Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mississippi to Maine: Day 21 (Round Pond)

It is storming outside, and I am grateful for the rain and thunder. The little lake needs the water and it has given me the chance to finish up packing. Yes, it's that time already -- time to go home. The past few days have been spent here at Camp, doing what one does in the woods on the water: swimming, gathering sticks for the evening campfire, picking wild blueberries, sharing meals, reading books. Simple pleasures.

And I realize these simple pleasures and happy memories are why, in large part, I have made this trip. It was important to me that the children had a sustained visit up here with their Nana and Papa here in the woods, in the little cottage built by their great-great grandfather. Bear is no longer afraid of swimming out to the raft and jumping off over and over (and getting tossed in). His hollering can be heard across the lake, "Watch me! Watch me!" Miss Muffet is now a much stronger swimmer and Bright Boy is now a champ at touching the bottom of the lake (with his toes). We've played with more toads...bigger now, and roasted more treats over the fire, built puzzles, read books, and, yeah, we've watched TV and played on all the digital devices, too.

As for me, I've had a chance to personally do some 12-Step work, which has been important. I've worked on my new business venture, and done some freelance work as well. Spent a few hours with Nana yesterday over in Wolfeboro getting our hair done and doing a little shopping. Speaking of hair stylists: why is it that some stylists won't give you the haircut you ask for? That happened. Again. Nice lady and she loved my hair. "Your hair is perfect. I think you only need a trim." She is holding scissors, so she has the power in this equation, and perhaps she is right and perhaps I do have perfect hair, but I wanted more than a trim. I wanted a change. Something different. To have a say about something that wasn't permanent (my haircut/hairstyle), but still mattered. I know when I was 100 pounds heavier, my hair was sometimes the only thing in my life that I could change. And yeah, perhaps the desire to cut my hair right this minute is stemming from that age old wanting inside of myself to be able to "have a say" about something. So, I'll sit here and process that.

And get ready to hit the road towards home, where a kind and loving man (and a dog, a cat, and a couple of chickens) wait for our return.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mississippi to Maine: Day 14 (Farmington, NH)

Yes, we're stepping back in time, because I was simply too tired to write about the fun couple of hours we had going on our adventure on Thursday at Butternut Farm to pick fresh fruit!

And if we count today's trip back to the local farmer's market... it all ties together.

We live in a world where we are, for the most part, removed from our food sources. Kids come with us to the grocery store, but would be hard pressed to tell you if that carrot grew in a tree or underground. So, when I heard darling Nana talking about her lovely morning spent picking strawberries at Butternut Farm, well, it became something on the list of things to do while up here. Little did I know how much absolute fun it was going to be for everyone: Nana, BB, Miss Muffet, Bear, and myself.

My kids LOVE fresh raspberries. Love to get at least 10 at a time, so that they can stick them like little caps on the ends of each finger and thumb and then eating them off their hands. Raspberries, as we all know, are frightfully expensive and spoil very quickly. This is a hard concept for my youngsters to understand. So I wanted to take them to a U-Pick farm so that they could see how much work went involved into picking them, how fragile they are, the prickers and pokes you will get harvesting them, and what the fruit actually looks like in nature. In other words, why we don't hardly buy them in the store, due to the high price.

Boy were we in for a treat, for not only were raspberries in season, but so too were cherries and blueberries and the very last of the strawberries!

First things first: THE RULES!

1. You must stay on the property. Remember that cars do not watch for kids, kids watch for cars. You may wander and explore any of the fields and pick anything you wish.
2. (We asked first thing) You are allowed to eat some of what you pick. Make sure it is ripe, so that you don't get an upset tummy... blue blueberries, red raspberries, red strawberries and well, for the most part, red cherries (they had about a dozen varieties).
3. If you get lost, come back here (center building where you paid) and tell them you can't find your mommy. I will come to you. I wore my big, bright hat so that they could find me easier.
4. The potties are over _____ (here, pointing).
5. Have fun and come find me every once in a while.

And wham! The boys were off like a flash. Darting in and out of the fields, picking and putting everything into one container (no-no, as the price varies per fruit). Miss Muffet hovered between Nana and myself. I started at raspberries and felt like a bird: there were so many pretty goodies all around, I couldn't stand still and simply harvest that one spot. I'd flit about and just pick all the big, fat ones I could spot.

Then the boys came back and we left Nana to more raspberry picking and we all went to see what the boys had discovered. Ladders in the cherry trees! Ho! Ho! Giving kids permission to climb ladders? Pick whatever you like? They were bouncing around screeching and laughing. "Mom, look what I'm gettting!" "Mom, can we pick over here?" "Mom, come see!" I've never seen so much abundance of fruit in my life!

And then 'round the front of blueberry patch we spied a chicken pen, complete with a motly crew of roosters and hens and a VERY amorous peacock who kept flashing his tailfeathers at the hens and children. The kids were enthralled and kept feeding the poultry blueberries, which the birds happily gulped down.

Butternut Farm is a happy place. As we spread back out again to explore our favorite patches, I wandered down another section of raspberries, plucking away and listening to the beetles and bees and distant chatter of a dozen children. I gossiped with the ladies on the other side of the row about the weather, the farm, and the produce. The sun rose higher and higher and children began to drag and whimper.

We stopped by the "Clear Your Conscience Box"* and made a donation for the fruit the children had eaten, dropped, and fed to the birds, then went inside and paid for our fruit. We came home and shared some of our harvest with our neighbors and have been enjoying the deliciousness ever since.

If you get a chance to get close to nature and grow and pick your own food, please do.
If you get a chance to go to Butternut Farm, you are one lucky ducky!

*The "Clear Your Conscience" boxes are located in two different parts of the farm. You can make any donation (or none). All donations are given by the farm to help local charities.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mississippi to Maine: Day 15 (Yarmouth, ME)

It was an email invitation, complete with, "but if you are too busy, I understand." When it first arrived, we were too busy, but as time has gone along and we've settled into a routine up here at camp and the opportunity to say "yes" to the invitation was paved.

And so, today we left early to drive up to Yarmouth and spend the day with a friend that I have only known through Facebook and the phone and a mutual support group. L is full of spunk and adventure and we had such a great time letting her show us the Yarmouth Salt Water Marsh at low-tide and look about in the muck for barnacle rocks and marsh heather and snails. We then went to the spectacular Pine Point Beach and spent hours beachcombing, sandcastle building, picnicking and watching the children get braver by the moment in the surf: body boarding. Even Bear, who declared upon arrival, "I am NOT going to get dirty!" was rolling in the sand and sticking his head underwater, cavorting about, like a young seal. We saw leaping striper fish and parasails and kites and great crowds of day-school children spending the day, like us, carefree along the shore.

Later, when the tide threatened to overtake most of the beach, we drove past the famed Old Orchard Beach and saw the 1940s amusement park. Oh yes! We are definitely coming back for that one day in the future, but we were sun-drained and tired by this point and were content enough to simply see and gawk.

Then off to pick up L's grandaughter D and grab a snack and see the rocky shore and a lighthouse or two. The kids all instantly hit it off. D commented on our accents, and how much we said, "Y'all". They laughed and screached and planned all kinds of future adventures together...and I listened and loved the easy way my children made friends: their accepting nature and open hearts, simply melted mine. This is what I want. A world where the first thought is that of friendship. And in the safety of a wide circle (for my children), I want them to learn the balance of human kindness, caution, and openness.

As the day faded into evening and we began to journey home, I noticed the car didn't start easily as it should have. The battery lagged. A few minutes later, I stopped to photograph something lovely and it would barely turn over. There was a part of me that inwardly threw up my hands in the air and ran around like a chicken going "what am I going to do?" in a panic. My phone was nearly dead and getting life support from the car battery, which, if I turned it off, I was almost certain would not crank again. So, instead of panicking, I made the decision to go the route home (different than planned) that was most likely to have an Auto Parts store still open (at least I was hoping something was open past 6:30 p.m.) And though I have roadside assistance and make no qualms about using it, I'd really rather not be stranded on the side of the road in heavy traffic with three young children. So we drove. Said a prayer and drove towards Gorham. And there, not too many miles down the road sat a Sam's Club, complete with a tire center. I pulled in with the car running and asked if they did batteries? They did. I parked. Paid for a battery and 20 minutes later we were back on the road headed to camp. I'm grateful that the battery acted up in a place where I could do something about it. Grateful that I could quickly think of a solution and act on it.

As we drove in the fading light, we came upon the small town of Limerick. I have always loved driving through this town with its old homes and large lake. I pulled in to the public boat launch, just as the sun was touching the distant treetops. I had always wanted to stop and admire this lake, but we were always headed somewhere and it not convenient. Beside the launch, a small restaurant had outdoor seating and an older gentleman with his guitar softly playing and singing folk tunes. A couple of children were playing on the launch steps. I snapped my pictures and savored the view, the music, and the laughter. BB came and snapped a picture with his camera and said hi to the kids. We headed back to our little cottage in the woods. To Nana and Papa who waited patiently. To the loons and neighbors setting off weekend fireworks.

It was, in every sense, a perfect day. Thank you, L, for the invitation.