Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer - Spirit - Searching

Summer has come to a close, but I am not sad. This summer was one of the best I have had in years: I played. Owain and I camped every week, swam in the river, fiddled in the garden, made loud music and devoured books, pancakes and quesadillas. I had glorious times in the U.P., Madison, Milwaukee and the holy land: Portland.

I go back to school rejuvenated, refreshed and excited. Particularly, I am excited because I moved to teaching the 8th grade. For the next two years, I will know half the students from teaching 6th grade. I saw my class lists yesterday and beamed with excitement to be in the classroom with these young adults again. Plus my mission for power and strength through writing might transfer easier with slightly more mature students(?). I have also become a loud proponent for looping at our school. I am modeling by example.

I am also excited, for I feel like I am getting better in three areas of my life. I am seeking professional help and lots of patience from Charis in becoming a whole human being who connects body, mind and emotion and then actually talks about it. I have grown up learning to separate myself from my body and ignore it because it only stopped me (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis). I learned to avoid communicating my pain, because for me, talking about it means you are losing. I do not want to lose, but I have learned that my refusal to communicate has caused tremendous damage in my relationship with Charis. How can she know me? How can we grow? I have seen the damage it has done and can see the larger damage it will do if I do not change. I need to change. Therefore, I am talking to her with "I feel.." statements. Sounds so kindergarten like, but that is where I am with my emotional self right now. I guess better than being 55 and starting? So I am starting with my baby steps and improving in my emotional life.

I had a great saxophone lesson from Warren Rand in Portland, and he kicked my butt. I needed it. I am practicing with purpose and difficult exercises in breath support and sound. I sometimes dread having to practice these exercises, but I can already hear the difference, and I like the sound.

I talked about how El Salvador impacted my direction in teaching. It still is, and I am excited to be implementing the change this school year. Students will leave my class with the power to write.

On a tougher note, I am having to deal with my deteriorating body. I have always been able to push through the pain, but a few weeks ago I had to take notice. I cut stacks of limbs with a smaller chainsaw. I cut for an hour - wood for the practice room and hot tub. I felt fine and good. The next morning I woke up and I hurt. My right elbow quit. I could not brush my teeth, or shave for three days. This is terribly hard for me. I pride myself on the physical labor that I contribute to the farm. In order to live simply, you have to have a strong physical body. What do I do? What becomes of my place on the farm and how do I contribute? I do not know, and want to think I can still do it. Thankfully, part of the problem is the medicine I take - it ran out of steam. There might be a different medicine to help. But I have an appointment with the elbow surgeon in October. A new elbow? Yes. When? I hope not soon. My left elbow is better because it was given a temporary boost of replacement marrow after I broke it. I went in for surgery to put it back together after a bike crash, and they found the bone ground to fine dust. I was given new marrow and a stronger elbow - bonus!

Charis and I are brainstorming alternative ways to still live this way: solar power, geo-thermal heating, group work project weekends (those that live close by be prepared). If you have any ideas, let me know. I've always wanted the farm to be more communal and bigger than us.
Maybe this is a necessary nudge that will help this vision.

I know I said earlier that I need to connect body and spirit. I have lived so long trying to separate them. I met with a dear man, neighbor and friend a few nights ago to talk about how to live with limits. He is 77 and has arthritis and is limited too, but still trying to farm and live sustainably. He mentioned some Buddhist ideas that the body is just a temporary vessel for the spirit that goes on and is so much more. I like this idea a lot. I believe in the spirit. Great music is spirit. Sonny Rollins talks about when he is playing a great solo he is outside his body observing the magic too. Ironically, I grew up in a Christian house which also favors spirit beyond the body. I resonate with Jesus' teachings of heaven here on the earth. Let's live our best here and now and not sit around waiting for the better to come later.

I have become a thirsty seeker. I want to know people's take on spirit and body, the connections, the spirit after body. Where does the spirit of Gordon Johnson or Doug Cedarleaf live, play in the today?


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's in a name?

Choosing a name for Phelan began when we learned I was pregnant. I started my lists of names for boys and girls, editing them throughout the months. It seemed fairly easy for me and Chris to settle on a few beautiful girl's names we both loved, but a name for another son proved to be a challenge.

Some months before he was born, I'd heard of the name Phelan. I thought it was lovely and unusual and jotted it down in my notebook. It meant "little wolf" or "brave wolf" -- a significant, strong meaning. In the hours and days after our son was born, Chris and I went back and forth over names we liked the sound of or the meaning of but they just didn't seem fit this little boy quite right. I remarked that he was amazingly sweet and quiet from the moment of his birth and said I thought he deserved a name that meant "peace." On a second round of researching the short list of names we'd narrowed down, Chris found an alternative meaning for Phelan: peaceful. Our second son was named.

The significance of Cedar comes first from my maternal family name, Cedarleaf. But also from the presence of the Red Cedar River by the farm, and the beauty, longevity, and strength of a cedar tree.

With all this in mind, and with profound joy, we introduced our peaceful, brave little wolf to the world:
Phelan (fay-lun) Cedar Newhouse

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Red White & Green

Summer on a cutting board. This here was Jay's celebration of the first tomatoes tonight, accompanied by fresh basil pesto, a fine Chianti, and homemade ciabatta bread. That last part--the bread--was a particularly tasty treat given the fact that our stove and oven are currently out of commission. The bread dough was rising and the stove was dying. What's a guy to do?! Bake it on the grill, that's what! And look at that crusty, chewy goodness! Every bite oozed Italian summer flavors - I think I ate at least half a loaf.

The chef, his ciabatta and his wine.

Good Birthday Times at the Water Park

The boys had a VERY good time at Wakanda Water Park in Menomonie - a little moms & kids outing in celebration of Owain turning 3. It turned out to be a dark and cloudy day, but that did not stop these two from having a grand old time. Even Phelan got in on the fun. Happy Birthday Owain!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Owain is 3!

A zany tornado of fun and adventure: "Come play with me!"; always up for anything new: excited with no reservations; loud infectious laugh, particularly when someone slips on a banana peel; starts every day with cheerios, milk and honey, followed by second and third breakfast; a blizzard of sound, jabbering and singing; spends hours building things or reading by himself, yet will play with with anyone he meets; loves the ladies; listens with intense focus to music, leaning toward Bob Marley and traditional Irish; picks and eats everything out of the garden; gets a little too excited for hot dogs with ketchup and mustard, as long as you do not cut up the hot dog.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

Brown paper packages tied up with string...

These are a few of my favorite things. We have entered the lush season at Lostview, when the multi-dimensional green almost feels like it's closing in on us. I find myself walking around the farm taking note of the elements of my daily life that make me smile, scratch my head, feel accomplished, or just plain glad to be alive (cue sappy violins). And for the record, I do also love brown paper packages tied up with string.

Sunflowers & beautiful garden beds in the lower garden. This season, Chris has been selling his lettuce mix, spinach, onions, shallots, carrots, beets, cilantro & squash to restaurants and co-ops.

The upper garden. For an orderly freak like myself, I get great satisfaction from a well-weeded, tidy yet beautiful mix of vegetables and flowers.

Calendula. Charis grew this for the first time this year and we LOVE it. Those vibrant hues of orange and yellow, the soft leaves, and its stellar ability to thrive, rain or shine.

The nasturtiums on the retaining wall behind the house. Because they're planted out of the way, I don't think they get nearly the adoration they deserve. These lovely, hearty flowers add so much color out back and hide that cinder block retaining wall with gorgeous tendrils. Also, "Ellis's" hydrangea, given to us from Corrie when he was born. Look at that beauty!

This photo doesn't look like much, but that's the woodchuck den back in there. And here we have the woodchuck's flower garden, as I like to think of it. This volunteer nasturtium grew right in front of his "door" - coincidence? I think not. That little rascal just has good taste.

Another one of my favorite things - this little boy. Happy 8 week birthday, Phelan!

Little and Big.

Our farm family. I believe this is the first photo of our entire brood. And I love that we finally have record of the group that makes this place what it is.