Digging, planting, growing

September 25th, 2009

I am digging a flower bed. Reclaiming it from the stretch along the house that has been neglected since R’s parents moved out of this house and into the new house they built on the property in 2000. Weeding, of course, but also digging large rocks out of the ground, using them as a border, and building up the soil. I pried over a dozen rocks, ranging in size from potatoes to large loaves of bread, out of the dirt yesterday and there are as many again still to go. Then on to the other side, newly exposed last weekend after R hacked down a decade’s worth of overgrown shrubbery that the boys dragged off to the wood pile one branch at a time. It is all rocks over there, and I will do this again, the digging up of the rocks, the making of a boarder, the building up of the soil. Then I will put in my bulbs – I’ve got allium and narcissus, crocus and muscari, three colors of tulips – and wait to see what spring brings me.

This too is why we moved here. It wasn’t just the boys who needed more space. It wasn’t just the boys who needed to be outside. It wasn’t just the boys who needed a place they could call their own, a yard and garden to get muddy in, to dig up and cultivate and experiment and make mistakes. It wasn’t just the boys who needed projects and jobs: hauling the wood to the wood pile, wheeling the weeds off to the compost in their wheel-barrows, weeding, digging rocks, planting bulbs. This too is why we moved here.

In the spring I will have rows in the garden. R’s mother has been keeping a farm garden for fifty years (longer; since she was old enough to help, I imagine) – lettuce and onions and beans and cauliflower; tomatoes and squash and zucchini – and in the spring I will have rows in the garden. (Small Boy is ahead of me on this – for the past two years he has had his own row of green beans that he has taken care of from planting through to plucking.) My mother-in-law is in her seventies now and cannot keep up with a large farm garden; she has been turning over more space to flowers, the raspberry canes have gotten out of control, and she cannot keep up with the weeding. She is more than happy to turn some rows over to me. I am new to all this and torn between diving in and planting many rows and moving more slowly. I want tomatoes and zucchini and eggplant and sweet peas. I do not know how to do any of this, but I have a farm wife, a farm wife who was before that a farm daughter, for a mother-in-law and that is better than having an entire shelf of gardening books. In the spring I will have rows in the garden.

We are digging. We are planting. We are growing.

Down on the farm

September 16th, 2009

It didn’t take long before we were in each others’ pockets; it’s the boys, mostly, who promote this by running up Grossmütti’s walk and through her front door at all hours. They want to play with Grossmütti, and they want to play with her dog, and they have made their grandparents’ house an extension of their own.

I see my brother-in-law J more than ever, just about every day in fact, and hear myself inviting him to dinner. The Boychen has fallen utterly and completely in love with his uncle’s horses (the first words out of his mouth in the morning, after his brother’s name, are “Lay-dee. App-uh.” and he will not rest until we have brought apples to the horses) and J is kind and patient and gentle explaining the horses, showing the boys how to hold out an apple flat on your palm with your fingers close together and bending towards the ground. The boys sit on the steps and watch their uncle lead the horses from their stalls to the pasture to graze; they help him give them their hay in the evenings. They become part of his routine and he accepts these little boys running tag behind him.

But it’s not just the boys knitting these houses together. It’s me, too. Half-way through cooking dinner one night I discover that I don’t have any tomato paste and I send R over to his parents’ house to borrow some. When my mother-in-law goes away for a weekend, I invite my father-in-law to dinner. Sometimes the boys and I eat lunch over there. This morning I sat in their living room and watched the Bundesratswahl (election of a new member of the seven-member cabinet that heads the Swiss Parliament) with them. They knock on our door for something, I go in search of J about a truck that has arrived to pick up a construction container. We borrow their car when I break the driver’s side rear-view mirror on ours, I ask them if they need anything when I make a dash to the grocery.

I’m enjoying this, this being part of an extended family, learning how to do it for the first time in my life. I like getting to know my brother-in-law. After being married to R for a few weeks shy of ten years now, I feel like I am finally getting to know his brother. I’ve seen him nearly weekly for years, at Sunday dinner or Sunday brunch, but this is different somehow, this calling out hello as The Boychen and I take our morning tour around the farm, this watching him muck out the stalls, drive the fork-lift back and forth to organize the barn, this seeing him come and go and live his life. 

I love seeing my sons with their grandparents. I love that they can have this, their grandparents across the drive, their uncle a huge part of their lives, and through them a connection to the rest of R’s family – cousins in his mother’s home village – that I would never, on my own, cultivate. Two weeks ago I sat with my mother-in-law in the garden of R’s aunt, with one of R’s cousins and her children, and Small Boy played with his first cousins and chattered happily in Swiss and I was happy to be there, part of this big messy family. To my great surprise, I am having such a good time getting all tangled up with this big messy family.

The last morning of vacation

September 6th, 2009

From my journal, dated Saturday the fifth:

“Last night I tasted winter in the air, winter sneaking in over the mountains like a girl sneaking in past curfew on tip-tap toes. This morning there is snow on the high peaks. The locals – our hiking guide Hans, the hotel owner Walter – smile, says it’s not really snow, just Zuckerpulver (powdered sugar) and it will be gone by afternoon. They are right, of course, on both counts, but it is there all the same. Winter: sending a post card from her summer vacation, telling us it was nice and now she is on her way home.”

A brag

September 5th, 2009

After the yoga week of learning to let go of it all (and a post for another time is how much I suck at meditation) I’m diving right back into my ego. I’ve got a new poem up at Umbrella in which a great white shark writes a letter to the editor. That’s got you curious, right? Then go read it.


A mantra

September 2nd, 2009

Our days start with meditation, then yoga exercises. We eat breakfast together, then change into hiking clothes. The hike is long, or short; we eat at a Hütte in the mountains, fresh Bergkäse and air dried beef and hot coffee with milk. We hike back to the hotel, there is time to shower, maybe time to do something before dinner, but just as likely not. We eat dinner together, then meditation and deep relaxation. The days are full, almost too full.

But today:

The blue blue lake, just a reflection of the blue blue sky, changing color when a cloud crosses the sun. (And how would the lake react to being called “just a reflection of the blue blue sky”?)

Two marmots.

Good rich Bündnergerstesuppe well-earned.

The sound of flowing water.

A falcon playing in the drafts around our gondola.

Good revisions to a poem. And writing. Writing this, here, now as if my life depends on it. Which it does. This, this right here, right now – this is my meditation, my centering, my work, my breath, my mantra. These words are the moments. Without these words how can I possibly share the playing of the falcon with somebody who wasn’t there to see it? Always this, coming back to this, finding these words to transfer an experience, make it understandable. Without the words we are forever alone staring at each other across the valley – finding these words allows us to try to build a bridge of understanding. To find each other. To give meaning to our experience. To honor our lives. Without these words we are just lost souls spinning in the darkness. I’m not sure this is the realization my yoga teacher would wish me to have in the middle of a meditation session but there it is: my reality, the only reality I can hope to understand. What do I believe in? In believe in this: in writing these words, one after the other, that lead me, if I am lucky and if I am good, these words that lead me to you. What do I believe in? I believe in you reading these words one after the other. I believe in us meeting each other on the bridge our words have built. And I believe in the spark of recognition that flashes between us when our paths cross.