Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Easy Bake

The past few days have been HOT in Tehachapi. Normally I wouldn’t mind heat, since I grew up in a place where 100+ degrees in the summer was relatively normal. However, I never fully appreciated the value of air conditioning on such days; that’s right, here in our little homestead we have no A/C.  Thank goodness for the beautiful old oak that shades our roof, because without that I think the house would feel more like an easy-bake oven!

That being said, it’s still much more comfortable than our little apartment in Playa was during the warm season. We get a really nice cross breeze through the house, and can leave the windows open at night without fear of burglary or loud parties interrupting our sleep. In Playa, the house had absolutely no ventilation, so it was always hot and stuffy even when the temperature outside topped 80 degrees. Here, there’s definitely more relief, even if it’s hotter.

Rob and I have been busily getting ready for the arrival of his parents, sister, brother, and sister-in-law on Saturday. The house is slowly taking on the guise of relative calm, and I am finding homes for all of the piles of “I’ll-think-about-it-later”s. Rob has really done a great job of getting the outside of our property ready. Because of all the spring moisture, we had some huge growth spurts for grasses and weeds around the property. Mustard weeds could have formed a jungle. Thank goodness for our riding mower and cooler mornings, or we’d never be able to tackle it all. As it is, we’ve had to spread many of these chores out over weeks and weeks.

My mom is also coming up today to spend the night and help me do some last minute preparations. I always look forward to our “girl time” together. As I get older, I appreciate her presence and advice in ways that, in my youth, I had  just taken for granted. She’s a fine woman, my mom.

That’s about it on the homestead. Oh, we’ve had our first few encounters with rattlesnakes here. Rob killed an adult right near our chicken coop, and saw an adolescent in the one patch of high grass we haven’t gotten to yet. Luckily these guys send out a clear warning before you get too close, but boy is it frightening! The scariest moment was when Sugar stumbled across the coiled adult near the coop. Thank goodness she came when we called. Yikes.

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Exhale

My friends, I can finally exhale. The class is over, as is my commute down to Pasadena (at least, for now–but who knows what the future holds?).  Although I’m still not feeling great, I’ve been able to settle down into a functional combination of rest and work. Things have been changing inside the home, outside the home, and across the Tehachapi Valley in general.

The weather is finally consistently warm–almost hot–and the hillsides have changed from emerald to a dusty gold. The oak trees dot the hills with their dark green, reassuring presence. Things have turned dry, and it’s the time of year for hot, windy afternoons, snake sightings, and iced tea.

There are many things to do around the homestead these days, and there is never enough daylight or energy to do it all. Robert’s family is coming to stay with us in less than three weeks, and the house has a long way to go before they arrive. It’s been difficult to stay on top of housework with my class and feeling sick lately, so each day begins with a long list of catch-up household chores. And then there’s the outside! Wonderous things are happening, yet sometimes it feels like a bit of a treadmill. Stop running and something’s bound to fall off the track. Between bees, chickens, garden, and overall maintenance, we’re never lacking for something to do. I’ll admit to having an evening or two where I long for the cold, early darkness of winter and nights sitting under a blanket, practicing my fiddle. But everything has a season, and in the midst of a snowstorm I’ll inevitably long for a summer breeze.

Here are some visual updates from the homestead, since a picture tells more than I ever could describe.

The bees are doing great! We have four supers (boxes filled with foundation for comb, pollen, eggs and honey) already!

Our older grape vines (the ones already established, not the ones we just planted this spring), as with most of the things in our garden, are showing little signs of what is to come:

My husband looks quite natural as he rides our mower to get the most ferocious of the weeds in our yard (mustard weed really is viciously reproductive).  We tried tackling it with our push mower, but some things just need to be handled with a more powerful beast. Maybe someday we’ll trade it in for a tractor! 🙂

Finally, we decided to take a much-needed break from everything on the neverending to-do list and take a little day trip up to the southernmost end of the Sequoia National forest, about 3 hours away. The silence and grandeur of these ancient giants helped to put everything in perspective. It was as if they whispered to us about the smallness of our tiny daily emergencies. It was everything I needed, and more.

I hope to continue to update more regularly now that things have slowed down a bit. Thanks for your patience until now; exciting things are beginning to happen!

Small Tastes and Good Fences

Our weekend was filled with various guests–friends and family, young and old alike. We were blessed to open our home to people from all corners of our lives. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for this place…it was as we had always hoped, even when it was simply a dream of ours: a place of sanctuary, of peace, of warmth and love. It certainly isn’t of our own doing that we have this place (God has been the mapmaker of this plan), but we are going to do the best we can to do it justice.

We’ve had a nice dose of warm weather over the past few weeks.  As a result, we’re getting the first taste of Spring here in Tehachapi.

It’s like the little trumpets are heralding an end to the cold–soon enough, soon enough. I can’t wait for the land to errupt in what everyone has assured me is a dizzying array of flowers, the best of which is a ring of lilacs within our driveway circle.  Our oak trees will become full, and green grass will poke its head through the (temporarily) soft earth. We’ll find out if our fruit trees and grape vines have survived the years previous to us taking stewardship; unfortunately, we’ve been told, they didn’t get enough water or pruning or pest protection. But I have hope.

Finally, we’ve made a lot of progress on our little garden plot. The trenches were dug all the way around, and gopher wire was put about a foot down. Once we filled in the earth around the gopher wire, we began to construct our fence. We’re almost done; all we need to do is construct a gate for each remaining side and finish it off.

Hope everyone has a beautiful, gratitude-filled week.

PS…I’d like to share an inspiring blog that I found earlier this morning. Before Fall of 2008, it was a simply a woman’s joyful musings on motherhood and her life in general. But following a plane crash in which she and her husband barely survived, it has become an inspirational testament of her courage. She embraces every day with a courage that I could only hope to have, and gives me pause when I consider the “stresses” of my daily life.  I encourage you to check it out: http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

No Longer Storybook Lore

When I was growing up, we’d learn about the seasons in school. I’d read books about the changes that come with each season, and I remember the pictures: Winter brought snow, spring brought flowers, summer brought green and heat, and in fall all of the leaves dropped from the trees.  Sure, I’d always think. That sounds nice. But it doesn’t actually happen.

And in the suburbs of Los Angeles, it didn’t happen. Well, at least not to any real extent. Certainly there was no snow. Spring did bring more blooms than usual, but because they never really left the scene, it was only slightly noticeable to a child. Summer was certainly hot, so I noticed that difference. But one of the most striking differences that I’ve noticed since moving to Tehachapi is the barren winter trees.

I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I can’t describe why it’s so beautiful to me. Perhaps its because of the rustling sound the branches make as the wind pushes its fingers through them. Perhaps its because it means there won’t be any more leaves to rake up. But I think it’s actually because of the beautiful, joyous potential. I know that the leaves will return in the spring. The resurrection awaits.

I’m so grateful for this changing of the seasons, this palpable rhythm of the earth. I am so grateful that I can stand as a witness to this change, and that it is a living testament of life’s promise right outside our door. I am so grateful for the nakedness of those branches, and for the knowledge that they will be full once again in only a quarter year’s time. I’m so grateful.

Fall-ing

IMG_5896I have many things to write and tell about. My heart is overflowing with things to share, both joyful and painful.

But for today, I am content to enjoy with you this crisp autumn morning. Fall is indeed upon us. Not only are the nights cooler, but the morning chill carries with it an expectancy that begins now and continues through Advent. There is an expectancy in the air. The cycle of the earth’s Paschal Mystery has begun again.

It is a good time for reflection. Brew a cup of hot tea, hold it between your palms. Walk out into the brisk dawn, warmed by a sweater that you haven’t had to wear since March. Watch your breath make small swirls in the air. Drink in the slow awakening, for the night is stretching further out into the morning and the stars are becoming hesitant to fade.

It is a beautiful time of year. I know I wrote about it recently, but I can’t get enough of it this year. Perhaps it is because I can feel the cycle of change beginning in my own life. Things are indeed shifting. Some parts are reaching the end of our walk together. Others are just beginning. There is a bittersweetness in it all, but even as the leaves begin to fall they do so with a brilliant last hurrah. A reminder to celebrate what has been. A reminder to hold out hope for what is to come.

The change is not an easy one. All of the earth struggles with it, and many creatures make provisions to anticipate the winter’s lean times. There is wisdom in this; there is wisdom in reading the signs of the earth, to be synched enough with its messages that they prepare themselves adequately. Spiritually, I think it repeats the echo of the prophets throughout the ages: Prepare the way for the Lord. We must understand the cycles within our own lives, read the movement wisely; we must prepare our hearts for the inevitable dying back in order to create fertile ground for the Spirit. God is present in it all…we just have to have eyes to see it.

Autumn

IMG_5903One of my favorite parts of our Utah trip was being able to be present to the onset of autumn. The southern part of the state had just begun to see its early nights of frost, especially in the higher elevations (this was taken at around 9,000 feet).  It seemed a sacred thing to be present to this shift, the Paschal Mystery of the earth, when inherent in the dying is the promise of new life to come.

I often wish that Southern California surrendered to this cycle more deeply, but there are few trees here that become brilliant in the autumn. It just never really gets cold enough. Perhaps this is why I cherish the opportunity to witness it in person. I had a deep reverence for the process of it all.

Sometimes I wonder if I am not patient enough with the natural seasons that cycle through my own life. Certainly it can’t always be summer–the fun, lazy days. And likewise, no winter is forever, even when I can’t seem to get warm enough in front of our fireplace. Perhaps autumn is so bittersweet because its beauty inevitably means a dying back, and yet it is impossible to see autumn without knowing that its counterpart, spring, will burst forth like a phoenix in less than half a year’s time. My own personal cycles of autumn–of the dying back, even when I can attest to the beautiful colors of my inner transformations–sometimes feel overwhelming, and I forget the promise of spring. All I can think about is hunkering down for the winter.

Yet the colors, I think, are in part a reminder to be present–and to acknowledge that all things bow to the passage of time. Even the hard parts.

With every autumn, then, there is inherent hope…even when the bittersweetness dominates the landscape. Hope transcends, because it is part of the cycle. It’s part of the promise.

Stillness

IMG_5362I think that one of my favorite parts about being in Southern Utah was the stillness that descended upon us both. We were removed, inaccessible by phone, email, facebook, twitter, and anything else that could threaten to preoccupy us, to tear us away from the awesome glory that lay before us with each new journey.

Stillness, it seems, is one of the best ways to approach prayer. With stillness comes openness. Stillness forces us to listen to the small, still voice of God.

Stillness enveloped us as we traversed the rim of Bryce Canyon, as we descended into the forested paths surrounding the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and as we listened to the chorus of crickets as we watched the heavens one night in Zion National Park.  The stillness called to us, served as an invitation to something deeper. There was more there than just pretty scenery.

God’s presence was palpable in those moments, because we were accutely aware of the inner longing that resides in us all–the longing for a deepening, the ache for the beauty of a sunset, the beautiful surrender of self into the larger whole of creation.  For, indeed, stillness doesn’t mean absence–far from it. The stillness here was accompanied by a fullness of senses that is often whitewashed by city noise; here in Los Angeles, there is no house that is far from the hum of a freeway or, in our case, the low rumble of jet engines taking off and landing at a rhythmic pace. In the stillness, though, the whisper of the wind could not be ignored, nor could the small scurring of a ground squirrel. Each aspect of creation seemed to get its due air time. Nothing competed to dominate in the natural inhale and exhale of the earth’s daily activities.

It is this stillness that I continually long for, and I have since riding the ski lifts next to my mom and dad as a young girl. I remember hearing that blessed silence, broken only by the wind through the pines. I think part of me has sought to reconnect with that stillness since my youth. Perhaps that is why my reconnection with the church happened on a silent retreat. The stillness is necessary, because it is natural. It is balanced and reverent. A mutual respect amongst all created things of each expression of life and energy.

Now that I am back in Los Angeles, I am trying to tap into the inner stillness that I know still exists despite the whir and hum and honk and crash that I hear outside. But the little girl in me still longs to find that space in the woods where the only sound is the wind whispering…where I can hear the small, still voice without straining against the competitive voice of the city.