Catching Up



I've written this post in my head a thousand times, the post where I explain where I went for nearly two years while this place sat empty, where I tell you all of the things that have happened while I've been away, where we catch up.

The truth is that there is both much to say, and little. 

We moved to Virginia. We bought our first house. We cooked many meals and took many more walks in this strange new place. The baby puppy girl discovered rabbits, deer, and black bears, the joys of barking at groundhogs and running about in the snow.

My mother mailed me a small cross stitch kit she found and to my surprise, I discovered that I missed it, that quaint past time of a different era. I knit a great many socks. I finished my green sweater and knit another. I made granita for the first time- watermelon and basil- and I already know that I will make more this summer.



I've settled here, put down roots that I wasn't quite sure I was capable of. I have my small calendar of activities that I look forward to every year here now- the local library book sale from which I emerged with armfuls of books and old puzzles with pieces so thick you'd think they were made for a child were it not for the fact that they make your brain ache when you try to fit them all together; the Shenandoah Fiber Festival, full of yarn and sheep, where I purchased a long after sheep mug to hold my coffee while I write to you; a giant 40 mile long yard sale, or crawl as they call it here, where I found an old chair perfect for my small office, a chair that reminds me of studious old me who smoke cigars and read Aristotle by lamplight; the candlelight tour at George Washington's Mount Vernon, where flames flicker and dance, the cold chills you and the fires warm you, where haunting strains of carols I don't know drift on the air and people dance in a way that I've never seen outside of films. There is cider, too, around a roaring fire and gingerbread biscuits, heady and full of spice, the way that they should be.




For all of their trials, the past couple of years have been good to us, the husband, the baby girl, and I. We feel spectacularly blessed despite the furnace that broke less than a month after we moved in, in the cold of winter; despite the frozen pipes of this past year when arctic wind chills made us hold our breath and invest in warmer coats; when my eyes went fuzzy for reasons still not fully understood, when I could not read and lost depth perception for a short time. Over the course of nearly two years, however, these and the other troubles not mentioned are small trials, easily clouded over in memory by the happier and quieter moments of summer days and autumn mists. 

It is not easy to sum up the course of years, and so I've tried to paint them for you in photos from my instagram account (username: in_the_ravenswood), frozen moments brought to you in an attempt to fill the distance between us, to tell you all of the things that words fail to capture.

I hope this finds you well.
    


Lately



It's been a while. You may have thought that I had died- sometimes had thought that I had died. Overall though, it was me trying to figure things out. While I've been away from you, I've been cooking and photographing and working in my small garden. I'm in love with my farmer's market and the local co-op. I've been reading about keeping bees and canning, and the husband and I have been trying to master the art of cheese making. I've been reading cookbooks like they're novels and I've been reading a lot about plants and urban farming. I'm not sure if I will ever be the type of girl to have chickens or goats, although the idea does interest me. What I would like to do though is this: I'd like to get a house and a bigger garden. I'd like to keep cooking and growing, but be able, eventually, to do it on a larger scale than I can do now.




I've been finding myself in my small garden and hauling my meager harvests into the kitchen for experiments. Then, I found myself at the farmer's market here again, lugging home supplemental ingredients- only this time around, I liked it. And it's been strange but somehow, I've started finding myself liking where I live more than I ever thought possible.


A Day Out


My husband was the one who brought it home: the sneezing and the sniffling, the watery eyes and the chills, all served with a dash of pounding headache and general fatigue. Granted, it might have gone away quicker if I could have kept myself out of the garden and on the sofa, but I couldn't. Seedlings beckoned, mingled with sunshine and a fierce desire to plant my peas. So, on the sofa I most emphatically was not-- at least, not until I found myself too sick to move from it at all. Then, as if to punish me for ignoring it for so long, the blasted bug held me in it's clutches for days never fully relinquishing it's hold until one day, my friend insisted I join her for a day out in the mountains, reasoning that the fresh air would do me good. 

And it did.


We sat on blankets in this field, chatting as we ate apples and drank cool water, feeling the sun seep into our skin, and the longer we sat the calmer and healthier I felt, as if the sun itself was somehow wrapping me up in a nice warm bath. It was a beautiful day, warm but still too early for all of the mosquitoes and sweat bees, yet young and innocent enough for the field across from us to fill up with delicate little deer who barely seemed to notice us.


I came home that evening feeling relaxed to my the very marrow of my bones, light and utterly free, the way you sometimes do after you spend a whole day in the pool or the ocean, as if your whole being is somehow suspended in some invisible current. I came home hungry for food, for books, for my knitting, for this space, for movement and productivity. I came home with a soul full of blue sky and pale yellow light, of fresh green and sweet smelling fields.


Simple


I suppose it's the result of the tempestuous beginning of my year that finds me so quiet and pensive lately, longing for simple pleasures and peaceful days. I find myself reading a lot, lately, and writing in my journal trying to piece together some notion of what exactly it is that I am looking for and craving in my life. I know that I love gardening and farms, quiet spaces, books, warm drinks and wooly things. I know that I write constantly and that I photograph things in order to remind me to focus on the small and lovely pleasure in life, things that I might otherwise miss; I do both to help stave off the melancholic in me that can sometimes be so easy to succumb to. I'm trying to turn myself into an optimist, which is rather hard for me because I grew up in a household whose response to optimism is that one "needs to be realistic." I'm trying to focus on the fact that it may never be too late to live the life that one wants to live and that sometimes, you have to go in the face of everything that everybody near you says in order to find your own happiness. I'm trying to find my own path, which has been rather winding and rocky. I've been thinking about careers and work, about the chapter in Les Miserables where Victor Hugo writes about how Maurice needs work to help balance his life and trying to reconcile it somehow with his notion that one should frame life so that his fact and his dreaming meet. I've been piling up all of the things that I love and all of the things that give me comfort and wrapping myself in them. I've been trying to knit my life together one small loop at a time: knit one, purl one.

Completed January To Dos


January started off well enough with everything clicking along as things usually do. Then things got incredibly messy and tangled for a bit and we're still sorting things out over here and recovering- which is why you're reading my completed January to dos a week and a half into February. But enough on that, here's the scoop:

I wanted to eat more vegetables in January because it occurred to me just how easy it is to forget about them. I don't eat a lot of meat so I tend to eat a lot of veggies regardless, but what struck me one night when I was making dinner was how many times I just skipped the side vegetable because it might take five minutes to microwave it or might dirty another pan- sheer laziness I know, but it was absolutely true. So, for the month of January I made a vegetable nearly every night with dinner and made a point to incorporate a couple of more into my lunches every day. Did I feel better? Strangely, yes. And I even grew to realize how much I missed my veg.

I think it's easy when you're not in school anymore to get into this rut where you stop learning new things even though they may interest you- you're too busy with work, family, errands, etc., and the next thing you know that book you've always wanted to read, or that name you wanted to look up, or that history you wanted to learn about is long forgotten. So, I decided to learn five new words for the month of January:

1. ennui- noun: dissatisfaction and restlessness resulting from boredom or apathy.
2. prevaricate- verb: to speak or act evasively. 
3. bucolic- adjective: rustic and pastoral; of or relating to rural or pastoral life.
4. fulminate- verb: to express vehement protest. (2. poetic/literary: explode violently or flash like lightning).
5. perfidy- noun: deceitfulness; untrustworthiness.

Having always been a nerd- I mean lover of language and literature- I have also always had a profound fondness for the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf. I first read Beowulf in junior high and since then I've lost track of how many times I've read it. For many years I used to read it every January, which I suppose sounds a little crazy to some people but I can't help it- I love it. I'm going to avoid going into a whole lot of detail on my feelings about Beowulf here, which seems kind of silly I know, but my rereading of it actually has a lot to do with my final to do for the month of January and I plan on talking about it here shortly in a post of its own. So as to not leave you totally hanging though, let me tell you this much: I love Beowulf because I love the Stoicism of it, the sense that life is hard and challenging and we all meet the same end but that life is nonetheless worth fighting for and great deeds are worth striving for; I love the sense of nobility in Beowulf and the sense of community; I love it for its remembrance of days when people did things for each other and thought of each other more than they thought of themselves. It's the same set of reason why I love all Anglo-Saxon poetry and a lot of Nordic. 

Which takes us to the final to do, my super secret project. I'm not going to lie and tell you that the project is what I had intended it to be- it's not. Originally I had planned on focusing on one author and their works for a single year- but when it came time to begin, something in me just felt that it wasn't the right project for where I am right now in my life- and if the project doesn't fit what I'm looking for, then it's probably not going to stand the course of the year. So, my super secret project for the year is this: I'm going to read as much and as widely as I can and not feel at all guilty about it. This may sound like a silly project to some, and in some ways, I guess it is. For me, however, how I interpret the world and myself has always been wreathed with words and so, as I find myself here recovering from the beginnings of a rough year and facing the fact that I will turn thirty this year, I find myself somehow needing to take stock and look over my past while realigning my future. I feel the need to wonder if I made the right decisions and what the right decisions are- I find myself needing to decide what I want out of life in a way that I'm not sure that I was ever capable of deciding before. Which is why I am going to take a leaf from the pages of Joseph Campbell's own life and lock myself away to read as much as possible- he did ten years in the woods I believe, and I don't have that kind of time for this, but I do have one year to give to it and see if I can find some kind of path. 

If you've read this blog for any length of time you know that one of the things that I really struggle with is how much personal information to share here, and you know by now that most of my attempts usually result in some circuitous and relatively incomprehensible babble that is quite difficult to distinguish. This project is going to be hard for me because if I do it right, I'm going to be posting some kind of personal stuff, stuff that I usually scribble in journals or philosophize to my husband about when I've had too much wine. It's going to mean that some of my book reviews may be more impressionistic and less clearly defined than they have been up to this point. It's going to mean that you're going to get to know me a lot better and while I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about that, I'm trying to not think about it and give it a go.

For now I plan on keeping this project here, on this blog. You'll notice it from babble similar to that in the preceding paragraphs. If you miss something on it you'll most likely find it under the book tab. If at some point I feel that the project has grown enough to have it's own space, then I'll make another blog for it- but for now, for the sake of beginning and for small steps, you'll find it here.

As I mentioned the other day, I'm going to keep the February to dos pretty light and frothy so as to give myself a chance to relax a little bit and start working on the new project, but I plan on having them listed here for you tomorrow. Have a great night!