The sun came out for real today, and except for a few blocks of ice in the northern shadow of the house, the snow is gone. At the UU I went to a meditation session/mindfulness class, and was reminded that there IS a quiet place in my head, where everything seems OK… if I visited there more often, I could probably summon it at times when I need it most.

Rev. Blaine’s sermon had to do with streams, which rang a bell with me as well. I have long had dreams about rivers and streams, which I have come to recognize as the flow of life: changing, moving, speeding, slowing, endlessly and beyond my control. I often resist change, and in my dreams I am sometimes trying to swim against the current, crawl out of a rushing river but finding no handhold, or flailing to keep my head above water but going under (sometimes waking ,tangled in my blankets, in mid asthma attack.) In better dreams — or in the same dreams, if I can calm myself — I lie still, surrender to the flow, and the river miraculously cradles me and holds me up. It’s the most delightful, peaceful feeling, just floating with the current, watching the scenery change, feeling like I am part of the flow of life and all is as it should be.

(I guess this isn’t the time to mention my tidal wave nightmares) ;0)

We got home and the grass, however frozen, muddy and brown, was still visible. I dragged out my metal chiminea from behind the studio and the kids pulled all the fading evergreen branches out of the windowboxes and burned them. Excited by the fire, they started gathering fallen sticks in the yard, pulling up old hosta stems, gathering dried sweet pea vines from the trellis, and otherwise cleaning up the yard.

I put away a few winter decorations and Jeff finally took down the big evergreen wreath in the peak of the roof. We pulled a large fallen limb off the roof and another out of the yard, and I began cutting them up to make a fire in my long neglected clay oven.

I love that all the wood I need for my oven literally falls from the sky. Every windstorm sprinkles dead sticks and branches, and the oven fires best with bundles of sticks, hot and bright with smallish embers. The birds poop mulberry trees into the fence row that are five feet tall by the time I find them, wild grape vine doubles itself every time I cut it back, and the red raspberries needed pruning badly. So I have sticks enough to fire my oven every week and not run out. Even if I did, the neighbors leave their bundles at the curb for the city trucks and don’t mind if I take them instead.

Five pizzas, two loaves of bread and the apple brown betty Jeff made for the kids were baked to perfection by the sprinklings of our back yard maples. The oven managed the winter well, though it has a few new cracks in the outer surface and the thatch layer is showing through in spots. A bucket of clay slop, smoothed over the outside, will make it new again when I have time, but it works just as well looking weathered.

I spent quite a lot of time pruning my Italian prune plum tree, which offered up a surprising number of plums last year but then dropped them all (every one) before they ripened. I cleared up a bit of the viney mess around my beehive. My bees didn’t survive the winter, but a new package with a new queen is due the last weekend in April, so I will landscape a bit before the runway in front of the hive is buzzing with bees again.

The cat climbed a tree and sat up there looking smug. Connor let his rabbit explore it the grass, and set up a target to shoot his bb gun with a neighborhood kid. (They start to reappear too, with warm weather, sure as crocus.) Molly played with the fire and rediscovered her swing.

The kids and I ended up with rosy cheeks from sun and fresh air, and they are sound asleep tonight in spite of daylight savings time.

For most of the winter, I have considered it a good day if it wasn’t a bad one. Today, though, I felt really happy for the first time in months. I realize there is a poetic depth in the simplest things we do. Pruning the plum tree is about letting go, and planning ahead at the same time. It is an exercise in symmetry, in moderation, in the paradox of doing with less and getting more. The mouse, rat, rabbit and guinea pig are all enjoying fresh cut, organic fruitwood chew sticks today, running with sap that promises April is next, and then May. Winter’s back is broken, though we’ll likely see more snow and ice. The sun comes in at new angles through windows that need washing, and soon our sheets will dance on a clothesline again.

Tomorrow we do our morning homeschooling, and read about ancient history and the rise of Rome. Then I set up some crockpot meal and drive to EMU to work on etchings. Tuesday more homeschooling, and I drive again to school for ceramics. But Wednesday gets weird. My profs will be at the NCECA conference in Kentucky, and I would be going too, except that Tyler’s spelling bee is Wednesday night. After the bee, the fam is putting me on a midnight greyhound bus to Louisville, and I’ll join the conference “already in progress” early Thursday morning.

I get home Saturday, and on Sunday, Jeff leaves for a job interview in Virginia. I have no idea what a potential job offer would mean to our life, my family, or my MFA, but that’s a bridge we can cross when we come to it.

Tonight I am not thinking of bridges. I am freckled and scratched and satisfyingly body-tired from working in my yard. My hair smells of wood smoke and my belly is full of good bread. I am off to a hot bath, and hope I can have a river dream tonight… the kind where I float around bends into unseen vistas, go with the flow, and stop trying to make everything go according to my short sighted plans.

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