Monday, April 14, 2014

girl power

Because it's spring, I had to prune the grapes. Because I've never pruned grapes, I called in reinforcements.

me: Rachel, can you help me prune the grapes?
Rachel: Sure! Kate, I've never pruned grapes. Do you know what to do?
me: I have no idea. I've never done it before, either. I'm going to ask You Tube. We'll figure it out. I believe in us.

Girl Power Day often starts like that. Sometimes one or the other of us has done the task of the day before, but even then we're not experts. So far we've refilled propane cylinders at the gas company, hauled mill ends from the Amish cabinetmaker, spread manure on the pastures at Bluebird, taken junk to the dump, pitched canvas tents, baked in the masonry oven, and pruned grapes.

Girl Power Days have taught me several lessons:

1. I can do almost anything if I educate myself and get the right support.
2. Just because I can do a thing doesn't mean that I have to like doing it or that I should commit to doing that thing all the time.
3. Sometimes the right support is just someone to make decisions with.

Because Adam and I had worked so hard to be interdependent, and because I had gotten so used to having a partner, it has been hard for me to remember what I'm capable of. It is the confidence generated on Girl Power Days that carries me through some of the physically and emotionally challenging tasks I undertake on my own.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

a glimpse of remembrance

Your favorite film, your favorite cake, your favorite way to eat lemon sorbet.

Happy birthday, my love. Godspeed.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

a glimpse of transition

Yes, that is snow in the sand under my toes.

Yes, bare feet and a wool sweater are totally logical on the shores of Lake Michigan in April.

Yes, the sun was very bright. ;-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

flannel hope

It was Monday in Chicago in July, and I had a terrible headache. I had just picked Jill up from Midway, and we were at Costco shopping for the food we would be cooking for my sister's wedding that weekend. I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at a display of flannel sheets. (cream with red snowflakes, they were cute)

me: Jill, I can have all the flannel sheets I want!
Jill: Kate?
me: Adam always complained when I put flannel sheets on the bed. He said they were like sleeping in Velcro. But he's not here to complain anymore, so I can have them all winter long. I love flannel sheets!
Jill: Silver lining! Are we buying some?
me: Um, no. Who buys flannel sheets in July? Let's go find the pork loin.

I've described marriage before as balancing on a tightrope in tandem, but I think it's also like trying to fit two people into a space that's very snug. Over time,  each spouse learns to wiggle and bend to make room for the other's knees and elbows. The rather surreal conversation above was the moment when I began to understand that I didn't have to bend to accommodate Adam's preferences anymore.

In the days following that conversation, my crazy family embraced more such realizations with me. Melissa bought me a fuzzy steering wheel cover, because I don't think having one compromises my control of the vehicle. Gwen and Sean gave me a silver owl, which I hung from the mirror in my car, because it doesn't actually compromise visibility, and I'm not worried about a ticket. Jill, Kathy, Tony, and my mom went a little crazy in the lighting section of the d.i.y. store, and the ceiling fixtures at Rambling Farmhouse now sport a variety of interesting and decorative chain pulls, because I should be able to turn fans and lights on and off without a step-stool in my own home, and I am short enough to walk under them, and not matching is its own beauty.

In truth, these objects are all kind of silly, and none of them were things that I had regretting giving up in service to marital harmony. After all, Adam had bent to accommodate my preferences, too, and you can bet that, were the tables turned, there would be towels on his bedroom floor, and he would be frying fish and chips in the kitchen, in bacon grease, without turning on the exhaust fan.

Suddenly finding myself alone on the tightrope was terrifying in part because I had gotten so used to sharing it with someone else, so accustomed to being attentive to and adjusting for my partner's movements. Bringing these silly objects into my life was a first step toward realizing that I could balance on my own again.

These small realizations led to bigger ones. I can look for a job anywhere, and then I can move wherever I find something. I don't have to own and care for land if I don't want to.

I get a second chance to decide what my life looks like.

The awful tragedy that ended the first amazing life I had built together with Adam does not diminish the possibility of a second beautiful life yet to be built.

I choose not to wallow.

I choose to hope.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

a glimpse of spring

As the snow blankets my  world again today, I remember this glimpse of spring just two days ago.

The earth is there, and we will see it again.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Rambling Farmhouse is no longer home to any farm animals.

Rehoming the chickens is something I had been pondering for a while. I've been nervous about the challenges that accompany early spring every year. As the local raccoons, opossums, and foxes are having babies before the wild food supply is plentiful, they prey on the birds, so dispatching trapped predator becomes a daily chore. The sort of chore which I have little stomach for. Meanwhile this winter, our eggs have been selling well via the refrigerator at Bluebird Farm, so when Rachel asked if I might be willing to sell some of the chickens, I offered her the whole flock.

I know that leaving chicken husbandry was a good decision, but carrying that decision out was difficult nonetheless.  Chickens are stupid and dirty, but they are also beautiful and funny individuals, and nothing is better than eggs collected just that day. I won't miss arguing with the children about whose turn it is to do the chores, and I won't miss doing battle with Lucifer the Fiercest Rooster, but I will miss their noise and their popping up in unexpected places when I work outside.

This evening, we crated the chickens and took them to join the flock at Bluebird, where our good friend Henry will take excellent care of them. Then I came home, threw myself on the bed, and sobbed.

I wasn't really crying about the chickens.

Keeping chickens (and later turkeys and ducks) was Adam's project. At first, he had to work hard to convince me that this was a good idea, but once they were here, I enjoyed them at least as much as they pissed me off, usually more.  In getting rid of them, I am one step closer to being able to put Rambling Farmhouse on the market, one step closer to finding the life that belongs to me and not to us, one step further away from the vision that was my guide for so long.

Of all of the spaces I have cleaned out since Adam died, though, the chicken coop is the first one for which I don't have a new purpose. There it stands at the top of the sledding hill.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


For all my talk about the importance of dwelling in the purple times, I did not attend a service on Ash Wednesday. No ashes marked my forehead. I did not wear my faith publicly today.

In part, this was because of scheduling: Anna had a ballet performance in the morning, and Sofia had gymnastics in the evening. I could have tried harder, though. There are lots of churches in Kalamazoo, and I'm sure one of them was holding a service that I could have gotten myself to.

The bigger reason is that this year I don't need to be reminded that I am dust. I already know. The fragility of human life and the constant possibility of death are real to me in a way that they never have been before.

I am dust; so are you. Precious dust that houses a beautiful soul. Fragile dust animated by breath.

To dust shall we return someday, maybe soon. In the meantime, love.