Sketches: Dirt

Dirt

Gentle Reader,

It’s really hot. It’s stupid.

So, let’s talk: dirt. (Prompt submitted, once again, my my own brain).

I could have been a farmer’s daughter.

My great-grandparents owned a farm in Idaho, near but not quite in the panhandle, where there is a town named “Onaway” because it’s on-a-way to elsewhere. He played on a traveling baseball team part of the year. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse at one point. My dad and his four brothers spent many hours out at their place, forced to bake something every Saturday morning before being released to run through the fields and orchards, chucking rotten apples at each other and jousting on bicycles.

My dad’s first job, around age 14, was working for another farmer, driving tractors and moving big, metal sprinkler poles. The kind with wheels attached. (Google if you don’t know what I’m talking about). He’s the quiet sort, so it didn’t bother him to be out on his own, working in the dirt.

It doesn’t bother him now, either. Though the great-grandparent’s farm was eventually sold and it never worked out for my own parents to buy land and raise animals that would never be slaughtered because we would get too attached to them, he still works in the dirt. Mows the lawn, prunes the roses, plants trees. He hates the heat this time of year (as do I), but he finds being out there, taking care of things, relaxing.

Perhaps the funniest thing he’s done when it comes to dirt and plants was the time he allowed an offshoot from a rosebush to grow in the middle of the yard. Drove my mom nuts. She wanted him to cut it down. He mowed around it week after week, wanting to see what it would do. The fact that it annoyed her was just a bonus, of course.

My mom would always plant geraniums or petunias in pots, lining them up neatly on the stairs that led up to the porch. When I was about 13, I began helping her with the process, learning how to gently spread the roots and place them in deep, soft, wet soil so the plants wouldn’t go into shock. I found it very soothing – me, the not-outdoorsy, doesn’t really like to get dirty person, completely fine with plunging her hands into a bag of potting soil. If my memory serves correctly, one year, I think the last year we lived out on the two-and-a-half acres in the single-wide trailer, I did all of the geraniums myself. They always looked so happy in their terracotta pots, deep green leaves and red blooms reaching for the sun.

I turn to my own plants when I’m feeling anxious. There’s something immensely satisfying about chopping a woody rose cane to the ground. Nothing better than watching the vegetable garden spring from seeds to delicious food. I could do without having to weed, but even that isn’t bad when done in the morning, when it’s cooler, while listening to music or a podcast. I send the ladybug army in to eat all the nasty, destructive little creates. Sit on the back porch and watch the birds flit from tree to tree, the ones that we snagged at a giveaway because we bought our house at the wrong, worst time and had no money to put into landscaping. Admire the baskets hanging from the pergola, fresh vines draping over following a ruthless pruning.

The dirt, and what it produces, is delightful.

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Five Minute Friday: Beauty

Skate

Gentle Reader,

Such a fun Twitter chatter tonight. The gif game was strong. The Office references flowed freely. Poutine and colonoscopies were discussed (the one does not necessarily lead to the other). The Norwegian curling team’s pants were admired. I was graced with honourary Canadian status. (See what I did there)?

I love these people.

Kate says: beauty.

Go.

I’ve so enjoyed watching the Olympics this year.

As a child I loved figure skating, my heart captured by the artistry of athletes like Oksana Baiul and Gordeeva/Grinkov. As an adult, I discovered ice dancing, which is like ballroom dancing and a skating rink got together and made something truly magical. In 2010 I watched as Canada’s Virtue/Moir and the United States’ Davis/White battled it out. In 2014, they battled again, but with a different (and, in my opinion, incorrect) outcome. Heading into the PeyongChang games, I was more than ready for the Virtue/Moir comeback and to be very #TeamCanada. (All the “noooo” in the world for France’s Papadakis/Cizeron).

Odd, this love, since I’ve never glided across the ice or even pushed my foot into an ice skate. Never had the opportunity. Now, because I have to live in a protective bubble at all times, I can’t go skating, no matter how much I want to.

Thus I content myself with watching men and women defy gravity and tell stories with blades strapped to their feet. It’s art. It’s sport. It’s thrilling.

That’s the beauty of the Olympics, I think. All the politics and doping aside (really, guy who does curling? You had to use drugs?), the world is treated to 10 days of good fun. Competition and elation and heartbreak and the reminder that we’re all the same, no matter where we come from. In a world fraught with increasing and constant tension, this beauty, this space, is necessary.

Stop.

The Virtue/Moir programs. Watch them both. There will never be better ice dancers.

Also this, which is the most Canada thing to ever Canada. Dude is gold-medal winning ice dancer who gets worked up at a hockey game. I love that.

scott-moir-womens-hockey-gold-medal-game-refs-video

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Five Minute Friday: Steady

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I’m a country girl, born and raised near woods filled with hidden creatures and disappearing streams. The sound of owls hooting in the night draws up pleasant childhood memories of smoky barbecue and badminton and fat slugs. More often than not during the hot summer months, dirt gathers beneath my nails, evidence of yet another battle with weeds. The prairie on which I’ve lived for nearly a decade is ringed by ashy blue mountains, like those found on picture postcards. Ten minutes in one direction and one runs into a river. Ten minutes in the other, a lake.

My people – pioneers and farmers and horse thieves – trekked across thousands of miles in wagons or on foot. I know. The history there is complex and at times truly awful. No truly pure saint has ever lived this side of Eden. Still, I can’t help but admire the grit and moxie it must’ve taken to pull up stakes and leave the familiar behind, in the dust. To square your shoulders and press on, toward the hope of something better.

For all my love of London and New York, I could never live in a city. Give me the open spaces, the land where crickets cry.

Doing the link-up thing with the sass machines and the moustache crushes. We pontificate on the prompt: steady.

Go.

I’ll be 33 in roughly six weeks. There is now officially a Stacy London/Rogue of the X-Men/Anna from Frozen (pick your fandom) white streak in my hair. I guess I’m supposed to feel bad about both of those things. That’s what the vague, faceless mass called “society” tells me. Start shaving a few years off my age when asked and scurry off to the salon to hide the follicular evidence.

Why?

See, any day that I haven’t been told that I have cancer or that I’m in need of a transplant or that I’m dying is a pretty good day to me. Why should I waste time and energy worrying about age or hair color or wrinkles or whatever else it is about which I “should” be worrying? I have so little energy anyway. I’d rather spend it in other pursuits. (Not throwing shade at women who dye their hair or spend money on anti-aging treatments; I could not care less. It’s just not my jam). Besides, after experiencing the horribleness of waking up in the the night with a pounding heart, in the midst of a panic attack, anything I can definitively choose not to be anxious over, I will.

Maybe I’ll feel differently a decade down the road. Doubt it. If men become “distinguished” as they age, then so do women. Let’s reject the idea that the fairer sex decreases in value and significance the moment we slip past age 21. (Oh, there’s nothing that could entice me to be 21 again).

Time beats a steady rhythm, one we cannot pause or change. It is out of our hands. A thing we cannot control. All the creams and dyes and lotions and potions and injections and diets in the world will not stop the passing of the days, weeks, months, years. The body grows old. It breaks down. The very steadiness of time creates unsteadiness for skin and bone, muscle and organ.

How comforting it is to know that there is One outside the steady and the unsteady, One who is not ravaged by changing seasons, One whose eyes never grow dim. He is light and fire and radiance and goodness and beauty and mystery. He sits, enthroned, never to be toppled. He knows the number of hairs on our heads – white or otherwise. He determined the length of our lives long before that steady time even existed.

Yes, we age. We break down. Wrinkles and glittering strands and dimmed vision.

And yet – somehow – He builds us up. For the break down is not a winding down, but a winding up. An aching walk toward the Forever Place, the Eternal Home, where pain and sorrow exist no more.

Perhaps we’ll have polka-dotted hair and plaid skin there.

We won’t care.

Stop.

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Photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina

We Are Gorgeous

along-the-way-mlsgregg-com

Gentle Reader,

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a woman who is ever going to grace a magazine cover. There’s a white streak in my hair, growing more prominent with each passing day. That same hair is typically unruly, unless I have the time and inclination to spend an hour smoothing it with curling irons and other torture devices (usually don’t). After seven surgeries, I’m covered in scars, some more prominent than others. I have a high forehead and small facial features. My eyes will never be in perfect alignment. Got a few wrinkles here and there. Freckles in odd spots. Skin plagued by dryness and eczema.

All of this used to bother me.

These days my attitude can be summed up in one question: Who cares?

I’ve mentioned that I switched to a largely vegetarian diet at the beginning of this year and that I took up an exercise regimen roughly 7 months ago. Neither of these choices were driven by a need to comply with some vague, ever-changing beauty standard. Yes, I’ve lost weight and dropped a dress size, maybe two (depends on the day and how much chocolate I’ve eaten). But that size is not four – and it’s never going to be.

Again, who cares?

I do the clean eating and the weights and the cardio so that my liver will stop being all inflamed and ticked off. (Hasn’t happened yet).

I see women of all ages, shapes and sizes who waste precious hours condemning themselves for not being able to achieve the look of the models in photo shoots. How long before it finally sinks into our heads that they don’t even look like that because Photoshop? How long before we realize that starving ourselves really isn’t the answer? How long before we stop allowing others to define whether or not we are beautiful?

Instead of compliance, let’s shoot for confidence.

I love fashion. It’s never wrong to put together a great outfit or try a new lipstick. Enjoy, if that’s your jam. If you don’t like that, great. And, yes, women should take the time to exercise and eat right. Not because we need to prove something to the world, but because we see ourselves as being worth the effort self-care requires.

But if you’re 5 feet, 6 inches – why feel bad that you aren’t taller? If your eyes are green – why feel ashamed that they aren’t blue? If you have full eyebrows or sparse eyebrows, a curvaceous frame or a lanky one, straight hair or curly, big lips or thin, dark or pale skin, narrow feet or wide, if you like sparkles or prefer a gray t-shirt and blue jeans – it doesn’t matter. None of it matters.

You’re beautiful.

Every time. Every day.

Walk into the room with your head held high. Believe that you have a lot to offer – because you do.

I’m over allowing anyone telling me that I’m “less than” because my hair grows throughout the day (especially if it’s humid). I’m over strangers telling me to “smile more.” (A particular pet peeve). I’m over fad diets. (Seriously. You need food. Real food). I’m over apologizing for being intelligent.I’m over worrying about whether or not I intimidate others.

I’m over feeling bad about myself.

I wish I would have figured out this confidence thing, I don’t know, about 20 years ago, but it is what it is. I don’t know how much time I have left on this earth but I do know I don’t want to spend it concerned over whether or not someone likes my jeans. I like my jeans. I’m just done with caring about opinions that don’t amount to a hill of beans.

You, dear lady reading this today – will you join me? When you look in the mirror, will you smile at yourself? Because your face was crafted by the skilled hands of the Master Designer. When you go into that meeting, will you speak up? Because your voice should be heard. When you put on that dress or slip those pins in your hair or zip up those boots, will you do so knowing that you rock whatever style you’ve chosen? Because you do. You do rock it.

Here’s to us, of the gap-toothed grins and the thick thighs and the hands gnarled with age. Here’s to us, of the frizzed-out hair and the eye wrinkles and the crooked noses. Here’s to us, of the flat butts that squats will never round out and the raspy voices and the Bohemian flair. Here’s to us, of skin as dark as coffee and pale as winter snow and all shades between.

We are gorgeous.

Nothing less.

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