Chicken Blog by Natalie

And it went like this... - Tue, 01/26/2021 - 10:12
Truly, I can't believe it's done! To begin with, when I saw how much floss was in the kit, when I studied the pattern... I thought this would be something to last the year, something I would have to nudge myself toward finishing. After the first, then tenth tangle, and umpteenth error with counting stitches, it seemed like it would, realistically, take at least a few months to complete. To my surprise there is way more floss than is required to complete the pattern, and it took me a long while to realize that I didn't have to be so super precious about conserving every inch of it. And once I accepted that following the pattern exactly was simply not in my wheelhouse, two things happened... I began to happily imagine designing my own pattern, and I didn't recriminate myself as much about the many many mistakes I was making. I am not sure whether I will add the phrase "Room With a View." I have been thinking of other words or motifs I might include. For now, I will leave it blank. I love words! But I am aware that too many expressions and messages displayed around the house begins to make me feel like I am being constantly chatted at... does that make sense? Although, of expressions that are dear, Room With a View is a favorite. Okay, I am settled on not deciding, yet. It was finished in only a few days, but in many hours. The time I chose to launch this project was better than I imagined.
1. I stopped playing puzzle games on the computer. (Speaking of things that went on for only a few days, but many hours!)

2. The weather has been cold, cold and stormy, windy, windy and rainy, or cold, windy, rainy and stormy. A perfect storm for staying in, and cozy.

3. I am like a deer in the headlights... still waiting for the case to wrap up, still answering emails, and waiting, still coping with the dread that my insurance will not do right by me. Anyway, it really helps to get completely absorbed in something that persuades calm and focus.

4. The Lord of The Rings audio book! Besides cats for companions, I have been with Frodo and Sam, in the woods, and over hill and dale, avoiding dark riders on horses, anticipating lunch, resisting the pull of the ring.

4. Finally, I very intentionally included movement with my cross-stitching agenda, so it's BounceBhangra with Diana, cycling with Geoff, and pickelball with William and Geoff, plus laundry, chickens and goats, and tending to Max with his healing ankle. I make a point of not staying in place for too long without mixing in some other activity, and even though it's hard to put down the stitching, leave the comfort of my nest... I admit the time away actually seems to help the progress, and my energy.
I love the times when something new in life begins to appear or influence other parts of my life... like when the view from the balcony looks just like a cross-stitch pattern! I am eager to play with all of this some more. Thank you for bringing this back into my life, Ruth.

Possibly the Worst - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 10:36
When it comes to coping with stress, with facing seemingly insurmountable tasks, or simply managing the day to day alloted to my life, I have possibly the worst instincts, impulses, and obsessions. At the moment only two obsessions are occupying my brain, but it's not just that I think about them... it's the research, the longing, the imagining, planning, and small panics when I dive deeper and imagine it's time to act! What could these be, these preoccupations, you may be wondering. When the house is well lived in (busy-cluttered-in disarry), we need to launch and finish several home improvement projects, I have been mentally and physically fixed in place waiting for the case to close, we have been keeping our home on lockdown since last March, and all I can think about is getting a dog, and moving to Corvalis, Madison, or Hamakua (at least I am narrowing it down!) There are four puppies at the shelter now. There is a Vilas house in Madison, now. Would any therapist, or wise counselor, care to (gently) explain why or how I can imagine, be consumed by, actually, adding another pet, another mouth to feed and personality to address? How in the world can I imagine that cleaning, staging, selling, packing and moving from this house to any other house will make life better, or easier, or make me better, easier? How? Please, don't ask me to be reasonable, and there's no need to point out obvious obstacles, because I have thought of them, too. I have thought of the challenges, the cons, the losses, the strains, and for a moment, it resets my train of thought, and I shake my head at how wrong I am, at my worst impulses. But not for long. There's a place in Corvalis with a vineyard, shops, a barn, a house and room for more... I can see all of us there, with room for friends, and space to grow. My dog would love it. I named her Eureka. All I have to do is fill out the application.This cross-stitch kit is a gift from Ruth. She did that magical thing where she knows me, knows me so well she found the gift I would like, would delight in, but not get for myself. Well, after ridding my computer of the digital puzzles and games, I thought I would treat myself to a healthier hobby, and so I have launched into reaquainting myself with counted cross-stitch. And I began with a very purposeful, mindful approach. First of all, I decided not to use one needle and be always changing thread colors. I ordered needles, and have a needle threaded for each color in the project. Secondly, I knew it would help to watch a couple of YouTube videos to refresh my memory on all of this... I think I was in my twenties the last time I dabbled in this craft. Watching the videos was helpful. The best thing I learned was a new way of threading the needle, explained by Phil. Go to about 4 minutes in, if you'd like to see. So, yay, me, is what I was feeling, when I had my head full of knowledge, and my kit all set up, orderly and cute. Yay, me I chimed merrily, as I pulled up the first threaded needle, and in a span of time so infintesimally small, without so much as whisper to interfere... this happened: Order and grace, to chaos and disaster in no time at all. I have a knack. It took you more time to scroll from one picture to the next than it took the six threads and needles to become one. It is inexplicable. Do you know I have the patience and comfort with mindless tasks to untangle things? I've become proficient. It took forever, and let's not ponder the cost benefit analysis of spending an hour unraveling 5 cents worth of thread. It had to be done, on principle. Sadly, there are not nearly enough other onerous, more necessary, jobs I feel compelled to do on principle. If you need paper work done, or mail sorted, if it's about reading the directions for installing electronics or software, do not count on me. If your hair is snarled, or you have rope in knots, string in a tangle, or threads crossed, I will not fail you! So. Apparently, the first tangle would not be the last, and that's no surprise to me, but what has been humbling is how badly I follow directions, and I cannot figure out why, because I have been doubly-doubly intent on following directions. I read, and re-read. I count, and re-count. I check, and re-check. I think you understand. It has not helped, all of my yay, me, preparedness. Either I cannot see well, or I cannot count well, or it's both. Then, I remembered that everyone warned me, "In your 40s you'll need reading glasses," and ages ago I bought a pair, in case. They have been stashed away for 14 years, and miraculously, somehow, I knew where to find them. They help... I can see where to poke the needle, but with the glasses on I see a distinct hole, rather than just a spot. That's helpful, a bit. But. Honestly, please never look at my cross-stitch next to the pattern, and ask, "What happened here?" I will never be able to explain why I have not been able to follow the directions. There's a log cabin for sale, just off the Mamalahoa Highway, with lots of bedrooms, a workshop, and at a cool elevation... Oh! Oh no. It sold. And my dog would have loved it there, the goats, too.
I'm going back upstairs to cross-stitch.

You guys! The Madison house is walking distance to Vilas Zoo and Trader Joes! Five bedrooms and a massive attic, with a four car garage.

Make it stop.

Happier New Year - Thu, 01/21/2021 - 11:00
Somewhere, in me, is a lengthy, reflective, eloquent and succinct post about the days leading up to the inauguration, about insurrection, impeachment, and the eager of anticipation of change, of distinctly moving forward. It's somewhere, but I am processing. Joseph Biden is president of the United States, with Kamala Harris as our vice president. It's happened. And they went right to work, effectively even before they were sworn in, to run government, to lead with respect, by example, with skill. It is a lot to process, the last four years, and the last 24 hours, but there are a few things I am certain of... I do not want to get back to normal, because it never was normal, or at least, it was not fair, nor just, comfortable. Big matters of racism, and other descriminations, of injustice, and suffering have long been issues, and they are as much as ever problems that must be addressed and set right. For now, I am ready to enjoy this moment when it finally does feel like a new year, and I might have hope, I can reflect on the accomplishments and achievements, relish the art and beautiful voices, and simply catch my breath, after a long, truamatic wait. And then, we stay engaged, in the know, and we expect and insist on truth, on accountability, on mutual respect, on human rights, student loan debt relief, universal healthcare, the Voting Rights Bill, and more. So much more. There is work to be done. Cairo's expression, brought to mind the last inauguration when after potus made his speech, Hilary Clinton said that GW Bush turned to her and said, "Well, that was some weird shit." Doesn't that describe all of the last four years? Is it over? Yesterday's ceremony, the speeches, and glances, the singing, and expressions of respect, and exuberance, the symbolism... it was all so beautiful, so full of the gestures and indicators of hope that I have longed for, even without knowing. Perhaps, after what we have been subjected to previously, I need more eloquence, more grace and signaling of good will, of progressive action, kindness, exhorting peace. I am happy, relieved, and still wary, a bit in disbelief. Part of me is sitting beside Bernie Sanders, with handmade mittens, in my warmest, insulating coat, surveying the scene, and knowing full well that we have some big matters to address. This ain't over. There is so much work to be done. We've had a lot of windy weather, here, and across the country, too. Seemed fitting, stimulating. Now there is rain in the forecast, and we need that so bad! It's been dry, dry, dry. Hey, do you remember when I linked to a digital advent calendar, and I was so excited about it, because it had so many pretty graphics, and pretty music, and it was just this lovely, whimsical holiday treat? I even sent a few to friends. Well, I want to apologize about that... I mean, if you are as weak as me, a cotton headed ninny muggins. They got me with the art and culture, but they kept me coming back for the solitaire and puzzles games. I still want to play the shiny jewels puzzle game. If you only knew how good I got at it. I was about to go pro! Well, yesterday, I put the whole lot in the trash, then emptied the trash. Then vowed to never ever ever open an app like that, again. Ever. But I would love to play one more time, for like four or five hours. It seems high winds, a global pandemic, unstable government, waiting for an insurance/accident settlement to close, and personal doubts, insecurities and sadness are a perfect storm for falling prey to shiny game addiction. Did I say I don't want to go back to normal? That's partly true. I don't want to go back to living as though being safe and content is good enough for me, so why fuss. I do want to go back to feeling optimistic, safe, to doing things that are meaningful, appreciable and appreciated. I want to feel confident, rested, capable of getting things done, and... I seem to frequently question, wasn't this easier, wasn't I better at this, didn't I feel like I could manage more things, and have long spells of peaceful, assured comfort? I miss that.For the longest time we kept the live feed from the inauguration up on our screen, and we went on with our day, cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, Maria immersed in the work of finals week, Max resting his ankle, Geoff at work at home. We listened to the wind howling, checked the mail, hit like on the latest memes... and all the while we had this giant White House in our livingroom. The evening light softening, the fountain splashing, the stars and stripes waving calmly. Democracy, friendships, home, and hope. This is a good start to a new year, for a happier new year.

Growth - Thu, 01/14/2021 - 13:18

I am still fascinated by the treasures that fall from our Torrey Pine trees. And this time I found a pine nut that was split... I thought someone was tossing pistachio shells in my State Park. They're edible, not the shells, but the meat inside the shell. The Kumeyaay stoneground piñon, and chia, acorns, too, to cook and eat. And the pine needles can be woven into beautiful baskets. I wasn't thinking about any of this, sitting beneath the trees. I was still feeling shell-shocked by what we now recognize as a failed coup instigated by Trump, and supported by more than a few insiders at the Capitol. Between the rising death-toll of the pandemic, the long months of staying home, the still ongoing collision hassles, and my personal struggles with healing... no, I'll stop. I saw these shapes and textures, and sat there, appreciating their look, their feel, and very much wanting to feel better, wanting to move forward, to grow.

Here is one of the native plants I added to the front garden, beneath those two Torrey Pines. It's sage, white sage, and for some of us it is sacred. My Mother showed me where it grew, how to recognize it, use it, appreciate it. It's a plant that I connect with my childhood, with good memories, and good places. For as long as I can remember I have had some around my home, around my fondest recollections. To have it growing in our own garden makes me feel happy, lucky. I am so eager for this plant to grow, and thrive. I will still visit the California foothills and mountains, and hope to bring the fragrance home with me, brushed on my skirt, swept on my open hands as I walk the trails, but I look forward to using what I grow, what I tend and protect, at home. Look at Heidi. She's the one that looks like a big pigeon. She's such a sweetheart. Next to her is Pepper, our Silver-laced Wyandotte, who was once a chicken run bully, but has mellowed with age. I have to remind myself that it's only since late summer that we have the five new hens, Heidi, Willow, Dolly, SweetPea, and Thistle. Last spring, and getting our new chicks, Ventura, Maya, Puanani, Penelope, and Lucia, feels like ages ago! Now they all, mostly, mix and mingle, and display their unique personalities. Thistle, for instance, still likes to hop on my back or shoulders, so does SweetPea. Speedy delivery! The first career I ever imagined for myself was to clean windshields at a gas station. I was six. It seemed like an ideal occupation, and I even figured out I’d need to bring a step ladder. Now I’m all grown up, and I want to deliver packages, be a travel blogger for imaginary trips, and operate a skating rink & movie theater.In the hopes of shaking off the weight of worry and shock, of the things I cannot control, I am starting over, again? once more? Again, and once more... new lists, new goals, new hope, new plans, new determination. In the midst of the holidays, I ordered a journal my friend Susie published, and I admit I was thinking it would be a nice gift, and I liked the art, but I didn't pay too close attention to the theme. Well, it came, and I set it aside and promptly forgot about it, but that, it turns out was for the best, because it's a perfect gift, for me, now. From BoyGirl Party, "Growth," a journal to welcome personal change. Perfect. Timely. Welcome. Much needed. I cracked it open two days ago, and dismissed my aversion to ruining beautiful blank pages, by begininng. I wrote my name, added the date, turned the pages, and went right into responding to the prompts, making goals, reflecting, writing notes... starting over, for growth. Susie Ghahremani's book is turning out to be an ideal blend of open spaces for my own ideas and processing, and structured pages with quotes to inspire, prompts to guide, suggestions to motivate. The journal matches my readiness to receive guidance and structure, to make myself accountable, and simply start over. And I do mean simple. I am not aiming super high, not initially. Where it said, "Make a commitment here," I wrote, "Take down the Christmas tree." That was it. Just one thing, overdue, and basic. Furthermore, I gave myself stars and triumphant horns blaring when I got it done. This morning? Make the bed. I changed the sheets, and have laundry going, and I was very thorough and mindful, but it's a pretty simple accomplishment. More stars for me! Feynman helped me make the bed, then Cairo came to give it his approval.

Remedies - Mon, 01/11/2021 - 10:27

There is a particular headache that came with the collision, a pain that persisted for months, and now shows up a few times a month, or after any prolonged time getting things done. It takes a heating pad, rest, sometimes an Ibuprofen, often just lots of time, to get the pain, the tightness, to retreat. It intimidates and depresses me, because I know that sometimes, if I can't rest, or find a remedy, it leads to my neck, shoulder and arm locking up, very painfully. I still can't turn my head fully left, but the headache is the first sign of worse to come, and I dread it

Yesterday, I needed remedies. To tackle the headache, I started with drinking more water, hydrating. Then I tried slow, deep stretches... my neck, my back. I took deep, slow breaths, closed my eyes. Not doing it. So I made a cup of tea, and thought about how I love the warmth, the cup between my hands, the steam, the mild sweetness, and familiar taste. I took deep, slow breaths, closed my eyes. Geoff convinced me to take a nap, take an Advil. So I went upstairs, stared at my bed, and felt a little defeated about crawling into it at midday. I opened the door to the balcony, and noted that the air was warm, the temperature of ease and comfort. It might feel like less of a deafeat if I napped on the balcony, I reasoned. I gathered more remedies around me... my atlas and bicyle notebook, more pillows, the tea, even a cat. I set up Audible to read aloud a sleepy story for 15 minutes, and I settled in, hopeful. An hour later, with no relief, I decided to turn to my feathered therapists. Admittedly, I can't always tell what they are advising, but I am pretty sure they prescribed movement, sunlight, and distraction. This seemed reasonable enough, so I invited the goats to come out, too, because they provide plenty of distraction and humor. Some remedies are a bit circuitous. But I appreciate that hearing the delirious squawk of happy hens makes me happy, and watching them settle into dust baths, foraging, and ambling merrily across the lawn brings me empathic bliss, and thankfulness. The goats provide an odd kind of comic relief, and they do "bad" things, but mild, innocent bad things, and it's oddly consoling, satisfying to face issues and troubles that can be addressed and managed. I can't fix the myriad problems in the world, but I can stop the goats from eating the bellpeppers. Success! I still have the headache, but I am laughing, feeling appreciative, amused, distracted. A kind of success!I decided to fulfill a wish, a vision... to watch the goats visit the stone steps up to the deck. (If I could get a dozen or so large rocks, small boulders, in our garden, for them to climb and play around... that would be phenonmenal goodness.) Geoff was up there, making structural improvements to the benches. Come on, Goats! But the shy goats were hesitant, so I went into the pantry to get their favorite bribe. I keep a bag of Trader Joes Flaxseed & Veggie corn chips just for them. They will follow me anywhere for chips, or licorice. So, really I should call the chips a headache remedy, too.The headache didnt retreat until overnight. It turns out time was the most effective remedy, well time, and chips and goats and chickens, and tea, an ibuprofen, a nap, an atlas, the pillows, a bike ride, chatting in the driveway, and laughing.

My Very Big Adventure - Fri, 01/08/2021 - 10:10

Here is the day I reached 2,000 miles riding a bicycle.
It took about 18 months, and frequently recommitting to be very, very brave. To get me out there took Geoff being persuasive, a bit insistent, very consistent, and patient, which in the first 9 months I responded to with fear, doubt, firm refusal, petulant participation, reluctant acceptance, and intermittent panic. I remember the first time I wanted to ride... really felt voluntarily eager and willing, and it was at night, last spring. Owls were hooting, bats were flitting, the neighborhood, that had been steadily filling with joggers, and walkers, and newborn athletes stuck in lockdown, was finally quiet, and I really wanted to get out of the house. It was exhilerating, terrifying, bliss. It made me squeal from the cold air rushing against my unmasked face, from feeling like I was riding on the edge of the world, with only my headlight to light a narrow way, and everywhere else darkness, shadows, silhouettes of spindly branches. The familiar homes and turns were turned strange, and the streets were wide and empty. I rode fast and laughed aloud, spiritedly. I am still trying to figure out why, when I am scared to frozen of falling, of being hit, of losing control, of sirens, of having flashbacks, of being struck by a panic attack... why do I love riding at night? It's scarier at night, sort of. I ride faster at night, a bit. I feel freer at night, and in spring, I knew where we would hear the frogs singing, when to look up and see bats. At night there are fewer people, fewer cars. More than once I rode down the middle of the street, and it felt like I was riding down a river, like trailing a silk ribbon in moonlight and above me an owl was leading the way, flying overhead, up the river, between the rows of tree tops. Owls in flight remind me of snow, because they both make a beautiful, audible silence.

It takes two, opposite and essential, processes for me to manage riding... I need to maintain absolute focus on everything, the traffic, the possible traffic, and the hypothetical traffic, and I need to not get scared, anxious, confused, too comfortable, nor uncomfortable. I am holding space for a lot, and a lot of it are conditions or states of being that are seemingly diametrically opposed. The best part of riding is when I forget everything, when I want to pedal harder, and sing aloud, and love the ride, and that is always when I am snapped back into total recall of being struck head-on by a drunk driver, and my brain and fear seize control, remind me of all the perils, all the risks, and consequences of being at ease, happy. I promise, I don't actually dwell on this. I have done many, many things trying to forget, or manage, overcome, heal, move forward. Maybe, if I write it down, if I say it aloud, I can make sense of it, demystify or dismantle it. As it is, it, the panic and other ill-effects, show up uninvited, unexpected, and I don't know how to make it stop. I guess this is why I am kind of, completely, actually, amazed that I have ridden over 2,000 miles, because it hasn't been easy.

It hasn't be easy, but I like it. I like riding my bicycle. I like feeling stronger. I like smelling all the good dinners cooking in the homes we ride by, homes that are lit in the evenings with soft, warm lights, flickering televisions. I like bringing home limes from the neighbor, finding pinecones I can load in my basket, dropping off surprises. I like seeing holiday decorations going up, and watching children play in front of their homes, and waving at neighbors, meeting new friends, noticing the sunset, the newly painted house, the dogs that are out, the cats in windows, or darting across the street. I like going passed our house, back and forth, until the odometer hits 10.0 miles, or 12, or 20, riding down our driveway, and then Geoff and I groan dramatically as we step off our bikes and laugh about our sore butts. I like my bicycle bell, and my bicycle light, and how cold I get, and how nice that feels in summer, being cold. And I really like imagining that I am going somewhere, like a real athlete, a daring adventurer.

It was fun to start sharing my daydream schemes with Geoff... to pretend that I am riding somewhere distant. I enjoyed revealing all the many details I was working out, and looking for him to confirm that it wasn't silly. Maybe it is a little silly. I am more and more an advocate, an activist, for silly, for idealism and make-believe, for imagination, and play. The more I dare, the better it gets. So, what began as imagining riding to the market and carrying home groceries, grew to pretending that a twenty mile ride wasn't just loops around the neighborhood, but that I'd reached a county park, was getting close to the foothills of the mountains, I could soon reach a cabin in the woods. I could bring a picnic, a small tent. I could reserve a cabin, and go further the next day, then the next. And I started tracking my miles, and asking where could I be today? Then I really leveled up, by taking notes, bringing out an atlas, and envisioning an itinerary. I know, I wrote all about this, already. But. Ah, it's so much fun! I am having so much fun... thinking about train schedules, and riding my bicycle through the redwoods, along rivers, into favorite towns, to see friends, and up to my Mom's front door. Sometimes, even in this perfect make-believe scenario I begin to worry, to what-if, then I think, calmly... it's no problem. Rent a car, take a ferry, use the electric assist, visit a spa, find a quieter route. Every problem has a solution, often a very comforting or appealing solution, in a make-believe adventure.

Planning the imaginary bicycle adventure between my home to my Mom's home in Oregon was easy. I found a lot of enjoyment in mapping familiar routes, then opting for some new directions, like getting to Mendocino. Then, just outside of Salem, I was hesitating. Which way? I'm headed for Portland, but what's the best route, what do I want to not miss? This is when I posted to Instagram, an appeal for guidance, an invitation for anyone to play along with me. And then it got really fun. A sister-in-law of a friend (we haven't met, yet) gave practical advice, and made excellent suggestions. So, on a make-believe bike ride, to real places, I will be hypothetically dropping by her parent's home, "during happy hour, they love company." I can't wait.

So far, my only regret is not starting this in a larger notebook, but I am undaunted! Sometimes, I get on a train, or a ferry. Sometimes, I will probably skip the plan, and head in another direction. The final destination keeps moving, first Portland, then Boston, Michael Colletta added Paris, Rome, Ruth hopes we will ride in Hawaii, and Kristy wants to join the ride from somewhere in Northern California. Maybe there isn't a final destination. I hope more friends will ride along, or suggest good sights, ideal stops. I'd like to drop by, and I won't be any bother. Last week I used all of my accumulated miles and (not counting miles on trains or driving) I can get to Laura and Gary's place, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. But then, I decided on extending my time on the Empire Builder, between Seattle and St Paul, getting off and on again for Glacier. My notebook is a mess. That's alright. I think, when I start booking hotels, and pitching tents, when I stop at State Parks, or visit with friends, then I will need a bigger, notebook... a journal, with pockets for pamphlets, and postcards, space for pictures. This first round of planning is figurative (it's all figurative) but soon I hope to deepen the vision, the research. In the next, more immersive level, I want to think about places to stop for lunch, what I could for a flat tire, or find pictures from the deck of a ferry going to San Juan Island. I want to read the timetable for catching a ride to Prince Edward Island. I want to pack. Will I try to bring every last imaginable thing I might need, or simply a toothbrush, change of underwear, and my imaginary platinum card? Some of this, if I must be honest, is entirely impractical, and that doesn't matter one bit. On this adventure I can be bold and nothing has to out of the question.

Wild Precious Life - Thu, 01/07/2021 - 14:26
First, with this accurate and inspired art, found through Joy-Ann Reid I am going to give Thanks. Thank you, Stacey Abrams, and Fair Fight, for vision, persistence, eloquence, and the good trouble you have lead, inspired, stood for. In our home you are admired, supported, and appreciated, and it's your grace with fortitude that comes to mind when I am disheartened, discouraged. Thank you for having courage, vision, and resolve to do the hard work that may save our democracy. Our day, yesterday, began as a celebration of what you helped achieve: The election of Reverend Raphael Warnock... United States senator-elect Warnock! And the election of senator-elect Jon Ossoff. This was no small feat. And we cannot lose sight of the significance of this historic moment. We can, and will celebrate!
We also must not lose sight of another significant happening... an act of terror, of treason, and treachery against the United States of America incited by the 45th president and carried out by his supporters. It was carried out in broad daylight, televised, broadcast, Tweeted, boldly displayed, flouted, for all the world to see. Yesterday, spurred by Trump, the mob was met, as usual, with almost passive resistence, allowed entry, there were selfies, it was like a safe space for white people and their hate, vandalism, and crimes, for Trump's people. Today, some people are refuting what we saw, rewriting the narrative, lying about what happened and who is responsible. We cannot, we will not, let the terrorists, the armchair racists, and conspiracy addled citizenery cover this up, whitewash it! It wasn't antifa. It wasn't BLM. It wasn't unfortunate, or a protest, concerned citizens. And it sure as hell was not "very special" people who climbed the walls, broke into the capitol, intimidated security, terrorized lawmakers, looted, and literally professed, "We're storming the capitol, it's a revolution." No take-backs on that statement, and no down playing nor putting spin on the man who has been at the helm of lies, hate, and treason, all along. Impeach this pos potus. And arrest the terrorists that can't get over losing the Civil War, nor the 2020 presidential election. Dan Rather, "To my colleagues in the press. Words matter. Do not use euphemisms to explain away what we all saw yesterday. This was an attempt to undermine American democracy by a defeated president of the United States. This was an insurrection, domestic terrorism, an attempted coup."

There is so much more to address, to be mindful of, and concerned about. When I consider the number of people I personally know that espouse Q conspiracy, that rally around Trump, that believe he is a Christian, that foment hate, and confuse skepticism with critical thinking... it's clear enough we are a long way from things settling down and even further from seeing justice prevail.

I am tired, sad, angry. I admit, the racism I have met, all of my life, has been something I can deal with, something we learn to avoid, or deflect, or confront, or manage. But racism is there, for me, for my children, for friends, for my ancestors, and it's wrong, it takes a toll, and it makes me feel more empathy, more anger, and grief, for everyone that cannot walk away, overcome, be "all right." It makes me scared, too, because the hate is escalating, and where will it stop? Rev. Jacqui Lewis's words resonate with me, "So damn tired of living in a country that treats Black grief as a threat, and white rage as a sacrament," as do these words of care, and wisdom from Terence Lester, "If you are a person of color, make sure you protect yourself from racial trauma. Turn off the news. Self care. Hold close those around you." I am frequently second-guessing whether or not to share pictures of flowers, of chickens, of my success, of my proud achievements, or even the things I struggle with... I don't want to appear to be indifferent to hardships, or as if I am unaware of the struggles and injustices going on. But I am beginning to appreciate that living my good life, celebrating our joy, protecting my joy... these are not only a gift, but they should be honored, and I don't owe anyone an explanation, or justification (which, I realize I am doing now... trying to explain and validate why I am about to share pictures of eggs and goats, and justify my eagerness to retreat and recover from news, from anxious fears and anticipating what next?) Here I am... an Idigenous, Latina woman, a blogger, and mentor, an advocate for children with Autism, a daughter of an immigrant, a pocha, a girl too dark to be white, too güera to be de aqui. Here I am, still trying to feel like I belong, still feeling the need to explain who I am, why I might be welcome here, or there... and I want to enjoy my blog, share my happiness, show and tell my own, unique stories, and rest, too. And be angry, then joyful, and be seen, be included, even left alone. Isn't it odd, or ridiculous, that I still don't feel in touch or comfortable, natural about holding my own space? Maybe someone else struggles, too. Maybe we can talk about that, maybe I will grow, heal, and be comfortable in my own skin, and stop apologizing, just hold close those around me, be protected from trauma, and let my joy be a sacrament.
Maybe it's time to make my birthday cake, and imagine beautiful places, travel, and think of good things to do, like bicycling around the world, and twirling in pretty dresses. Maybe I only need reminding that I belong here, where we've built robots and flower beds, and hosted celebrations for the sun, and stars, and been thankful, mindful, inspired by books, and ideas. Otherwise, I am at risk of wasting something good.
The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

–Mary Oliver

Poem 133: The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

It Is a New Year - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 13:18
A few days ago I sat beside our Christmas tree, inhaling the fragrance of pine, thinking about people I miss, activities I miss, and I teared up over things, so many things, like missing loved ones, and some of the better aspects of how life was before. I've been feeling sad and anxious, eager to hear good news, to be done with accident issues, to feel like maybe our democracy will not be burned to the ground. I guess it's no wonder I felt like I don't want Christmas to be over, because it's such a simple, and familiar state of mind, of spirit to live in, with music and lights, and the world trying extra much to share in surprises, kindness, comforting gestures and traditions. It's a safe space of amicable activities, sights and sounds, full of hope, and appreciable tasks. It hasn't even felt like a new year, anyway, so why step out of the old year, is what I was thinking. Anyone that's been around Chickenblog long enough knows my arch nemesis is laundry... in part because laundry is my arch nemesis, and because humor and hyperbole help me cope with my general antipathy about housework. For the record, the very best thing to happen in 2021 is that I have tackled laundry. It's not gone 100%, but is it ever? But! Laundry is washed, dried, hung, folded, and put away, at about a 95% rate of completion. And, so much laundry has been vanquished, I have even moved on with mending! I don't know what happened, what changed, why I found the gumption, and resolve, and I do worry it won't stay... but right now, laundry is not a problem. Amen. From the Heroes' Feast, another excellent recipe, prepared by Bambi, Elven Marruth. She made the vegan dough from scratch. Don't her little hand pies look darling? I was upstairs mending clothes, and after a while the oven issued forth the absolute best smell of baking dough, and onions, carrots, cabbage, potatoes. Maybe because I was sitting on the balcony, and getting cold, hadn't had breakfast, but Bambi's baking was filling the house with really enticing, irresistable aromas, and I couldn't wait to try some. I felt like a child, hoping to get a sample from the kitchen, without waiting to sit down to a meal. They tasted as good as I hoped, better. What a treat! Since November, I have been counting days, not til Christmas, but to the run-off election for the Georgia senate seats. Geoff and I supported Stacey Abrams' gubernatorial run, in 2018, and we have supported everything she has set her sights on since. We believe in her, in her resolve and intelligence, in her effectiveness, and we believe in democracy, Black Lives mattering, and justice. She did the work, and pulled the people together to prove, in the presidential election, that Georgia is not a red state, but a state where voting has been suppressed, where BIPOC votes have been suppressed. And with democracy on the line, I have been waiting, holding my breath for January 5th, for the Reverend Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff to be elected to the United States Senate. Last night felt like a New Year's Eve, like we were closer to something good, something just. We broke bread, and shared our growing optimism. Today, in light of what has been accomplished in Georgia, we are closer to the kind of new year I can celebrate. And... with what racist, alt-right, conspiracists are doing in the Capitol, we may be further from having a democracy in which to enjoy this success.

What's Poppin - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 11:13
Hello. It's me, and I am full of beans, again, about a new to me food! I went back to to my source, looking for those Cranberry Beans, when I saw Amaranth, the seeds from an ancient plant of Mesoamerica, and! And, they pop! Has anyone else ever popped corn, then looked around the kitchen wondering, "What else pops? Could peas pop? What about sunflower seeds?" I can't be the only one, and I may be late to the game, but I am ok with this. I need late life discoveries, like new things that PoP! It takes a hot, dry pot... something deep, because a few are going to fly out. Too hot and they scorch, and I know this from experience. But just add one tablespoon at a time into the hot pot and be ready to shake, or swirl, the pot and keep the seeds moving. It happens fast, the popping, and is fun to watch, which reminds me: Do not use a lid, because you'll miss the action, and you need to watch them to know when to stop. It's easy, even though you might scorch the first batch... just toss it into the compost, and try again. Pour your popped seeds into a bowl, and then pop the next tablespoon. I think they taste a bit like heirloom popcorn, and a bit like the earthiness of beets. People add them to baked goods, or top a salad with them. Maria sliced an apple, and we dipped the apple slices in the amaranth, which looked pretty. I should have taken that picture, but we'd already popped them into our mouths!

Open Seating - Mon, 01/04/2021 - 11:23
We couldn't believe our luck when we rode by and saw this "free" table sitting on the curb! This happened about two months ago. It could not be a nicer fit for the new deck... a long and deep, sturdy table with fitted pipe legs, and heavy wood planks. It looks great! Since the deck was built with making events in mind, we want to keep it both open and inviting, with space for gathering and doing projects, but without crowding ourselves. This is why Alex suggested we don't look for chairs to add to the table. It would be too many pieces of furniture to buy, and to deal with. Then I thought of benches... two pieces of furniture that could seat many visitors, and be easily tucked out of the way when not needed. They could be versatile! The idea stuck, and Geoff, William, Alex, and Max got to work on a design, and making!To compliment the style of the table, Geoff looked for steel pipes to make legs for the bench, and he was happy to find Brooklyn Pipe. Actually, he started at our local hardware store, but the limited selection is what made him do a wider search. Some of the pieces had to be painted, so we could make them look a little more uniform. Technically, it's all a bit mismatched, but that kind of suits our aesthetic anyway! I won't get too detailed in describing all of this. They made measurements, came up with a configuration, and then called me over to decide on a paint color, and I went with Nocturne Blue, by Behr; same as our picnic table (maybe?)William painted the 2"x8", 8' boards. It's Nocturne Blue. But. Maybe not. Our Nocturne Blue looks nothing like it shows on the website. Nothing. And it doesn't even match the other picnic table we were looking at when we chose to paint the benches blue, too. What the heck? It's not a disaster, but I suspect we will be going over the benches, someday, with a more subdued blue. But please don't mention any of this to Geoff. He likes to get things "right," and they all worked on this for my birthday present, so he really really wants it to be perfect, for me to love it. I love it! I love love love the benches, and maybe I will paint them, again. No biggie! The whole paint color issue has us scratching our heads, but only in a mellow bemused way. Using pipes like this is something new for us, and we like it. We are thinking of using the extra parts to make shelves, maybe for the blacksmith shop. Now we have two benches, and seating for ten, or more. They are very stable, and have a nice, deep seat. We will be able to use them at the table, or pull them away for sitting around the perimeter of the deck... versatile, like we hoped for, and that's good for us. When we can get back to hosting making events, this new space and accomodations, are going to be really nice, like an extension of our shop. We look forward to all the making, playing, and sharing we will be able to enjoy.

New Years Eve At Home - Thu, 12/31/2020 - 23:00

Home is a good place to be for New Years Eve. We stashed all the ingredients to make our traditional fancy drink... pomegranite juice, lemon-lime soda, and pineapple juice. Max blended those with ice, and we had a toast.

Earlier in the day, Geoff was overseeing the planning, and early assembly of benches for our table. I haven't shared this yet, but we dragged home a free table, and it's awesome... large, wood, with steel pipes for legs. Our super lucky score. I thought we could look out for chairs to add, but Alex pointed out that chairs are going to overcrowd our deck. Then I thought of benches. Two long benches, that could be tucked under the table, would give us lots of seating, without taking up lots of space. It was only an idea, but these guys are running with it, and designing it to look good with our new table!

On Instagram, I shared the picture of potatoes and tortillas, and Sara was curious to know what we were up to with these ingredients, and I was happy to share! "There’s also bell peppers, chives, avocado and cilantro," I began, then continued, "Here’s what happened! I had hot coals ready in our campfire. I sliced the bell pepper, cut the potatoes into chunks, sprinkled salt, pepper, and thyme over these and drizzled a little olive oil over everything, and all of this got wrapped In foil and set in the hot coals. While those roasted, I diced the avocados, chives and cilantro. The potatoes cooked for about half an hour. We heated tortillas in a pan over the fire, and ate potato-pepper-avocado burritos with herbs and butter! Why is campfire cooking so extra yummy? I know the sea-salted butter didn’t hurt!" There were also Beyond sausages, and a couple of steaks on the grill. By the time everything was cooked, we were huddled around the heat fire and the cooking fire. It was a cold night. I'm glad we cooked out, though. I think I have a special fondness for being closer to nature when celebrating milestones, like Solstice, a New Year, Ground Hog Day.

Did you notice our Kindling Cracker? This is not an ad. I saw that this child, only 13 years old when she invented it, designed a safer way for splitting kindling. I love reading about young people following their ideas and making new things, and we actually like splitting logs. Anyway, it seemed like a well made and possibly useful gadget, and I made it my Christmas gift to the family. It is well made, and useful. We really like our Kindling Cracker, and makers, and creativity, and campfire burritos, and frosty drinks, and being together at home for New Years Eve.

Another Trip - Wed, 12/30/2020 - 10:55
I went around the sun, again. Does it show? This is 54.
The "plan," for my birthday, was to go to the mountains, then the desert. I need trees, the smell of pines, big rocks to climb. You would think by now that we would know better than to make plans in 2020. We made the responsible decision to skip driving our 20 year old RV, the Green Goose, up hills, because of the sketchy brakes, and the inevitable down hills. (Burning Man is always with us... one trip, a lifetime of memories, and mechanical repairs!) Okay, so scratch that plan, and we are left with the beach. We parked ourselves in a scenic spot, brought sandwich fixings, and spent most of the day relaxing, and stuff.

Geoff brought a couple of bikes, and I rode four miles, even making it to Dog Beach, which was exactly as my friend Diana says, a Disneyland for dogs! The happiest energy in the world is running loose, wagging tails, making waves. It's a sight to behold. Pure wholesomeness. Those miles went into the notebook I started for my make-believe bicycle journey. It's the idea that's been in my head for some time, to track all the miles I ride, looping around our neighborhood, and then imagine them as a cross-country bike trip. I'm taking it out of my head, and putting it down on paper. I brought an atlas to the beach, and Geoff played with me by doing mileage searches. I would run my finger across Washington, or Wisconsin, through Ontario, Canada, and ask him, "How many miles between Sault Ste Marie, and Toronto?" One thing, I am not being too fussy about is it being exclusively a cycling trip. I decided to hop aboard the Empire Builder in Glacier National Park. We can get a sleeper car and ride all the way to Minneapolis, before we pedal to Eagle River, Wisconsin. I have things roughly mapped out all the way to Prince Edward Island. Next up... how to get from Charlottetown, PEI to Iceland? Also, my plans are very vague from our house to Seattle, but I am looking forward to going into specifics and details, for all of the trip. Imaginary trip planning is brilliant. We have not had a single mishap nor obstacle we cannot manage with ease, and pleasure!

In the meantime, we have a lovely real life to enjoy, and the beach day was good. There was a low tide, and William found an amazing shell. Bambi and Maria watched shrimp swaying and flitting in a pool. The water was cold, and I liked how it felt to step in and out of the pools, on sand. Maria took my picture, and made a kind remark, and that, along with other birthday messages that came on social media, made me feel special, made me feel thankful to know kind people. My birthday is like a dress-rehearsal for New Years Eve, when I get contemplative about the year I've spent, and the year ahead. I rarely feel exactly jubilant, confident, but I do feel grateful, and ready to move forward.