Friday, August 26, 2011

The Simple Life

A family member recently asked me if I should consider simplifying my life. Rather than spit out my tea, I spent a minute trying to imagine what that could mean. Last I checked, a simple life was defined by smaller houses, fewer commitments, fewer and smaller purchases, growing your own food, enjoying home-cooked meals instead of restaurant fare, making crafts and clothes instead of buying them, owning fewer and/or cheaper vehicles and so on. Going simple means giving up extravagant clothes, outings, events, vacations, trading all things status for all things green and earthy.

In the last few years I have left my job in the city, given up a commute, traded in new vehicles for old, assigned myself as the handywoman in charge of renovating our home, become a full time farmer, a stay-at-home mother, learned to raise all manner of meat, milk a cow, process most of my own food and committed to buy or borrow almost everything in my life second-hand. Am I not the flipping POSTER CHILD for the Simple Life?

Ah, look again.

On the flip side here’s how I would define a complicated life. Taking on too much. Forgetting to prioritize the things you think are most important in life. Spending time and money on things that serve frivolous means, not heartfelt ones. Forgetting to listen to your heart. Setting your family aside for the purpose of making money. Triple booking your schedule. Overspending on your bank account. Telling lies to yourself or others and having to cover your tracks.

In the past few years my life has included all of the above, except maybe the last thing. Although it is possible that I have been telling myself that I have been living the simple life. It turns out this would have been a lie.

What I have learned is that even in a field of green, one can have a temper tantrum. Even without the sounds of traffic and the scent of pollution, one can run circles around themselves and be held hostage by their own agendas and pressures. You can take the girl out the city but you can’t, apparently, take the city out of the girl.

Polite folks often comment on the lifestyle we have. They say things about peace and meaning and importance and all of that. I appreciate what they are saying. It is all true. However, what is missing from this description is how much the experience depends on the person experiencing it.

Oh, I’m an earthy girl. I am actually out of place in any city. I like what a city offers, but my bare feet feel far more at home on softer ground. I need the quiet. I need the living things, the green, the fresh air and wide-open sky. I prefer real food, straight from the soil and prepared the way it has been enjoyed for hundreds if not thousands of years. I like a banjo more than the electric guitar.

I prefer to take time to be quiet. To stay close to those I love. To be present. To breath often. To smells roses, if you will. But preference does not always make it so.

This girl left the city decades ago. But the person who strives to make her life better every second of every day has not gone away. The environment I live in affords me a certain peace and quiet. My personality does not. I can’t stop looking for a better way. I can’t put down the hammer, the whip, the map, the striving.

So it is for this reason that I will give full credit to the person who observed that perhaps my life could use some simplifying.

Every moment we are given a gift. The opportunity to observe what is going on right in front of us. No pressure, no expectation – just the way it is. So much beauty. So much laughter. Right at our fingertips. Softer ground.

Recently I have been caught up in the day-to-day chores. I exist as a robot meeting all of my obligations, forgetting what I am doing it all for. Pushing aside my children to make sure nothing is forgotten. All tasks are complete, nothing is wasted, potential profits are maximized. There have been so few moments that I have been present for.

Now I realize, none of it has to be that complicated. It doesn’t matter where you are. Simplicity is only ever one step away. Towards softer ground.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Granny Pickle Recipe

I was very pleased with how my pickles turned out. I used the recipe below. It seems complicated but there is very little to do each day. They are a sweet pickle and can be cut into any shape or size.

Good Luck!


8 – 5” cucumbers
Salt Brine
I Cup coarse (pickling) salt
First Solution:
2 Cups vinegar
4 Cups water
2 Tsp alum
Second Solution:
2 Cups White vinegar
2 Tsp pickling spice (example: dash of cumin, mustard powder, bay leaves, dried ginger, mustard seeds, celery seeds)

1. Wash cucumbers then cover in salt brine and let stand covered for 3 days
2. Drain then cover with cold water for 3 days (draining and covering with cold water each day)
3. Drain then cut into ½” chunks. Combine first solution and heat to boiling then pour over chunks and let stand 2 days.
4. Drain. Combine second solution and heat to boiling then pour over pickles and let stand 1 day.
5. Pour off liquid and reheat and pour over pickles again and let stand 1 day.
6. On third day pour off liquid and heat to boiling again. While liquid is heating pack pickles into sterilized jars then pour boiling syrup over them 1” shy of the top. Seal.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We Belong to the World

Often before posting a revealing blog piece, I will run it by my husband to see if I’m saying too much. I do not seem to hold the concerns that others have about sharing too much information about myself.

On first glance, it would seem I am far too willing to tell my deepest, darkest secrets and fears to anyone who will listen. Does this make me self-absorbed, egotistical, navel-gazing? When a recent draft was quietly ‘rejected’ by my editor-in-chief (the guy I married), my defenses showed me something I hadn’t seen before.

I don’t think my experiences belong entirely to me. I feel responsibility for them. I think I have power over which way they go and how I react to them. But my life does not belong to me alone. I live on a planet with billions of other living things of all shapes and sizes be they human or bug and we interact daily whether I like it or not. Forces that nobody has any idea how to name, let alone control, are constantly at work. Even inside the universe we call the human body, chemicals are firing at rates that would astonish and overwhelm us if we were conscious of their doing.

As such, I don’t think my emotions belong entirely to me. I am a product of my environment. I am the summary of all these chemicals firing under my own skin and in my interactions with other beings. I conduct this orchestra with the small bit of brain I use but I don’t control all of the inputs and outputs.

If you believe in the theory that we are all One, as I do. That God is a thread that holds us all together, it is impossible to believe that everything you do belongs to you alone. That your ideas, feelings and thoughts are unique. It seems egotistical to me to assume others haven’t experienced the same.

I truly believe it is selfish NOT to share our perceptions with each other. One of the largest concerns of mothers that I know today is that they feel alone – they aren’t doing as good of a job as other mothers. One of the worst things I can do as a farmer is compare myself to another farmer. Every woman I know wishes she had another woman’s body, brain or life. Every living space (be it a family, a body or a piece of land) is so different that to assume one could expect or force the same results into all systems is ludicrous!

Yet in tiny ways, every day, similarities show their little heads. The basic truth of who we are and how the world works reveals itself and sets us free. I think this is what we call ‘seeing God’. Suddenly the world makes sense. Suddenly the notes we play on our instruments are crystal clear. Suddenly we are finding just the right thing to say. Suddenly the tomato plant is 6 feet tall. Suddenly a child is laughing so loud you swear you can hear angels singing or fairy wings flapping. For a tiny moment.

That’s all we get to keep are the small moments. A friend recently shared her husband’s excellent view of happiness. How we find it only in small windows, glimpses that make the whole picture more beautiful. Our lives are not meant to be the stuff of wedding days. Even your French fries can get cold at Disney World where our troubles are meant to disappear. We must steal these important moments and hold them as our own.

On the other side, we must also own the scary moments. And be willing to open them up to the world, I believe. Let some light in on them. Not flippantly. Not dangerously. Share them carefully in the right places at the right times so that others may know the most important thing we are meant to know in this world. We are not alone.

In the words of Ani Difranco in her song ‘Joyful Girl’: “The world owes me nothing. We owe each other the world.” Not to treat the world as a dumping ground for our negativity. But to belong to the world in the state that you are in – good or bad. And let the world hold you in it – as you are.

So, I do not believe in keeping things to myself quite like others do. I do not believe that the things that make me human are ‘private’ and best kept to myself. It isn’t because I lost a filter along the way. With as much heart as possible, I have the intention of holding up this one window to the world and maybe just maybe it will act as a mirror for someone else. This is the same kind of mirror that others have so generously held up for me – directing light on the dark places - for most of the years of my life.

Thank you to all of those who offered tiny glimpses of their lives in writing, in song, in their artistic creations. I see you. And you have made me feel more human.

And far less alone.

Friday, August 19, 2011

10 Things That Hold Me Together

I made a list to remind myself what makes me happy. What makes me whole? What is it that holds me together in a day/month/year? It terrified me on completion of the top ten things to realize that my children barely made the cut. It turns out they aren’t the fibre that strings me up. Instead, these things were:

10 Things That Hold Me Together (in no particular order)

1. Playing guitar and singing. Freely. Without an agenda or pressure. Feeling the wind coming from my lungs and passing over my vocal chords and landing back inside my eardrums. Healing. Complete.
2. Biking, paddling, running, hiking. Feeling the wind passing over my skin as I move. Preferably next to my husband. Together. Side by side. Moving forward. Without words.
3. Music. Listening to songs that inspire me, move me, shake me, unravel me and put me back together whole. Finding new music that excites me. Finding new artists that touch me.
4. Animals. Simply. Resting their heads on my knee. Purring. Cooing. Mooing. Snorting. Furry beings that surrender themselves to my care and in exchange I give my whole self, in the present, with full breath and open heart.
5. Giggling with friends. Laughing until I bend at the middle. Bellowing so loud that heads turn in public places. Humour that makes my eyes water, my drink spit across the table, my pants need a change.
6. Food. Meals with family and/or friends. Plenty of food. Good food. Food that I have prepared with my own hands. Food that my children have helped me put together with chairs pulled against counters. Food that is colourful. That I can share. Food that brings health. Food that brings happiness (not always the same thing). A universal language and I am connected to the world.
7. Writing. Songs or poems. Words that find themselves through my fingers before my brain sees them and makes them crooked. Healing. Less alone. Connected. Guided. Grateful.
8. Feeling productive. Things getting done. Pictures painted in. Loose ends being tied. Puzzle pieces finding their way home. Useful. Food stored for winter. Chores complete. Rewards earned.
9. Wildness. Long, deep, high or heavy walks. Walks through trees, down riverbeds, through tall grasses, crawling under blackberry canes, over boulders. Walks through sand, Water lapping onto toes. With my husband. Or alone. Exploring. Finding new ground. Any season. Any time of day. Fantastic.
10. Movies. Two hours of commitment. Guilt-free. A dark cocoon that is the theatre. Holding you still for two hours. Your time. Alone time. Popcorn time. Stories are told. Feelings are bent out then formed and shaped again. Deep quiet. For me, anyway. I love them. Always have.

These children of mine. There are two of them. Glorious, happy, smart little exploring beings. They are the meteor that crashed down on a fine, starry night and the impact they have had is immeasurable.

I would not change anything for the world. They are the colour in my landscape. They are the sweetness in the air I breathe. They are joy incarnate. Now that I know what it is to have them in my life, I cannot fathom the emptiness there would be without them. They circle around me with tiny voices, waving little arms, smacking pieces of food and they are the entire basis of my existence on most days no matter where I am or what I am doing.

But they don’t hold me together. They never did. And they never should. Those ten things (and many others) are what I have to make time for.

Will you tell me something that makes you happy?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Be Careful What you Wish For

It has crossed my mind recently that our little woman-stays-home experiment may have run its course and it is time for me to get a job to bring in some money. Oh, farming is a job. Cooking and preserving is a job. Cleaning the house is work. Wiping dirty little bottoms and washing sheets soiled by failed training efforts yet again – these are all jobs. But money is money and separate from all of that. And it is possible we need a little more of it.

If you have been with me from the beginning, you have watched me grapple endlessly with money. I have pretended not to need it. I have learned to respect it. I have listed off all of the resourceful ways I can do without it. I have yearned for more of it. Worried I didn’t have enough of it. Concerned myself with my spending habits. Wondered if I could change.

It turns out we are all capable of incredible things that we set our minds to. And we also set our minds pretty firmly on certain things whether we like it or not. It turns out I am set on having enough money in my life. I thought I could shift what ‘enough’ meant, so I went about tweaking our budget, spending differently, changing our entertainment habits. In short, going without. We earn a living on this farm of ours, but its not one that affords many luxuries. Inherently, there is a stay-close-to-home aspect about it all.

In place of travels I was to reap the joys of being at home more with my children, of popping jars of homemade pickles in January, of making berry pies from our own berries, of having fresh yogurt straight from our cow. Shannon Hayes and the other Radical Homemakers cheered me on! I know I will keep being a hands-on housewife with or without an off-site job. I learned that balancing the push and the pull of a full-force career alongside my home life doesn’t work with our lifestyle. As you know, the work with children is relentless no matter what else you have going on. What you probably also know is that the farm demands what it demands on its own schedule. We can take on a little less (not moving meat birds around once a day, every day for several weeks each summer) but a lot of it is standard, basic upkeep stuff.

But money is money. And farms these days are not known for bringing in mountains of the stuff. And financial security is a basic need, I’m told.

Further, there are things I enjoy that I don’t seem to be able to let go of. Perhaps if I had married in my teens or early twenties, I would have built a life around my family or my farm or my children and been satisfied with that. But I didn’t. I was a good start into my thirties when I settled down, had educated myself into a good career, traveled the world and I knew some things. I had seen some things. I couldn’t unsee them. I couldn’t unknow them. And I’m afraid, I can’t unwant some of them.

I realize it appears noble and envious to give it all up for a life on a quiet farm, at home with my apron and children and working alongside my loving husband growing organic vegetables for a living for half the year. Many have told me so. I believe them. But I know something else that they don’t see on first glance. The isolation and time spent questioning and doubting. The inability to go anywhere at a moment’s notice or stay away for more than half a day. The never-ending battle to get the dirt out from between my toes and from behind my ears. The total and completely unpredictable income from farming.

I don’t let any of that on when I’m basking in the compliments about how brave I am, how smart, how grounded for choosing to stay home and work on my farm over a fancy job with a respectable income. I have always felt the world cheering for me (most anyway) – wanting it to work out for me. Maybe that would mean they could keep their own dreams alive to leave the rat race one day.

It has taken months to even admit that my returning to work may be the only possibility for us. Though when I first uttered it out loud, the news quickly reported a mass lay-off with the department I had last worked for. Scientists to boot. Environment related jobs. Perfect. Now there would be 776 people looking for positions. If I wanted to return in my area (which is the most sensible place to start looking), times were tough at the moment. Everyone scared. This made me scared.

Once I picked myself up and dusted the fear off I made a few calls and sent out a few emails. I had a brain wave. It didn’t have to be all or nothing. I could ask for what I needed. I could be honest about what I could offer. Nothing long term. Flexibility required. I could take a pay cut if needed. Maybe no travel? Give up the benefits and work for myself. I could try for something part time. Perhaps from home so I could meet my little one when she gets off the school bus from her first year at school. More reasonably I'd want to be sure to be back in time for dinner or to fetch her from after-school care. And I have been around enough to know that even in the face of lay-offs, the work still goes on and workers are needed.

Within literally hours I received a bone. My husband laughed when I told him and said: ‘be careful what you wish for!’ A potential year-long assignment. Same type of work, the details yet to be worked out. I did not say yes or no. There are long lists of pros and cons needed before we make any decisions. Having a body permanently home allows for a lot of sanity around here. If not me, would it have to be my husband? Would the income earned be lost on his end? We have a lot of animals requiring care, vehicle maintenance to stay on top off, the usual daily grind, the snow blowing, hay cutting, all that just won’t pick up and walk away. Sending me away will not necessarily bring us the peace we are looking for.

The grass does seem quite a bit greener on the other side from where I sit today. What would we do with the ‘extra’ money? We could pay off our vehicles in the driveway. Finish this big house we wanted to build with proper carpenters (and not just stay-at-home-handy-mom). We could go on a trip! Yay! A real family vacation that we haven’t really been able to do yet. Like one that is longer than 3 days. My children have not met their cousins who live on the west coast. I have been away for a whole week vacation twice in the past 5 years and both times have been with my mother and one kid, not my husband. This is not acceptable!

We have been tied to our home mostly because our Saturday Farmers’ Market disrupts any chance of getting away. Then there is the fact that we only heat with wood in winter. Our dogs get anxious and can’t be left for too long. The cows cause trouble when we leave. And because there isn’t enough money.

The more I mull over it though the more it is not really about money, is it? Even with money, we couldn’t get away. There is that saying that we can’t have it all. And a farmer, well, you make choices and live with them, that is for sure. You have to appreciate the great gift that is your farm and the life it lends you. Until we’re ready to sell off the cows and quit going to markets, we’ve got a lot of commitments to live by around here.

I don’t believe a great influx of cash is going to solve all of our problems. I don’t think a week away with my family is going to make that much difference to our happiness. We are the kind of family that steals its moments whenever and wherever we can. I don’t think that getting up to commute in the dark to the city in all weather is going to make my life ‘easier’ in any way. Take a brick out of the tower and the rest can crumble. I don’t get to keep all of that money without losing a whole lot on the other side.

But the particular brand of feminism I subscribe to is the one where we get to celebrate the choices we have. And something got a whole lot lighter when the makings of a job offer came my way this week. If I decide to stay home, it will once again be something I choose to do.

I am blessed with choices. Rich, rich, rich.

And I have a whole lot of thinking to do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

(Re)-Discovering Pickles

Five years ago when I asked a fellow co-worker in cubicle-land if she had a salsa recipe she liked (she was South American, it was worth a try), she looked at me like I was from Mars and said ‘wrong generation’. How right she was.

Yesterday I went into Ye Huge Book Store and noted in the food section (where I often lurk to find like-minded folks writing about their experiences) that there is a very prominent wave of books on food storage, canning, pickling, fermenting, drying, smoking, root cellaring etc. that wasn’t there the last time I checked. And so I gather this is a trend of sorts now.

Funny that.

Recently I was blessed with an ‘extra’ bushel of cucumbers and decided to soak them in salt brine for some kind of pickle/relish thing. To date I have never enjoyed the pickles I make. So I still buy them for hamburgers or potato salads or whatever else I like to put pickles in. My relish has been reasonable but I think it would be difficult to go wrong with that.

So I did what every girl would do in my situation and emailed my mother-in-law. She immediately got in touch with her friend who had THE Granny Pickle recipe and a new process in my kitchen was born. Honestly, I had tried this recipe before without success (I think I used the wrong variety of cucumber). Note that they are called ‘Granny’ Pickles. It is because we have been prone to passing these kinds of recipes down from generation to generation. But as my colleague so aptly pointed out – we recently skipped a generation with these processes entirely.

It seems the last true universal ‘western’ effort to can foods was in the 70s when there was a movement back to the land. Since then, I suppose women and men on our continent have been prioritizing family, building big, huge houses, paying off the vehicles in their driveway and doing frivolous things like getting higher education or being CEO of companies. We traded our pickles for a better life, didn’t we?

Or did we?

It seemed to make a tonne of sense to quit with the pickling business when you could buy perfectly good pickles for a couple of dollars in the grocery store. At least, it always seemed that way to me. This was true until I started reading labels, anyway.

Then enter a bushel of ‘ugly’ cucumbers that we need to use or they will go to waste. Necessity is the mother of invention. Or shall we say the Granny of invention seeing as how she was the last one to bother making pickles.

Firstly, don’t you find it funny that us ‘hip-to-be-a-housewife’ types are writing books and blogging about our excellent food preserving methods LIKE WE ARE THE ONES WHO INVENTED IT? This stuff is not new folks. These techniques are ancient. And we are the idiots that deliberately let these skills go in one relatively short window of time.

I honestly believe that we all thought we could go on forever getting Bicks to make our pickles. I don’t think it ever dawned on anybody that we’d have to go back. Progress is progress. Nobody wants to go backwards, right?

So I have this huge mass of cut up cucumbers soaking in vinegar on my counter now. The recipe calls for some sort of rinsing, boiling, vinegar adding, sugar addition every day for ten days. Or more, I lost count now because I’m not so very good at following instructions. This is how new recipes are born I hope.

So if you want my Granny Pickle recipe, I will gladly share it but first should check with its ‘owner’. I’m not sure if there is a patent out on it or not.

And maybe someday when I get this figured my daughter will yank out the recipe for her daughter and show her exactly how her Granny did it. That would be me.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rockin' Balance

Recently a friend of mine called me grounded. This statement floored me (and that is about the only grounded I ever seem to get). You see, I’m a Libra. And although I don’t follow my horoscope, I firmly believe that our characters are nicely formed at birth and that there is a lot of information out there in the world that could either guide us or explain us that we don’t tap into. The sign for Libra is a set of scales. The general gist of the associated personality is that she is always seeking balance.

It is true that I am a question asker. I like to solve problems. Hek, I will make problems just to have the chance to solve one. I like complicated and I navigate chaos naturally (though not easily). I have always tried to seek balance in my life. I have been unable to stay in jobs that did not allow for adequate work/life balance, even before I had children. To be honest (and that’s what we’re doing here isn’t it?), I was grateful to have children because it was the first time in my life I had an ‘acceptable’ excuse for wanting a life outside of my work. They even have a leave code for staying home with your children in the government. You just need to say it once and everyone nods and understands.

In my twenties I got a lot of blank stares when I listed off the things I wanted to do outside of my career. I was considered the unpredictable one, always on the brink of taking flight. I held down my jobs (I was contracting through my twenties) and was reliable and effective at my work but folks were always wise enough not to try to land me in any kind of permanence.

Balance refers to something serene and steady. This is true, except nobody talks about what it takes to find or keep balance. It is a constant chase and battle. The universe naturally likes to ebb and flow and us living things have to find a way to make an anchor, work a compass, read the tides, and recalibrate time and time and time again. A perfect balance in actuality requires pushing and pulling, entering and exiting, birth and death, giving in and fighting back, reassessing and re-examining over and over. There is nothing straight forward about finding balance.

Yesterday I watched my two children on a teeter totter. It was a four seater and other children of varying weights would come and join my two, bounce for a while and then leave again. Effort was continuous to keep the right equilibrium. Two lightest kids on one side. Heaviest kid forward, lightest on the opposite back seat. Little legs pushing up, little arms pulling on the handle, bums steadily bouncing – with gravity working as the silent partner. All in the name of balance.

To the naked eye, I might appear to be grounded. I seek to live in the heart and nucleus of the emotional, natural, physical and magical world. I like to work hard. I like to learn new things and also do things I am very comfortable with. I like to be running towards things and I like to get away sometimes. In my opinion all of this keeps me grounded.

I think the only way to find balance in any situation is to keep questioning, and looking for the best way to approach the particular set of circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, it does not happen without effort.

As I make my way through this maze of mothering and farming, I am forever tripped up with the number of times the game changes. Early on with my infants I learned that the sure rule of thumb was that as soon as you get something figured, it was going to change. When my daughter finally learned to crawl, I was set free of being the baby crane. But then I became the hazard hider. This rule continues to be true for parenting today. The same can be said of farming. Its important not to get too comfortable with outcomes. The world around you is ever-shifting and your job as a keeper/facilitator/parent is to respond. A full-time effort is required.

The act of balancing will always take work. Balance does not come because you have looked away and ignored the situation entirely. In fact in my experience, that is a sure way to make more work for yourself in the future. The result is one steadily confused human being. Someone always asking questions. Always in motion. Seemingly always unsatisfied.

Is this grounded? You know, in a way I suppose it is. It is someone dealing with the laws of the universe as they are. Forever in flux, like the electrons orbiting an atom, like planets circling their sun.

Don’t let anyone tell you your crazy when you look around and see the world unsteady before you. It means that you are working with gravity the way it requires. In constant action and reaction mode. If it feels like you just can’t get a handle on things sometimes, be comforted my fellow human. You may only be at the centre of the act of seeking balance.

Because we could all use a little less fretting about whether we’re getting it right. Right?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nest of Dreams

We cleaned our house on Sunday. I mean cleaned. The two of us (adults) worked steadily for four hours doing those things that even people that clean regularly only get around to once in a while. Dressers were moved, all blankets and sheets (dog beds included) hit the laundry, garbage bags filled. There comes a point where I can’t take the messy house anymore. Oh, and you guessed it, we had company coming over. Small children helped by trampling the piles of dirt that the broom collected, returning toys to the ‘play field’ that we had put away and keeping a close eye that all art of their creation was not thrown in the recycling. Through this process I got to re-visit the great amount of stuff we have in our house.

My brother once had a pack rat living in his trailer. One day when I was there for lunch, my brother searched in his utensil drawer for a can opener, closed the drawer, put on his shoes to head outside, and climbed under the trailer to fetch his can opener and other metal objects that had disappeared. Under the house, the rat (that looks more like a squirrel) had collected a myriad of items to make his shiny nest full of treasures and upgraded it regularly. My brother clearly was learning the routine.

Bowerbirds make a structure out of colourful things called a bower to attract a mate. The Satin Bowerbird makes this display out of mostly blue things that can consist of bits of plastic containers, shells, tarp, glass, bobbles, hair ties, you name it; if it is blue it is worthy. I find it comical to imagine a bird standing at his new creation of blue, as if at a trade show, waiting to see if his potential mate will take what he has on offer.

Humans are no less funny. We ‘nest’ as well. In our world we call it online shopping or local farmers’ market scavenging. We create homes for ourselves to store and prepare our food in, sleep warmly and safely in, raise children, invite friends and family into, display our beautiful things. You gather and arrange things that are important to you in a way that pleases you and your family.

We are prone to storing dreams in our little heads the way we store our things outside of us. Dreams are the stuff that you want your life to have in it. The visions you have in your waking moments about what you want to do when you grow up. They are usually hard to believe and seem impossible to make happen. But all you know when you chase your dreams is that you are “here’ and your dream is “there” and you are going to close the distance no matter what it takes.

I see now why the term ‘dream’ is used to talk about our ambitions. The things we are privy to while we sleep also seem unfathomable most of the time, but there they are happening before us in our minds. The guy you had a crush on in kindergarten that you haven’t seen for 35 years is now picking peas in your garden while Princess Kate descends off of a cruise ship with a basket full of laundry (even though you don’t live near water).

Disney has the whole idea patented. Dreams come true!

I told my husband the other day that I could not find my dreams anymore (the waking kind). I wondered if age was to blame. Was it possible to still have dreams in your 40s? Somewhere in the business and busy-ness of our days I have lost them. When we bought this farm eight years ago, we both had hopes and dreams the size of mountains. And somehow, slowly, one blue, shiny thing at a time we’ve been able to make many of them come true. Yet now I don’t have sight of it anymore. My husband tells me they are still there. Though it feels like the distractions of every day has swept them all away.

There is a Pogues song called Fairytale in New York that I love. The song has two characters hollering at each other while ‘the bells are ringing out on Christmas Day’. There are curses and blaming in this duet of two people fighting inside a life together of trying to fulfill their dreams (calling each other scumbags and maggots, for example). But juxtaposed inside that, as every good song should have, is a sweet spot. It is a tender moment where they show their love for each other. And it brings on tears for me every single time because of the human truth to it.

Her: You took my dreams from me when I first found you!
Him: I kept them with me Babe. I put them with my own. Can’t make it all alone. I built my dreams around you.

It is only now that I realize that the dreams I claim to have lost are now woven into our lives. When we were not looking, the time that makes up our days consumed our dreams and turned them into life. Our dreams left the precarious place that is our head and eventually seeped into more solid ground. What was once an aspiration is now a memory stored inside a trinket somewhere in our house or a structure built somewhere on the land. Or better yet, safely locked inside the heart of someone you care for.

Like thieves in the night, our loved ones steal our dreams.
And put them with their own.

We build dreams around each other the same way the Bowerbird builds its bower. Out of all of the things that we love. And you can blame your age or the demands on your life – but at the end of the day, nobody can take away your dreams. They can only borrow them and give them back better and more real. Time will only do the same.

Cook up the mystery in your head - the shinier the better - and the nest will follow.