Saturday, July 30, 2016

I’ve been avoiding the Internet . . .

for the same reason I’ve avoided spending much time outside. It’s just too hot and nasty right now.

The Internet doesn’t need me. But two weeks of no rain and 90+ degree temperatures means the flower and vegetable gardens need constant watering. Lots of other attention too, as hot, dry conditions weaken the plants, make them less able to fight off the ever-present cabbage worms, Japanese beetles and all the other bugs I know by sight if not name who very much appreciate the gardens they seem to believe I have grown for them.

If we go anywhere to sit by the water we must get there at daybreak, because by 10 o’clock the rocks and banks of the river will be filled with people trying, as we are, to escape the heat. And as soon as we get home all my time and energy seems to be swallowed up with those petty little irritations some people refer to as life but I call things we have to do because we are grownups.

All this is to explain why I haven’t been up to the cabin the last several weeks. Even though I knew it would be cooler up here, knew I would be able to sit outside on the porch in the afternoon because there is always a breeze. Even though I knew I would sleep better in the deep silence punctuated only by night birds and the gentle hum of an overhead fan.

I came up here yesterday determined to rest and read and recharge. I expected nothing more than the possibility of a hummingbird at our new feeder, the chance flash of red from the head of our resident woodpecker, possibly the sound of deer crunching through the leaves behind my back and moving slowly into my sight line.

In town I try hard to slow down, look and listen, be mindful of my surroundings. But my resolve rarely lasts past the end of the morning walk with the dogs. I speed up, let little things irritate me. I grow impatient with myself and with any part of the world around me that is not going at what I consider the proper speed. 

There’s always so much more that could be done: the house could be cleaner, the dogs could be brushed, the garden and the yard need work. I could be organizing my office, going through the closets and culling unneeded items, working on promoting my books or, heaven forfend, even writing.

Not this weekend. This weekend I gave myself to the mountain, to slow down, to listen and see and smell.  And the mountain gave me a welcome back present. It seems there’s been more rain here than in town, and my slow crawl up our mile of driveway – windows down, radio off and eyes open wide – was rewarded with large patches of coral and orange on the road bank.

At sunup this morning, I walked down to that section of the bank. Slowly. Appreciatively. And I picked tiny cinnabar chanterelles, one at a time, savoring every moment until the sun and I reached the end of the bank at almost the same time.

Yes, I still have a list of things to do, emails to write, phone calls to make. All of them are important, grown up type chores. But they are made pleasurable by the fact that I’m sitting on a screen porch in the middle of the woods listening to the hum of insects as I write and call and figure. The “grown-up” house, the garden, the yard are far away and they will be there, calling for attention, when I return home.

But I have crossed many things off a list today.  A list I hadn’t written down, didn’t know how badly I needed to make until I realized I didn’t have any of the things on it:

1. Spend an hour picking tiny mushrooms.
2. Take a cold shower outside .
3. Walk slowly.
4. Breathe.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I’m hiding up here at the cabin . . .

for this Fourth of July weekend.

It’s not that I don’t like food carts, festivals, and fireworks. It’s that I’ve been cursed for the last 10 years with dogs who are terrified of loud noises.

I don’t mean the dogs themselves are a curse. Just that particular behavior. Dogs are a blessing, especially when many of  life’s  other pleasures are curtailed by pain or fatigue. And the dogs give me an excuse to push myself walking the hilly road and traipsing through the woods. I tell myself dogs need to be walked, even though these dogs roam freely in the woods around the cabin, constrained (or so they think, even though they haven’t won the collars for years) by an invisible fence, and they come back when called. I seem to attract pack animals who would rather walk on a leash with me than run loose by themselves.

So, we walk.  This time of year I look for ripe berries, and because of the recent rains, mushrooms. I was away during the torrential rains a week ago,  so missed what must’ve been a brilliant mushroom opportunity. I can see where they were, and where I hope they will be again if the current rain continues.

I hope the rain continues. I am a spoilsport, wishing for rain on the Fourth of July long weekend. But rain without thunderstorms will curtail the fireworks. And no fireworks means no bug eyed, panting, drooling, pacing semi – hysterical dogs.

Also, rain = mushrooms. I can feel them around me. Those heavy rains pushed them near the surface. Some popped already, and I missed them- I can just see their dry weathered remains scattered among last year’s leaves. But that’s ok.  There will be more, though probably not the crazy plentitude of  last year’s bounty.
one crazy day's ruby chanterelle harvest 

I started out hoping this blog would be about berries. Ripe wineberries and tiny wild blueberries and huckleberries. But it looks like I’m  too early (by a week at least)  for the wineberries, and the wild blue and huckleberries are few and far between this year. 
this was titled house mountain fourth of july, proof that last year at this time things were ripe and abundant

Maybe I’m early for them too. I found a bush or two of ripe berries on my hike in between the rains, but most of last year’s bushes appear oddly bare.
today's haul, shown actual size

Back at the house in town the blueberry bushes, (also nowhere near as prolific as last year) are ripening nicely in their bird and squirrel-proof cage.
The gooseberries are nearing the end of their run. A friend is picking what’s left after this last container I’ve taken for myself.
The blueberries I've tried to grow up here, though, yield a pitiful amount.
today's sum total

The cultivated berries in town are doing exactly what they’re supposed to, when they are supposed to do it. It’s only the wild things I can’t seem to control.

I’ve never been able to really control these blog posts either. I start out convinced I’m writing about something definite and somewhere around halfway through, realize I don’t have a point at all. I usually stop there  and go for a walk or do something else,  just let what I think I’m trying to say sit in the back of my brain. Sometimes I’ll come back and sit and stare at the computer screen. Sometimes I’ll sit down and write exactly what I need to say. I never know which one it will be, and I never know what my point really is until I’ve written it down.

So this blog post is about berries, sort of.  Also mushrooms, and rain. It’s about dogs and fireworks and walking through the woods. It’s about me staying open to what’s going on around you, even if it’s not in the same place or at the expected time. Because I can’t control anything, really. 

Except maybe whether or not my dogs will be terrified on the 4th of July.

And sitting here just now, listening to the rain on the tin roof and looking out at the woods which may or may not surprise me with mushrooms tomorrow or the next day, I realize something. 

Once again, through a winding, detour-filled process, I have somehow figured out what enough is.