If I had a river

11 Jun
If I had a river

Woke up on my birthday, another beautiful clear, sunny day in which I decided to do enjoyable things that didn’t take any planning or driving. The mystery of why my daughters yesterday kept telling me to not come in their room and to shut the door was solved–they had been painting pictures for me. One, a lovely simplified image of a black capped chickadee perched on a spruce twig, against a background of softest blue with a hint of green. The other a bold abstract in orange and bluegreen with a dragonfly-like figure looping across and up. I am delighted. I have indeed been attracted to bluegreen, and the combination with oranges. And the chickadee is my favorite bird.

A good day is to savor my work as a sort of urban farm wife, from a place of choice rather than necessity for this day. The sense of being permitted to take the whole day off work (permission I gave myself, and there was no one around to nay say it) but choosing to get a few things done instead, just for the satisfaction of it. First was baking enough blueberry muffins for the next few days, and starting another batch of yoghurt. Daydreaming about a business in taking muffin, yoghurt and granola orders in the neighborhood. I have a lot of business dreams, but I am assured they are not practical, and tend to accept that.

My favorite chore in the summer is hanging out the laundry. As I clipped the damp socks and heavy jeans up, squinting against the sun, I daydreamed about the possibility of running a seasonal business installing clotheslines all over town. Any kind you want–the tree-type set in concrete, lines on pulleys. Advising people about locations–not in the hottest place, and only in your view if you like the sight, with respect for the neighbors but also to set a visible example. Explaining the pros: free solar and wind power; the fresh smell; elimination of germs by UV light; the regular times outdoors; greater connection with weather; not having to wait for the dryer to finish before emptying it to get the washer empty to wash more laundry. The cons: crispy cottons; the occasional earwig or crane fly in the sheets.

Then I repotted some tomatoes, watered everything, weeded the beds, stood around admiring the order and abundance of the vegetable garden and trying to figure out where I was going to fit the seedlings that were almost ready to set out. Listened to the bees, the metallic chirping and wing buzz of the resident hummingbirds, ignored the crows. Cut some parsley for drying, as it was particularly lush, and some roses for the kitchen.

Around noon I biked to the middle school to drop off paperwork, then to the library, where I pored through and old Writers’ Market, making notes. After I got home I pitched in with my husband in his efforts to clear away dead branches, weed the neglected front landscaping, move some shrubs and clear an area in which to store tractor implements. These had been strewn about under our evergreens in the front yard for years, not really fitting in with the general tidiness and good taste of the neighborhood. Yet to the credit of the folks on our street, no one had complained.

A tractor and implements in town? Go figure. The tractor was only vehicle we didn’t sell when we went overseas, because they are attached to our dream of a small farm, even as we expand our present garden and create an orchard in the back yard. Still we waffle on whether to stay and build an addition, or find some land to work and to heck with trying to stay with the same schools for the kids. Just seeing such a dream farm in the real estate listings sent us scurrying to finish up projects to improve the curb appeal and interior dec of the home we have now lived in for eighteen years. Thirty acres by a river, a four bedroom house. A river! I long for a river, and not to skate away on.

And then, there are our two newly sponsored Kenyan boys, ages twelve and seven. I hope they have a good river. I will be writing to them for the first time this week, and what will I say? How to introduce ourselves, try to express what a privilege it is to connect with them, to share. This commitment came about through a big multi-congregation church service at which Tony Campolo preached. Couldn’t get all the kids to come–one daughter has firmly resisted all our efforts to bring her with us, and I insist on letting her make the final decision. But the two oldest, also not overly enthusiastic about church (my husband and I tend to be ambivalent too) were electrified. I’ll share the gist in another post if I can, from my notes. But the most significant thing for us was the decision to sponsor these boys–the packets were passed out in the theater, so no looking for cuteness. Across the kids my husband and I mouthed our hopes–definitely more than one was understood. He, being mostly an all-or-none type of guy, moving from the heart and with a deep well of compassion and generosity, wanted to pick up a few more packets, but I figured we’d start with these first.

All the kids were pumped about the sponsorships. The daughter who’d stayed home noticed one had a birthday coming up and made a card. We all started memorizing their names, one being very Kenyan and difficult for us. I gazed at their photos, one of each, read the cards, wondered what I’d write, hoped all my kids would want to write too, and one day meet the boys. Strange that we’d never done this before, but I suppose I’d suspected the sponsorship style of charity might be to costly in overhead. Should be better nowadays, right, with the help of the internet? Part of the expense, and optional part, was to provide security in times of political unrest or danger. Imagine. It’s not South Sudan, but there are real dangers. And what about the other children in the two towns? Another reason for me to get a paying job or start my business.

Years ago I met a homeschool mother who had adopted several children and told me her story, the ins and outs of the various adoption agencies she researched. She and her husband chose to foster, hoping to adopt, and I was so wanting to do the same–never mind the possible grief of having to let a child go, but just to think of the loving reprieve, the shelter we could provide at least. My eagerness,though it wasn’t shared by my husband, got passed on to my daughters, who both shared with great conviction that they would definitely be adopting whether they also gave birth or not. The idea of a child needing a home and not enough folks offering one will not do for them. Plus, they said, I’d be an enthusiastic grandmother.

Seems I have at least partially recovered from my two days of feeling like listening to whole Joni Mitchell albums on earphones with my head dropped on my desk. And like Zadie Smith wrote in this article, letting the tears drop at the “almost intolerable beauty” while at the same time feeling “a mortifying sense of porousness.” Thus the earphones, which I usually don’t use, preferring to share the sound with everyone. I was suffering from some kind of tightness, sadness, unorthodox longing which I wished to temporarily visit in order to move past. At least that’s how it turned out, though at the time moving past was not something on which I had firmly resolved. Yet here I am. Channeled through by Joni on a river of music and poetry.


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4 responses to “If I had a river

  1. jdawgsrunningblog

    June 12, 2014 at 5:58 am

    Interesting to compare the voice of this to some of your more recent–wondering what you note and notice and think of the contrast.

    • toesinthedirt

      June 12, 2014 at 8:12 am

      Seems like I was so intent on being cheerful that I skated over the surface of things, ended up sounding self-satisfied and shallow. I wander from one thought to the next like a bee over a landscape of flowers. Need to read more Annie Dillard.

  2. jdawgsrunningblog

    June 13, 2014 at 5:49 am

    Also feel like you might connect with Rebecca Solnit.


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