So Much Goodness

We spent just a bit over a week in Florida, that land of abundant sunshine and generous breezes.

We were welcomed by my parents, hugs all around, supper ready for us, and my uncle’s house (which used to be my grandma’s house) prepared for our stay.

We looked at the weather forecast and tried to make plans, tried not to be dismayed at five days of rain forecast during our stay.

We went to the fruit market and bought grapefruit and oranges and strawberries and honeydew and tomatoes and avocados and key limes and lemons and cabbage and lettuce and peppers and one enormous watermelon, all of them dead ripe and local.

We walked on the beach and some of us swam, even though nobody else considered the water warm enough; it was fine once you got wet.

We found treasures, so many shells, and one day a local showed me where to stand in water up to my waist so that I could feel with my feet where the conchs washed in and were not broken yet by the surf.

We basked in the healing rays of the sun, under layers of sunscreen because one time we got second degree sunburns and that was enough for one lifetime.

We wore flip-flops every day, although Gabe didn’t have any and wore shoes and socks, but he felt that it was chilly a lot of the time anyway, so that was okay.

We rented bikes and rode seven miles down the Legacy Trail toward Venice.

We got to see the backyards of the average Floridian living along the trail, and then just as we were getting to the state park section, we ran out of juice and turned around.

We were starving hungry and ate our lunch at Der Dutchman when we got back at 3 PM.

We watched an otter mother fish for water snakes and catfish along the banks of the Myakka River while her babies romped on the bank, waiting for lunch.

We kept vigilant eyes on lazy alligators that slid into the water to swim to our side of the river when we caught tilapia that they wanted for themselves.

We made fish tacos with the tilapia and bass and bluegills that we caught, and they were fantastic.

We watched tiny lizards skitter and fed fish-bait shrimp to an intrepid egret and an opportunistic heron that kept hanging around.

We marveled at the odd plants, the “houseplants” growing everywhere as landscaping details and just wild along the trails.

We took pictures of all the interesting things so we can sketch them in nature journals when we get home because we forgot to take our nature journals, but we never did get a parrot on camera.

We walked along an osprey trail in virgin Florida pine forest that was mostly scrubby palmetto and not very tall pines because they are just different there.

We saw the osprey nests all along in the taller dead trees, and on the ground we found a nervous gopher tortoise who scurried tortoise-fashion along the trail as though he was late for something.

We took the pelican trail back to the car and the sand was so hot it hurt our feet, and we didn’t see one pelican on the trail.

We ladies poked around in thrift stores with my mom while the guys went fishing with my dad on the one day that it rained.

We were grateful every day that it didn’t rain, except sometimes we would hear it in the night and then we were happy for the locals who wanted rain as badly as we didn’t want rain.

We ate dinner with my parents on a sunset ride around Sarasota Bay on the night before they headed north and home.

We played games in the evenings: Cover Your Assets with two decks and teams.

We made new friends who treated us to great pizza and shared their home with us.

We cleaned our house and did all the laundry, turned in our rental vehicle full of sand, and boarded a plane that got us back to Pennsylvania in two hours.

We drove home from Pittsburgh in a steady rain, and it kept raining the whole next day, and it is raining again today, but we are not going to complain, because we hope the sun will come again for us too.

We are happy to be home!

I am allowed…

… to eat marshmallow peeps at Easter because I like them.

… to have a flip flop collection, and to wear them in the snow when I get the mail. If there is any snow, that is.

… to hang a hammock in February and lie in it on every sunny day.

… to sleep on my husband’s side of the bed when he’s on night shift, just because it feels different than my side of the bed.

… to paint any room I want to paint.

… to throw away clothes that make me feel ugly.

… to dote on my chickens and buy them treats.

… to keep buying children’s books even though my children are not little anymore.

… to put as much cream in my decaf coffee as I want.

… to rearrange the furniture in my house when I need a fresh look, even if it’s the same furniture and the same house and other people think that’s funny.

… to decline politely when I don’t want to play a board game, specifically Monopoly or Life.

… to be a word nerd and make lists of good words and think about ways to put them together.

… to spend money on a writing course and take time to practice what I’m learning.

… to plant flowers everywhere in the garden, even in the vegetable rows.

… to laugh at my wobbly shopping cart wheel and show others how hilarious it is.

… to cry when I’m reading a book that touches my heart or singing a song that expresses my longings.

…to hide the Cadbury mini eggs and dole them out bit by bit so that they last for a while, because the Easter season has the best candy.

… to walk the two miles to the garage to pick up a vehicle that has now been fixed for the very last time, I hope.

My walking buddy

Last night one of our writing prompts was “I am allowed,” and that’s where my thoughts went. Are there things you’re allowed?..

The Short Month Recap

Obviously, I did not post every day in February (despite doing a lot more writing practice than usual) like I used to in the good old days when I had five little kids and stayed home all the time. Now I have five big kids, one coming for visits occasionally, four of them hanging about daily with ideas and plans and schedules. They help me with the housework, and yet I do not have the time or mental space I used to have for blogging. I also tend to pick up projects and volunteer for things because it seems I should easily be able to get them done with all my helpers. I ask myself what in the world I was thinking, but then I just up and do the thing or assign it to the girls. I actually really like this stage in life, flagging energy levels or no.

I just made the tenth run in two weeks to pick up a vehicle at the garage. Our aging Suburban has been having glitches with the four-wheel drive, and we didn’t want to go into winter with a helpless whale of a vehicle. Here we are on a 61° day in March, and the four-wheel drive is still not fixed, and the part that hopefully will fix it is on order. For the third time. We’ve also had Gregory’s car in and out, working on bits of restoration. We’re dealing with three different garages, all within 2 miles of our house. They’re great people. They do what they can, test it out, refer us to someone else who can maybe fix it, who then orders parts and we pick up the vehicle until the part comes, then take it back. And that’s what happens when you have old cars. Thankfully it still runs fine, just occasionally in four-wheel with no option of switching it when you don’t need it.

I laugh every time we drive out our lane that is lined with reflective posts to show where the snow plow should drive. That is, if we even had any snow. Last year we kept getting snowed under deep enough that it was just our best guess where Gabriel should plow the lane. We weren’t going to let that happen this year! Hilarious, how we manage or try to manage, and then there you are, with the muddiest, rainiest four months of winter you can imagine. (And you really cannot even imagine the mud unless you live it.)

We have decided that we absolutely must do something about the lane, which is sinking into elongated potholes along all the wheel tracks. No amount of surface fixing will suffice. Last spring after all the gravel we had spread on our lane had disappeared below the surface of the earth, I enlisted the troops in bringing up creek gravel by the bucketfuls in the trailer we pull behind the lawn tractor. We have endless supplies of that, and I hoped some large pebbles would firm up the situation somewhat. It was a fail. The pebbles went the way of the 2B limestone before it.

The little girl I babysit loves the Henry and Mudge story called Puddle Trouble. She thinks our lane is puddle trouble and she isn’t wrong. I’m guessing by the time we get it fixed, we’ll hit a winter with Sub-Zero temperatures and rock hard surfaces for months.

The daily question. Which will it be? It was 71 degrees the day before I took this picture.
( And yes, our front porch is that dirty. And yes, I care, but it is what it is. When you come, feel free to wipe your feet on the welcome mat.)

The girls set up the trampoline again, and we have two hammocks strung in the yard. That way we can enjoy the every-other-day warmth, and on the in-between times we can make a fire in our fireplace. Have I mentioned, it is hilarious. My children think it’s the lamest winter they’ve ever heard of, and my cousins who moved up from Kentucky to Pennsylvania say winter here is either bipolar or menopausal. They aren’t wrong either.

I did something new this week, that I couldn’t believe I was doing. It wasn’t even on my bucket list of being a chicken owner. I found myself with a hen who was having problems. Have you ever heard of vent gleet? I’m not surprised, I hadn’t either. As per internet instructions, I found myself tenderly soaking a chicken’s bottom in warm water, cleaning her off, and putting ointment on her sore (you guessed it) vent. I am happy to say the treatment worked, and she’s doing much better.

Last week the girls helped me deep clean the kitchen: cabinets, pantry, and the netherworld behind the stove. I told them if they find something we haven’t used in the last year, they should set it aside so that I can decide on it’s usefulness. This is a very different process from deciding if things “spark joy,” more like seeing if they deserve lebensraum. A few things went to the storage room in the basement, but in general I was pleased that the worst we encountered was crumbs and dust. Well, I don’t want to talk about the space under the stove.

I decided not to start my own garden plants inside the house this year. We plant to do some traveling, and it would be unnecessarily complicated to keep them alive. There are some very deserving greenhouse owners close by who will get my patronage. That said, I have been resorting to looking at pictures of the garden to bolster my hope that green will soon come to the land. The photo on the left was July. The one on the right is today.

The present colorless landscape requires all the fortitude my soul can summon, and a lot of supernatural work in my spirit, too. When we have blue skies, my heart expands. I can feel it. Things become possible. Green really will return. Meanwhile, how about some more tea?

Sunday Rest

I built a cremation pyre for a chicken today, and I’m very concerned that it could have succumbed to bird flu. When I took scraps out to the hens after lunch, there she was, a motionless pile of buff feathers while all her sisters crowded around urgently for their treats.

I’ve never thought about chicken health much. We had a flock of thirty at one time, and it wasn’t a big deal if one bit the dust. Now I only have eight hens and I take their health seriously. My pets that give me eggs are not supposed to die. (So actually now I only have seven.) I inspected them carefully, saw absolutely no signs of illness. Gabriel says it was probably just a fluke, but I’ll be holding my breath for a few days. I cremated Buffy under a big pile of wood scraps to keep her from being food for scavengers.

Usually Sundays are lovely days. In the smallish space where we gather to worship, the singing lifted the roof this morning. We had a Sunday school lesson about The End Times and how we aren’t born to be earth dwellers. I love this! In the end, we citizens of heaven win. The message was a thought provoking one on Forgiveness.

Today I thought about how wonderful it is to not feel so much like a stranger anymore after church. I have found it to be really hard to uproot, get to know new people, and figure out where I fit. There are nuances within nuances within a community, and until you have a bit of context, it’s just awkward. (Do you hug people you hardly know? What if you’re really happy to see them, but they aren’t the hugging type? How do you have a conversation with a person you see every weekend, but don’t know?) I hate feeling awkward, and it has taken me two years to get over it and just get on with the process.

The girls did all manner of switching: going home with friends, bringing friends home this afternoon. I had put a whole roasting hen in the oven before church, and a bunch of scrubbed potatoes, so the food was ready, except for some hasty salad chopping. When it’s a day Gabriel has to work, we eat pizza or leftovers out of the fridge, but not this day. It’s a celebration and that requires some effort. Addy even lit the candles on the table.

After the chicken carcass burning episode, I decided on a nap. I just woke myself up with a snore, a most disconcerting thing. Was that noise actually me? Gabriel assured me that it was. I think it’s time for a walk in the brilliant sunshine, see what Addy and her little friend are doing.

What about you? How do you rest on Sundays?

Little Things

We have a ritual of going together to feed the chickens and check for eggs when she is being babysat here. There’s a tiny basket for her to carry the eggs back to the house after we have petted the tame hens and fed them dry bread crusts.

The mud was so spectacular that it splashed when we crossed the lane, but there was warmth in the air and she wanted to stay out for a long time. Since her sparkly pink boots had layers of mud and chicken poo on them, I figured it couldn’t get worse. She joined me for a meander down the trails and we took time to look at little things. Minnows in shallow water, shiny pebbles that got stashed in coat pockets, holes in the ground where creatures dig and live. We stopped for a while and listened to a bird singing, and decided that it was probably so happy because it found a worm in the mud.

When it was time to go inside, we tracked back and forth in a melting snowbank to try to clean our boots. We scrambled some eggs for our lunch, and she wanted to run the spatula and the salt shaker both. She’s not quite three, and I am reminded how much I have always loved this stage. Loved it for the simplicity and the bright ideas and the budding personality.

Yesterday she had a total meltdown, the mother of meltdowns, and I thought about how I would have handled this in my own babies, but it’s different when it’s someone else’s child. I held her until it subsided, then we read a story while the hiccups turned to sniffles. When all was calm I looked into that dear little face and told her firmly that she will not get what she wants when she pitches a fit at my house. She nodded solemnly.

Today we had a few differences of opinion, especially when I was not inclined to go back outside or to play hide and seek at nap time. The foot lifted to start stomping, but I was the authority in this situation and I reminded her that we do not kick and scream at our house. She remembered. She is very smart.

I had flashbacks to taking walks with all five of my children, toiling up the steep ridge on our switchback trails, hauling the littlest one on my back and letting the others grab onto my skirt. I did it for refreshment back then, to get out into the air, to look at another world outside our walls. Sometimes we even found mushrooms we could eat as a bonus.

I think I had a vague hope that my children would learn to go to the outdoors for recreation, and I feel so gratified that they often do that without prompting. (Not everything I strive to teach has taken hold, I must say.) They observe the sky and tell me about the hawk they saw catching a starling. They go fishing, and build ever more sophisticated shelters out of sticks and tarps. They climb cliffs and hike with their friends, and ski when we have snow (which isn’t so much this winter).

I do not regret one minute of that time, not the cockle burrs stuck in the sweaters, or the nuts stashed in my pockets, or the water bottles that were always empty when the thirst was the most desperate. The muddy boot smears on my jacket from carrying a tired tot don’t matter. The rock collections that I thought might sink me did not in fact sink me, nor did the pet snakes. That was a close one, though. And of all things, the four walls stayed put, as did any chores we left undone while we were outside.

Today I was really tired when the little girl went home. I thought about what has changed in my life, and what hasn’t changed. I still need recreation outdoors. So today I hung a hammock and lay in the sun with a quilt to keep me warm, and I was as happy as the bird that maybe found a worm.

Readathon Monday

It started when the girls were protesting a few years ago about never taking off school on snow days. There isn’t really a point to taking a snow day when you’re at home anyway, but we devised a plan for an annual reading fest.

This morning was our day. The snow was sifting down lightly, blanketing the earth that was bared by yesterday’s warmth and rain. It was so fine that you couldn’t see it unless you looked toward the dark pines, and it accumulated very slowly, just enough to compel the salt trucks and plows to make regular passes on the road.

Rita’s bird feeder was a place of constant motion, little birds all puffed up, flitting from the poplars down to the black oil sunflower seed buffet whenever there was even a small gap in the traffic. There’s a big cardinal population, the startling red flashes all around in the jaggerbushes which is northwestern PA speak for briars. These cardinals are supposed to be territorial, unless there is so much food that they don’t need to fight each other for it. One day we counted twelve at the feeder, so I guess there’s plenty of food around here.

Addy built a fire in the fireplace, stacking up scraps of 2x4s and wetter wood on top. She’s an accomplished little fire-maker, and the crackling was so loud that I hardly noticed when the teapot burbled its boiling sound.

The one rule of our readathon day is that the reading is for pleasure, which means chatty people must be quiet. We settled in with cups of tea and our favorite current books. Olivia has been reading the Ranger’s Apprentice series, and could not find the fourth one at the library. I noticed that she succumbed to reading the fifth one today, though it pains her orderly self to read them out of order. Rita is reading through the Mysterious Benedict Society, in a story grip that I rarely see in her. Her choice of reading tends to be nonfiction, nature guides, and survival manuals, but I guess these stories could count as survival tales. Addy’s following right behind her, reading the first big book in the series, and woe be to us if she catches up. The scrapping over shared books can be bewildering at best. (That’s my bookmark and she moved it!)

Addy settled into her chair with an entire pot of peppermint tea on the stand beside her, pouring cup after cup, sipping with a satisfaction that caused the older girls to roll their eyes at me. But they stayed quiet, except for occasional shoving matches to establish territories on the couch.

The parakeets chirped and the pillar candles on the mantle sputtered, giving off a delicate sugar cookie scent. I bought them on clearance without checking them properly, but the scent is almost vanilla, so we could bear it. Periodically I threw some large logs onto the fire to keep it going, resettled into the recliner with my feet toward the fire. I could read a page in my book, feel the warmth on my feet, and look out the window at intervals. It was the best of all the worlds.

Rita broke the silence with occasional monologues about things like how annoyed she gets when people say, “Shake your head yes.” Addy snitched my seat when I went outside to feed the chickens and she wiggled on the squeaky leather chair. A lot. The only noise Olivia made was page turning and nose blowing, and “Be quiet! I want to read!”

And that is how the day went. It was utterly delicious. My aunt and I have been having some dialog in past comments about enjoying winter properly. I think she would approve of this day. ☺️

Buy the Tulips, a List for Winter

I’ve been thinking a lot about surviving during the long, dark days of winter, even thriving. I have a short list of things that do NOT help, and the top of the list is

  • Aimlessness
  • Accumulated dirt
  • Staying housebound
  • Disorganized snow gear
  • Too much screen time
  • Strict dieting
  • Overwhelming projects
  • Navel-gazing about all the things that are wrong in my life
  • PollyAnna chirping, “I’m so glad I’m not being exposed to harmful UV rays”
  • At the end of the day, the weariness of winter is a thing, the brain fog is a thing, and the temptation to sin with my attitudes is a thing. Facing the challenge and admitting it is not a sin, however. When my mom gave me a stack of notepads from my Grandma’s stash, I found one with this poem on the back:
Grandma lived in Wisconsin and every year she faced this battle.

My list for coping skills is long and detailed, because I have given it much thought over the years, and probably written about it before. I have tried to condense it so I don’t fatigue you with my lofty thoughts.

  • Keep rhythms, but let them be slow
  • Plan fun things like tea parties and game nights
  • Put lights everywhere, twinklies, candles, full-spectrum bulbs
  • Eat sensibly; embrace comfort foods and bright flavors
  • Buy fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits
  • Go to the library often
  • Make gardening plans and order seeds
  • Have spots of color around your house: quilts, throw pillows, pretty dishes
  • Wear cheerful clothes
  • Buy proper gear so that you can
  • Get out of the house every day and
  • Go skating or sledding or just walking in the fresh air
  • Simmer potpourri
  • Play upbeat music
  • Collect houseplants for your windowsills
  • Feed the birds, learn to identify them, keep lists
  • Make things with beautiful yarn or paints
  • Take supplements for the vitamins and minerals you lack
  • Spend unhurried time with friends
  • Bring home some tulips from the grocery store
  • Accept: this is a season and it will pass

That list is what rises to the top when I think about leaning into wintertime. It’s customized to our household. Not everybody is blessed by quilts and bright yellow teapots. I’m sure you have your own coping skills.

Often I don’t realize that my hands are hanging down and my knees are feeble until the slump has gotten hold of me (about the 75th cloudy day in January). It becomes a spiritual battle; I spread it before the Lord, and He graces me with ideas and resources to deal with what is here, this very day, in this place I am called to be. As a keeper of my home, I have choices. I can ooze into the mud or look for the light. And slowly the days get longer and hope rises.

Buy the tulips, my friends.

Noticing: From the Window

Our neighbor is just leaving for work in his white van with a ladder on top. He sidles out of his driveway, past the garbage workers who are dumping the contents of his trash can into the maw of their truck. Unless the snowplows push it into the ditch first, the empty can will sit there at the end of the driveway until their son comes home from school to trundle it back up the lane.

The truck turns at the end of the street, passes again to clean up the right side of the road. “Think Green. Think Clean.” I wish they would bend their rules and pick up the two enormous TV’s that another neighbor set out beside the road before Christmas. We have not subscribed to garbage pickup here. All our recyclables collect in bins in the shop, and once they are spilling over suitably, we bag them up for the recycling place. Cardboard gets saved for my mulching purposes, and the rest we burn. It’s shocking how much garbage our family produces even with all those green-ish things we do.

This office window looks out through the sunporch to the front yard and the road. Right now the window is very dirty. It must have been overlooked when the sunporch windows were last cleaned. In the summertime the bushes outside make a complete screen of Rose of Sharon and lilac bushes, and in winter there is no sun, so there is rarely any reason to sit in the sunporch. I hanker to take off the awnings all around, but Gabriel thinks it might get too hot without them. Also, they protect the very old single panes out there. Thirteen windows, and four of them have an old fashioned hinge to open wide to the breezes. We hung strings of lights out there and installed a stained glass light fixture we found at a thrift store. There is an old sofa along the wall where Addy likes to sit all wrapped in blankets and listen to her audiobooks. Rita keeps her broom corn in a loose shock in the corner. She has not made the brooms she planned, but her rabbit loves the broom corn, eating his way all along the stalk, out to the sweet grains at the end. Dessert after all his vegetable fiber.

There are hooks for jackets, and a tray for boots, but we don’t use that entrance much. Somehow it seems easier to track snow and mud in through the kitchen. We do store firewood on the porch, and today would be a great day to use some of it in the fireplace. The snow is fuzzing down, and I am so blessed by the whiteness blanketing the world. When the ground is pristine, the spirits lift around here.

The view would be improved if I stowed the Christmas decor in that tote on the table outside this window. I used dried hydrangeas and other seed pods to decorate this year, painting some of them with silver and white spray paints. I was pleased with the result, but my family snickered politely about my “sad beige” decorations. “What’s wrong with holly and pine and berries?” they wanted to know. The big idea was to decorate with what is available around here, and then throw it away, but I can’t bear to pitch the hydrangeas so there they still are in my sunporch.

My twenty minutes of stream-of-consciousness writing is up, thank goodness. This window doesn’t have an ample view. Something happens, though, when I really zoom in on a smallish spot in the house; I notice things that I could do to improve things, which is always a housekeeping triumph when the brain is sluggish. That tote will be taken to the attic, even if I haven’t wrapped up the strings of LED lights yet.

Slow Start: Noticing

I sit here, thinking about the day. Always the weather forecast. Snow, then rain.

This tiny cup of regular coffee, the last 4 ounces in the French Press, is really pretty great. I don’t feel well on coffee, so I limit my habit to decaf or miniscule amounts. I picked the smallest mug in our cupboard, the pink one with glaze drips and a heart on the front.

I am in my office. My son is clomping through the kitchen in his leather boots, opening doors. “Thanks for making me a sandwich, Mom,” he calls.

I see the neighbor’s kid dawdling at the end of their lane, hands stuffed in pockets, beanie pulled down tightly, waiting for the bus.

My own school-kids are still sleeping. I hope Olivia’s cold is better this morning. The other two are cocooned in sleeping bags in their camper/playhouse. They were going to cook soup on the hot plate for their bedtime snack last night, and I feel certain they took enough provisions for breakfast too.

Oh, there’s the bus. How our lives would have to skitter into high gear if we needed to catch a bus! I savor the calm: only the whoosh of the furnace forcing hot air through the ductwork, and my felt-tipped pen making tiny scritchings.

This office is a mess. Everybody stows homeless things in here and shuts the door. Somebody really should do something about it. That Christmas wrapping paper- is it worth storing for a year? There is a stack of thrifted books, titles we love and some we never read but they have familiar authors. The shelves are full, but for a quarter a piece I have no resistance. There’s also a pile of Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman, because we have had short visitors recently. Then there is the yarn basket, shoved in here for safekeeping from the short visitors, and the completed tests that need to be filed, and the hamper full of extra blankets from overnight company in December. Really, somebody should do something about this stuff.

In my office there is not one pen I do not like. I fire them into the trash can if they so much as falter or sputter. I burn nice candles in here, not too highly scented because the room is small.

On the walls I display my children’s art- the detailed zentangles my oldest son gave me and the block prints the girls made in art class. There’s the cellophane-wrapped watercolor Gabriel brought me from Puerto Rice, with that brilliant tropical street, and the acrylic painting I attempted at a ladies’ activity. It’s not that good, but it’s the nostalgic view I had out my kitchen window in Osterburg for years, my garden and Gabriel’s barn.

I should organize and declutter in this room. It is the least-finished of all our remodel projects, but it’s my spot and the pens are good.

I pick up my empty coffee mug, slip out, and shut the door.


I am in the middle of doing a writing course by Rachel Devenish Ford called Writing From the Heart. Right now we are practicing noticing, and jotting it down. All those tiny sights and sounds around us, as well as the big ones. They all make up life, and I decided it might be fun to do it here. It’s not going to be profound, but it is a good thing for me to do in these days when my default mode is creeping about with a cup of tea, trying to look productive. Here’s yesterday’s twenty minutes of observing.

First thing I look at the forecast, and it is too dismal for my soul to bear. Ten solid days of clouds. I know in my head that it can change daily, but my heart is dismayed.

I arrange a bright quilt on the back of a chair, fill the teakettle, light candles all through the house, and sit down to write, far away from my phone.

A spoon scrapes a cereal bowl, and pages turn as the breakfast eater reads while she eats Life.

My son reads quotes from a Babylon Bee article and mutters that this leftover coffee tastes like old tires, but he drinks it anyway.

The parakeets chirp shrill good mornings as the first bit of light filters into the schoolroom upstairs.

Tires crunch on the lane as my son heads off to work; the tracks on the lane are frozen this morning, an improvement on the squelching mud of the past week.

I glance out the window, see the chickens in the slight glow of the light in their coop, scratching, scratching through the straw. I am hopeful that the fake daylight will urge them to greater egg production.

The world outside is lightening slowly, but monochrome. Trees hold their undressed limbs to the sky, and I can tell by their bones that this one is an oak and that one is a cherry, and the other one is a walnut.

Only the tin signs on my husband’s shop reflect any color: “Pepsi, the taste that beats the others cold,” and “Atlantic Motor Oil,” and the neon yellow “No Outlet.”

My candy cane tea is brewed just right. I pair it with a spiced raisin cookie, iced on top. I smell the cardamom that I ground in my daughter’s mortar and pestle. A morsel of sweet.