Tag Archives: home

morning thoughts

 


Last night I dreamed about my cat who was dying.  It was my cat, but not my cat (in the ways that dreams work).  She was Toby, but not Toby.  She was curled into a ball on my chest and was shaking and heaving.  And as much as I tried, I could not remember her name.

I woke to the sinus ache of dry hot air, another night of the “Santa Anas,” yesterday’s temps peaking at 104 according to my car’s thermometer.  I immediately stepped outside to check the progress of the garden.  The peas that I planted a few weeks ago are surviving the dryness, thanks to a regular dousing.  The Siberian winter tomato varieties that we planted a few weeks ago are thriving.  We’ve never planted winter tomatoes before, but it seemed worth a try and the horticulturist at our local nursery was insistent that they would set fruit.  I wonder if they are as acclimated to dry desert winds as they are to the shortened days of the season.  They already have several blossoms apiece.

I am barefoot in the garden though I probably should not be.  We’re rebuilding our back house and the ground around the garden is covered in splinters of wood and screws and small sharp things.  But I take my chances anyways, today.

I sit on the pavers in the sun, near the plants, and marvel that it’s fall and yet it’s hotter than the summer.  Though this happens every year, it always feels strange and new when the dry winds blow.

My son moved home this week, for awhile.  It’s a strange thing to have my kids around–it is so easy to share with them, everything.  Yet I struggle with parenting them, as adults, never knowing how much to guide, how much to let them do for themselves.  We went grocery shopping together yesterday afternoon and as he put the shopping cart away he deftly lifted the entire thing over the parking lot median, as if it was as light as a gallon of milk.  I am jealous of his easy strength, and am reminded of my middle age.  The time when I carried him on my hip feeling more than two dozen lifetimes ago.

For lunch he and I have a salad of spicy mesclun lettuce from the garden, picked at midday.  The leaves are wilted and limp, but have so much flavor that they overpower the small grape tomatoes that I’ve added into the mix.

The house is full of the smells of fresh bread, as Stijn is baking his next round of sourdough.  We watched Michael Pollan’s “Air” documentary a few days ago and ever since I have craved bread, remembering all of the dark and rich loaves of Scandinavia.  Little else is as interesting to me right now, as that.

Resolutions, 2016

Feeling pensive today as I reflect on the past year and consider my intentions for the future.  So as part of that I spent some time looking through my blogposts from the past year and weighing how they reflected my memories of 2015.

Some of the larger happenings of the past year include:

And I’m writing this list as I’m snuggled up on the living room sofa of our Brussels home (photo below).  Life continues to be interesting as I straddle the cultures of continental Europe and Southern California, and as Stijn and I consider our future together.  It’s hard to predict how that will evolve as we make professional and personal choices, but what is obvious is that it’s wonderful to have many possibilities for the future.  In past years I’ve found my greatest longing was for home, and now I have two of them.  🙂
Home, in Brussels

My resolutions for 2016 are pretty simple, so far:

  • invest time and energy into our Orange home, to make it more comfortable–both inside and out
  • be a better friend, by making time to spend with mine one-on-one, and also by hosting more events at our place
  • send monthly care packages to E&C at college
  • practice Dutch and banjo, 3 days/week
  • speak French often
  • grow more food and cook more with our homegrown food
  • have some travel adventures
  • relax
  • laugh often
  • worry less

I’m tempted to also set some writing goals for 2016–I’ve totally slacked in that department in the past few years and I just haven’t felt inspired to write. So, I’ll give that some more thought and see if I feel ready to formalize a plan for writing this year (or not).

moving right along…*

grapevine

Photo taken of the grapevines on the front fence of our current home. I’m sad to know that we’ll be leaving these behind, but the new house has a huge avocado tree, orange tree, and a well-developed herb garden…

Last night my son and I were watering our vegetable/herb garden at dusk and the smell was so achingly familiar. Of lavender and tomatoes and sage and basil.  And dark wet soil. Grassy and fecund.  It was the smell of the community garden plot that I nurtured for a decade.  What rich and pleasant memories that scent evoked.

Oddly enough, our garden is not at the wee corner bungalow where we moved last fall.  Our garden is at a house down the street, where we will move at the end of this month.  After eight months of living on this busy corner we realized that it was time to seek somewhere a bit quieter, with a bit more space and no grass (because who wants grass when there are so many other lovely less-thirsty plants to enjoy?).  It also has a pergola-covered back patio for our late summer evening parties and a small back house for a robotics workshop/guest lodging.

So, a few weeks ago we moved our raised garden bed plantings over to the new place, a barrow-full at a time.  Everything survived the move and is thriving in its new raised-bed location.  We even picked our first tomatoes and peppers yesterday!

While I am over-the-moon excited about the new house, lately I’ve been wondering whether I simply move too much.  At last count, I’ve moved 14 (soon to be 15) times in the past two decades, which doesn’t even account for my sabbatical wanderings last summer. There’s no moss growing on this rolling stone, that’s for sure!  But…I am starting to think that it’s time to put down roots for awhile, rather than living lightly and moving on so readily.

Being mobile is exciting and freeing, but it also has its consequences–one never has to invest much when one knows that everything is only temporary.  In so many ways, my mobility has been a defense mechanism, to prevent me from caring too much about any one place or any specific community. It also simply doesn’t seem to fit me anymore.  After all these years of being able to pack up and move on a dime, I want to stay put for awhile and accumulate a bit too many things and let myself settle into a home and a community.  I want to know my neighbors.  And their kids and their dogs.  And whether they like red or white…so when I see them coming I can make sure that I have a bottle at the ready.

*this phrase always reminds me of Super-Sara.  I still miss her so much.

resolved, 2015

another living room

This second living room, this morning.

Our house has two small living rooms that are divided by built-in bookcases.  Ostensibly the front room is the formal living room and the back room is the more casual living area.  Simply because we don’t have much furniture, the back living room has been mostly-empty since we moved in.  Several times we’ve talked about buying something for the space, but it just hasn’t been a priority (and as you can see, we still have the artwork for our walls piled up in the corner…)

So recently we decided that maybe we wouldn’t furnish the room in any typical way, but would leave it open and empty-ish as a meditation and exercise space.  And this fits in well with my most important resolution of 2015, which is a carry-over from last year.  And that is to practice yoga each morning.  The second living room is the perfect yoga space: wood floors, morning light, and french doors facing the back garden.

I begin my practice with a headstand, aligning my spine and stoking the energy that I carry through to the rest of my stretching, which these days is mostly aimed at easing the tension in my hips and shoulders.  And then I move to stretching with my nemesis, the foam roller, and then I do some strengthening exercises with some small dumbbells.

It makes a huge difference on my outlook for the day if I take the time for stretching before turning my attention to my work.

in de boter vallen…

A dutch-speaking friend recently told me that, based on recent happenings in my life, “met zijn gat in de boter vallen,” which translated literally would mean something like “I’ve fallen into the butter.”  The connotation of this idiom is that I’ve had an unexpected amount of good fortune.

She’s right, in so many ways. Most days bring delight and adventures that exceed anything that I would have predicted for myself a few years ago.

Perhaps the richest part of things right now is the expansion of my world to include strong ties to Europe, and a growing feeling of my second home being in Brussels, here:

BrusselsThere is much fortune that comes from being linked to places that are located on nearly-directly opposite sides of the globe–I feel an expansion of experience and possibilities that’s unlike what I felt when my world was more tightly tied to SoCal.  There’s deep satisfaction from having a suitcase always at the ready, and to feel at ease hurtling through the night and shaking off the jetlag that follows.

But some days it’s hard to have a heart that spans longitudes.  When I’m here, I long for there.  When I’m there, I miss out on so much that’s here.  Those days, like today, I stand in my closet and bury my face in clothes that still carry that damp smell of a home built of stone and plaster.  Where there is a loaf of bread from the local bakery on the kitchen counter.  The loaf is half-gone and there are crumbs scattered on the cutting board.  I take a slice and spread a thick layer of butter, then sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper.  I take a bite.  And another.  And another.

2012 Retrospective #2 (simplicity)

Post #2 in my 2012 reflections…

Simplicity is one of my core values, one reinforced by my Quaker beliefs.  The best way that I’ve incorporated simplicity into my life in 2012 has been in the home where I live.  It’s uncluttered and open, and thus it’s easy-to-care-for.  It rarely looks messy just because there isn’t much stuff to pile up.  In general, my fridge and cupboards and closets are sparsely-filled.

When I moved, I got rid of stuff.  As I packed, before any item went into a box I asked myself whether it was useful and whether I loved it.  If it wasn’t either of those two things, it moved on.  Broken stuff was discarded.  Anything that I hadn’t used in more than a year went to the goodwill. Also, if something had a bad memory attached to it, it didn’t make the cut.  That last element is an important one–I realized that bad memories can clutter my home just as much as piles of physical objects.

One lesson that I’ve learned from my recent travels, is that there’s very little stuff that you actually need on a daily basis.  So I’ve incorporated that lesson into the ways that I’ve organized my surroundings.  Also, I learned from some of the hotels that I encountered in my travels that sparseness makes feel more comfortable than a space full of many things. (note: I took this to an extreme during christmas when I realized that I couldn’t stomach piles of gaudily-wrapped packages under the tree.  Instead, I used the soft white packing paper that we’d recycled from our move to wrap our gifts)..

Another way that I “keep it simple” is to arrange all of my financial documents to be delivered online (no more paper!), to shop online, and to keep my google calendar updated.  When I bring in the mail each evening I sort it immediately and try to deal with each piece of paper then, instead of letting them linger somewhere in a pile.  That, and I try to keep stuff in the same spot all of the time so it’s not hard to find when I need it (no more searching for shoes and keys and phones).

Most importantly, and this is related to my first retrospective post about finances, is that I resist the pull to accumulate more things.  When I’m tempted to buy something new, I first consider how I might meet that need in some other way besides accumulating more stuff.  Maybe I can netflix or ILL that movie or book (or buy it on kindle).  Maybe I can use a slightly different-shaped pan instead of buying a new one with a specific purpose, or maybe I can downscale my giftgiving to a small thoughtful thing rather than many unnecessary things.  Or maybe I can wear some sparkly earrings with that favorite older dress to a special event instead of buying a new one.

Overall I’ve learned that a quieter simpler life feels better than one filled with busy-ness and things.  Sure I am still often crazy-busy (lining up one to-do after another each evening until I’m exhausted just thinking about it all).  But…I still feel as though this year has taught me much about what’s really important.  And what that is is something that rarely has a shelf-life or a price-tag.  Instead, it’s time spent on the porch swing with a book, or giggling with the kids over a meal, or singing too loud while on a road trip, or a ramble on the beach on a windy day as I am squinting into the horizon.

This sweet hedgehog bell hangs in the doorway to our home.

Retrospective Post #1: Finances

predatory

In the midst of a sublime weekend, two reminders that I live among predators…

First…Ellycat is now officially a hunter–she left the remains of her first prey (a mouse, it seems) on the floor in my bedroom on Sunday morning (the catch probably coming from a brief meander outside on Saturday evening while the rest of us were busy over some Flemish stew and a bit of Belgian ale).  Now I know that I am safe from rodents with her around.  That she has now taken to draping herself over furniture like a mighty cheetah is rather endearing.

And then this morning as we had breakfast and coffee on the back patio, a red-tailed hawk joined in.  He sat on the fence looking around for awhile, oblivious to the humans below.  It’s the first time we’ve been him in the week that we’ve lived at the new place.

I, for one, am pretty happy to know that we have two rodent-eaters on hand.

Photo above of the swing on our front porch.  One of my new favorite spot for morning coffee-drinking…