Sunday, April 27, 2014

Eostre, goddess of springtime

"Each year on the day of the spring equinox, ancient Saxons in Germany celebrated a festival for the goddess of springtime, named Eostre.  Her earthly symbol was a rabbit.  Rabbits and eggs were symbols of rebirth.  Many Anglo-Saxons in England dyed eggs by boiling them with flower petals and leaves.  Brightly colored eggs represented the bright sun of springtime."  --From A New Beginning by Wendy Pfeffer  
I want my kids to grow up with a solid grounding of the seasons, steeped and soaked into their very bones.  We are lucky to live in a place with four very substantial, distinct seasons (okay, so winter does step on autumn and spring a bit).  A couple of weeks before the anticipated shift--winter solstice, spring equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox--the first changing of the guard in our house is the introduction of these two books for the coming season:  
The first is a lovely board book by Gerda Muller with earthy illustrations--no words--for each of the four seasons.
The second is for an older audience but there is still plenty I can read to a 2 and 4 year old.  By Wendy Pfeffer, the series details festivals and celebrations from across the world and over the centuries to mark the change in seasons (The Shortest Day, A New Beginning, The Longest Day, and We Gather Together).  There is a page on the solar system, and a few pages with crafts, experiments and activities.
I read them, my kids thumb through them, we talk about what each season means, what it brings.  Lately, with each tiny sign of spring Juniper announces, "Mom!  I found a ladybug!  The first ladybug of spring!  Yeah!"  Or worm, or blade of grass, or bumblebee, or daffodil shoot, or--in Hazel's case--the first wasp of spring landing in her Easter basket.  
^My mom sent me this dishtowel with my maternal great-grandmother's stitching.  It's hanging on the dining room wall.^

We also read "God Gave Us Easter" (another grandma spoil) even though it makes no sense to my kids, because I feel they should know that story too.  I do it with the same awkward hesitancy that my mom made us dress up and attend Easter service, the biannual church excursion of my childhood.

:: Anyway.  Easter this year was a little hampered by the fact that I couldn't move my head.  I woke up with a "kink in my neck" the Tuesday before Easter.  By Thursday afternoon I found myself with NPR plugged into my ears, blasting over the magnetic THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP of an MRI.  So while I had red cabbage, beets and tumeric just waiting to be turned into dye baths, we opted for the instamatic experience of grocery store PAAS and I didn't have to bend my head to chop cabbage.        
Our town is tiny and doesn't have much going on, so when there is an event, we try to go.  We hit up the annual town Hunger Games, I mean bloodbath, ahem, Easter egg race...hunt...doh!  
  ^Before the fire siren.^  And after:  
Hazel was inside with friends in the 0-3 room, Juniper outside with me on the 4-6 lawn.  Juniper surprised me with her physical prowess.  She was a regular Katniss Everdeen, leaping deftly to the middle, swiftly pouncing eggs, but courteously stepping back if another kid got there first.  I thought the madness of it and the bigger kids would send her to tears, but afterwards she was red-cheeked, smiling and pumped on adrenalin.  It lasted 60 seconds and this is the best picture I could get ^.  Between the girl with the yellow dress and the boy with the purple shirt, you might see Juniper's red hairband and her basket on the ground.  She made out with a good haul.    
:: Easter morning.  Another of the grandma (they have three) spoils was this basket for Juniper, which belonged to my paternal grandmother, and the rice-stuffed mouse with fur-lined ears she had made for my step-mom years ago.  My grandma has been gone for twelve years, but I love that my kids can run their fingers over the same things she did.           
:: The Hunt.  Remember the crocheted eggs?  They make an appearance every year, though I do need to make another batch for this second kid.    
We had a pretty sly Easter bunny this year.  Hazel often needed some pointers.  
We always find the most precarious robin nests around our home.  A lovely Easter surprise.  
Do you see the egg?  
True to Katniss Everdeen--Juniper helps her little sister.  "Look Hazel!  Over here!  Come quick!"  
The morning spoils.  Hardboiled eggs, jelly bellies, chocolate bunnies, and some tiny knitted creatures.  
One of the many, many ways in which these sisters are so different: Hazel eats her candy all at once (unless we intervene).  Juniper saves hers (and then forgets about it).  
Best Easter gift was Nana showing up that evening, loaded with Easter spoils and ready to bake, read, and pretend, pretend, pretend.   
P.S.  I know it's been almost a month and I still haven't posted pics from our coastal clamming vacation.  You know me.  It's coming.      

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


As the snow melts our yard becomes a debris field of sediment, cataloguing our lives from the last four months, laid bare and exposed in the naked grass.  Sidewalk chalk, Christmas ribbon, fireworks casings, hot-pink foil streamers from New Year's noise makers....  As my husband says, our yard is a discovery center; our very own treasure hunt.
 ^Juniper tying a pink foil streamer around chicken feathers.  It's also my favorite photo from the last few weeks.  It says so much: the way those pudgy hands wrap and curl and manipulate; the way she makes something out of nothing.  Her industriousness.  Her intention.
We are plunging into spring, peeling off layers, sun-kisses smack on the face.
^A lovely example of Hazel's goofiness.  She's hamming it up for the camera, she has a raspberry on her chin from a face-plant in the gravel and she's wearing four swimming suits.  
:: Fast becoming a tradition in our family: first day of spring fishing.  Right around the equinox we celebrate our only spring birthday by taking this guy out to do his favorite thing with his favorite people in our freshly-thawed river.  (Click here for last year's adventure.)  The trout were cold and slow and still catch-and-release.  We were all infused with sunshine and running water: a glorious celebration of spring in Wyoming.  A photo essay for you:      
How do you celebrate spring?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

winter's end: snaps

Today.  The garden is nearly free of snow.  We've been digging worms, working up the tomato bed.  The chickens are officially confined to their run for the spring, giving green things a chance to grow.  Robins and Juncos flit about the kids' pinecone feeders.  Daffodils and tulips are shooting up their bold, confident spears.  Spinach, lettuce and kale will go in the ground tomorrow, maybe the next day.  

We left winter, joined a slew of family and friends on the coast, and came home to spring.  Well, almost.  The white stuff is nearly gone.  Nearly.  

I found one of our hens dead in the nest box today.  Hazel lowers her head and says, "Ice-Cream Lollipops died," then she pouts her lower lip out.  Juniper asks, "Where's the blood?  Can I touch her?"  Then we tell that stiff, little chicken body how thankful we were to know her, how much we loved her eggs, how we promise to take good care of her friends...and tears well in Juniper's eyes and her mouth gapes open to that same, silent pre-cry she's had since the moment of her birth, and she wails:  "BUT WHY DID SHE DIE!?  WHY IS OUR CHICKEN FRIEND DEAD!?  WHAAAAAAA!"           

Juniper's natural inclination was to build the dead chicken her own house, "A die house." I explained that we often bury our dead loved-ones deep into the earth.  Juniper said, "Yeah!  And we'll put a stick there so everyone knows it means, 'Don't Dig Here.'"  
:: Okay, okay.  More recent stuff to come.  Real quick tonight: winter pics from late February and March that never made it to the sphere.  Cheers to the sphere.    

:: Snowy swinging.  
:: Meeting friends,
To watch the next Olympic sport?  
:: One of my last skis of the season.  
:: Dug our over-wintered carrots and kale.  The carrots were crisp, fresh, spicy and worth far fewer calories than what it took to dig them out.  Still exciting: the first time I've successfully over-wintered carrots.  The kale was all smooshed, but is now in the process of growing fresh leaves.  Yum!  March garden goodness in zone 3, yee-ha!  
:: Melting snow = happy chickens,
Prolific chickens,
Adventurous chickens.
^The one closest to the doorway is now in a box in our garage.  Poor girl.^
:: Weirdly, my favorite part about getting fresh milk: skimming the cream off the top.  I love always having cream available, but mostly, I find a zen-like meditation in the skimming (for a whole 53 seconds, but still).  Chop wood, carry water.  Indeed.  
:: First time bowling with buddies.  (And sporting mama-knit vests.)    
Hazel trying to keep up with the big girls.
:: Home repair projects with "Jake and Ira,"  Juniper's alter-egos for my man and J-bug (she's Ira).  
:: Jake and Ira also set up the kids' work bench.  (Thanks Nana.)
Then made a sail boat. 
Later, Juniper watercolored:  
:: My man's latest exercise routine--when he's not busy being Jake. 
:: Hazel's photo.  Love the perspective. 
:: First large, framed photo of the kids.  Shutterfly was offering a free 16 x 20 that I couldn't pass up.  So, so, so happy with it.  I should have done this ages ago.  
This photo was taken on the front porch of a historic house in the tiny town of Monterey, Virginia.  I love the candid spontaneity, the weeds growing in the cracks, Juniper's filthy shoes and socks from playing in damp grass.  
Okay spring.  Bring it on.