March 9, 2012

The Real Easter Basket

Two months have passed since I began working part-time at an English school. It's been nice to get out of the house, I enjoy the personal interactions, and I can now breathe a little easier on the economic side of things, but it's had its expected flip-side results as well. I'm quite tired every day, I worry I'm not giving enough undivided attention to my family (some correspondences are suffering), my hip pain has returned, and my amount of free time to dedicate to creative pursuits such as writing, art, and gardening has taken a hit.

But there're also some undeniably wonderful things happening at the same time—the growth of our daughter, the flourishing of our orchard and flock of chickens, even the growth of some friendships and personal strength. I tend to believe as is in nature, also is with people, and vice versa. Even when it seems like I have little extra time for anything, the above things are both a blessing and a natural result of small, diligent, patient efforts toward progress, combined with the wonderfully powerful and cyclic elements of nature.

I'm the kind of person who likes to answer every personal email I receive, but it hasn't always been possible with my new schedule. But one of the side effects of not always being the most responsive, or first to reach out, has been to find out which friendships have perservered despite my low levels of maintenance. It reveals a connection that can stand the test of time.

I never would have guessed that something as simple as, when we built our house, placing a window facing a mesquite tree, would bring so much enjoyment from the center of our home—seeing its vibrant, almost flourescent green leaved branches waving gently in the breeze and filled with songbirds coming to take a drink from a dish of water on the ground below it. It took years of gently inviting wildlife to our yard and runoff from our roof directed to the mesquite's roots for this whole scene to develop.

There's a weedy grass that got out of control in our yard while we were otherwise occupied with parenting duties, and when I finally decided to reclaim my garden and started letting my daughter come outside and explore while we worked, we'd get covered with its sticky seeds. Even the regular feeling of desperation of just walking outside for a few minutes to pick greens or feed the animals, only to spend almost half an hour just picking the spines out of our pantlegs (and weeks afterward trying to eradicate it), managed to turn into a unexpected moment of repose, albeit a month or two later. Just today, my daughter and I were standing in the kitchen after coming in from outside and I noticed she was prostrate on the floor behind me. At first, since she has a frustrating puppy-like characteristic of chewing shoes, I impatiently said, no touch! But when I looked down, I realized she was picking seeds off the bottom of my pantleg and couldn't help but smile. This is a 17-month old, who picks kale leaves and feeds them to our chickens—why had I assumed she was just getting into trouble instead of doing something constructive? I took a deep breath, stooped down, and hugged and thanked her, acknowledging to myself that I'd judged the moment too quickly.

The living things in our garden have been in a relative state of neglect, with the exception of our flock of chickens. They didn't lay a single egg for almost 4 months this past winter, and we were starting to wonder if our efforts to keep them fed and safe were in vain. Our older chickens almost got passed over for new chicks to replace them. But then miraculously, almost a month ago, they began laying again, and right now, not one but two of them are sitting on eggs in the nest, in the hopes that they will become first time moms to some fuzzy little chicks in less than a couple weeks. In checking up on them last night I observed that one of the 7 eggs they'd laid and were brooding was crushed and smeared over the others. I couldn't figure out if it was them or the other chickens coming in and stepping on them. So I decided to try and experiment with a swinging door so they could get out and eat and drink water once or twice a day but that would block the other two hens from coming in, who'd have to lay their eggs in a lower nest box. As I was snipping and collecting grass from around the yard, and placing it in the coop, rearranging the eggs carefully, I couldn't help but think of an Easter basket. Then I thought, duh, these *were* the original Easter egg hunts! Even though I probably won't have time or money to do up a fancy colorful gift basket like the kind we used to get as kids, we'll have the satisfaction of having the real thing.

Not to be trite, but cliches describe these situations well—finding the silver lining of every cloud, or asking yourself what you can learn from a situation. My own personal list goes on, but I hope I've made my point. In these particular moments, I made a mental note that sometimes even the most disdainful situations can have surprisingly sweet results—especially if you take the time to look for them.

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