The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Much of May May 13, 2013

Always too much to tell. A slower pace in the country? Occasionally, but not often. The first half of May has been very busy here. Rather than tell you all about it, I’m offering a photographic retrospective of the last two weeks. Hope you don’t mind – there are quite a few pics here…May Day 2013 165Starting with a surprise visit one morning by Phil on his tractor, who’d come by to plow our garden. He’s doing it for nothing. Just being a kind neighbor. I told him I felt guilty about his helping us like that, but he responded that Mr. Sessleman had done it for him once upon a time, he was just passin it on. Hope I too am able to pass on some helpful kindness one day.

(This is earliest May – note how few leaves are on the trees, then compare to similar shots just a week later)

May Day 2013 177I like this shot – tractor, Elihu, goose, all in motion…

May Day 2013 180Elihu runs down the driveway after the tractor

May Day 2013 057May 3rd, the fourth graders dance around the May pole while singing (in harmony parts!) and weaving very intricate designs with the colored ribbons. This is a rite of passage for fourth graders at the Waldorf School.

May Day 2013 065Elihu and Dierdre bow to each other before the dance

May Day 2013 047Grandma and Grandpa were able to join us…

May Day 2013 084

My mom remembers dancing around the May pole when she was in fourth grade, too!

May Day 2013 092A nice looking group, these wonderful fourth graders.

May Day 2013 016Goofburgers!

May Day 2013 099Elihu enjoys a little picnic with his grandparents

May Day 2013 155We take a look at the weaving job

May Day 2013 156Lovely up close

May Day 2013 160Then Elihu helps carry it off…

May Day 2013 118Now for a quick family picture…

May Day 2013 120Before zipping off to catch a duck…

 May Day 2013 146Notice Elihu, to the right…

May Day 2013 122No bait used – nothing but extreme motivation and a finely-honed technique

May Day 2013 136Duck time

May Day 2013 126A fine end to May day!

May 2013 Merck Forest 007…and a fine start to our Merck Forest field trip as Elihu chases a turkey vulture across a field…

May 2013 Merck Forest 024Visiting pastured sheep, Elihu dashes off in hopes of seeing birds…

May 2013 Merck Forest 107The view was gorgeous. All I can think of is how much labor was involved in clear cutting the old growth forests and making them into farmland – at this elevation and nearly three hundred years ago, no less. Boggles the mind.

May 2013 Merck Forest 040We visited pigs that lived out in the woods. !

May 2013 Merck Forest 065Kids feeding kids.

May 2013 Merck Forest 056Too cute!

May 2013 Merck Forest 083Now to see the beautiful draft horse

May 2013 Merck Forest 093The class sang a song about horses (in a round!) as they admired her

May 2013 Merck Forest 097Ben found a B on the horse’s side

May 2013 Merck Forest 112Elihu and I head up the hill to the barns in search of swallows

May 2013 Merck Forest 143Bingo! Such striking markings and color

May 2013 Merck Forest 148What’s this? A pigeon’s nest…

May 2013 Merck Forest 149With eggs! Hope mom comes back soon to brood… think we scared her off

May 2013 Merck Forest 147We watch the horse get hitched up to her gear. They really do farm with the horses here at Merck Forest.

May 2013 Merck Forest 152On the trail to the car everyone fills the ‘elevator’ tree

May 2013 Merck Forest 153Nora and I are having mint chocolate chip! This girl’s amazing – she used a balled up piece of tin foil from lunch to make a baseball, and found some sticks… within minutes she’d started a full-on baseball game.

May 2013 Merck Forest 157We’re at the local Battenkill Dairy – our ice cream was made right on the premises. All of it. !

May Apple Blossoms 2013 005Ah, the apple trees…

May Apple Blossoms 2013 008And the flowering Quince, too

May Apple Blossoms 2013 035Look who’s returned one week later to till! Thank you Phil!!!

May Apple Blossoms 2013 017While Phil works, Elihu picks violets..

May Apple Blossoms 2013 026and picks…

May Apple Blossoms 2013 029and then makes ‘Violet Angels’ in them…

May Apple Blossoms 2013 039Next on the agenda, some Cinnamon fiddleheads from our woods for supper. They’re fuzzier than Ostrich ferns (and slightly more toxic) and take a lot of prep. Mainly why they don’t work well in restaurants.

May Apple Blossoms 2013 041Cleaned and washed

May Apple Blossoms 2013 042Boiled, next to be sautéed in butter

May Apple Blossoms 2013 045We actually really liked them.

May wishing well ballet 2013 016Onto the Saratoga City Ballet’s Spring production of Alice in Wonderland. That’s our friend Freya in the middle…

May wishing well ballet 2013 054and this is our friend Mahogany

May wishing well ballet 2013 061Here’s the only boy in the whole group. He is good. !

May wishing well ballet 2013 038Love the en pointe thing. So much harder than it appears.

May wishing well ballet 2013 079All three Waldorf kids afterwards. Mahogany and Freya are in seventh grade.

May wishing well ballet 2013 084We went out for ice cream after the show (Atkins diet took a week off) and it was positively snowing white apple blossoms!

May wishing well ballet 2013 100So pretty

May wishing well ballet 2013 155A few hours later and it’s our annual birthday dinner at the Wishing Well!

May wishing well ballet 2013 106In short order Elihu was playing along with the pianist in the bar

May wishing well ballet 2013 133Elihu’s very favorite dish of all: Frogs’ Legs. ! (I think he’s playing drums on the table with their little leg bones. !)

May wishing well ballet 2013 108Yeeps. I’m trying them too. And they’re actually very delicious. And no, not really like chicken.

May wishing well ballet 2013 131The pic above our table (Saratoga is a racing town.) This is pretty incredible, huh?

May wishing well ballet 2013 138Happy 60th birthday to us!

May wishing well ballet 2013 137Thanks for singing!

May wishing well ballet 2013 142Yay! A picture of the two of us taken by someone other than me. !

May wishing well ballet 2013 141The Wishing Well is an old-world joint. Lots of wood, mounted moose heads and such.

May wishing well ballet 2013 144Elihu gets a good-night smooch from owner Brenda Lee (with whom I’d sung ‘Exactly Like You’ earlier in the evening – when I requested  it and the pianist had – gasp – never heard of it.)

May wishing well ballet 2013 146Good-bye  WW – see you next year! (We love the place, but must note that our fiddleheads were better than theirs and that the escargot was not good. Wine not cooked off, not enough salt or butter, and gritty. We’re very forgiving, but it was a lot of money for a not so spectacular dinner. But it was fun to actually hear a person playing the piano. Plus I have learned that I cannot casually drink a martini these days. I got fairly loaded on nearly nothing. Times are a changin’.)

This has been our wonderful month of May so far…

 

Abundance Invisible May 3, 2013

I suppose one might say Elihu and I are as poor as church mice. On a purely practical level I guess we are. But lately – or more specifically, yesterday – with the sudden and dramatic influx of readers here, I am made aware of the subtle and often unseen nature of abundance. Nothing feels much different today, as I sit in the chair in my bedroom, bed still unmade, morning dishes still unwashed, writing on my ancient little Mac. But of course, things are different. Had no idea how the freshly pressed thing worked, how on earth anyone’s blog got mentioned on it (if it had to do with pure stats alone I was never going to see myself featured) but overnight I’ve become rather acutely aware of what it is and how it serves. Once again, my life is full full full, albeit in ways that aren’t always apparent in everyday life. I feel so much less alone this morning – Elihu too (he couldn’t stop giggling to learn about our sudden spike in readers) and I feel less like a woman muttering to herself, and more like a person with an offering to make. And that’s certainly got value; we as humans all know what it is to feel unimportant or unseen. It feels good to know that we’ve got new friends, and that we might be offering a little joy here on this sometimes incredibly difficult and tedious planet. But that’s enough on that, I don’t want to start taking myself too seriously. ! The challenge now becomes to continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past two years without censorship; without letting my voice or content be influenced by anything other than what’s going on right here and now. With that said, on to more thoughts on abundance…

The other day, after coming home from the grocery store and laying out all of our goods on the table, I sat back in awe as I tried to fully understand the bounty. “Abbondanza!” I said, over and over again, as much for myself as for making the point to my son that what we saw before us what truly a manifestation of abundance and good fortune. “Imagine one hundred years ago” Elihu mused, “this would be impossible – to them this would be unbelievable!” Yeah, my kid gets it. And how happy I am to have a kid that does. It is pretty spectacular, this bonanza before us, although we’ve become virtually desensitized to such things in our modern, Western world. (If you’re reading this it probably goes without saying you’re likely a member of this privileged club.) Products from all over the world sit on our tiny kitchen table. The lettuce we think virtually nothing of comes from California, some three thousand miles away. Our grapes come from another hemisphere even! I pause to try and imagine the labor involved… it’s not possible. From growers to pickers to drivers of machinery to the designers of said machinery to the folks who unboxed it and placed it on the shelves here in our town… it boggles the mind. It’s why we say grace, why our prayers of thanks in this household are not so much to a creator God as they are offerings of thanks to all our fellow human beings who have toiled – probably without thanks or appreciation for their toil – in order to make our lifestyle possible.

While I may never see the day when I get fully caught up on my electric bill, nor know an era in which I make it through a winter without running out of heating oil, by the grace of some amazing power I have never known what it is go hungry (I suppose if I did pay those other bills I might know it!). I don’t take that lightly. Sometimes, when I claim the income from a new piano student on the Food Stamps re-certification form and they reduce our monthly assistance to little more than $100 a month, sometimes when I find myself enraged that I must choose either food or heat – I have to make an effort to stop myself, and to remember that things aren’t so bad as they might appear on paper. I have to take a breath and step back. Self pity is a demon to fight, and sometimes it’s a challenge to shake myself out of its seduction. A quick look around, a short inventory of the things I do have, and I can quiet the upset… Yes, things are tight, but what do I have? I have a gorgeous baby grand piano in my home – I have a harpsichord too! I live on a stunning piece of property, my son miraculously goes to the most nurturing, supportive school and is joyful every day of his life, my parents are both still alive and live just next door. And let’s not forget, I’m down two dress sizes now, too. ! Things really aren’t so bad. Ok, so I might not make a solid living teaching and playing piano, and I may never get fully caught up on our bills, but our overall quality of life is rather good all things considered, and my son is a very happy and thriving child. Really now, what could be ultimately more important than those two things?

Honestly, we’re able to survive because of my mother. When we run out of cash on hand, when our larder is empty, when I haven’t the gas to drive into town, she always gives us a little something to help us get by. (She quit her job recently, so that sort of help might not be so easy for her going forward. One more thing that lingers in the back of my mind as I assess our future.) Lately, she’s been keen on helping us with some infrastructure fixes. Like replacing the porch roof or insulating the attic. These things will make a huge difference in the liveability of the place, and they’re projects I could never ever take on myself. Yet they are unseen. The new porch is not an upgrade, it’s the same porch. Only now it has a ceiling that doesn’t leak. The attic will just hold in the heat a bit better (which ought to put an end to the oil running out too soon! A major plus.) Nothing in these improvements shows to the eye – but they’re things that must be done at some point. Guess mom wants to know it’s been taken care of before she’s ‘gone’. (Too blunt? Mech, it’s getting that way these days. !) They’re important projects, but as there’s no appearance of an upgrade it doesn’t look like anything’s been done. Although our house is still a tiny little ranch with thin windows and ancient fixtures, at least the roof doesn’t leak, and next winter we’ll be toasty. Abundance here too.

I also am a believer of a sort of ‘like with like’ phenomenon that seems to occur in life. Some folks really live by this law of attraction, and while it does resonate with me, I am still hard-pressed to live by its rules as the true LOA followers endeavor to do. I just haven’t mustered the discipline to shush the constant poverty chatter in my brain. I sometimes wonder if it’s why I can’t seem to just get up and over this hump… then my reality meter kicks in and I consider the idea that folks just plain don’t need piano teachers like they do plumbers or insurance salesmen. I guess. Yet still I can’t help but wonder, if I threw caution and known reality out the window and simply envisioned a truly abundant life – as in thought about it day in and day out, lived as if it already was so, what might happen? I try to imagine not only becoming caught up on my electric bill, but not even concerned about future such bills. I have heard it said that possibilities are limited only by our beliefs. Again, sounds good. Sounds like we might have some control over our lives, it gives one hope. Yet I struggle to integrate it into my life. Am I settling? Am I convincing myself that what I have is good enough? Sometimes I’m fairly sure that I’m settling. That I haven’t invested enough energy into imagining things as I’d like them to be. It seems I might be holding myself back with the ‘poor-me’, ‘if only’ talk. But then other times I have a truly perfect day, and I think I’m way ahead and none of that stuff matters at all…

Today was such a day. A full-on sunshiney Spring day in the one of the most beautiful city parks I know, the whole Waldorf school in attendance at their annual May day celebration in which the fourth grade (of which Elihu is a part) experiences a rite of passage and dances around the May pole weaving intricate patterns with the ribbons in the style of schoolchildren from a bygone era. We were able to get grandma and grandpa out in the fresh air too. Such good fortune; it was an important day for Elihu and they were there to share in it. After the festivities Elihu and I remained in the park where he chased ducks (as he always does) and he caught two right off the bat – with no bait, just his swiftness and cunning! We stayed there for hours, and after a bit took a walk up to Broadway, where we visited a very high-end chocolate shop. After a rare treat there, we returned to the car by way of the local hippie shop. We passed nearly an hour there admiring rocks and crystals and chatting with the dredlocked girls who worked there. We made some egg deliveries, then returned to the park. We realized that we hadn’t eaten in hours, and so as a final chapter in our grand day, we decided we’d eat out. Had the best chicken in the world at Hattie’s, grooved to some classic R&B as we ate, then made our way home (organ trio for the ride back.) When we got to the train tracks the gates were going down – and wouldn’t ya know, it was our good friend Mike at the wheel! We honked, and he leaned way out the window, smiling and waving. (He really did look like something from a children’s storybook, his elbow out the window, that striped engineer’s cap on his head.) That was a hoot. We rode home with the sun and warm wind streaming through the open windows, and we were happy.

We got home and Elihu, although he’d said he was getting tired, found a burst of energy and took off running after the birds. So far, a good chase hasn’t lost its appeal. Good thing. It buys me a minute to sit and catch up on my thoughts. As I begin to wrap up the post, he calls me. He wants me to watch him climb the apple tree. So I join him. We pick violets which we’re happy to discover now carpet our lawn. We inspect the garden and find some perennials returning. Things feel so good. Simple, but so very good. We’ve even got leftovers for another fine dinner tomorrow, too. Seriously, what else do we need? Our lives are full and we are happy.

So for now I’ll settle for the idea that when we’re happy and grateful, even more things that make us happy and grateful will find their way to us. We’ll walk that fine line, falling off every now and then, throwing little temper tantrums and feeling sorry when things aren’t as we think they should be, but then we’ll shake it off. We’ll get up, look around us, take another inventory of our lives and begin again. The evidence of an abundant life might not always appear as we think it should, but we have everything we need to live. Some times not as much as we’d like of one thing, sometimes a true abundance of another, yet always just enough.