Free and content

Front yard in July 2015
In the summer, we take our time. We talk about the plants, the chickens, the dogs. We eat slowly. We read poems on the back deck if we want to. We sweep the kitchen again. We slide over the clouds of dog fur. We pick little theoretical fights with each other about politics, religion, or art, each of us playing devil’s advocate to the other’s position, just to make it more interesting. We dream up far-fetched home renovation plans. We fail to keep the mosquitoes away, and we never remember to put on enough sunscreen.

And I can’t help but think, every evening, Ah, we can do all of these things because we are childless.

One day, perhaps, our freedom will be interrupted. And one day, perhaps, we will welcome that interruption. But for now, we are free and content and we recognize and appreciate that.

Front yard in July 2015

Mini-farm life

June Thunderstorm

Our weekends are hot and placid, and we spend most of our time tending to the garden in the early part of the day, before the daily afternoon thunderstorm rolls in. On Sunday, we harvested garlic. I wore my hat, which is fully intended to transform me into a replica of my mother. I think it’s working.

Garlic braiding

Guion deserves all the credit for this bountiful harvest. This is our second year growing garlic, and I’m increasingly convinced that it’s the best and most practical backyard crop.

June 2015 garlic harvest

The summer is lovely and peaceful, but I’m excited for a bit of reprieve with the much cooler temperatures in Reykjavik and the wild surrounding areas. Stories and photos to come.

June Thunderstorm

A summer update

Another bouquet from the front yard #wildflowers #flowerlove
Wildflowers from the front yard.

Apparently, I haven’t had much to say lately. There are dogs to be walked and books to be read and friends to be moved, near and far. After a run of house guests and weekend travel, I have relished our recent weekends at home — even if the last weekend meant relishing by way of contracting this horrible fever virus that is worming its way around town. I was in bed all day on Thursday, fantasizing my death, sending incoherent e-mails to family members, letting Pyrrha lick my limp fingers as she made her rounds around the house. She is a very sweet nursemaid. I was going to say that she had such concern in her eyes while I was laid up in bed, but I think she might always have concern in her eyes, burdened as she is by her myriad fears. My dear troubled dog.

Beauties
The girls.

Eden, on the other hand, was quite put out with my laziness. She is merciless toward the weak.

Lately, I have derived pleasure from:

  • Post-dinner walks with G. and the girls
  • The wildflowers in our front beds (an Easter gift from Mike and Windy)
  • The short stories of Paul Bowles and re-reading Pale Fire
  • Looking up words I don’t know in Pale Fire, only to discover that Nabokov made them up
  • A granite/Corian counter-top cleaner I made myself, thanks to the glories of Pinterest
  • New jewelry from Tara Montgomery’s fall line
  • Watermelon and peaches
  • Going to bed before 10
  • Teaching the dogs some (much needed) new behaviors
  • The resurrection of family e-mail chains
  • Not having any calligraphy jobs on the immediate/urgent docket
  • Guion’s new melodies
  • July days that top off around 81 degrees

You?

Angela in captivity

We had our much-anticipated visit from Angela, the conquering New Yorker. She is a gem! She makes everything brighter. But our gregariously pollinated country life really took it out of her, sadly. She was a marvelous sport about our very cooped-up weekend, though.

Angela in captivity

Pyrrha was especially happy to have her.

Angela in captivity

Dogwoods ready to drop petals

We miss WXTCHOU already! And we’re plotting our visit to Brooklyn.

Thankful for

Today I am thankful for…
Orchid re-blooms. #orchidpride #houseplantfever

  • Orchid no. 2 re-blooming.

So seductive. #ediebaby #germanshepherd

  • This dog, who makes me laugh.

Date night

  • Date nights with Guion.
  • The fact that English is not a gendered (e.g., romance) language. This makes it a lot easier to be simultaneously politically and grammatically correct.
  • Time to revisit Virginia Woolf (currently re-reading A Haunted House, a tiny collection of short stories).
  • Family group texts.
  • All the money my parents put into my teeth, so that I wouldn’t have to have the smile I was born with, which would have resembled that of a medieval kitchen wench from the British Isles.
  • Weekends with weather that resembles late spring.
  • A kitchen that is a joy (instead of a biohazard) to keep clean.
  • Electric kettles.
  • My calligraphy studio. Such peace in my Room of My Own.
  • Wearing a skirt without heavy tights.
  • Friends who still ask me to do things with them, even though I’ve been neglectful of them for months.
  • How sassy Jesus is in the Gospels.
  • A pen pal who got surprise-married in the snow.
  • Men who identify as feminists.
  • This weird organic face serum (mostly water, aloe vera, and coconut oil) that has made my skin look clearer and better than it has in years.
  • America. No, really, I am.
  • Seeing that your dog (in this case, Pyrrha) loves you for more than just being the Giver of Food.
  • Tea.
  • A great university education.
  • Our church.

What are you thankful for today?

Visiting Gran in Ohio

We were all so unprepared for the bitterness of Ohio in mid-February, but our hearts were warmed by the time we got to spend with Gran and with our family in the Midwest.

To be able to see her face, hear her classic laugh, and enjoy her characteristic expressions of disdain — it lifted the spirits.

Photos galore!

Sadie comforts Guion during his morning headache. #ohio #familytrip
Sadie, my aunt and uncle’s “corgeranian,” comforts Guion.
#olympics watching. #familytrip #ohio
Watching the Olympics.
Birthday child. #familytrip
Grace turns 22!
Fuzzy bullet. Sadie! #familytrip #corgeranian
Fuzzy bullet.
Cousins! #familytrip #ohio
Cousin Sheridan and Kels.
Work tuff. #father #familytrip
Jak.
Ohio. #familytrip
Ohio. The unmarred snow.
Gran and the girl cousins! Love her. #familytrip
Girl cousins with Gran!
Young bros. #familytrip #ohio
The young bros.
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The family dog lovers.

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Reading birthday cards.
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Brothers don’t shake hands; brothers hug!
Snowy road trip fun. #ohio #familytrip
Long drive home through a snowstorm.
Guess who loves her Aunt Kelsey now? #thisdog #homesweethome
When we got home, we discovered that Pyrrha is kind of weirdly obsessed with Kelsey.

Mute gospel

Party aftermath. #tulips #maidenhairfern

We are going to see Gran this weekend, and Kelsey and Alex are coming to meet us here for the trek to Ohio. We will be in the car more than we will be out of it, but I am trying to see this as a positive thing. When else will we have so much uninterrupted time to talk with the Grays?

“What is a farm but a mute gospel?”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

Due to various reasons (Dylan Farrow, various other reports and anecdotes about rape, among them), I have been thinking about the rape culture that we live in. And how it is impressed on you, even as a little girl, that you are never truly safe. My default mode of thinking, even now, is to assume that all unknown men are evil (or mostly evil). And that’s how you keep yourself safe. You are always on guard, never trusting, always keeping them at arm’s length or further. Yes, it’s a sad way to live. Yes, I wish that wasn’t my mindset. But it is.

This is why, whenever I hear people say that we don’t need feminism, that the sexes are equal enough, I cannot hold my tongue (or my rage). Are we equal? Ask a man when he last felt afraid to walk to his car in a parking lot at night. Ask a man if he’s ever felt frightened to take a walk by himself. Ask a man when he was last nervous to walk on a heavily trafficked street or by a construction site or by an idling truck, waiting for a barrage of sexual obscenities to be screamed at him. Ask a man when he last had to fear sexual harassment from a boss, a coworker, an authority figure.

Yes, men experience rape, harassment, and violence, too, but I’d wager that it is not a reality that’s constantly lurking in the back of their minds — as it is for women. So tell me: If we were equal, would this be the case? Would rape kits go untested? Would victims of sexual violence be blamed for their actions? Would 1 in 5 women report having been raped in their lifetimes?

I don’t have a conclusion for this rant. I just had to put it somewhere, to file it in a long list of grievances at the state of the world.

It is not pleasant to live in fear. Ask Pyrrha; she knows.

Portrait of a lady. #germanshepherd #vscocam

My heart swells when I think about how far she has come. Come May, she’ll have been with us for two years. And what a different dog she is now! She is still afraid of many things, and she always will be, but this gentle, daily work of teaching her that she is safe and loved has been therapeutic — to both of us, I think. Even when the progress seems infinitesimal. Progress is still progress.

Our home, lately

Having people over is the best motivation to get stuff done. We’ve made progress in the house this month, particularly in the departments of hanging art and having sofas.

A collection of photographs of home and life, lately:

This is the before. #ikeamadness #handyhusband
This is the before.
New sofa, paintings hung
After!

House coming along

House coming along
Giant boxes = busted IKEA bookshelves we’re returning…
Feels like I really live here now. #finally #homelibrary #justthefictionsection
Perfectly sized white bookshelf from the thrift store. Take that, IKEA.
Living room view into hallway
View into the hallway + puppy gate!
House coming along
View from dining room into kitchen. Thanks for the counter stools, Mom and Dad!
Our bedroom
Our bedroom; I heart minimalism. This room used to be dark brown.
Our bedroom
Our bedroom.
Synchronized sleeping. #babies #doglife #vscocam
Synchronized sleepers.
Calligraphy studio, while working
What the studio looks like when I’m working.
Puppy punk
Punks.
Puppy punk
Edie’s serious face.

Come visit us! We have places for you to sit now!

January thoughts

Even though my books are still in boxes and there is no art on the walls, I am finally beginning to feel like the new house is ours. Maybe it’s the familiar tumbleweeds of German shepherd fur that adorn every room, but it’s starting to feel like home.

Don't make me go play with that puppy
Pyrrha, being bashful.

The bane of my existence right now is the backyard, which turns into a veritable swamp when it rains — a swamp of red clay pools that the new puppy* utterly delights in. (*Right: We got a second dog! Adopted our foster puppy and named her Eden. She is a joyful little terror. So bright and happy; opposite personality of my shy, sensitive Pyrrha.)

If you have any great solutions to a marshy yard — aside from pouring concrete over the entire thing, which I am often tempted to do — please let me know. I had such high aspirations for having a beautiful house. Now I just have a den of dog hair and clay-stained floors and walls. It is good, though; I am learning to surrender my material possessions to the Hands of the Lord, who points to the dogs and says, “This is why you can’t have nice things.” (It’s training ground for future offspring, right? I’d like to have a competition between a toddler and our two dogs to see who could destroy a room the fastest.)

Dogs in January
Dogs in the swamp.
Dogs in January
Eden wants to come inside. And the poinsettia is definitely dead.

On the brighter side, I enjoy practicing calligraphy 50% more now that I have A Room of My Own. I like to escape there from time to time. Pyrrha is the only one who is allowed to join me. She’s been more jealous of me since adding Eden to the household, and she likes to be reminded of her top position in my esteem.

This little room brings me great joy. #studio #aroomofonesown
My studio.

I am also reading fiction again and deriving great pleasure from it. I just finished Adam Johnson’s fantastic novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, which most recently won the Pulitzer. I rarely read books that are both action-packed AND superbly well-written. (And darkly funny!) It’s great. I recommend it.

I also continue to marvel that I was lucky enough to get to marry Guion. He is a real winner. Par example: In the past year of our marriage, he has morphed into a gourmet chef. I don’t even want to go out to restaurants anymore, because the food they serve me pales into comparison to what Guion can make. And these are primarily meat-free dishes, too; we’ve continued our aspirations to mostly meat-free eating, and I’ve felt better for it. We sit at our refurbished farm table (thanks, family!), light some candles, and keep the dogs at bay.