Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Late Fragment-- Beloved of the Earth

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.


Raymond Carver wrote this poem as he was dying of cancer, looking back on his complex life. I read it to my classes on the last day of school each year, because that day is a little death in our lives, as the  classroom community falls away. I have painted it on boards to hang in the back garden, to remind us all of what is important. And, while I was traveling this summer, I was haunted by the words regularly. I am—we are all—beloved on the earth. But, on long drives, I changed one word and realized that we can also be beloved of the earth.

I am from New England. I have lived in Oregon for almost half of my life, but my first connections to place, to geography, to history, to reading the landscape were on the rocky coasts of New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. I learned the wildflowers, the ridgeline trails, the hidden paths of children through second growth forests. Later, in college, I learned about the architecture, how the landscape influenced development, and the history of the place. I walked for hundreds of miles on roads and trails and beaches. It was—still is—home.

I moved to Oregon looking for something new. For years, the place required me to rethink assumptions about the land, the people, and how we interact with it. I walked on the trails, but the wilderness was reluctant to let me enter. Perhaps it doubted my commitment; perhaps I had not moved far enough in, away from roads and traffic.   Over time—ten, fifteen years—I learned a second landscape. I planted gardens that grew as well as my previous New England jungles once I acquired  the local tricks of water and mulch. I identified wildflowers and  where to look for each in the springtime. I adjusted to the rhythm of the weather, the long grey winters, the golden late summers. I sat by mountain lakes in silence, leaning on my backpack, considering the universe.  One day, the landscape let me in. It happened so slowly that I do not remember the moment, only an awareness that I was on the other side.

And so, this summer, I realized that I am beloved of the Earth, as well. I am blessed with the ability to be at home, in a deep and thoughtful way, in two landscapes, not just one. This is a gift. I have one foot in the rocky waters of New England, the other on the lava trails of the Pacific Northwest, the Willamette Valley. Home.


                

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Planning for Vacations

                Knowing that we were going to be gone for six weeks this summer—from the last day of school in late June until early August—I had to make some changes in the planting plan for the year. Basically, nothing that needed to be eaten or  processed could come ripe while we were away.

                Some things were just not planted this year. We have no summer lettuce or broccoli, no green beans, no runner beans. Beans need to be trained up twine for the entire month of July in order to produce anything, so they were out. Lettuce comes on and goes too quickly and then needs to be replanted.  Broccoli will get aphids if ignored.  We are missing these basic veggies in our meals, but I can still find them at the market or the farm, so we will survive. We will still have pasta with green beans, walnuts, and crème fresh for dinner.

                To fill in the space, I planted extras of other crops. We have more dried bushy beans in the beds, two beds rather than one. We have quite a few cabbages, both late and early. The early we ate before we left and a few held until we returned. I put in more winter squash, although I still planted two types of zucchini, one early and one that climbs, comes on late, and produces until November (which is, really a bit longer than you want it.) I planted a climbing cucumber, knowing that it would not really produce enough for pickles until August. I was right; there is a bowl soaking in brine right now.

                We arrived home right in time for canning season. The blackberries are ripe. The apples are ripe. The peaches are ripe. The blueberries are ripe. The gooseberries were waiting.  The eating plums were still clinging to the tree for a few days after we pulled in. Tomatoes will be ripe in a few weeks. The figs will wait until everything else is processed and will, hopefully, beat the fall rains.  The potatoes will need to be pulled soon, as will the beans and corn.  I am glad we did not stay way longer.


                Overall, we are missing some of the basic summer produce, but there are always cabbages and the six week trip was worth it.  Next year will be a garden-focused year.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hey Jude

Road Trip questions…..what was the first song that was yours, not something your parents played?


               The summer I was eight, my parents parked the camper in my aunt’s driveway for a month while the truck had some repairs done. We were about to travel across the country and the suspension system was questionable. They slept in the camper; I preferred sleeping in the house with my cousins. The boys slept in one room; I had a cot with my cousin Sherry, four years younger, in the adjoining room. We were all sent to bed at the same time; the parents were clearly done with us by about eight o’clock. Sherry and Steven went to sleep quickly. Roland, the eldest by a year, did not. He loved baseball, so he took a small radio to bed with him to listen to the Red Sox games. Most nights, I slipped over to join him. We would listen to the game, to the sound of our parents talking, drinking beer, and playing cards in the kitchen, and chat. No one cared. We were quiet. Every night that summer, the radio played “Hey Jude” at the same time, a few minutes after the game was over.  We waited for the song to begin, sang along softly, and then I would head back to my cot and sleep.  We did not quite understand the longing in the lyrics, but it spoke to us. And, oddly enough, I never heard the song during the day, when the radio was dominated by “Honey, Honey” and “When the weather is hot, you can do what you please.” It was a night song.

                Four years later, back from the cross country adventure, we moved in with my cousins again. The house was bigger—my parents had a room inside—another child had been added to the mix, but the situation was the same. Kids formed a pack that ran around just beyond the gaze of adults. On Saturdays, we were all left alone in the house while every adult went to work. We argued over whose turn it was to change Kevin’s diapers (he was only house broken for my father), watched bad television, went ice skating until we froze, and listened to music. Roland had acquired the Beatles compilation albums for Christmas and we played them over and over. Once again, we sang along to “Hey Jude.”  It was not my favorite song—the ending refrain went on too long in my mind—but we were loud.

                Three years later, Roland convinced our mothers that we had to go to Boston to see Beatlemania, a group of musicians who performed the classic songs, in authentic costumes, with a slide show.  Going to a show in the Big City was not common at that point in time; I doubt that he would have succeeded if the women of the house had not wanted an evening out, perhaps at the new Hyatt hotel on the waterfront. Whatever argument he used, they agreed. We drove into Boston, bought scalped tickets, which felt unbelievably adult, and went in. Our mothers drove off with specific pick-up instructions. (I believe they were late getting back…) The show was transformative. I understood, watching the slides and listening to the music, the connections between popular culture, current events, and music—something I was only just beginning to consider. And it was sad, too, to watch the group disintegrate over time, which I only sensed then and learned the details of later. I was transfixed. And so was my cousin, who always tried to be a Bad Boy, to be hip and cool. In that context, “Hey Jude” took on a whole new meaning, the longing to do well, to reach for something more.

                This was the last time I spent any real thoughtful time with my cousin. We were on separate paths by then. I was the Good Girl, the smart one, who took Honors English and read piles of books on the side. He was a Bad Boy, skipping classes, smoking across from the bus stop, messing around with girls. He did not graduate. At the time, I don’t think the adults really understood the problems that could cause; they had all done pretty well without high school diplomas. They would not be so causal now.   We all wanted something better; we just did not know how to get there. “Hey Jude” was written as a guide, if we only listened.  I still don’t think “Hey Jude” is the best song they ever wrote—but it sends me back to my roots every time.