Still here, even if the apple blossoms aren’t

Apple blossom

It’s that time of year when everything seems to be on fast-forward. Blink and you miss it.

I didn’t miss the apple blossoms this year, but I never got around to sharing them here. I’ve been okay with that; life is for living first, everything else is gravy.

If I’m honest, the blog will continue to be quiet at least until the end of June, and then I’m hoping / planning to pick up the pace again.

Wishing you all the best and hoping you are able to take time to ‘smell the apple blossoms’ or the equivalent for your part of the world.

Enduring winter

black dog prancing over snowy bridge

Our first big snow was in November and it’s been winter ever since. It’s been a long season full of more days of deep cold and biting winds than I feel is natural. Or fair. My husband says it’s the first year he’s seen me give up on winter. All I know is that I’m grateful to have this delightful dog who makes every day in the snow seem like the best fun he has ever had in all his live-long days. Does this young canine not embody the very notion of having a spring in your step? In deep winter, no less?

With snow of a ridiculous depth that makes walking through our woods a little hazardous due to branches now at eye level, there is no denying that winter has overstayed its welcome.

wood walk in deep snow

For Reggie, winter is a season that never seems to lose its charm. Spotting my husband out for a quick ski around the property, he looked at me (in snowshoes) as if asking my permission, then bounded across the frozen pond to meet him. Not caring that this was the umpteenth day of winter.

black dog racing over a snowy pond

We’ve all been grateful for the milder days that have come our way just recently, meaning that we can actually look forward to going outside. Our youngest has spent many fine afternoons on our hill, sledding with friends, only to suddenly make the transition to his bicycle yesterday (and trust me, you’d think he was mad if you were here). Dry roads are all you need, who cares if it’s barely above freezing!

Being cooped up inside is always the perfect excuse for tending to the house, which lately feels as though it has fallen apart at the seams as my husband and I have been swamped with work (we’re self employed, so you will not hear any complaining). This past weekend we took every last item – save the budgies and the gerbil – out of our mudroom and companion bathroom, and washed the whole space down, acting as though we had spring on our hands. There is nothing like a spring clean to restore my faith in the universe. We used the day to finally put some decorative touches to the little powder room that has been looking unloved and untouched since we moved into our new house over three years ago.

old medicine chest with bottles

Even after a lick of paint, this old medicine chest – found in a ramshackle barn a couple of years ago – has that warm, slightly dusty ‘old’ smell. Which frankly, I find very reassuring.

clay pots, bottles and an etched tree

I was thrilled to finally find a place on top of the cabinet for a few much loved objects, including a tree etched in clay made by my older son at a family pottery class a good few years ago.

old-fashioned-light-mirror

A little mirror that we picked up in a local antiques shop last winter finally found the right home over the sink with a little picture that our youngest drew while we were engaged in this spring clean.

child's drawing of a tree in springtime

That picture is the perfect promise of spring and daily visits to look at it are part of my plan for getting through to the real thing.

stack of books and a basket

That, and visiting our stack of gardening and related books which also found a rather perfect new home on the empty shelf in this little room. I can almost believe that preparing seeds for spring planting may not be an entirely blind act of faith at this point. I think I see seed trays in my future. Next weekend, in fact.

My favourite hours

Reading chair and books

There is a natural impulse to tally up the year as it draws to a close, and consider what made it memorable, valuable or character-building. It’s a time to pull away from the small concerns and worries of day to day living, and focus on the larger themes or arcs of our lives. It’s the closest that I get to willingly and successfully shrugging off any sense of routine for a time, while I take stock of the year that has been and take aim at the year that might/will be.

The past year feels like it was a significant one for our family, one particularly worth noting, and it appears all the more so when considered from this vantage point. Viewed from almost any other point during the year I might have noted that it felt momentous, but really it would have been easiest to characterize it as challenging, difficult, chaotic or draining. The achievements or milestones would have been too easily clouded by the many things that I, individually, or we, as a family, never did or completed. There are only so many hours in a day, yet it’s all too easy to be tortured by what we didn’t accomplish than it is to celebrate what we have done. At least, I know for me that is true.

I struggle mightily to make peace with the fact that we can’t do everything that we need or would like to be able to do. And yet I also recognize that we can only do a very few things well (even extremely well, if we really work at it), or many things not very well at all. I’d truly rather do one or two or – if I’m lucky – three things well than dabble in all manner of things to no great effect, but it doesn’t make the necessary narrowing of focus any easier. Even though, in fact, I weed out extraneous information or keep my involvement in many matters more superficial, in order to preserve time / energy / motivation for the things that I most need and/or want to do. I do this without even thinking about it, as I suspect most people do.

The thing that gives me greatest pleasure when I think about my family, is the fact that we love books. There are so many things that we are not, but we love to read, together and individually. When nothing else is working, we can usually stop and share a book together, and that shared experience can smooth out all kinds of rough corners. Tonight we read another chapter of one of our current family books, Possessing Genius: The True Account of the Bizarre Odyssey of Einstein’s Brain; on another day we would have picked up where we last left off in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. That shared story rounded out the day in a way that little else can, and left us looking forward to the next time we sit down together to share one of our books.

Boy reading a book on a sofa

Of course, we all have our own books on the go too, and we’ll take them wherever we might be headed, indoors or out.

Teenage boy reading a book outside

Older boy reading while younger brother plays in water

We read them at home or on holiday, in the middle of the day or at night, wherever and whenever we find a few quiet moments.

Man reading

Our dog, Reggie, seems to fit right into the rhythms of reading and curls up or crashes out somewhere nearby. At the moment, the end of the day often finds Reggie, my husband and myself crammed into the small lower bunk of our youngest son’s bed (we’re reading The Subtle Knife, the second in Philip Pullman’s amazing trilogy). Normally we’d all object to so many of us crammed into such a small space, but it works because we’re caught up in a great story together.

Reading chair and table with books

I’ve written here before about the fact that at any one time I might have seven or eight books on the go, between our family books, the books I’m reading to my younger son, and whatever I’m reading myself, and this is evidenced by the small reading table beside my chair in the living room.

Both the table and the chair were found at local antique shops after moving to our small town a few years ago. The chair has an unusual, diminutive scale, and is just right for me somehow (though I’m not an especially or unusually ‘small’ person). Its fabric is kind of retro and ageless at the same time, and while it’s not something I’d have chosen myself, it tones in quite well with the space it occupies, and sits nicely next to the blue trunk that was one of the first pieces of furniture owned by my parents after they were married.

That chair isn’t the only place I read, but it’s definitely the place I associate with reading most, and it’s definitely one of my very favourite spots in our home. I’ve spent many happy hours there, and I’m hoping to spend many more in that very same place, with a good book or two.

It must be spring

Birthday photos for a boy

In the past week, my older boy turned 15. I can’t even begin to contemplate what the next birthday will be like, 16 being a number that seems a little larger than life at this point.

Two brothers with birthday balloons and a dog

Gluten free pancakes and noisy balloons were served up for breakfast before school.

Moss covered stones

Walks in the wood revealed moss-covered stones and the last tiny patch of snow.

Kicking at a last patch of snow in spring

Reggie started retrieving from the pond again, in earnest.

Black lab retrieving from a pond

And looking just as sweet as can be afterwards (yes, I’ve fallen hard for this young dog since he joined our family last summer).

Reggie, a black lab

We have even started moving a few precious young plants out into the garden; youngest son is seen here planting some of his kale plants in the small bed outside our front door.

Planting kale in spring

So many jobs to do now that the warmer weather is here. One at time, that’s all we can do.