Tag Archives: birthdays

Contentment outweighs fatigue.

Partly because of Annunciation this second week of Lent has been as busy as the first. Personal remembrances have given me a lot to do outside of church, too. I didn’t stay home all day even one day in the last seven; normally that kind of activity wears me out, but at the moment the contentment outweighs any fatigue. The outings and events have filled my cup with love and friendship and grace.

For my birthday I tried to perfect the honey-lemon-ginger cake baked in my Nordic honeycomb pan. But I didn’t. The friends I served it to were quite pleased, but to my taste it was doughy. It was vegan and lacked eggs, but those challenges can’t be the whole problem, and I will keep trying, because I’ve had plenty of vegan cakes that were nice. Maybe it needs more baking powder, or less flour. The picture shows it with the honey-lemon glaze poured on.

I also made a big pot of soup for that Friend Gathering. It was one of those unrepeatable concoctions, with most ingredients unmeasured, a vegetable bean soup into which I impulsively threw all the lemon juice that was left over from the cake (which uses a lot of zest). I should have added a little at a time. It made the soup too lemony, but eventually I hit on the idea of adding coconut milk to smooth it out, and that worked very well.

While I was cooking for a couple of days, I kept getting phone calls from children and grandchildren, wishing me a happy birthday. We had long chats that filled me to bursting. Each time I hung up after one of these calls, it would take me a while to reorient myself to the tasks waiting for me.

I am not going to show you all the interesting gifts I received, only this one, which includes a quote. A quoting candle! I hadn’t seen this kind of thing before; in this case the giver picked one of my own favorite quotes to personalize it.

Several hours this week were devoted to prepping vegetables for that soup and just to eat by themselves. The asparagus must be growing 2-3 inches a day, because I have to pick it morning and evening!

This month marks six years since the death of my husband. Bella went to the cemetery with me and my freesias, and at church prayers were offered in his memory. Having so many services to participate in means that the sensory input is laid on in layers day after day, in images of human and botanical beauty, and hymns that melt my heart. Incense is a joy you can’t experience through the computer; that and hugs are rounding out the experience of a worshiping community again.

Waiting for confession.

Today, the day after Annunciation, is given to the commemoration of the Archangel Gabriel, who announced to Mary, “The Lord is with thee!” And in such a way was He with her, that He is also with us, ever since, and unto ages of ages. That fact is of course connected to the message on the candle:

Wherever there is beauty,
Christ the Word is speaking to your heart
of the love the Holy Trinity has for you.

My birthday Christmas in March.

My birthday hasn’t yet arrived, but since I’m unlikely to see any of my children on the proper day, the family I was with just a few days ago gave me a celebration. (Soldier had planned to come here from Colorado with Liam one day, but he wisely cancelled that trip.) Presumably we’ll all be holed up apart from one another when I cross over to a new age.

The first special thing Pippin did was to drive me and the children to a succulent farm she’d been wanting to visit. We took a picnic and ate on the way; it took us a while, as it’s in Fort Jones, sort of in the middle of “nowhere,” and not a place that succulents would grow naturally, but the whole operation is in greenhouses. Maybe some of you have ordered from Mountain Crest Gardens. If you like succulents, you would have feasted your eyes on the long rows of charming species and collections.

One of them I did not find charming, only strange:

Pippin wanted to get me a few for my birthday and I chose these that are different from anything I already have:

I put them in my car to keep them safe, and I checked on them one day to see that they weren’t getting too cold. I didn’t notice then that the one on the right had evidently gotten too cold, and no wonder. My car looked like this one of those mornings.

I knew I wouldn’t be keeping that plant outdoors in the winter here, and I don’t know why I didn’t have more sense about how cold it would get in my car. At least, it is only damaged, not killed. Scout also came home with a little succulent, and Ivy collected various leaves and stems off the greenhouse floor which I told her were likely to grow into plants if they were in dirt, so she put them all together in one pot when she came home.

The second birthday surprise was nothing anyone could have planned: a big snowfall of the powderiest sort, followed by a morning when we could easily walk down the road a few paces to a good spot for sledding. That day Jamie had looked out the window and beamed, “It feels like Christmas!” and when I asked why, he said because of the snow.

I realized then how special a treat it was, after their relatively dry winter, that this dumping of perfectly fun snow should happen while I was there, and actually, on the perfect day. I had tried to make my visit other weeks that should have been more wintry. Now, in the middle of March, came my birthday gift from God.

If not for the children, I’d have been happy to look at the snow through the window, but being able to accompany them and watch them literally throw themselves into it was the joy and the gift.

They were thankful for this late snow because when it was Christmas on the calendar their family had just returned from my house and collapsed sick. They couldn’t even eat their Christmas cookies that had been laid by.

As we were pulling on our snow boots and rummaging around for the bibs and gloves, Scout said, “When we come back we can have tea with leftover Christmas cookies!”

Jamie broke trail heading for the little hill alongside the railroad track, and soon the children had smoothed out a sledding run. But after a while they all seemed to like as well merely rolling down the railroad embankment, or in the case of Ivy, just diving and splashing around in the snow, eating it.

Two days before, I had walked through the forest with the children, trying to identify species of lichens, and noticing stages of manzanita growth or death. This day the manzanita blooms were set in fluffy white.

On the embankment next to where freight trains run many times a day, snowballs form on their own, maybe from the wind of the train rushing past?

We did go home and eat those Christmas cookies and drink our tea. The Professor blew a path through the snow for me to walk on back to where I was sleeping, in a sort of guest cottage across the street. The next morning  the scene showed my tracks with no new snow.

Too many of my children have moved to where the winters are cold and snow is common, and the older I get, the more I try to avoid visiting them during the winter. I should try to remember that every visit I have had in snowy weather has been fun; remember the last time when I taught Liam and Laddie to make snowballs? This week’s snow made good snowballs, too! It was another blessed birthday to remember. ❤

Fall ramblings to the north.

For five days and nights I drove here and there, a total of about 20 hours on the roads and highways so that I could visit with twelve family members and two dear friends in three places. There was a good deal of time spent at Pippin’s, where we went for a walk right away, to see if the aspens in the nearby grove were turning yet.

The aspens were still green, but as we looked up in the blue sky we saw several vultures flying in a line above us… and several more following close after them, and we began to count… eventually about 30 of the birds had streamed past, making us wonder what it could mean.

Little Jamie was thrilled when a long freight train passed close above us on the track.

In just a short time exploring the neighborhood we saw Showy Milkweed about to pop its pods, ruins of a concrete hut, and mullein, first and second year specimens growing close together. Scout has been studying herbs in his homeschool group program and I learned that if you can find some larger leaves on the younger plant they make good bandages for wounds, not least because they are absorbent.

Can you see why I called these Mrs. Tiggy Winkle Burrs?

Jeffrey Pine cone and seed

The next day I drove a little farther north to my Oregon family and watched my oldest granddaughter Annie in her first cross country meet of the season. The setting and the weather were so perfect, most of my pictures show her as a soft shape blending into the golden landscape.

I reveled in more visits with those children and older grandchildren, hearing from them about an Italian sister-city, doula training, country music, 70’s Ford trucks grandson Walt is dreaming of restoring, and the same boy breaking an old horse for children to ride. Two of the grandsons have plans to fix up a truck to sleep in on upcoming ski trips. Most of my six older grandsons own or have owned or plan to buy a truck, or another truck! I love boys.

We picked apples at a farm, took walks to the library and post office, and ate tender pumpkin bread Walt decided to bake on the first day of fall. Sunday morning six of us made the short trip on foot to church, I being the only one of the family not wearing cowboy boots.

With my taste buds in mind, Pathfinder and Iris had bought some ginger beer — not the carbonated sweet and spicy kind, but this smooth alcoholic version. It was wonderful.

Then it was time to head back to Pippin’s, for the birthday of Ivy!!! Ivy is now five years old, and if my grandma were still alive, she would have turned 125 on the same day. Before the excitement of the evening, including an over-the-top leopard cake and oodles of presents, Pippin and Ivy and I had a quiet outing of the kind we all like, exploring a meadow and a creek, and feeding the fish at the hatchery.

A couple of weeks before my visit, Ivy had dictated a letter to me, including these lines: “I have new shoes…and they’re good for running, climbing, hiking, and also for walks. I really want to take a walk with you — I know you love them!”

We arrived at the fish hatchery just as a man was about to refill the fish food machines, so he filled our containers directly and to the top. We strolled along the ponds and tried to share equally among all the different sizes of trout.

Then Ivy fell in! She lost her usual cool and made a big fuss, because she thought the fish would bite her. The fish, however, cleared the area very fast, as Pippin and I hauled our girl out.

We exchanged her sopping shirt and fleece for my flannel and corduroy shirt, and that warmed her up enough that she was cheerful again, and happy to stay and scatter the remainder of the granules — in the next pond where the fish hadn’t been scared away — looking at the creatures with a new perspective.

I took the picture above because I’d never seen a trout with such severe scoliosis.

After a stop at home to get a whole new set of dry shoes and clothes, we went back to our exploring, in a meadow with a stream running through, where Pippin and I watched Ivy take risks climbing above a tiny waterfall where she might easily fall and get doused again, but she showed her usual grace and balance and came home dry.

Douglas Spirea fills the foreground above, its formerly hot pink flowers turned to rust. All the textures and scents, the variations on gold, beige and brown seemed especially rich and sweet, set off by the blue sky and evergreen shrubs and trees. The surrounding air was fresh and cool in the slanted sunlight of fall.

We were happy.

The family celebrates Jamie.

When we were snuggling and chatting on the couch at her house last week, four-year-old Ivy introduced the topic of the faces of her grandmas. After we talked a while about red spots and wrinkles, she pointed to a tiny freckle on her wrist and said with pride, “This is my first brown spot!”

There was a good bit of cuddle time during my visit, because most of the family had colds and weren’t at their most energetic. One day in particular it was uncomfortably chilly outdoors, and snow fell off and on all day.

But my drive up the state had been mostly under sunny skies, which meant that I could stop and take pictures anytime I wanted — and I did want quite frequently. I had dragged myself away from home, wondering what had I been thinking, planning a trip when gardening and Lenten activities are legion. But as soon as I got away from my usual environment and wide views opened up to me, the spring-green leaves and plantations of wildflowers made me glad I was making  a tour of points north.

I saw hundreds of these Western Redbuds along the highways.

And twice, I got close enough to discover a bee enjoying them, too.

 

So many kinds of wildflowers were blanketing the slopes in swaths of yellow, orange, blue and white. I only managed to get close to some lupines. I don’t even know what most of the other flowers were – except the California poppies. I was flying past them too fast!

 

 

 

 

Another bush I saw on my journey was unfamiliar to me. It grows along the creek beds, and when its foliage comes out it is needle-like. It’s a softer, orangey pink compared to the Redbud…

Bear Creek in Lake County

…and its flowers are like beads:

I love the almond and walnut trees when they are bare.
The California almonds have already leafed out,
but the walnuts are still pale gray and venerable:

That freezing cold day at Pippin’s, we celebrated Jamie’s second birthday. His Aunt Pearl and three of those cousins came up from Davis, too, to spend a day and half, which made everything more festive. Maggie helped Scout make a glittery poster to hang near the dining table, and several of us blew up a score of balloons. Cupcakes were baked and decorated. When Jamie finally figured out that he was the center of attention, and that he was the one to blow out candles, he was quite pleased.

I also received a late birthday present from Pearl, with orange blossoms attached to the package by way of decoration. I kept them by my bedside, and then next to the driver’s seat on my way home. One of these Aprils I will go back to the land of my childhood and just live in the scented atmosphere for a few days, for old time’s sake, and for the delicious sating of my olfactory sense.

The next day was a little warmer, and dry. We could take walks, pulling Ivy and Jamie in the wagon. The Professor took the four oldest children to a shooting range for a while – who doesn’t love an uncle who will do that? One day he worked at burning some of the huge number of branches that fell from their trees during the very snowy winter, and Scout helped by dragging them across the yard.

At different times during my stay, both Scout and Ivy asked if I would come outside to see certain springtime happenings in their world. Ivy loves the tiny violets that pop up all over the lawn, dark violet and lavender. I see from an old blog post that I had also discovered those many years ago, but I was sure in the moment that this must have been the first time.

When I found out that Scout (seven years old) knows the names of most of the trees on the property, I brought my notebook outside and jotted down as we walked around the house: oak, maple, hawthorn, red fir, spruce, Douglas-fir, Ponderosa Pine, locust, weeping willow… the ones I didn’t remember, maybe I will next time. He and I examined the thorns of the hawthorn compared to those of the locust.

The time went fast. Soon I was driving back, through the Central Valley that is heating up nicely and made me wish I were wearing something thinner than jeans. I thought about my future as regards expeditions in March. In the last three years I have acquired two grandsons whose birthdays are in March, so I think I better get used to this happy Happy Birthday routine. 🙂 Nothing could be sweeter.