We’re here!!!!! Even more than sleeping in our own bed in a real bedroom, with a door on it, and even more than Kirby Cat howling in the hallways and still managing to pretend that the Yoga loft---where I write this blog as golden dawn washes the prairie--and the staircase up to it don’t exist, the surest sign of home, Home the Land Built, is food. Meals! What, in all our shared memories, feels more home building, community creating and downright pleasurable? What builds more connection? I should say Connection with capitol “C”. Even Kirby Cat, after his puking episode on the car-ride over, settled with surprising speed into his Indigo Moon filled bowl. And later that Saturday, Linda’s mother Carol provided dinner and supper (lunch and dinner in urban English), featuring warm homemade buns lathered with butter, for we move-weary workers. Sunday, as I found a couple more Rent Joe’s Box to mule from the shed into the house, I heard the rumble of a motorcycle followed by the unmistakable laugh of a child. Peaking my head out the hayloft door, up the driveway, I saw my dear neighbor’s, the Dietz’s, hand in hand, coming to call. After hugs, Sandy, both mother and grandmother to the gathered, extended a white plastic bag. “A gift from sister Ruthie.” Watercress! Fresh snipped from some cold and hidden stream. Sandy knew I loved the peppery crunch of watercress sandwiches. “Bacon and watercress salad. Mmmm!” suggested daughter Erin. So that was the first meal I cooked in our new home. Found the recipe in new favorite cookbook: Brett Laidlaw’s Trout Caviar, Recipes from a Northern Forager. Ho my gosh!!! We devoured a pumpkin sized bowl. As scrumptious as that was, last night’s supper---thank you again Trout Caviar---seemed the best yet, Nettles and Wild Rice Soup. Each ingredient seemed a character in the plot-twisting story of our life. Apple Brats from Clancey’s Meats (we could feel Kristin’s smile). Hope Creamery butter, churned just down the road from Linda’s 90 something Aunt June. Linda’s chicken stock, long-simmered in her old 4140 Harriet kitchen (hope Mark and Kari, the new owners, can still smell it!). Hand-harvested wild rice from Whole Farm Coop, our Judson Church partner. Potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic from the Dietz’s organic farm (again!). Organic Valley Cream from the Winona coop. And of course the nettles. All I had to do was walk the north hedgerow a few steps from the house. The greener than green shoots shouted, “pick me, pick me” if I passed one by. And my leather gloved fingertips obliged, gently pinching the topmost leaves. Never once did a nettle decide to sting me.
Oh, and the soup itself? Whoa! I can’t wait to serve you a steaming ladleful.
House the Land Built still promises to keep me busy this week. Chest freezer and fridge arrive today. Stairway carpet tomorrow. Piano Thursday. Perhaps even solar hot water, but if I held my breath for it I’d likely perish. Though I look forward to each of them, House the Land Built essentials, they seem now less important, save the piano. The sound of music. Fur Elise! Let it Be! I’m loving just living. So come, as soon as you can. We’ll pick nettles. Slurp steaming soup. Sing Do-Re-Mi as Linda plays the piano. Sure we’ll tour the place, then we’ll quickly get on with living, nudging House the Land Built on its journey toward Home the Land Built.
I’m not used to not working. 150% that is. Sure there’s always a box to unpack and dings to touch-up. I’m not yet harvesting rain off the roof. And then there’s organizing…well…the whole gosh-darned house. Please, stop by, choose something, anything---binoculars, whole wheat flour, garbage bin, and put it somewhere. Anywhere. If it were summertime then living would supposedly be easy, if there be wisdom in song. So, with Linda gone and working in Minneapolis, I did paint and unpack and organize and prep for carpet installation and freezer arrival. Though work tugged at me like gravity, part of me, the better part, sought desperately to get away. Had it not been for Trout Caviar and Kirby Cat I may never have achieved escape velocity. After last night’s success with Nettles and Wild Rice Soup, I felt enticed to try my luck with ramps. According to Trout Caviar, ramps, our native wild leek, thrust up their green onion-like shoots the very second the frost comes out the ground. Inspired, I pulled on my muckin’ boots, tromped across the corn stubble and entered the wood. The north and east hedgerows of the Land border the Whitewater Wildlife Management Area, the WWMA, a steep, gorge cut, 30,000 acre wilderness of valley walls snaking alongside the Whitewater River for twenty miles until spilling into the Mississippi. Once inside the WWMA, I quickly realized I had no idea where, amongst the 30,000 acres, one might actually look for a ramp. And as I zigged and zigged along deer trails---the sides of my feet desperately clawing the steep hillsides for traction---another and more profound realization began to gnaw at my mind. “I’m not sure I’d know a ramp if I saw one. And I don’t care. Ramps are an excuse to be here. To live.” So I did, keeping up the ruse by scanning the mould. Thank goodness, else I may never have found the cliff.
And the rock-hugging wildflower, a star shining above the mould.
I do not know her name. I’d like to think she doesn’t have one, that I’m the first to lie nose to petal with her. So when I returned home and failed to positively identify her in Wildflowers of Minnesota, that only proved our special relationship. And freed me to just hang with Kirby Cat. And so we did. Venturing out the front door, to the far end of the west porch onto the driveway. Crunching popcorn during the meadowlark’s solo (backed by the chorus of frogs) from the east porch table.
Even potato-ing on the living room couch.
We went everywhere in our new home together, except the yoga loft, which apparently doesn’t exist. Kirby walks right by the stairway without a single glance up. He needed something to not be, which does. And I needed something to be which doesn’t. We both have our tricks, coping mechanisms for engaging this, the biggest change in our shared life.
Kirby Cat just braved the yoga loft. He’s up here with me. Hurray!
Now, I’m the only one gathering strength from an illusion. Not today. Today I pursued reality, the nettles once again, down in a deep grassy draw we affectionately call Lyndale Park, hoping the name alone would confer healthy growth to the trees we planted. It didn’t. But the nettles grow well there and they’re much better eating. I’m learning to listen to the Land. And here in the yoga loft, with the porch door swung wide open, it’s easy to listen. The oak-a-lee trill of red-winged blackbird. The listen-to-me-I-have-something-to say caw of crow. And accompanying them all, the chorus of frogs. Of course, that’s just what I hear. Listening is something else, something more interactive, more connecting. I have much to learn.
Speaking of learning, we now have our super-energy efficient fridge / freezer triad. Atop the kitchen cabinet sits the Sunfrost, a smallish fridge-only storage for ‘I need you now’ kinds of food, like a ½ gallon of milk
As of this morning, a pair of dancers are chilling in the cellar. The dancers---pictured next to the batteries from which they are not supposed to draw so much juice---are the chest-style Sundanzers: one fridge, one freezer.
In theory, the chest refrigerator stores ”I can wait for you food”, like the other two gallons of milk. And the freezer, well…I guess we just dash down into the cellar when we need something. I don’t mind. At least, I think I don’t mind. Or maybe I’ll learn not to mind. I don’t know. As a visitor to the US once said, “There’s only one thing you Americans fear: inconvenience.” Part of the journey of the Land is to paddle out to the edge of inconvenience and discover what’s there. Do I fall off? I’ll find out. At least now, I can gather strength for the journey ahead from Kirby Cat, explorer extraordinaire of the yoga loft.
The home is alive with the sound of music…ah, ah, ah, ah!!! Today, our generous friend, Debbie---having cared for our piano since last May---said good-bye to her foster child. Soon after, we watched as the truck arrived, the most anticipated of countless deliveries to our house, one of only a few that turned our house into a home. I don’t how to describe the feeling as Linda sat herself onto the bench, opened Moonlight Sonata and touched the keys.
More than the lilting, aching beauty. More even that the shared moment: Linda, myself, our dear niece, Rachel, bathing in our home’s musical baptism.
Tears, which don’t come easily for Linda (unlike me!), found their way down her cheek. Perhaps it was just the unleashing of memory. The piano arrived the morning of our wedding day, a rainy June 9, 1984. It’s safe to say that our relationship with Linda’s mom and dad had been strained, nearly to the point of breaking. So when that piano arrived, their gift to us, the ice broke, sweet summer rain poured in. And today we felt that sweet rain, not only with the piano but literally, as a drought-buster unleashed itself upon the prairie, drumming our steel roof. Do you play? Then please come, sit, right here on the bench. Stretch your fingers. Unleash the sweet rain. If not, just come and listen. The musical baptismal awaits.