Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year from the Pantry!

If you follow our antics, and occasional book-reading, over at Cupcake Chronicles you will know I am rather fond of gnomes. Something about their mischievous demeanor, their cute little beards, their wee, pointed hats and clumpy wooden shoes. Or maybe it is because I come from two pronounced family tree branches of elfin people (to which, in my case, was blended with Germanic stoutness). Nevertheless, I thought this a good opportunity to use an antique postcard image of some gnomes bringing in the New Year. [You will also find another variation over at Cupcake Chronicles.]

Our bullmastiff Lucy, pictured here in spring 2008, liked gnomes, too.

Ah, the New Year! Always such possibility and promise--a chance to begin again and renew, or at least to improve upon or update the old, like hitting the "reload current page" button on your Internet server. Sometimes the year takes a bit of getting used to. I don't always set resolutions but in the past few years the Cupcakes have been gathering to write lists of "Goals and Plans" of what we want to do differently, or be doing better. It doesn't hurt to write things down and, being the list maker that I am, in doing that I often surprise myself.

Here are mine (the ones I wish to publish, any way!). For 2009 I want to strive to:
  • do what I can, in my own small way, to make the world--including my family and community--a better place to be
  • spend more time with my children and husband (making things, being outdoors, farming, hiking, recreating)
  • take time each day for spiritual reflection and renewal
  • find a church that fits and a choir to sing in!
  • be a better communicator (this involves more blogs, more hand-written notes and letters, the occasional phone call--yes, I have phone phobia--but also more actual visiting)
  • carve out more time for writing (now that we've settled)
  • spend less time on the computer (or at least more regimented time and less of it)
  • read more (I read a lot but if I read more, I'm into media less)
  • knit more this year
  • keep up daily with the laundry piles, clutter and dust bunnies
  • tackle family archives and last
  • make next Christmas almost entirely handmade or homemade
  • try more recipes and create more dishes with vibrant colors (more recipes with vegetables and fruits...which sounds like the Talking Heads second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food...YES to that, too!)
  • continue to reuse, recycle or adapt things and rely on less consumption of purchased things (produce more of our own food, consume less, buy local as much as possible)
  • walk every day, even if sometimes only down the hill to the mailbox and back
  • maybe learn to play the mandolin (if I can find someone who will teach me)
And last, but not least, I want to reorganize all of my cupboards and closets (and pantries) in the New Year! What better way to start 2009--by taking inventory, dusting off, rearranging, throwing out or giving away. We have been in Kentucky a year now, having left on my husband's 52nd birthday, December 28, and arriving on the 29th just in time for New Year's and dodging all winter storms on our two-day, 16 hour Appalachian wagon train (and after packing up Christmas in record speed). At least we had already settled into the double-wide on two trips in October and November 2007 and the daunting task of packing up the rest of our New Hampshire home waited for a purchase and sale agreement, which we were fortunate to receive in a well-timed way when we returned for the summer. What a year it's been on all levels and realms! 2009 will be more about further settling, regrouping, re-shifting and starting our farm operations: out with the old and in with the new. [My hope is, also, that our nation will start to heal and resettle and refocus itself in ways that are beneficial for all.]

Our dear Lucy on moving day, December 28, 2007 ~ She had never left New Hampshire before and proved to be an excellent long-distance traveler. [Perhaps she is wondering where she is going and if she'll ever come back? Fortunately, we all had one last summer together again, along with our daughter, at our New Hampshire home before selling it in the fall.]

No matter where you go, there you are.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.
Lewis Carroll

I have to say, this move has shaken me to the core and rattled my bones, but all in good ways. [Well, not the bronchial pneumonia part which my friend Sue says, on the personal and spiritual level, is like twigs breaking up in a dam, a needed letting-go. That, too, is ultimately a good and healing process.] I never thought at mid-life that I would make such a major move but it has been so good and positive in endless ways. We had to let go and move on, for many reasons. We had both been home for most of our lives, more or less, and it was time to move away. My husband and I have finally grown up and have discovered that, sometimes, leaving home can be more necessary than staying.

If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are.
Wendell Berry

What more than you have so far learned will you need to know in order to live at home? (I don’t mean “home” as a house for sale.) If you decide, or if you are required by circumstances, to live all your life in one place, what will you need to know about it and about yourself?

from Commencement address by Wendell Berry
Bellarmine University, 2007

I admire writers--like Kentucky native Wendell Berry--who come back to their family homeplace and stake a claim there and then work, tend, and write about their land. [The Cupcakes are reading Berry's novel Jayber Crow in January.] Sometimes you can go home again and sometimes you can't. It's a conflicting, often complicated, proposition. Berry has made a successful career of it--not only as a farmer but as a writer of essays, novels, and poetry. His countless essays on land stewardship, the environment and sustainable living have long been relevant. Now their time has come. [Or has it just come again? Or to fresh and eager ears?]

Louis Bromfield had many beloved boxers, some of whom are in this portrait that hangs at Malabar Farm in Mansfield, Ohio.

In 1938, Louis Bromfield, an established novelist and screenwriter, came home by returning to the rolling hills of Lucas County outside of his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio. There he constructed a new farm by gathering an assortment of old, run-out farmsteads and making them viable again. His writings about farming influenced an entire generation of back-to-the-landers, including my maternal grandparents. They fled Radburn, New Jersey in 1946 after the war and bought a New Hampshire farm where they had a produce and greenhouse business while raising their six children. Jane Brox did it by moving back, for a time, to her family farm in northeastern Massachusetts before tensions drove her away (but she claims she was ready to move on). Place affects who these writers are and their writing reflects their knowledge and kinship with their land.

We are reinventing that notion here in a new land, after leaving our former homeplaces well-tended, in good hands or in conservation easements. Thus, we have done what the pioneers would have done 150 or more years ago: coming to wilderness territory, knowing no one, wanting a new start, making a new claim, tilling up new soil. Perhaps this will be terra firma for our boys, a place for our grown daughter to rest on occasion, and a new family gathering spot for generations. I hope so. Who knew that I could shake up "my familiar" and actually like it?

I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.
Lewis Carroll

If you haven't touched base with the blog recently, I have quite a few recent holiday posts. Just scroll down to read them.

Cheers and many blessings to you all,


1 comment:

Mrs. Arrow said...

Dear Catherine,
This Christmas was our first in KY as well. We moved to Louisville after 20 years in NYC. My oh my, I can relate! I'm not the writer you are so I have no pearls of wisdom.
My husband is running a theatre company and my 2 young girls are settling in. Maybe one day we'll explore your neck of the Kentucky woods. Happy New Year.
Peace to you and yours.