Thirty Halloweens Ago

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punkinhallow

On Halloween day in 1985, I packed up my clothes, a roll up mattress,  grabbed one lonely pumpkin from our small garden, locked our rental house door for the last time, climbed in my car and headed north out of Seattle. I don’t recall looking back in the rear view mirror at the skyline after nine years living in the city. My husband had moved to Whatcom County two months earlier to start his new job. I had stayed behind to wrap up my Group Health family practice in the Rainier Valley of Seattle. I was leaving the city for a new rural home and an uncertain professional future.

I knew two things for sure: I was finally several months pregnant after a miscarriage and two years of infertility, so our family was on its way, and we were going to actually live in our own house, not just a rental, complete with a few acres and a barn. A real (sort of) farm. Since no farm can be complete without animals, I stopped at the first pet store I drove past and found two tortoise shell calico kitten sisters peering up at me,  just waiting for new adventures in farmland. Their box was packed into the one spot left beside me in my little Mazda. With that simple commitment to raise and nurture those kittens, life seemed very complete.

I will never forget the freedom I felt on that drive north. The highway seemed more open, the fall colors more vibrant, the wind more brisk, our baby happily kicking my belly, the kittens plaintively mewing from their box. There seemed to be so much potential even though I had just left behind the greatest job that could be found in any urban setting: the ideal family practice with a delightfully diverse patient population of African Americans, Cambodians, Laotians, Vietnamese, Muslims and Orthodox Jews. I would never know so much variety of background and perspective again and if I could have packed them all into the Mazda and driven them north with me, I would have.

We started our farm with those kittens dubbed Nutmeg and Oregano, soon adding an ethnic diversity of farm animals:  Belgian Tervuren dog Tango, Haflinger horse Greta, Toggenburg goats Tamsen and her kids, a few Toulouse geese, Araucana chickens, Fiona the Scottish Highland cow, then another Haflinger Hans and another, Tamara. I worked as a fill in locums doctor in four different clinics before our first baby, Nate, was born. Again, we had new commitments and life felt complete– but not for long, as we soon added little brother Ben and seven years later,  sister Lea. Then it really was complete. Or so I thought.

Thirty years later our children have long ago grown and gone, off to their own adventures beyond the farm.  Our sons are married to wonderful women, our daughter is finishing her student teaching and starting the job hunt. Each child moved to a different big city spread out in three different time zones from us. A few cats, two Cardigan Corgi dogs, and a hand full of ponies remain at the farm with us. We are now both gray and move a bit more slowly, enjoy our naps and the quiet of the nights and weekends. Our second larger farm is more than we can realistically manage by ourselves in our spare time. My work has evolved from four small jobs to two decades of two part time jobs to one more than full time job that fits me like a well worn sweater 24 hours a day.

My husband is talking retirement in a little over two years. I’m not so sure for myself. I have never not worked and don’t know how I can stop when the need in health care is greater than ever.

The freedom I felt that rainy Halloween day three decades ago, as Seattle disappeared in the rear view mirror,  meant I no longer sat captive in freeway rush hour bumper to bumper traffic jams.  I celebrate my daily commute through farm fields, watching eagles fly, and new calves licked by their mamas. I am part of a community in a way I never could manage in the city, stopping to visit with friends at the grocery store, playing piano and teaching at church and serving on various community boards. Our home sits in the midst of woods and corn fields, with deer strolling through the fields at dawn, coyotes howling at night, Canadian geese and trumpeter swans calling from overhead and salmon becoming more prolific every year in nearby streams. The snowy Cascades greet us in the morning and the sunset over Puget Sound bids us good night.

It all started October 31, 1985 with two orange and black kittens and a pumpkin sitting beside me in a little Mazda, my husband waiting for my homecoming 100 miles north. Now, thirty years and three grown children later, we celebrate this Halloween transition anniversary together, still pregnant with the possibility that life is never truly complete when there is always a new day just around the corner.

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Twenty Nine Halloweens

bobbieclose

punkinhallow

On Halloween day in 1985, I packed up my clothes, a roll up mattress,  grabbed one lonely pumpkin from our small garden, locked our rental house door for the last time, climbed in my car and headed north out of Seattle. I don’t recall looking back in the rear view mirror at the skyline after nine years living in the city. My husband had moved to Whatcom County two months before to start his new job. I had stayed behind to wrap up my Group Health practice in the Rainier Valley of Seattle. I was leaving the city for a new rural home and an uncertain professional future.

I knew two things for sure: I was finally several months pregnant after a miscarriage and two years of infertility, so our family was on its way, and we were going to live in our own house, not just a rental, complete with five acres and a barn. A real (sort of) farm. Since no farm can be complete without animals, I stopped at the first pet store I drove past and found two little sister tortoise shell calico kittens peering up at me,  just waiting for new adventures in farmland. Their box was packed into the one spot left beside me in my little Mazda. With that simple commitment to raise and nurture those kittens, life seemed very complete.

I will never forget the freedom I felt on that drive north. The highway seemed more open, the fall colors more vibrant, the wind more brisk, our baby happily kicking my belly, the kittens plaintively mewing from their box. There seemed to be so much potential though I had just left behind the greatest job that could be found in any urban setting: the ideal family practice with a delightfully diverse patient population of African Americans, Cambodians, Laotians, Vietnamese, Muslims and Orthodox Jews. I would never know so much variety of background and perspective again and if I could have packed them all with me into the Mazda, I would have.

We started our farm with those kittens dubbed Nutmeg and Oregano, soon adding a dog Tango, then a Haflinger horse Greta, then Toggenburg goats Tamsen and her kids, a few Toulouse geese, Araucana chickens, Fiona the Highland cow, then another Haflinger Hans and another, Tamara. I worked as a fill in locums doctor in four different clinics before our first baby, Nate, was born. Again, new commitments and life felt complete– but not for long, as we soon added another baby, Ben and then another, Lea. Then it really was complete. Or so I thought.

Twenty nine years later our children have long ago grown and gone, off to their own adventures beyond the farm.  Our sons each married in the last year, our daughter becoming more independent as she finishes her college career in another year, each child to a different big city spread out in three different time zones from us. A few cats, two corgi dogs, and a hand full of ponies remain at the farm with us. We are now gray and move a bit more slowly, enjoy our naps and the quiet of the nights and weekends. Our second larger farm seems more than we can realistically manage by ourselves in our spare time. My work has evolved from four small jobs to two decades of two part time jobs to one more than full time job that fits me like a well worn sweater 24 hours a day.

My husband is talking retirement in a little over three years. I’m not so sure for myself. I have never not worked and don’t know how I can stop when the need in health care is greater than ever.

The freedom I felt that rainy Halloween day three decades ago, watching Seattle disappear in the rear view mirror,  meant I no longer sat captive in freeway rush hour bumper to bumper traffic jams for an hour, but now commute through farm fields, watching eagles fly, and new calves licked by their mamas. I am part of a community in a way I never could manage in the city, stopping to visit with friends at the grocery store, playing piano at church and serving on various community boards. I love how our home sits in the midst of woods and corn fields, with deer strolling through the fields at dawn,  coyotes howling at night, Canadian geese and trumpeter swans calling from overhead and salmon more prolific every year in nearby streams. The snowy Cascades greet me in the morning and the sunset over Puget Sound bids me good night.

It all started October 31, 1985 with two orange and black kittens and a pumpkin beside me in a little Mazda and a husband waiting for my homecoming 100 miles north. Now, twenty nine years and three grown children later,  I celebrate my Halloween transition anniversary once more.  We find ourselves on our own yet again, still pregnant with possibility for our future together.

 

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Best of 2013 Barnstorming Photos

decsunlone fir taken last New Year’s Eve 2012

These photos (unless identified otherwise) were all taken this year with my Canon Powershot pocket camera.
Here’s to capturing more moments and preserving memories in 2014…

tulipsamSam stopping to smell the spring tulips

irisrainbearded iris

marshmallow fields forevermarshmallow fields forever

buggediris (and bugs) in Ireland

photo by Emily Gibson
The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland
Rhodendron forest Rowallen Gardens, County Down, Ireland
Rhodendron forest Rowallen Gardens, County Down, Ireland

waterlilies2water lilies in Mount Stewart Gardens, Northern Ireland

pastoralpond2Mount Stewart pond, Northern Ireland

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Scottish kitty snoozing in a Galloway B&B sunroom

sunsetdaisysummer sunset on the farm

grasssunsummer sunset (and bug)

benchPoint No Point, Vancouver Island

sunsetjuly164Sunset, Strait of Juan de Fuca

nest2almost the world’s largest hornet’s nest (on the farm)

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summer evening rainbow

farmgirlsHaying crew

dawn7251summer morning haze

tammingasunseta joyful evening on the hill

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eveningrun

hidingouta front porch visitor in a box of Asian pears

morningweb2spider web in morning fog

abandoned schoolhouse near Rapalje, Montana (actually from 2012)
abandoned schoolhouse near Rapalje, Montana (photo taken in 2012)

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thistlebugsthistle full of ants

closerfull moon sunset

same pair, two months ago
Doe and fawn, WWU campus

rain8After an August rain

sunset8314evening on the farm

dandy4dandelion at dusk

sunset9161sunset sky

sunrise830summer morning rain

webdrizzle2web architecture

thistledowndrizzlethistledown

hydrangeaturninghydrangea

hydrangealace3spent hydrangea

creeperchurchvirginia creeper

rainyclothesline3too wet to hang clothes

sunrise10611looking north to the Canadian Coastal Range

fog101948October fog

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wwucolorfallen leaves on the plexiglass cover of a WWU bicycle rack

myohmyMountain shadow of Mt Baker at dawn

firstfrost3first frost

frost112313

sunset12713Twin Sisters

walnut4squirrel hollowed walnut shell

sundayafternoonAutumn landscape

lichen6lichenlichen7

rainyrose5rainy rose

rainbowsunrise2morning rainbow at dawn

solstice15last evening of autumn, first snow

canadianrockies2

snow12201324snow on last day of autumn

20131230-080912.jpgSwan in downtown Tokyo in December

And the changing plum trees…

photo by Chris Lovegren from our farm hilltop, Easter Sunrise 2012
plum trees photo by Chris Lovegren from our farm hilltop, Easter Sunrise Service

sunrise1042fall foggy morning

twinlayerslate October

plumtwinswinterNew Year’s Eve

Shadows Moving with the Sun

myohmy
Be comforted; the world is very old,
  And generations pass, as they have passed,
  A troop of shadows moving with the sun;
Thousands of times has the old tale been told;
  The world belongs to those who come the last,
  They will find hope and strength as we have done.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “A Shadow”

sunriseshadow

The shadow’s the thing. 
If I no longer see shadows as “dark marks,”
as do the newly sighted,
then I see them as making some sort of sense of the light.
They give the light distance;
they put it in its place.
They inform my eyes of my location here, here O Israel
,
here in the world’s flawed sculpture,
here in the flickering shade of the nothingness
between me and the light.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

shadow closeup

A shadow is hard to seize by the throat and dash to the ground.
~Victor Hugo from Les Miserables

The Soft-Dying Day

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  baker1028

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
        Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
        And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;

~John Keats, lines from “To Autumn”

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The Sky Flames

sunrise10123“…the sky flames, more intense.
I didn’t see it coming.”
~Patricia Hooper, from “Equinox”

sunrise10124…the autumn is deep.
Its pitch is only beginning, and will brighten
before the end.  Brighten
into darkness,
or into spring.
~Pamela Steed Hill from “September Pitch”

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Stewards of Creation

sunset7272Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.
~Wendell Berry

farmkids2When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
~Masanobu Fukuoka 

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

I should understand the land, not as a commodity, an inert fact to be taken for granted, but as an ultimate value, enduring and alive, useful and beautiful and mysterious and formidable and comforting, beneficent and terribly demanding, worthy of the best of man’s attention and care… [My father] insisted that I learn to do the hand labor that the land required, knowing–and saying again and again–that the ability to do such work is the source of a confidence and an independence of character that can come no other way, not by money, not by education.
~Wendell Berry
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