52 Photos ~ Fresh

Morning milk

This summer hasn’t been the summer I expected.

I’m not talking about the weather for the first six weeks or so, which, let’s face it, left a little to be desired.

It’s just… well, I haven’t been basking in the happy summer glow I inhabit most years from June to August. I don’t know what this is. Mid-life woes? Trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up? Realizing that we have only three more summers like this with H at home?

Sigh.

Maybe I need a sports car. Or a horse. Or a trip around the world.

Or lunch with a friend.

Here’s what I do know: the nights lately are hard. They’re filled with restless and even very bad dreams. I’m late. I’m lost. I’m trying to get in touch with family and I can’t. I’m in trouble. I’m cast aside. I’ve lost my shoes and the road is wet. I meet my mother in an abandoned train station and she tells me that she’s sick, and scared. And I can’t help.

I wake up most mornings frazzled and not at all relieved. In spite of the gorgeous weather we’re having. In spite of the sun. In spite of M by my side. In spite of everything I have and hold, and health and (relative) youth, in this peaceful and green valley.

I’m unsettled.

But here’s what calms me: I go down to the kitchen, and quietly, methodically gather the milk pail, the tote, the clean bottles, the funnel and its filter paper, the strip screen, the udder wash. I step out on the porch and Wellesley spots me and nickers. Then her babies start to cry, because they’ve been separated from her all night so that we can have the milk that’s collected overnight. And they want their mother. Now.

But the crying doesn’t bother me now the way it did at first because I know they’ll calm down as soon as I get Wellesley on the milking stand where they can see her.

And then I milk. I press my forehead against Wellelsely’s flank, while she’s grunting with happiness over her morning grain. Her milk comes easily and she never kicks. She’s a pleasure to milk. The babies watch through the slats in the gate of their stall. Quiet. Bright eyed.

For these ten minutes, I’m complete and competent. I know what I’m doing and things… work. The animal smells are sweet. The foam on the top of the milk fizzles as the minuscule bubbles pop. Nothing more is asked for.

The day and the milk are fresh, and unspoiled.

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ Down below

Elevator shaft

Over the weekend, we went to western Massachusetts to gather with family. We’re fairly wide-flung these days, so getting us all in one place always takes a bit of effort. But it makes for a great excuse for a vacation in a beautiful place that brims with music, theater, dance, art museums, hiking trails, delicious restaurants, and gracious homes.

Among which, Edith Wharton’s The Mount, the house she designed and had built to her specifications (following the design principles in the book she co-authored with her architect friend, Ogden Codman, Jr.).

The Mount

Simplicity (keeping in mind that this is, of course, a mansion), open space, uncluttered rooms, symmetry, classically-inspired designs, influenced by nature. These were the principles by which she built the house.

To which I’d also add practicality: wide doorways; large, light-welcoming windows free from heavy drapery; rooms that open into each other and onto a central hallway to give easy access to each room (several architectural features, I now realize, that it shares with the great Brick Dwelling at the Hancock Shaker Village, located not far from The Mount).

She looked back to an aesthetic from an earlier time, but she looked forward for comfort and convenience. The house is equipped with an elevator, and electric call bells to summon the staff (simplicity is all well and good, but Edith wasn’t about to clean her own house or cook her own food).

Bells

I stood for a long time in her bedroom, staring at her bed, where it is said she did most of her writing (including the novel The House of Mirth), long hand, tossing finished pages onto the floor for her secretary to later collect and type up. And I thought about simplicity, and sunlight streaming through windows in a corner room, and words flowing onto leaves of white, fluttering down around her bed.

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These photos and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ Layers and stacks

Layers

Stack

River cairns

Moss wall

Stone wall

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

–By Stanley Kunitz, from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz.

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These photos and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ This is what I found

Dock

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This photo is in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ Neon color

Orange

4 Aces

Yellow

Cones

Start of summer

Pink and pink

Market balloons

Spotted eft

OPEN

I didn’t expect to find much neon around me, but there it was.

It’s elusive, but neon surprised me by showing up here and there once I started looking for it.

There’s even a rural lawn mower repair shop on a dirt road not far from our house that displays a neon “Open” sign in its front window. In all the years I’ve driven past it, I’d never noticed it before this week. This is the thing I love about photography. It helps me notice.

All week long, I’ve been searching for neon. All week long, it’s been raining and raining. In the evening, the thunderstorms roll in, as if we lived in the tropics. The air is thick as the clouds. We’re walking through clouds. I’ve been looking for neon-hued tropical birds in the trees. I hear them, but haven’t spotted them.

All week long, the neon and the rain. All week long, I’ve been singing this song.

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These photos and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ Stripes

Sisters

An ordinary Friday morning and I go out to the barn to feed the goats and do the morning check.

Everything is as it always is, or, at least, as it has been since the babies were born.

And then I notice little Doris, looking, well… poofy. She’s puffed up and her fur is sticking out like she’s a scared cat trying to make herself look big. She’s affectionate, but her spark is not there. She’s not jumping at my legs the way she usually does.

I know something’s not right, but I’m not entirely sure what it is because we’re still relatively new to this goat thing and our goats have been overall healthy so far.

I go in to ponder it, and do a little reading online. I’m pretty sure it’s bloat before I even start to look, but I look anyway.

I call the vet. She says, “Bring her right in.”

Right. Into the car I carry her. I have no goat carrier. I put her in a laundry basket, but she’s soon out of that (sick or not, she’s still got baby goat curiosity). I stop the car and she I finally agree that she can lie down on a pile of towels on the floor right behind the driver’s seat.

I’ve finally become one of those funky, Vermont women who drives around with a goat in her car. I want to smile at the notion, but I’m too worried. All the way to the vet, I’m singing to Doris. I’m singing her sister’s song (“Darcy Farrow”) over and over again to keep her calm. I keep getting to the part where Darcy Farrow dies, then I circle around again to the beginning and try to keep those thoughts out of my mind. I should have picked a happier song.

At the vet’s office, she’s examined.

After an x-ray (which reveals gas bubbles), the vet looks me straight in the eye. “This isn’t good.” I was already a little queasy, now I feel dizzy.

Doris is tubed (to remove gas from her stomach), aspirated (to remove gas from her rumen), given a dose of oil (to help consolidate the gas bubbles), given lactated ringers (for fluid and nutrition), given antibitoics, given her baby shots (since she’s due anyway).

Given the treatment.

Back into the car and we go home. I can’t put her in the barn because we’ve been warned we need to keep a steady eye on her and not let her eat anything. She’s still bloated; there’s only so much gas the vet can get out of her, and (the vet warns us) Doris is in guarded condition and may not last the night.

We put her in the downstairs bathroom.

Yes, in the span of one morning we’ve moved from people who keep goats in the yard to people who drive them around in the car and let them sleep in the house. I hear it eventually happens to everyone who owns goats.

We take turns being with her. The dog is inconsolable. He’s on the other side of that bathroom door and wants to be with us, with her. We even let him in for a bit. The goatling doesn’t care. She’s miserable.

More trips to the vet’s office that afternoon, the next morning, the following Monday. More of the same treatments. She’s not getting worse, but she’s not getting better.

Eventually, we put her back in the barn, in a clean stall, so she can be near her mother and sister. When you’re a goat, goat company is better than human company.

Little by little, she starts to get smaller. She nurses vigorously. She starts to generate “output”. The sparkle comes back into her eyes. She moves around more and doesn’t just lie or stand there trying to breathe.

Today, if you looked at her, you’d never know how sick she was. Eleven days later and she’s as slim and healthy seeming as her sister.

She’s not out of the woods yet, though. For now, she’s still indoors, resting her system, rebuilding the bacteria (slowly) in her rumen, biding time until she’s bigger and healthy enough to face the fresh green growth outside.

Oh, but it’s lovely to see her play, and jump on our laps, and chew a mouthful of dry hay, and nurse from her mother, lined up against her sister, two little stripes of perfect contentedness.

We all finally feel like we can breathe.

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ Crimson

Rose breast

Ruby throat

Red wing

So This Is Nebraska

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop
over the fields, the telephone lines
streaming behind, its billow of dust
full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.

On either side, those dear old ladies,
the loosening barns, their little windows
dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs
hide broken tractors under their skirts.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday
afternoon; July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,
a meadowlark waiting on every post.

Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,
top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,
a pickup kicks its fenders off
and settles back to read the clouds.

You feel like that; you feel like letting
your tires go flat, like letting the mice
build a nest in your muffler, like being
no more than a truck in the weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey
or holding a skinny old man in your lap
while he watches the road, waiting
for someone to wave to. You feel like

waving. You feel like stopping the car
and dancing around on the road. You wave
instead and leave your hand out gliding
larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

–Ted Kooser, from Sure Signs. Copyright © 1980 by Ted Kooser.

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These photos and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.