Thirteen times around the sun

20191110-_RJW8384

Lupine turned 13 yesterday.

Thirteen! A refined version of who she has always been, I marvel as she becomes more gentle and fierce, authentic and kind, courageous and confident with every passing year.

What an honor to watch her–and her brother–grow and become and unfurl.

IMG-2318.JPG

For Lupine’s “friend party” (the day before her birthday) she requested a day in the city with some lifelong friends–three siblings we’ve known since Lupine was a newborn.

Their 13 year old couldn’t join us, but Lupine was undeterred.

Along with Sage and I, the eldest sisters were up for a day of thrifting, pho, and other city adventures. Such fun!

20191110-_RJW8353.jpg

Her birthday itself we enjoyed at home, just the four of us. Board games and favorite meals were on the docket, and nothing else. So mellow, and so Lupine.

Beneath the birthday bunting that we made together when she was turning 4, we played board games, cooked and ate delicious food, and she ever so slowly unwrapped and savored her gifts.

Before dessert, we set up the birthday spiral (as we always have), and read her story, year by year, as she lit the candles.

20191110-_RJW8398

I have very few photos to show for the day, which is just fine by me.

More and more my camera has been staying in its bag, and my heart with my family, in the moment, undistracted.

While I love taking photos, sometimes I want to be only here.

Just before bed she said, “Write a blog post about my birthday. Then next year we can look up what kind of cake I made, if we forget.”

So here we are.

It was an angel food cake that we made together, Lulu. (Though you did most of the work. I just helped with all that sifting.) The recipe is in that tattered old copy of the Joy of Cooking that my grandma gave me when I was just a few years older than you. Served with persimmons, of course, because they’re your favorite. Mmm!  

Happy birthday, Lupine. What an honor it truly is to be your mama. I love you so.

* * *

More about our birthday story and spiral can be found here, and a DIY for your own birthday bunting is here.

Seventeen years of jacket pictures

Oh, time. Knock it off.

Because, honestly. When did this…

6a010535f3a090970c01bb079e1692970d.jpg

…become this?

20191103-_RJW7532

If you’re new here, I’ll give you a little backstory on why my big kids are dressed in big jackets.

When Sage was about to turn 1, a dear friend suggested a tradition to me that she was just beginning with her own toddler. An annual birthday ritual of dressing your child in an adult-sized piece of clothing, until–eventually–it fits. It is a way to watch the unseeable, their growing into themselves and adulthood, frame by frame.

I knew I was in before she even finished explaining it to me.

And so it’s been our fall tradition for the past seventeen years. First with just Sage, then four years later with Sage and Lupine. Jacket pictures and marking time.

Seventeen years! I’m not sure how that’s possible, yet here we are.

With a 17 and nearly 13 year old. Poof. Just like that. What an honor to watch them grow.

20191105-_RJW826520191105-_RJW824620191105-_RJW827220191105-_RJW828320191103-_RJW728620191103-_RJW728920191103-_RJW745520191103-_RJW747720191103-_RJW712620191103-_RJW715120191103-_RJW741220191103-_RJW735820191103-_RJW7399

I will stand by the statements I have made in the past that watching my children grow, and walking this path beside them, has been one of my life’s finest gifts.

Thank you, Sage and Lupine, for choosing me to join you here.

The first “One Small Step” sustainability challenge

20190808-_RJW554320191105-_RJW8072LusaFarm16-043LusaFarm16-072Hello, hello! The first post in the One Small Step challenge is live over on Happy, Healthy Family, the LüSa Organics blog.

Today I’m talking about bar soaps versus bottles (for obvious reasons) and how making this simple switch will reduce waste. I even included a DIY liquid from bar soap for those of you who aren’t quite ready to kick the soap bottle.

I’m so delighted to be bringing these small changes to the table, and I do hope you’ll join me there, and play along. 

You can find post 1 here.

 

Wild Child

I never wanted to tame you. I wanted you wild and messy and free, speaking your own truths in your own tongue. Not a watered down version of yourself, so palatable and dilute; broken and staid. I wanted you up there in the tree tops, knotted hair blowing around you like a feral halo, pockets full of sea shells and acorns and truth, dancing with fate. When you cried, I did not pretend it was all okay, convince you you were wrong. I held you and stroked your cheeks and said, yes, it is hard. Yes, it hurts. I didn’t want to see you bend and break to make others feel more comfortable, I wanted to see you unwavering–honoring your intuition over their opinions. Knowing your heart and your strength and your story. Even with your eyes closed. Even in your sleep. I didn’t want you polished or need you to comply. I didn’t crave your obedience. My only desire was to watch you unfurl, in wildness and freedom and truth.

I never wanted to tame you.

I wanted you wild and messy and free, speaking your own truths in your own tongue. Not a watered down version of yourself, so palatable and dilute; broken and staid.

I wanted you up there in the tree tops, knotted hair blowing around you like a feral halo, pockets full of sea shells and acorns and truth, dancing with fate. When you cried, I never claimed it was all okay, or tried to convince you you were wrong. I held you and stroked your cheeks. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s hard. Because you already knew.

I didn’t want to see you bend and break to make others feel more comfortable, I wanted to see you unwavering–honoring your intuition over their opinions. Knowing your heart and your strength and your story. Even with your eyes closed. Even in your sleep.

I didn’t want you polished or need you to comply. I didn’t crave your obedience. My only desire was to watch you unfurl, in wildness and freedom and truth.

And so you did.

6a010535f3a090970c01b7c91f65aa970b

Unbroken, authentic, and without apology, you are love and light, barbs and wings. Unwavering, knowing your truth, and trusting your wisdom.

With a cry in your throat and stardust in your eyes, you are wildfire running beneath a full moon sky, following your hearts in the direction of tomorrow, without a single care of how things might appear.

If only we were all.

 

Postcard 9: Into the passage tombs

20191001-_RJW423620191001-_RJW428920191001-_RJW422920191001-_RJW4196

I got out of the car to swing wide the cattle gate, allowing our car passage up the narrow mountain road. There was no sign to greet us, only “leave the gate as you found it” posted on a wooden placard beside the road. I slid the pin back into place, and we resumed our circuitous route into the hills.

After countless passive sheep and threatening potholes, the road gave up, ending at a signpost reading “Carrowkeel” but providing no hints as to which way to go from there. We pulled off into the mud, and after a few false starts set off up the windswept hills, assuming the tombs (like so many others in Ireland) would be on the highest ground. Carrowkeel. An ancient, sacred site, consisting of some 14 prehistoric passage tombs.

As we crested the hill, the first tomb came into view, first as a mound of rubble, then slowly taking shape before our eyes as a low, dark doorway came into view.

20191001-_RJW419220191001-_RJW4187IMG_1775-220191001-_RJW4086

We lay onto our bellies and crawled on hands and knees across damp, ancient stone through the narrow passageways into the ancient tomb. We entered one, then another, amazed at the precision with which they were built, and at the honor of being trusted to enter here–unsupervised by government or park officials–to do no harm.

Constructed some 5,000 years ago, little is known of the Neolithic people who honored their ancestors in these elaborate tombs. This site, like so many in Ireland is not a museum. There is no entry fee, no glossy booklet revealing the secrets of what lies beneath these stones, no shiny visitor center to help decode your experience.

Just us, the sheep, and a rutted two-track winding up the mountain side.

20191001-_RJW422020191001-_RJW4114

And crawling through the mud into this portal through the eons? It was quiet, contemplative, melancholic, and huge. To see time strung out behind and before us, and wonder at what we will leave behind as our own confusing, yet I hope somehow sacred legacy.

What an honor to hold silent space here, in this sacred intersection of history, ritual, and the vast expanse of time.

20191001-_RJW4145

Postcard 8: Surf school

20190921-_RJW2969.jpg20190921-_RJW286920190921-_RJW287720190921-_RJW288820190921-_RJW289020190921-_RJW294020190921-_RJW2950IMG_1562.jpeg

When we take long trips like this one, we largely focus on free experiences. Because four to six weeks of paid entries would crush our budget in a hurry. So we spend our time exploring roadside ruins, hidden ancient sites, mossy forest trails, and other free-to-see locations and experiences.

Despite this strict and mindful budget, we did have a small fund set aside for memorable experiences we otherwise wouldn’t have had.

My choice? Taking a ferry, then renting bikes for the day for exploring one of the Aran Islands. Indeed, it was a highlight of the trip for me. By the time time we caught the ferry back to Ireland proper, my face hurt from smiling. So much fun.

A priority on everyone else’s list: surf lessons.

Both Pete and Sage wanted to surf the last time we were in Ireland, but stormy seas caused by the leftovers of a tropical hurricane scuttled their hopes. This time, the weather was gorgeous, we had the time, and even Lupine was in.

So we aimed our rental car to the nearest waves, asked a few locals at a parent-child surf club who they would recommend we hire to teach us, then connected with Seamus McGoldrick (Sligo Surf Experience) for a couple of hours of surf lessons.

I opted to watch from the beach to capture a few photos of their adventure, and set this experience aside as one for Pete to share alone with the kids.

They spent the morning practicing on the sand, then raced to the sea to try out their new skills. And they had a blast.

20190929-_RJW378020190929-_RJW377720190929-_RJW378620190929-_RJW379420190929-_RJW379820190929-_RJW381520190929-_RJW384220190929-_RJW386920190929-_RJW388720190929-_RJW394220190929-_RJW397320190929-_RJW402020190929-_RJW399420190929-_RJW4039surfschool-2

I’m not sure when I’ve seen these three work and play so hard, smile so big, or sleep so deeply as they did after yesterday’s adventure. And now all three (of these landlocked midwesterners) are dreaming of the next wave.

Postcard 7: Into our very bones

20190910-_RJW053320190910-_RJW053520190914-_RJW127920190910-_RJW069920190920-_RJW256320190919-_RJW235620190919-_RJW224320190909-_RJW020420190917-_RJW166720190917-_RJW166420190915-_RJW128920190917-_RJW1662

I love the notion of the nutrients and minerals of this place are becoming a part of our very bones.

Our bodies are quietly growing blood and muscle and tissue from this very land, building us of this place before we leave for familiar soil once more.

By foraging, we’re taking Ireland–and Iceland before it–into our bodies where it will linger for so much longer than the sweet or sour or bitter taste on our tongues, weaving its essence into our cells through the magical dance of biology.

We’ll carry it with us for years. This place, in our own bones.

Since departing the Midwest in late August, we have foraged and consumed (and thereby made a part of us) crow berries, lady’s mantle, meadowseet, haddock, cod, kelp, bilberries, blackberries, blackberry leaf, elderberries, rose hips, rowan berries, old friends plantain, yarrow, nettle, and usnea; ripe rose hips and hawthorn and more.

From this free, found bounty, we’ve cooked up jams and teas; healing poultices and nourishing broths.

We’ve also consumed locally grown Icelandic thyme and moss, eaten fermented shark and sipped sweet raw milk; picked and munched fresh Irish apples, and purchased local chicken, beef, lamb, produce, and bread.

This place lives in us now. It’s a part of us.

We’ve fermented beet kvass and sauerkraut from fresh local veggies to add to our evening meals, and the sourdough starter that I have fermenting, is (in my mind at least) is laced with peat smoke and woven with yeast blown in on sea winds and bog rains.

All of this we bring home, even weeks after each meal was consumed.

But our favorite foraging of the trip is neither animal nor vegetable. It is mineral.

20190916-_RJW1367

Before arriving in Iceland at the very start of our trip, Sage expressed an interest in crafting a batch of sea salt. Our Icelandic friends were happy to oblige. In the Westfjords, Pete and Sage gathered sea water using our friend’s boat, from the deep cold water of the fjord. Then we cooked it down in a roasting pan until the water was evaporated, finishing it in a dish in a warm oven.

What a delightful process it was! And the salt is delicious.

In Ireland I was excited to give it a second go, with hope of brining home two distinct salts from two different places, two different currents in the Ocean herself. And so we did. Off the western coast of Ireland, we headed back to the sea.

20190917-_RJW193020190917-_RJW192420190917-_RJW1940

This water had to be gathered without the aid of a boat, off of the furthest reaches of Dingle Peninsula. Lupine–always game for a spontaneous swim–braved the sea to fill a couple of empty milk bottles, which we brought back to our temporary home to cook down in a nonreactive pan.

20190918-_RJW2118

We didn’t make much, but just enough to fill a small, empty jam jar with the precious white flakes.

The resulting salt is rich, bright, and full of memories.

And the perfect souvenir from this journey overseas.

Through the months that follow, as we slowly use these two precious jars of salt in our soups and sautees, in fresh local veggies from our home across the sea, we’ll recall our journey here, and replenish these fare sourced minerals… deep into our bones.

20190919-_RJW2365

 

 

Postcard 6: Return to the sea

20190917-_RJW184420190916-DSC_010820190916-_RJW154120190917-_RJW175020190911-_RJW103720190913-_RJW121820190914-_RJW126420190917-_RJW172920190917-_RJW1805

Oh, what a delight to spin back toward the sea, for a few slow days of rest, sand, and

ocean before us.

Dingle Peninsula was recommended to us by our family and friends before our first trip to Ireland, and indeed we were glad to have come. So much so that this visit we returned to the very same cottage by the sea. Somehow, it was the tiniest bit like coming home. To a familiar view, familiar kitchen, favorite tea cups and favorite walks. Just what we needed, some 3 weeks into this journey.

Being the off-season, it was just our family, a few surfers, and one vibrant local power-walker (in her 70’s, perhaps?) that the kids affectionately nicknamed “Lady Strong Legs” on our last visit. How happy we were to see her and her dog out for their morning jaunts to the sea once more!

And here we whiled away most of a week–resting, foraging, knitting, and filling our spirits with sea, sand, and sleep.

And then? Northward once more! Toward County Clare, Connemara, and places more northern still.

More soon, dear ones! We’ve just two weeks yet to go.

Love,
Rachel

Postcard 5: Ancient paths

20190910-_RJW064520190910-_RJW067620190910-_RJW0690.jpg20190911-_RJW087920190911-_RJW089020190910-_RJW050520190910-_RJW053920190910-_RJW052020190910-_RJW0546

After leaving that ill-fated Air B&B before bedtime, we found a quiet place to sleep (or rest, at least) beside the sea. We woke as the sun rose above the mountains, gently illuminating the Atlantic coast. Everything ached, but we were grateful for following our hearts and making space for intuition, safety, and honoring our truths.

And, indeed, it was certainly a memorable night.

We drove to the tip of the peninsula to stand beside the ocean, rubbing sore necks and stretching aching muscles. Then we headed into town for tea and Irish breakfast at a cozy tea shop in the center of town.

It was a restart, and a much needed comfort after a long, rough night with very little sleep.

Surprisingly, the day that followed was one of the loveliest of the trip so far, despite our lack of rest. We explored our way around the peninsula, seeking out-of-the-way ancient sites to visit: standing stones, stone circles, and slab tombs – all of them some 3,000 to 5,000 years old.

It put into perspective how small the tribulations of the previous day truly were.

Because in the context of 3 to 5,000 years time, one rough night is awfully insignificant, don’t you think?

20190910-_RJW056720190910-_RJW060120190910-_RJW060720190910-_RJW061220190910-_RJW076120190910-_RJW077220190910-_RJW077620190910-_RJW0778

We explored until mid-day when we found some upgraded lodgings, showered, and rested a bit before heading out once more in the mist and rain, searching for history. We returned at dusk, exhausted, soaked through, and ready for a proper night’s sleep (in beds!).

20190911-_RJW091420190911-_RJW088420190911-_RJW095420190911-_RJW0961

One of the reasons I longed to return to Ireland again was to spend some time walking these ancient paths; immersing ourselves in this ancient history. For touching the past with the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands.

This long day exploring did just that, and was rich with the history that I craved.

20190911-_RJW0930-2

And with that, we are onward. To points further north on the Emerald Isle, as we slowly spiral our way around this country, this island, and through time in the selfsame breath.

More updates soon from points further along the road!

Love,

Rachel