As I grow older I am seeing just how true this is. You may not believe it, but once upon a time I was a bad ass, chain saw-wielding, botany loving, environmentalist who slept outside on the full moon regardless of the season or what city or field I found myself in. I could tell the difference between a hemlock, spruce, or douglas fir by its silhouette on the horizon.  I would define the places I lived by their watershed and understood well their boundaries and influences.  I only ate organic food and I never drove my car unless I absolutely had to.

Things have changed since then.  As the autumn deepens into winter, I find myself thinking about how my life seems to have its own seasons, mirroring those of nature. The time I describe above was like the fullness of summer.  I was out exploring the big, wide world, sipping on the nectar of experience wherever I could find its sweetness. Mingling with the wildlife, wild and free.  The time just after that- these past 10 years since then- has been an autumnal experience.  It’s been a time of nest building, growing a family, and creating community. I’ve lived my life in smaller circles, orbiting around my den and small children.  I am more cautious and disciplined in my actions, planting seeds and nurturing the production of food and various experiences to feed us all as we grow up and out of our infancy together.

Now, as I sit and feel the cold wind on my cheeks, I consider what’s next.  The winter season is an opportunity to reflect and consider what I want to bring with me into the light as the days lengthen and the season grows warm again.  I consider how things have changed since that summer many years ago.

Yesterday, while transporting a group of boisterous third graders on a field trip we found ourselves in a debate about what types of trees were on either side of the road.  With confidence I knew that the one on the left was a spruce, but the other I did not know.  Douglas Fir or Hemlock?  The trees have not changed, but somehow I do not know them anymore.  I notice that I can’t tell you what phase the moon is in either.  I can only tell you that it’s waxing because my son is studying astronomy this week at school. And, when the moon waxes to its fullest next week you will not find me sleeping in my backyard to feel its warm glow on my face throughout the night. I know I live in the French Broad River Basin, but I’m not sure where its headwaters are or exactly how this old, old river runs north then west before it makes its way out to sea. I drive my car every day.  Sometimes I drive up to the Ingles just four blocks away and I don’t even feel badly about it.

To be completely honest, I notice these changes and I DO feel a bit sad about it.  I miss my intimate relationship with nature and I don’t love her any less. The truth is that the circumstances of my life have changed so much that I don’t have the same opportunities to nurture my connection to nature as I used to.  Now, rather than listening to bird calls and counting pistils and stamens on the wildflowers while I am in the woods, I am running fast to get my exercise in between football practice and dinnertime.  My ears are usually filled with music from my ipod and I’m moving too quickly to notice a penstemon in bloom.  On a bike ride in the woods, I am so focused encouraging my son to use his strong little legs to peddle his bike up to the ridge that I barely notice the babble of the creek. I’m doing the laundry while my husband is building the fence.  We divide the chores up between us so that it can all get done and I find that I don’t often choose to be the one wielding the chain saw, I’d rather tend the garden and make strawberry jam.

In turn, I’m a little less confident with using a chain saw than I used to be.  Botanical nomenclature of the southeast is an area where I have some growth.  It is true, if you don’t use it you lose it.  But is it really lost?  Maybe not.  I still know how to sharpen a chain if I need to.  I know how to use a field guide to identify a tree and step outside and look up at the sky to view the moon.  I still know how to ride a bike.  This wintery chill inspires me to stop feeling sad about how things have changed.  Rather, to recognize them as part of the cycle of seasons in my life.  As the seasons have changed, so have my priorities.  And that’s okay.  The wild, free nature of my summertime self is still inside of me, just matured a bit.  I may have lost my ability to quickly identify the difference between the tracks of a raccoon and a possum, but I’ve learned how to make a mean batch of apple sauce.  I’ve grown into my role as mama to two beautiful and wild life-loving boys.

My kids are getting older now. They are learning to camp and fish.  They have their own sleeping bags and love to sleep outside under the moon.  They can ride bikes, help with chores, and even, sometimes, be silent long enough to hear the birds sing their songs.   This spring, as the days become warmer and longer, perhaps I’ll get a chance to do some of those things I used to do.  But this time, I’ll have my boys by my side.  Rather than focusing on what’s been lost, I’m excited to see what can be found.

leif & kai

It Must Be Spring!

One minute they were out back playing cars on the mulch pile. And, the next minute…

Telling Stories

I grew up with a dad who loved to tell stories.  Fortunately, for my boys, he still does.  Recently, my dad has been telling the boys a story about two Native American boys, La-wa-no-kee-te-Leef and his little brother Wa-to-to-te-wana-Kai-oh-te.

My dad has been telling this story chapter by chapter through the mail.  It is a beautiful tale written about a boy just about Leif’s age, who is separated from his tribe when his village was attacked by a rival tribe of Indians.  The boy retreats to the woods, sad and lonely, and finds a beautiful white stallion drinking from a stream.  He finds he is able to communicate to this stallion through his thoughts and feelings and is comforted by this. The stallion brings Leef with him back to the herd to be protected and cared for while they help the boy find the family he has lost.

In chapter 2, Leef is disturbed by bad dreams as he begins his new life away form his family.  And, in the most recent chapter, chapter 3, Leef makes himself a dreamcatcher as he has seen his elders do, to help keep the bad dreams away.

And, to my boys delight, look what came inside the box containing chapter 3 of the story…


Aren’t they beautiful!  These dreamcatchers hand-crafted by my dad and Debi from things collected on their property in California.  Kai’s even has horse hair from their horses!  What began as just a story has begun to take on life for the boys, as they begin to see themselves in the characters.

And, for now, this means they see themselves as two little boys who are promised sweet, magical dreams…protected and nurtured by the dreamcatchers they have hung above their beds.





It’s been six years since that day we kissed my mama’s body goodbye.   On that day, when her lively spirit was finally free of her dying body, she flew out that open window in her bedroom and joined the world.

On Granny Creek Day we visit her out there. With intention, we retreat from the business of our daily lives and go to her.  Into the woods, along a stream, we find her.  The daffodils are her beauty, simple and stunning.  The wind is her touch on my cheek, the feel of her stroking my hair again.  The stream is her body, nutrient rich and life-giving. Her smile is my children’s laughter as they learn to skip rocks.


Today we celebrated the ways which my mom most inspired us.  The ways she taught us to be in this world.  The ways she showed us how.




As I watch our alter take shape I remember that I continue to be inspired by her.  Her life continues to breathe awareness and perspective into my own. Because although I can no longer touch her, or feel her, I am of her.

Loving you today, sweet Mama.  With gratitude for all of the ways you continue to inspire us all.







Apples: a photo journal






Nanny’s Parisian Apple Crisp
2 lbs. tart apples, 1/2 inch slices (or whatever size chunks your 3 year old cuts them up into)
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 chopped/slivered almonds
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Spread apples into buttered, shallow 9″ baking dish.  Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon. Stir in almonds.  Mix melted butter and vanilla and add to flour mixture, tossing  It will be crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over apples and press down.  Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes until top is richly browned & apples bubbly and tender.  Eat.  Enjoy. Cherish the goodness.




















Happy Autumn!

Yay!  Autumn is here!  Leif was so excited on the equinox that he entered the kitchen with a merry “Happy First Day of Fall!” greeting when he woke up that morning.  Autumn is exciting for so many reasons…the weather is so lovely, the leaves fall and can be raked into great piles for jumping, apples are ready to be picked,  and rainy afternoons inspire mom to bake more and say “yes” to outrageous art projects or lazing around with popcorn and a movie.

It is also the beginning of our season of celebration…Dan’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Leif’s birthday, Christmas (not to mention the birthday of so many loved ones).  So many fun things packed into just a few months.

And so, last weekend we began our festivities…Dan turned 37!


For Dan’s birthday we did something we haven’t done in years (it seems)…we hosted a dinner party and there were ONLY grown ups there.  Real, live adults, sitting around a table talking to one another, finishing conversations, enjoying our meal leisurely.  It was amazing.  Really.

See! Six grown ups, no kids. Wine, beer, elegant food. So good.

The dinner party transitioned into a poker game  with a chocolate cake intermission. Dan had birthday boy luck and won his game bringing home a sweet little pile of cash, which we promptly spent on his birthday morning eating a delicious breakfast at Sunny Point.  All of this, followed by a mountain bike ride on his NEW mountain bike and a visit from Bill and Nancy.

That evening we enjoyed a family party, which Nancy brought archeologist hats and dinosaur plates for (since Dan is getting so old).  Of course, the kids LOVED that, as well as Nanny’s carrot cake cupcakes, which really are the best.  Especially when she makes them.

I do believe Dan had a very, very good birthday.  We had a pretty great time celebrating him.  Happy Autumn & the beginning of the season of celebrations!


My last post was about some pretty special first things…the first days of school, starting school for the first time and starting first grade.  It was also about the rather wild and unruly behavior that often accompanies transitions around here.  I thought I had an understanding of what was going on, as well as the trust that it would soon pass. But little did I know, something much bigger was brewing.  It eventually erupted.  And then, we were enlightened…about a much more defining kind of first. Being born first.

Leif. Our first.


This is how it happened…

When a couple of weeks had passed since the first days of school and things continued to be pretty tough around here, I began to question my abilities as a mother.  You  know, really being down on myself and finding my mind going to the really ugly place where I ask myself questions along the lines of, “Where did Dan and I had go astray in raising our boys up to be kind, gentle, and compassionate good communicators (rather than the physically expressive, antagonistic, and bully-ish types)?” My practical self knows these are outrageous questions to be asking, as well as being totally negative.  My sons are six and three.  But, my emotional self just can’t help it sometimes.  So, here I am, asking other mamas if their sons are having a hard time too, reaching out to those I trust the most for reassurance and feedback, and then Leif finally cracked and out spilled the honest truth about it all.

It happened one night while putting the boys to bed.  Just as we always do.  Books, teeth, potty, snuggles.  It was the snuggles that shook Leif up.  He demanded, “Snuggles with Mama first!”  And then, of course, Kai demanded, “No, I get snuggles with Mama first!”.  And because Kai is three and still rather attached to his bedtime routine to settle him so that Dan and I can get OUT of the kids room with some time  left for ourselves in the evening, I conceded to Kai and snuggled him first.

Well…that was NOT okay with Leif, and here’s what he said (more or less), through sobs and tears: “Mom,  you love Kai more.  You always do things for him you don’t do for me.  You snuggle him longer.  You let him sleep in your bed.  You love him more than me, you always have. Mom, you snuggle Kai and then only hug me or pat my back, but you don’t snuggle me the same.  You don’t snuggle me first.  You love HIM more than you love ME, I know you do.”  He cried and cried and buried himself in my hair while he clung to me until he fell asleep.

Clearly, I don’t love Kai more. But many of the other things he said are true.  I DO snuggle Kai first, I DO do things for Kai that I don’t do for Leif (like put his shoes on or help him get dressed), I DO sometimes only hug Leif or rub his back after snuggling Kai…because I am tired from my day and just so ready for the adult portion of my evening.  I realized that the reasons why I do these things that I do exist in the rather adult-comprehending area of reasoning.  And then I just felt really filled with compassion for my oldest little son and thought…ouch.  That must really hurt.

As Leif calmed down and was drifting to sleep I hugged him close and kissed him a hundred times on each cheek and reminded him how much I love him.  I also asked him what he thought about some of the big kid things he gets to do, like walking to Neil’s house down the street all by himself, or riding his bike around the circle just with Ryan (our ten year old neighbor friend), or having sleepovers with his friends.  He smiled a little and admitted how much he liked being old enough to do these things. I told him I remember feeling the same way when I was little.  I remember well feeling that pull between the excitement and joy of being big and the desire and comfort to remain small.  And now, as a Mama, I think I can say with some assurance that feeling is called growing up, and it hurts sometimes.

So, even though being the first born IS the worst sometimes, there are times when it is the best.  Like when you get to go backpacking with Dad, just you and him, because your little brother isn’t old enough to go yet.

Dan and Leif at the top of John Rock, Pisgah National Forest


Shining Rock, as seen from John Rock


Leif, atop John Rock. Is he...contemplating the joys and sorrows of being the first born OR trying to pick all of the m & m's out of the trail mix?



First Days

The first days of school overlap with the last days of summer.  It’s a little confusing for the boys, I think.  We tell our children that school starts in the “the fall”, because back when we were in elementary school it really did.  But clearly, autumn is not yet upon us.  The days are still too long to get the kids to bed before nine and too hot to wear those new jeans Leif got when we went back to school shopping.  It still feels like we should be playing in the pool in the afternoons and there’s still local peaches at the farmer’s market.

Regardless of what season it is, back-to-school means the return of routines and responsibilities.  We all crave this, I believe.  Summer is a wonderfully long siesta for us all (especially the boys and I), but our bodies and minds crave the challenges, fun and important transitions that embarking upon a new school year offer. Like being a first grader, FOR REAL.  And, for Kai, starting pre-school.    For me, I get a morning to myself every so often this year.  How about that?

Along with all of the excitement and fun of this annual transition back to school, come the challenges of growth and change.  At our house this looks like equal parts sweet moments and ferocious ones.  For every warm hug it seems there has been an angry word spoken, a toy thrown, tears shed, time outs given, and doors slammed.  We are all entering into a new phase, I guess…because isn’t that how it goes?  Every time my children grow I am presented with the opportunity to grow, as well.  I accept this challenge joyfully, but not always gracefully.

What I must remember though, is that the sweetness of it all will prevail. And when I look at these pictures of the boys, I am filled with the knowing that we will get through this transition and not only settle into our new roles and responsibilities but blossom with the new tools and skills we learn.

Leif on his first day of first grade.

Kai, ready to go on his first day of preschool.

When we dropped Kai off for his first day of preschool today, he was a bit nervous.  We left him with a hug and a kiss (and tears in my eyes).  His teacher handed us this poem as we walked out the door.

This way the twig is bent.
Born of my trunk and
strengthened by my roots,
You must stretch
newgrown branches
Closer to the sun
than I can reach.
I wanted to say:
           Extend myself to 
that far atmosphere only
my dreams allow.

Yesterday I saw her as if
for the first time:
Feet confident,
Face slanted upward toward
a threatening sky,
she was smiling
And she was 
Her very free,
Her very individual,

-Naomi Long Madgett

I strive to be filled with greater compassion for myself and my children during these times of transition.  This poem reminds me, transitions are important opportunities to acknowledge (again and again) the “very free, individual, and unpliable, own selves” that makes us all the unique selves that we are.  And then to love as much as possible…just as we are.

Happy first days everyone!

Sweet, Sweet Summer

Summer arrived and I guess blogging just wasn’t on my “to do” list.  My creative efforts were manifesting themselves elsewhere, such as the garden, exploring our mountains, and traveling.  There were too many big love moments to tell here, so instead I will share with you a little photo summary of our sweet, sweet summer.

June… was all about embracing those first, long, light-filled days of summer.  Free of school-time routines, a few really special things happened.  First and most AMAZINGLY, was this…

Kai sleeps past 6:00 a.m...every day! Sometimes he even sleeps until 8!

For those that have listened to Dan and I lament Kai’s sleeping patterns, you know just how wonderful this has been for us.  Kai woke up between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. for most of his life previous to this.  He’s the sleeper all parents dread.  And now, he is miraculously cured of this early-morning-waking disease and functions like a normal human child…which means we get to function more like normal human adults.  At the very least, less sleep deprived ones.

So, with all of this new energy I had…what did I do? I gardened, of course!

Our front garden got a jump start this year since the raised beds were in place and the soil has had a couple of years to get really good.


See here...Micah and Kai, my young garden warriors, getting VERY serious about the garden.

On the last day of school we picked Leif up from school and headed to the beach.  We spent a fabulous week there with dear friends from California and my sister.  It was so very nice. I think we like June at the beach.

Time at the beach...


...with old, dear friends. Here's Madeline, Jed & Ellie's daughter.


And Ian, Jed & Ellie's son. Jed & Ellie were there, too, though I didn't seem to get any pictures of them.

Dar Dar was there too.

July…in the beginning, was all about being serious about the patio.  Dan was determined to finish it so we could have a patio warming for July 4th.  He was successful (more or less) and our neighbors all came to see what we’ve been up to for these past months.

For July 4th Dan finished the patio.  Woo Hoo!!!!


Brucemont and a few extras = super fun times.

Here's the patio. This picture doesn't really do it justice. I'll post more soon. It's beautiful.

And then…California.  The kids and I spent three and a half weeks out there this year.  It was magical.  Filled with dear friends from our past, places we love, and both of our families.  There are too many pictures to post them all, so here is the link to the Picassa album in case you are dying to see them (or order any prints).

California 2011


Here’s my favorite shot, though.  Look at those boys, all gussied up.  And, Kai…your Uncle Bart would be proud of you, really.  You are stunning in front of the camera.

Family photo from Andrew & Serra's wedding in Santa Barbara, CA


August…a month of transitions back home. Back to work…the days are filled with the noises of children.  Dan is buried under his usual mountain of emails.  Here at home we have been immersed in art projects, swimming pools, sports with dad in the backyard and watermelon.  No using the oven.  The garden is filled with so many tomatoes I’m tired of picking them.  The basil is ready to harvest to put up the pesto.  The nights are just beginning to cool down to the 60’s.   And school…school starts tomorrow.



yes, that would be redi whip AND honey on the cheerios

…and things are getting a little kooky around here.  For example, I just couldn’t say no to the request for whipped cream (RediWhip, no less) on the breakfast cheerios this morning.  And, I kept the kids out until almost 10 p.m. last night at a concert.

There’s no resisting the pull of summertime fun…bring it on!

Three more days of kindergarten and I officially have a first grader on my hands (tear, sniff, sniff…)

Sending out my big love to you all!


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