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We Hear the Stumble


An oldie, but it remains the only time I've had the good fortune of photographing an owl. 


An owl sat outside our window last night, sending his calls into the wind. Rain was coming and the cool air quickened; he sounded alert, yet resigned. He was so close that I could hear the beginning of each hoot in the base of his throat. A low vibration held deep in his chest that a moment later, became hauntingly beautiful as it permeated the night woods. Melodic. Reminded me of a wooden flute. 

The night before, a coyote. So close we could hear the in-between guttural moans that linked each howl together. The hanging on. Our own dog does this, too. It’s like they’re not really committed, maybe even giving up. An attempted howl failing to take flight, releasing instead, a tiny grumble. Did they lose confidence? Get distracted? Change their mind? In the shrinking forest of rural almost-suburbia, there is little distance between us and them. This close, their full personality is revealed which is kind of sad to me, yet also comforting because I find myself relating to their awkwardness, their tentative nature. At least, I tell myself there is something relatable. From a distance we only hear the impressive notes, the ones that define the prowess of their species, but up close we hear the stumble, and it feels familiar.

Eventually the rain came and this morning I found myself hanging on between sleep and wakefulness, not wanting to leave either world: the conscious sound of early morning rain, or the healing depth of rainy morning sleep. I remained here until 6:45, and while the day felt half over at that point, it also felt glorious. 

Strength and Healing Abound

Spring forage

I put Emily in timeout once when she was three years old. I don’t recall the preceding infraction, but I do remember feeling parentally exhausted over a day of challenging behavior - from both of us - culminating in one harrowing moment. We needed space. Timeout was popular back then, I don’t know if it still is. The punishment was not just for her, I took my own timeout as well. It hadn’t been part of our parenting M.O. to that point, but I figured I’d try it out and see if there was any benefit. For either of us.

Turned out, I loved it. Place me in a chair and insist that I cease all activity other than contemplating the highs and lows of my day? Um, yeah... can I get a standing appointment? As for Emily: No. She sat in the toddler sized wooden chair because that is what I asked her to do, but the entire time she watched me with a deep offense that made me pause and realize this was probably the first time our young toddler felt that specific emotion. The expression on her face read: Seriously? This is the best form of conflict resolution you can come up with? I thought you could do better than this. What a disappointment. 

Released from her sentence, she moved cautiously for the rest of the evening. Not in fear, but in wisdom. A fully formed human in tune with what threatened her, what could be taken from her. Her trust compromised. Our seemingly benign foray into timeout-as-punishment taught me the kind of strength and persistence our girl possessed. Something stirred in her during those five minutes; awakened. Moving forward, every point of conflict has been resolved inside the absence of extinguishing her personal sovereignty. I still screw up plenty as a parent, but that remains the only time I silenced the most important person in my life. Lesson learned. 

(Hopefully it goes without saying: I am only speaking of our experience, and how timeout was not for us.)

Like many of you, I come from a long line of nice women. Historically, the women in my bloodline are strong nurturers, peacekeepers, rule followers. Rufflers of feathers we are not. Stoic and capable, yes; bra-burning, patriarch-resisting, not so much. And as you know, the pain and trauma associated with such compliance can be debilitatingly silent for generations. Then I came along. I’m the last (mostly) nice girl, the halfway generation. The one who walks the line between sweet pleasantry and utter defiance; I am the crossroads. And yes, my parents were not quite sure what to do with me.  

Recently, Emily had an encounter with someone who is at least one generation her senior. I mention the age difference because it would have been a detail that automatically equated with authoritative respect for the women before her. The details of the encounter are not important, but it included a relentless pursuit of Emily to fix something in this person’s life, something that was not Emily’s responsibility or even her business. It was passive aggressive, manipulative, and accusatory. A statement was made that grossly crossed a line, and Emily was prepared to call the person on it. She asked my thoughts. Would you like to hear my excellent parental advice?

“Well, you could call them on it, but their feelings will be deeply hurt.”

Can you believe that? What happened to sixteen year old me that disrupted a classroom, asking the teacher if I could speak to so-and-so in the hall, then once in the hall with so-and-so, informed them that it would be advisable to cease bullying the chubby freshman girl about her weight, her afro, her existence. Where was that person? I am the transitional generation. The sometimes defiant but mostly nice girl who, in this moment with my own daughter, failed to square her shoulders and offer strength down the bloodline. Thankfully, given enough time, nature is self-correcting.

“Mom, it’s not okay for them to talk to someone like that and they need to be told so.”

 My daughter is beyond the transition. She is a woman I’d call an instrument for justice more than a poster child for nice. Thank God. She’s friendly and warm and fiercely loyal to her chosen few, but her compliance is for the deserving, not something to be dished out unconditionally as her own spine bends and breaks. 

 It is said that if a woman heals her bloodline trauma, she heals the women before her. I’ve been thinking about this idea lately, as I ponder whether or not we’ve finally broken the nice girl mold and its entrapments. Two decades ago I was not only growing a child, but I was growing the eggs of my potential grandchildren. As of late, I’ve felt disappointed that at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the physiological link to multiple generations. That I existed in my grandmother’s womb. That her life is literally etched into my own. For today, I guess I’m just feeling hopeful. I’m thinking about how right action trumps nice girl every time, and I’m glad to see a generation of young women roll up their proverbial doormat and kick it to the curb. They get it. Despite what we’ve been told, it is possible to be a kind, soft-hearted woman, yet convicted and headstrong. I see it everywhere. Strength and healing abound. 

Homemade Tortillas


It’s nice to be woken at 5:30 by birdsong and first light. I think I could go for that every day of the year. Each morning I feel compelled to pour a cup of coffee and head to the garden to walk the rows, tend a bed or two, but the only vegetable we have in the ground is garlic, planted last fall. It feels strange not to be growing much yet, things are normally well established at this point: potatoes, carrots, greens, peas, beets, onion and more would be planted by now. Inside, we’re surrounded by a couple hundred plant starts that I may have started sooner than necessary, given their northern destination. I’ll get the hang of gardening in such a drastically different zone, but I don’t think it’ll be this year. In the cool garage we’ve got 80 pounds of seed potato eager for planting. We are planning to go north this weekend and finish getting the beds ready, but it looks like a week straight of rain is on tap so it might have to wait. Meanwhile, we’re going crazy down here with wild leeks, dandelion greens and flowers, violets, lilac, garlic mustard, cleavers, morels, raspberry leaf... and as usual for our property, not a nettle in sight. I’m establishing a patch from seed this year but it takes time, patience is key when starting nettles from seed. 

We’ve used the last bit of salmon from our 2016 share, and are down to a few pounds of cod remaining. Last night we made fish tacos which were simply cod fillets cooked in a skillet with butter, cumin, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper for just a few minutes (maybe 6-8) then the fish was coarsely flaked for serving. Into the tortillas went sour cream, summer salsa, cod, and ramp pesto (recipe will be in Country Kitchen). Lettuce would have been nice, lime too, but we didn't have either. If you’ve never made homemade tortillas they are super easy, plus they are cheaper and tastier than anything you’ll find at the store. 


Homemade Tortillas

makes 8-10


2 cups flour (get creative with wheat, spelt, all-purpose, a combination)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup lard

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 - 3/4 cup warm water


  1. Sift flour, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Cut in lard with a fork or pastry blender, until combined and sort of crumbly. 
  3. Add water, starting with 1/2 cup, working into the dough until a sticky ball forms. Add the extra 1/4 cup if needed. 
  4. Wrap in plastic or bee's wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes. I leave it right on the counter. 
  5. Divide dough into 8-10 balls, cover dough balls with damp towel. 
  6. Lightly dust a counter or board with flour and roll each ball into circles. You’ll get the hang of your own preference for tortilla thickness and size; I roll them to about 8". We like them on the thin side, maybe 1/8” thick at best. This is flexible so don’t be afraid to experiment. Get the skillet heated while you are rolling out tortillas.
  7. Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Cook the tortillas for 30-60 seconds on each side, until a few brown spots appear. Do not overcook or they will harden. As the cooked tortillas come off the skillet, stack them on a plate and cover with a damp (not wet) towel to keep warm and moist. 


Sky’s the limit when it comes to tortilla use. Fish tacos are great, but tortillas can be a vehicle for just about anything. Enjoy!

Flatbed to Fitchburg


Not a spring goes by that I do not reminisce of a time when I was seventeen and my friend who was eighteen drove a flatbed truck to Fitchburg, MA. I’m not sure if it’s the neon green of tiny leaves on trees, the first scent of lilac in the garden, or noticing diesel smoke on the wind now that windows are rolled down. Whatever it is, I return to this memory year after year. 

Our mission was to either pick up or deliver a car - I can’t remember which - for a couple of guys that owned a junkyard my friend worked at. She’d only been there for two weeks and her job involved answering the phone and waiting on customers, not driving flatbed trucks to Fitchburg. She held no special commercial license of any kind, and was already on her third or fourth car as a young driver, her first being totaled almost immediately after receiving her driver’s license. It was a Volkswagen Rabbit and its life ended abruptly due to a combination of speed, sharp turns, steep hills, and probably the too loud Judas Priest on the tape deck. The car left the road and rolled over into the woods, landing on its roof. My friend was okay. The music never stopped playing and she sat, suspended upside down while listening to Judas Priest, wondering when someone might find her. 

The flatbed was big, could’ve held at least two cars if not three. We had no business driving that thing. I remember heading to the junkyard to pick up the truck and embark on our trip when my friend realized her bosses might not appreciate a friend tagging along, so she dropped me off at a random front yard to wait. Said she’d pick me up on the way. There I waited on a stranger’s property, thinking the real absurdity was not me tagging along, but that we thought waiting on a random lawn was somehow better than me showing up at the junkyard. Especially because she hadn’t dropped me by the street, but drove up the driveway and dropped me close to the house; I waited near a walkway that lead to a stranger’s front door. The second point of absurdity was that she was ever asked to drive a flatbed in the first place, with no relevant experience, in evening rush hour on busy interstates. We might have been a couple of crazy kids, but there were a couple of crazy adults in the mix, too. 

My friend was beautiful. Voluptuous beyond her eighteen years. We used to do this thing when we were bored where she’d go into various package stores and see how many would allow her underaged self to buy Haffenreffer. Its low cost allowed us to try out a few stores whenever the mood struck to dupe the packy. Those forty-ouncers were eventually consumed, but our true motivation was "beating the system." That was the real thrill. Although looking back, I’m not sure if our rebel ways tested her ability to appear of legal age, or man’s ability to decline a beautiful woman. Either way, she usually came out with a bottle in hand.

Crazy as that flatbed trip was, we made it to Fitchburg and back without much issue. I can still smell the diesel exhaust, hear the now defunct Rock 102 on the radio, and see my friend wrestling with the temperamental clutch most of the way. It’s funny how the change of season triggers memories. I hope it never ends.

(An unusual story to share, but nostalgia is a peculiar thing.)