the weather was perfect for more, I still had energy, and there was an extra hour of late day light. But I stopped. I had done three hours of heavy work, it was enough for early season.
As I put away the wheelbarrow, shovel, and blower, and straightened my spine, I was both pleased with having finished the task and overcome with the heaviness of all there is to do. For one thing, I had ignored the blackberry vines along the driveway that need to be pulled out before they cross to the other side. I shook it off. I did one good task, there will be other days.
Before I went inside, I sent a message to a local Facebook friend who works with the local Girl Scout council, asking her if she knew of a troop earning money for opportunities. She responded immediately that she does. Many hands make light work. I will hire out the winter blow down…and maybe the blackberry vines too.
I returned to the house as Chris and Corey were loading their tools. Corey, who had been there alone on the weekend, told me a story. He had left the sliding glass deck door open and a hummingbird flitted inside. He followed it around with a broom trying to coax it toward the door. The hummer was having nothing of it. Finally, exhausted, it lit on the corner of a windowsill and sat trembling with fear. Corey scooped it up and held the tiny quivering being in his cupped hands as he went outside to release it. “It was so soft,” he said in wonder, “but it was lighter than air.”
It reminded me that I have a choice as I care for my family’s beautiful property. I can choose to see it as a burden that has been dumped on me and weighs me down. Or I can choose to see it as a privilege lighter than air. Either way, I am the guardian for now, and I reap both the responsibility and the good fortune.
Christina Baldwin, George Ella Lyon, legacy writing, letters from World War 2, Marty's Place at Strawbridge Farm, Peer Spirit, Saratoga Passage, Self as Source of the Story, she writes press, Staebler Farm County Park, the great depression, the greatest generation, Where I'm From poem
I’ve spent the past week in a gorgeous historic house on the south Whidbey Island banks of the Saratoga Passage of Puget Sound. I first attended Christina Baldwin’s Self as Source of the Story writing retreat in 2012, five months after I moved back to this corner of the country. I’ve returned to the alumni retreat four times. It’s a gift I’ve given myself.
I’m writing, reading, and listening to the powerful stories of my writing sisters, eating delicious healthy food, watching eagles carrying sticks into a nearby copse for nest building and two coyote pups trotting about. The first four days the cerulean sky reflected on the calm waters and the white mountain range sparkled on the horizon. Yesterday we cocooned in front of the fire, as the world disappeared in gently falling snow.
I am honored and humbled to sit in communion with the natural world and in community with these beautiful women and bear witness to their sacred words and experiences. Although each year some of them begin as strangers, they are my tribe.
It’s different to be here this year, not escaping the lonely claustrophobic years of caring for my mother; and not writing about those years, that manuscript complete for now. Yesterday, on the first day of Lent and the new moon, in the midst of this gathering of women, some of whom first heard the beginnings of my story more than six years ago, I pushed the manuscript out of the nest. I sent it to a small press/editorial company (that auspiciously had its beginnings the same year I began my journey of mother care) for an assessment. Later this month I am going to submit the first 26 pages to a contest. It’s time to see if it can fly.
And now it’s time to move on to a new project. This week I’ve immersed myself in the letters written by my elders during WWII, when they were younger than my children are now, and the stories of their lives on the Michigan farm when they were the ages of my grandchildren. It’s hard to put down an old familiar project and pick up a new one. I feel a little lost. But I look toward spinning the threads of my ancestors’ story into yarn, that it might then be woven into a blanket to wrap around those who will never know them: my children’s children’s children’s children, and their cousins.
The Seventh Generation Principle is based on an ancient Iroquois philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. The decisions my grandparents made in the way they raised their children in love and strong values, and saw that all six of them got a college education—inconceivable for the 1930s and on a farmer’s income during the Great Depression—can be seen one, two, and three generations later (my lifetime) and will continue, I trust, to the seventh generation and beyond.
This is where I’m from. This is where the seventh generation of my family will be from.
These are the legacy years, when we of a certain age look back at where we have been and ahead to what we will one day leave behind. In the legacy writing circle I facilitate, we wrote “Where I’m From” poems last week, in the style of George Ella Lyon. (How serendipitous that my father’s name is George and his mother’s name is Ella.) I invite you to write your own poem—it’s so much fun. (Google “where I’m from template” for help writing it, apologies that I can’t get a direct link.) Here is mine.
Where I’m From
I am from the slamming wooden screen door and Mr. Bear’s house in the woods,
from Breck shampoo and Ipana toothpaste, iodine and oleum percomorphum.
I am from the house on the bay and the home on the hill,
from stinky sulphur mud at low tide and fresh perfume of evergreens after rain.
I am from the big leaf maple whose arms hide me from parental view.
I am from the bookmobile and the green canoe,
from Stellajoe and George
and Ella and Jessie.
I am from “go help your mother,” “don’t sass me,” and my southern grandmother’s “well ahl swanee.”
I’m from staying put and cross-country moves,
from independence and courage.
I’m from crossing the ocean on a sailing ship and the country on the Empire Builder.
I am from my parents’ Great Depression,
and from my man on the moon.
I am from “This Is My Father’s World,” Girl Scout badges, and piano lessons in the pink house.
From Boston baked beans and chocolate “stir over low heat until thick” Jell-o pudding.
I’m from homemade 2×4 building blocks and dish gardens,
from heart disease and dementia.
I am from eight decades of antiquity stuffed onto basement shelves.
From a thousand letters and shoe boxes of photographs
snapped on cameras that line my window sill
where I sit at my father’s desk to put stories of days and people long gone between the covers of a book.