Monday, March 30, 2009

This Morning...

This morning's coffee made in a French press and drunk from an old Goodwill find-- Syracuse Carefree "Nordic" dishes.

Outside...


At the moment, the western hills are pink in the rising sunlight. It's 11 degrees. Lately we've had sunbathing weather alternating with snow and freezing temperatures. Mostly it's typical springtime weather-- frosty mornings, longer, warming days, cold nights. And the desert spring winds blow hard many afternoons.

I like to walk around outside in the morning to breathe deeply and to enjoy the fresh sunlight. The clothesline is in use once again. This year's first game of croquet (which is not a mild, sedate game when played at my house) was played in our yard on Friday on our still mostly dormant grass with its typical spring molehills and pinecones scattered everywhere. My little table and chairs will be moved to the back deck soon. And, on a not-too-distant extra-nice day, I'm sure I'll be grilling something good-- salmon or vegetables or something.

Around the House...

There are a whole bunch of boxes of stuff sitting by the front door, ready to be donated to Goodwill today. I'm decluttering my home and life again, and I've barely gotten started, so the number of boxes that are already set to be taken away surprises even me. I so enjoy the space that comes from weeding out the extraneous. What is useful or beautiful or meaningful? How much is necessary? How much is good? This is different for all of us, and I happen to be one who likes things scaled back. Books, of course, are not clutter, so they stay.

Learning...

Always something, whether intellectual, practical, spiritual, or creative. I'm learning (and have been for decades) to let go and hold everything in an open hand to the Lord. I learn from watching others. I learn from sitting still. I learn from reading. I learn by doing.

I'm learning to eat when I'm hungry. This sounds so obvious, but it's really something new for me. I don't have a weight problem, but I graze and eat all day. I rarely feel a sense of hunger. This seems unhealthy in many ways, and I've been aiming to change it. I've read exhortations to "eat when you're hungry" many times, and I've always brushed it off as being connected to someone who is dieting or trying to get their weight under control.

Jesus said that we should eat to live and not live to eat. My trouble is eating to eat. What inspired me to change is something I read recently in, of all places, a book by surfing great Laird Hamilton. (This guy is a physical phenom!). I don't remember his exact words, but it was basically, and simply, "Eat only when you're hungry." Okay!

I've been up for three hours this morning, and so far I've only drunk a tall glass of lemon water. I haven't felt hungry until right now, so as soon as I finish writing this, I'll go to the kitchen for something to eat. I like the feeling of doing this. I like how much it helps me appreciate and enjoy of food. It seems you can taste more, and better, when you're really hungry. I like the feeling of lightness and clarity that comes with this.

Creating...

Space and quiet. I'm getting ready to sew pillows for the living room couch. I'm making a brighter, fresher, airier home for spring and summer.

Reading...

Not much this past week because other things took precedence. Little Heathens is almost finished. I'm well into Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (I started this book last year, and
Laurel encouraged me to finish it, and now I am.) And there are other things.

In the Kitchen...

Whatever is simple and real and tasty. Lots of raw foods throughout the day. A lightly cooked dinner. I want to incorporate more eggs and a bit more meat. I don't know why, but I haven't eaten meat much at all lately, and this has not been on purpose. So, today, I'll buy a salmon fillet at the meat market, cut off a portion to cook, and freeze the rest. Maybe I'll make packets of salmon with julienned vegetables in parchment paper. Or I might make one of my favorites-- salmon with roasted asparagus and lemon-garlic vinaigrette.

Doing...

I'm trying to focus really hard on doing real things every day. Move! Do! I only live once, and, more to the point, I only live this day once. Reading good books, sewing for the home, walking for exercise, walking to explore, breathing deeply, cooking new things, digging in the garden dirt, hanging laundry on the line, writing letters, spring cleaning, reading to the grandchildren, sitting at the table to drink almond milk chai with Roman and his mother, being about people more than about things or ideas... This is something I'm still contemplating. What kind of life do I want to lead? What kinds of things do I want to do well or learn to do? What is good to do? (We are created in Christ to do good works, the Bible says.) And beyond this, what am I called to do?

Looking forward to...

Everything turning completely green outdoors. Perennial herbs making a good showing in the garden-- both for their beauty and so they can make a good showing in my cooking! Moving my life outdoors again. Morning coffee in the sunny table on the deck. Summer hikes. Camping with family.

Inspired by...

The birds and their morning chorus. It's so beautiful and full of hope and promise. I want always to sing with great hope and cheer in the morning, too!

Ann to do this post. I love reading Ann's blog. Everything about it inspires and refreshes me. There's a sense of peace and beauty and gratitude and authenticity there that feels real. She doesn't seem to want to be anyone else. Just herself. I like people like that.

I enjoyed, and was inspired by,
Elizabeth's daybook this morning, too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Natural, Simple, Eco, Healthy, Frugal...

A recycled photo from an early blog post.

Some of my kids are coming home today, and by the end of the week, all four of them will be here, along with their husbands and children. So, I will be quite happily occupied and may or may not show up here with a post this week.

Awhile back, Kelli asked if I'd share some of my favorite non-toxic products. Once I started this list, it took on a mind of its own and expanded to include a lot more than face and body care!

Because the whole of life eventually begins to fall in line with this way of thinking and living, I could easily expand this list to include a much broader and deeper range of things, but since I am not trying to make a master list for conscientious living, and since I have written this off the top of my head, let's just call this a start. My start.

There are lists like this in many places-- lists more thorough than mine-- but this is where I am right now, learning and growing and without any expectations for anyone else. If you have anything you're dying to add to this, please do!

So, this is a sampling of some favorite things I use, have read, enjoy, and aim for:

~use compassion
~be deliberate
~be content
~be grateful

~get fresh air and sunlight
~Weleda Rose (or Iris) face lotion
~Kiss My Face Sudz citrus bar soap
~
MyChelle face lotion
~
Tom's of Maine toothpaste and dental floss
~Kiss My Face spray toner
~Dr. Bronner's
peppermint castile soap
~Gabriel lipstick
~
Giovanni hair stuff
~
Jason cocoa butter body lotion
~
Badger lip balm and foot balm
~smile and laugh often

~do less laundry
~use a clothesline
~make homemade cleaners
~
Mrs. Myers dish soap and laundry soap
~
Seventh Generation carpet spot remover
~
Clean House, Clean Planet
~Annie Berthold-Bond books and website (care2.com)
~buy fewer clothes
~use the cold cycle
~use the sun to bleach whites
~
Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus
~Easy Green Living

~cook simply
~eat plenty of raw/living foods
~compost
~buy in bulk
~use lidded glass jars for storage
~eat slowly
~use cloth napkins
~visit farmers' markets
~use cloth shopping bags
~eat smaller portions
~go to a farm and u-pick
~grow some of your own food
~
Vintage Pyrex storage containers
~unbleached wax paper bags
~unbleached parchment paper
~join a CSA
~eat real food
~
Slow Food
~Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
~read Wendell Berry
~Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op

~water-wise gardening
~decorate simply and timelessly
~
no-VOC paints (remembering, though, that even lemons have VOC's)
~
Elspeth's eco-house
~Noah's Garden
~A Pattern Language

~make do
~cut back
~do without
~don't buy it
~repurpose
~make it yourself
~give simple gifts
~buy used
~play the how-little-garbage-can-I-throw-away game
~don't buy bottled water
~recycle
~use cloth diapers
~
Living More With Less
~Little Heathens

~drive less
~walk
~limit technology
~use fewer machines
~turn down the heat and put on a sweater
~take shorter and cooler showers and baths
~avoid using the air conditioner (it's okay to perspire a bit and to adjust)
~explore and intimately know your own backyard/neighborhood/town/local area
~ride a bike
~take mass transportation
~stay home more
~use the library
~be more people-oriented than activity-oriented
~
Better Off!
~The Simple Living Guide

~share with others
~be compassionate
~use wisdom
~give to the needy
~take care of the widow/orphan/oppressed
~do good works (and don't tell anyone about them)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Home and Thinking...

Back home.

I sat on the red bench on the front porch this afternoon where I ate a great big green salad for lunch. It was warm and relaxing there, so I lingered, flipping through a new book called A Slice of Organic Life (thanks so much for the recommendation, Aimee; I'll have more to say about this book soon) and watching clouds form in the sky. And I thought and thought.


See:


That's what I've been doing for most of the day. Thinking.

Recently, I knew it was time to tip the balance from spending most of my time on that side of the mountains to this one. Time to come home. I'll now be "here" more than I'm "there."

As I drove across the mountains yesterday and started the short descent to the basin floor and the high desert, I was struck by how much I love living in this wild and remote part of the state and how happy I was to be going home. When I drove into the driveway and stepped out of the car, the sun shone, the sky was blue, the air was warm, and my grandsons were grinning and waving at me through the window as they bounced up and down on the big chair. I dragged my things into the house and set them aside to be dealt with later. I visited with Michelle and the boys for awhile, and then I was struck by a great, energizing wave of Exuberant Domesticity!

It's spring. Time for my annual decluttering and spring cleaning. And there's so much work to be done! I flung open doors and windows, washed some clothes and hung them on the line, and piled some wood on the porch. I put my cookbooks and knives away, first thing, because I have my priorities right. And then I made lists and plans for what I want to get done around here.

I can't wait to bake long-ferment whole grain breads again (it seems I need to do this). If I can, I want to start picking up raw milk and eggs from my friends who sell them. I want to sew together strips of the pretty fabric I bought last fall to make couch pillows. And, while I'm at it, maybe I'll make new curtains for the kitchen window. I want to clean up my herb beds and get them ready for planting (even though I can't plant until late May). I want to go through every box, drawer, and cupboard in the house and get rid of a great deal of what I own. Walls need scrubbing. Curtains and bedding need washing and airing. I'll get this place all spruced up, decluttered, fresh, and clean!

First thing this morning, I got up and wanted to get right on it. I built a fire in the stove to take the chill off the frosty morning air and had my usual quiet coffee time, and then... I was paralyzed. Overwhelmed. Couldn't find a good place to start. My wave of exuberant domesticity had overstimulated and swamped me. So, after flailing around fruitlessly all morning, stabbing at this, poking at that, and dabbling around here and there, I stopped. And that's when I relaxed on the front porch bench with my salad and the book. I stared at the sky, slowed down my mind, and thought.

I've always tried to live and work at a steady, puttery pace (one accomplishes much this way), and I reminded myself once again to slow down. Make a list, yes, but start simply, focusing on one thing at a time. Don't hurry. Enjoy what I'm doing. Do it thoroughly and well. Then move on to the next thing. No struggle. No pressure. No time limits. No stress. And leave plenty of room for people, writing letters, reading, interests, hobbies, fresh air and exercise, just sitting around, and other important things.

Okay. What about blogging? I thought about that, too. How do I want to proceed? I know for sure that I have gotten away, in the past four months, from the things I want to do here. I've gotten more personal, at times, than I want to be. I don't consider myself to be particularly wise or knowing, and I certainly have nothing to say that hasn't been-- or can't be-- said better by someone else.

I don't want to attempt to create another blog that is meant to be pretty or clever or deep, and I couldn't do it well anyway. There is nothing about me or my life or my talents that is grand or unusual or striking. I'm a very ordinary woman living very ordinary days in a very ordinary house. But I've learned lessons about living well and making a good home, and I hope I can share some of this in a simple way that is encouraging.

Basically, if I keep blogging, it has got to be light and positive. Hopefully, what I write will be a help in being joyfully domestic; in creating an atmosphere for relaxed, happy, fruitful learning; or in living simply and well, with broad margins. For me that encompasses a range of things-- cooking for joy and good health, daily rhythms and routines, reading (I've learned about so many good books through blogs!), living green, good things for children, hospitality and relationships, work, creativity, and much more.

But it won't include pointedly spiritual lessons or deep and personal ponderings of my heart. (I'm not being critical of blogs that do that; it's just not for me.) It won't include attempting to be "transparent" (I will not be less than real and honest, but I won't get personal; please consider it implicit in my posts that my family has not been exempt from struggles and trials and deep waters, and, I have to say that a good, joyful life can be lived in spite of them).

I also don't want to give too much time to the computer, the internet, or the blogging world, so I'll post things when I'm ready, when I can, without hurry. I kept a computer time limit in the past (I don't need to say what it was), and I'll keep it again (maybe even shorter than before). It's nice that, when something is on my mind, I can usually write about it really quickly.

I'm actually eager to get back to what is most fun for me and fits my vision for blogging (not that I haven't been having fun all along)-- sharing with you the things that have made home and learning life very pleasant for my family. In fact, I've pulled out my list of 10 Things that Make a Positive Learning Environment, and I'm making good progress on numbers 8 and 9-- "Good Work to Do" and "Doing Real Things." As long as I can keep writing them, they'll be here for anyone who is interested in reading them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

About a Book and in Defense of Rain...

Spring rains in my neck of the woods.
Photo from MichaelTotten.com.

Since I sort of half-complained about the rain yesterday, I think I shall sing its praises today. (But I'm still glad to be going tomorrow where the sun shines most of the time!)

I've mentioned before that I love rain. In fact, I've mentioned it more than once. Some of you may even remember the sweet poem I posted on my blog, not once, but twice before: "Who loves the rain and loves his home and looks on life with quiet eyes...," but I'm not going to go looking for those posts right now. You can just take my word for it that they're there. :-)

Last night I finished reading an enjoyable book called Dear Mad'm by Stella Walthall Patterson. It was written in the 1950's after Stella moved (when she was 80-something-years-old) to live alone in a very remote mining cabin in a rugged area along the Klamath River in the Siskiyou Mountains of northern California. Her plan was to live in quiet solitude for awhile, but it worked out not to be totally that way.

By the end of the story, this woman had come to know and love the people who lived in the remote places around her, and she found a sense of purpose among them. Her relatives wanted her to move back to San Francisco, but she realized that their intention was to look after her and care for her and give her every comfort, when all she wanted was to be needed and for her life to have purpose and meaning, something she found living among the people in these remote mountains. (We all need a sense of purpose and meaning, at any age, wherever we are.)

The book is not as well written as Letters of a Homesteader Woman, but, like Letters... it's light in spirit, a bit adventurous from time to time, and fun to read. And being (sort of) set in the region where I live (if you give the word "region" a bit of a stretch-- because out in the rural west, "nearby" can mean an hour or two or even more away) made this extra fun reading.

I may have you wondering how this is a defense of rain. Well, it isn't yet, but there is a passage about early spring rains in the book that warmed me with recognition. I could have written the words myself:

"We get a good deal of rain in the Siskiyous during the winter and early spring, with now and then a light snow. So our mountains are beautifully green, and the many springs and lovely streams pour their bright waters in to the might Klamath all the year round. But a rainy day in our mountains is as beautiful in its way as a sunny one. Wisps of filmy cloud drift among the great pines and cling here and there to the peaks. The evergreens glisten with moisture and the madrone trunks and limbs return to burnished copper. The close, intimate sound of rain on the tight walls and roof of a cabin has an unalloyed charm when inside there is warmth, the comfort of an old chair that creaks companionably when you move, books both old and new, and an adoring dog. How could anyone wish for more?"

On days like that, indeed! Reading snuggly in my comfy chair by the crackling woodstove while rains pelts the windows and pounds the roof, and, yes, even with an adoring dog at my feet, how could I wish for more? (I must say, though, that spring snows falling quietly and gently or blowing sideways in the howling wind and piling up in soft drifts makes for a nice before-the-fire reading setting, too.)

The book next in line (waiting to be started this evening) for this category of my daily reading is the memoir Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. This book received high praise when released, including being named one of the top 10 books of the year (it was published in 2007) in the New York Times Book Review. I'd never heard of Little Heathens, but I ran across it in a bookstore recently and thought it sounded just like something I'd enjoy. I'll let you know.

I hope you're reading something good, too, and appreciating whatever weather early spring is bringing your way. Sunshine lifts the spirits for sure, but showers bring flowers! It's a hopeful season, no matter which way you look at it.

Sorry I don't have time to post book links!

Monday, March 16, 2009

On This (Almost) Spring Day...

(I only wish this was my porch and table and scene.)

I’ve spent a very nice, peaceful afternoon in my kids’ apartment, and for the first time in a weeks, I sat leisurely in front of the computer to browse and poke around. I wasn’t looking for news or depth or anything serious-- just simple things, ordinary rhythms and routines, and beauty. I appreciate a grateful spirit. It’s next to laughter for good medicine.


So, I stopped by some blogs I haven’t had a chance to visit in weeks, and I followed any rabbit trails that appealed. One place I ended up was
Simple Sparrow, a blog I used to visit frequently, and while I was there, I enjoyed her Five Senses Friday list. Apparently, the Five Senses idea started at this blog (a place I’ve never seen before today because, honestly, I don‘t do this internet surfing thing much), and I liked the idea so well that I started writing my own list just for fun. And then (even though it’s Monday and not Friday) I decided to post it on my blog, in spite of the fact that I have no photos to go along with the items I’m listing (I’ll soon be home for a while, and I’m sure I’ll be taking loads of photos then).

Sight...

Aaron at the computer, with the cat on his lap, studying for this week’s university finals. I love that he is smart and studious and loves to learn.

Out the window. Rain-- incessant rain-- falling, falling... but in a couple of days I’ll be in the high desert where the rain knows how to take a break.

I’ve enjoyed seeing and visiting with my wonderful two youngest kids the past few days.

Taste...

Afternoon coffee, shared with Aaron while he sat at his computer and I sat with Melissa’s laptop. And, along with the coffee, we had Girl Scout “Samoa” cookies.

A roasted sweet potato with butter and salt-- something simple I’ll never tire of.

Whole grain hazelnut French toast with bananas and pure maple syrup, eaten while breakfasting out with Aaron and Melissa at a very busy campus-area restaurant on Saturday morning. Yum.

Touch/Feel...

The giant lump in the middle of the futon where I slept the past few nights. I could either sleep on the summit of the bump or sleep on either side and slide gradually down the slope through the night.
In spite of the misshapen futon mattress, I slept well, and I am grateful to my sister and her family for having me in their home. They are truly the most hospitable people I’ve ever known.

This is an inner feeling, but it is so peaceful and nice in my kids’ apartment this afternoon. Rain falls. There is quiet while we do our own things, but it’s punctuated with comments and conversation. Aaron read aloud some simple and powerful poem/prayers that he‘s now trying to track down for me in an English translation.

A little bit too chilly when I take off my fleece jacket and a little too warm with it on. So, off and on it goes...

Smell...

That particular freshness in the air after a hard rain clears and the sky is blue.

Freshly brewed dark roasted coffee made from fresh-ground beans.

The thickest, richest, darkest hot chocolate ever. Made by my sister on Sunday and served in demitasse cups with fresh whipped cream. I’m listing this under “smell” rather than “taste” because, somehow, I resisted temptation. I’ve had it before, though, so I can attest to the accuracy of the three adjectives I used to describe the hot chocolate.

Hear...

Whatever music Aaron happens to be playing on his computer. At the moment it’s Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

Cars splashing past the window.

Melissa taking a shower after going for a run in the rain with her cousin.

(Looking this over, I realize that I have once again made wordy an idea that seems intended to be minimalist.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Luncheon...

(I think if you click on this photo, it might enlarge so you can read the recipe and see a better photo of the salad.)

For a potluck lunch get-together Mom hosted yesterday, I made this potato salad (with a few minor adjustments) from Jamie Oliver's book, Jamie's Dinners. I wanted to make it because it seemed like a bright and spring-like thing to have with its smoked fish, chives, new potatoes, and lemon. In lieu of smoked trout (which I love), I used smoked salmon. That worked well, though I can imagine the trout being just about perfect.

One of Mom's closest, longtime friends has been in town and will leave in a few days, so Mom wanted to have her and a couple of other friends over while she could. I was privileged to sit and visit with these ladies yesterday afternoon, thoroughly enjoying each of them and joining their conversation, but mostly, I wanted to watch them and pay attention to their words and their lives.

The women who came ranged in age from the early 70s into the 80s, and each of them is vibrant, inwardly beautiful, bubbling over with laughter and goodness, and young in spirit. These women were part of the church where I grew up, and all of them have known me for most of my life. They've had me into their homes over the years, made food for me, prayed for me, taught me how to do new things, hugged me, shared their wisdom with me, written me letters, and just plain loved me.

I sat back and listened to them talk. They clearly give no thought to being deep or wise, but depth and wisdom oozes out of these ladies-- the everyday sort of depth that comes from many years of faithful walking in the mundane, daily round; from years and years of studying the Bible; from faithful prayer; and from learning to bear all things in patient trust.

As I sat, watching and listening to these women, my heart was full of love and gratitude and my eyes filled with tears. Life is brief, and I am so blessed and privileged to have grown up with these women beside and behind me, encouraging to keep onward, urging me higher. I am so grateful to have-- and to have had for all of these years-- these examples of beauty, loving service, and faithfulness.

And truly these ladies are beautiful, each one of them, with the kind of beauty I want to have-- the inner beauty of kind, good, loyal, consistent, faithful, serving, praying hearts. Life has brought each of these women deep pain, heavy trials, heartache, loss, ups and downs, and through it all, their faith has remained steady and has even grown. They shine.

What wise, good, and faithful souls has God put in your life? What a gift it is to be able to be with them, to pay attention, and to learn from them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Birthday Cupcakes...

These are not my cupcakes, but they look sweet.

It was my birthday yesterday, and Melissa baked me my favorite cupcakes:
Cinnamon-Scented Devil's Food Cupcakes with almond frosting. It was a lovely, quiet day, full of family time, good wishes, birthday greetings, phone calls, emails, and plenty of thoughtfulness.

I'll be in and out of town often for the next two weeks, but I'll pop in here when I can (maybe often, maybe not).

In the meantime, I hope your weather is turning spring-like and flowers are blooming around you and your windows are open to let in fresh air. Maybe you're even doing some spring cleaning, hanging your sheets on the line, working in the garden, and sitting outside for your morning coffee. Whatever the case, spring is just around the corner, and I, for one, look forward to it!

Lissy, in my sister's kitchen yesterday.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Recently...

We saw this fence on a recent long beach walk. The fence is meant to keep ATVs (or "quads") off the beach.

Mom, off to the left, walking on the beach. The clouds that day looked like they were hanging from strings.

An abandoned railroad track less than 1/4 from Mom's house. I walk down this way sometimes.

Trees along the abandoned tracks.

I drove by this yesterday and had to take a picture of it. The lumber industry used to be the big, booming industry in Oregon. At least one great-grandfather, both grandfathers, my father, my brother, and two brothers-in-law all worked at one time in various lumber industry jobs-- loggers (my great-grandpa was a pioneer logger who worked in the Oregon forests on horseback, and one brother-in-law did some helicopter logging), sawmill workers, longshoremen, tugboat operators, and more. There were mills, log trucks, big ships from around the world, tugboats, and log rafts everywhere, it seemed. Our lumber towns bustled. These sawdust burning wigwams were a common sight next to sawmills. I have a clear childhood memory of seeing them in use at night, with the top of the cone glowing orange from heat and flames.

From Oregon State University:


A curl of smoke wafting from a wigwam sawdust burner used to be a common sight in Oregon timber towns. Unless sawdust was burned, people would have been buried in the stuff. It was a waste product without much value and in seemingly unlimited supply.


Times changed. Timber supplies dwindled. Wigwams were outlawed in the mid-1970s for polluting the air. Instead of burning it, Oregonians found uses for lumber mill waste: to make fiberboard, paper and cardboard, and to furnish the growing horticultural industry with pots, compost and mulch. With declining timber supplies and increased demand, the price of sawdust skyrocketed, up to five times its former cost.

Back of the store.

Last week, as we drove along the freeway on our way to the mountain pass that would take us home to the high desert last week, Melissa and I got hungry. We didn't want to eat fast food (I'd rather skip lunch, actually) or even grocery store food, so Melissa used her phone to search the internet for a natural foods store in the town we were passing. Yes, there was one in town, and the comments about it on the internet were positive. Melissa noted the address, we asked for directions, and we found this great little store where we bought some kombucha, dried mangos that were so delicious we stopped by the store on our return trip to pick up some more, a couple of oranges, a "raw" food snack bar, and some dark chocolate. Then we were happily off along the freeway again.

The road home, covered in a small amount of late-winter snow. Our house is less than 1/4 mile away, just past that white fence and down around the corner a little ways.

"Books for Simpler Cooking" at my Kitchen Notes blog.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Happy, Happy..."

Along our road.

When my one-year-old grandson Jayden enjoys something, however mundane and ordinary, he does a little dance and chants in sing-song, "Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy..." His cheerful enjoyment of the simplest things is an admirable trait, so I will follow suit and make a point to notice and exude "happy, happy, happiness" about simple, daily, easily overlooked things.

This time, some "happy, happy" things surrounding home:

The drive back home last week across our magnificent Cascade Mountain range. Snow falling gracefully into drifts around home. Branches laden with snow. The rhythm and work of scraping the wide shovel under snow and flinging it aside to create neat paths. Running through powdery, unshoveled snow in my warm snow boots. Winter air that feels its most icy-crisp and invigorating when the sky is that deep, unreal shade of blue. Falling asleep in a pile of warm blankets while frigid, fresh night air comes in through the slightly open window. Carrying wood to the back porch and building toasty-warm morning fires in the woodstove. Sitting in my favorite chair across from the woodstove with a steaming mug of early morning coffee. The heavenly aroma of a simple, long-simmering tomato sauce made from tomatoes I froze from last summer's harvest. The laughter and hugs and kisses of the two cutest, funniest, smartest, busiest, imaginative, most creative, interesting little boys anywhere. Two of my girls baking mini-fudge cakes together in the kitchen. And then eating the fudgiest, ooziest, most deliciously intense mini-fudge cakes imaginable. The Bangladeshi hospitality of Michelle's in-law's who warmly welcomed us into their home for a perfectly brewed cup of hot tea, delicious fresh-fried spring rolls with a Bangladeshi twist, and an afternoon of friendly conversation in their living room. The gradual creation of a pile or two or three of books-- collected from shelves and tables and everywhere-- to browse and read and explore and enjoy while I'm here (and gathering a few to take with me back to the coast). I've spent these days looking around and paying attention and realizing how very blessed I am. Every single day. Here or there or wherever I am.

And tomorrow, I'll say good-bye to Michelle and her family and drive across the mountains once again to take Melissa home to the valley and then travel across the coastal range back to Mom's house.

Just down the road from our house this late afternoon.

Almost home. I climbed to the summit of this mountain a year and a half ago.

Roman draws.

Jayden reads.