The Call of the Mild

You know that emoji with the shocked face, gaping eyes, and raised eyebrows?? 😳 Imagine our goldendoodle, Tilly, with that expression on her people-loving, never-met-a-foe, mild-mannered, pampered face as we drove through the California Napa Valley, listening to The Call of the Wild by Jack London on audio. She had no idea dogs could even act with such violence toward each other or that dog owners would leave their dogs to burrow in a snow pile for warmth at night.

She was aghast!

On our way to the coast for some much-needed time away, we stopped in Glen Ellen, California, at the home of Jack London (1876-1916), one of the first American writers to make successful money during his lifetime (not just posthumously.) He also was one of the first authors to write what would later become known as science fiction.

We listened to The Call of the Wild in the car, quickly invested in the life of Buck – the fictional main character (dog) of London’s 1903 novel. Driving through the vineyard country, then through the magnificent redwoods, on to the sandy beaches of the Pacific, we listened and gasped and reassuringly patted Tilly’s head as we made our way westward.

Calling on his canine ancestors, Buck endured difficult days, learning experiences, and eventually, to trust and love again.

He was older than the days he had seen and the breaths he had drawn.

We have much to learn from our four-legged companions, a wealth of wisdom and insight at our fingertips, in the lives lived of generations past.

Rattlesnakes aside, we walked the grounds of London’s home, graveyard, and museum and picked up a few of his treasured short stories to add to our library.

It was difficult to photograph due to the lighting, but this view from his home looked out over the coastal mountains with pine trees enveloping the house. I mean… who couldn’t write with a view like that?!

Precursor to John Steinbeck, London wrote with the same rugged determination that many of his American literary comrades strove to achieve…the wild West calling to their masculine imagery and dreams. London was part of the radical literary group “The Crowd” in San Francisco and a passionate advocate of workers’ rights and socialism.

After our literary pit stop, Tilly, Scott, and I (a trio of not so rough and tough, hardened adventurers) packed back in our car and kept driving West toward our final destination.

The wild was calling us, but in a much more mildly temperate fashion.

Midtown Mindfulness

I am overwhelmed by the amount of vacation pictures I took this week so instead I’ll post some pictures from the farmer’s market this morning.

This beautiful bouquet came home with me. My eye went to it immediately, sitting in the rows and rows of vibrantly-colored flowers. I love it’s muted, gentle colors and can’t wait to spread it around our home this week.

The produce is coming in strong as the first weekend of PRIDE showed up in grand style at the Midtown Farmer’s Market in Sacramento.

Pluots and apricots made their first appearance and look absolutely delicious. A bag of them is sitting on our kitchen counter, daring us to eat them slowly throughout the week. They are SO sweet and gorgeous!

He is still my favorite market date. ♥️♥️♥️

Good. Very very good. An overcast day in California, filled with happy people and hopeful vendors.

As always, the real stars of the show are the visiting farmer’s market canines that bring their humans along. An Australian Labradoodle puppy really stole the show today!

Saturday in Sacramento is peaceful and mindful and filled with the hope of a week ahead that will include fresh produce, a cute handmade item or two, a sense of community, and joyful anticipation for next weekend’s farmer’s market goods.

Grief

It’s been a rough week, hasn’t it? We are a mourning nation. Confused, sorrowful, and enraged. Mix in a wonderful visit from our daughter that happened to end in sync with the school shooting, and a bit more sadness is stirred into the mix. However, our focus lately has been on our two neighborly friends. One lady – strong and interesting (I’ve joked for years that I had a bit of a crush on her), passed away yesterday. Dreaded cancer that she found out about two months ago. And our other neighbor across the street who has battled cancer for a year, does not have much more battle to fight. Three years ago, Jerry and Gisela were the first to welcome us here, knocking on the door to bring a neighborhood newsletter. We’ve since shared numerous items back and forth across Will Rogers Drive.

Now it feels like there is only so much that lasagne and garden veggies can do. We keep doing clumsy, awkward things for them all. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? We check in with them and tear up when they tear up, all voices cracking in unison.

I stood at my kitchen sink today, watering my philodendron, watching a truck back into Judith’s driveway, back-up beeps interrupting an otherwise sunny Memorial Day. As the water ran through my houseplant, they loaded a now unneeded hospital bed into the back of the truck. How quickly life can change, then how quickly we crave a sense of order to return after it does. Not able to alter a life ended so early, the elimination of a hospital bed reminder is one item that feels doable and immediate.

We in our 50s. They in their 60s. Children in their single digits.

Outside chaos of all kinds clamor at all our doorsteps on a regular basis, but it has become less and less noisy to me lately as the people right in front of me suffer unexpectedly. Social media seems less important while simultaneously, the friends behind each profile photo are held with warm and happy memories.

Life is big and scary but also small and wholly clear. We are not promised days; live entirely into the ones you are allowed.

Scott and I are off this week to explore a few more areas of California we’ve not seen before – the Mendocino coastal region. As I organize how to get Jerry to the car tomorrow morning for a doctor’s visit, his wife texts me information on where to see the rhododendrons along our trip. Such is the recipe of everyday life: the bitter balances the sweet. I’m thankful for a few days away with Scott. He is my person, balled up socks and all. Menial things are blurry these days. The importance of the moment is holding court. Tilly will dictate our stops and starts along the way, blissfully unaware of gunman and disease. Give her an open window and the occasional duck jerky and she’s filled with immeasurable canine glee.

I’m going small for awhile…the week has been especially difficult on our street. ✨ Please take good care of yours. ✨ They are the field God has given you to care for. Swap lettuce. Lend books. Gossip about the price of gas and late night talk shows. Do that universal head nod and arm wave as your neighbor pulls into their garage after work.

He comforts us in all affliction, we have been promised. If you are willing to be present, joy comes in the mourning as well.

– g

Keeping up with my correspondence…

Scott and I often joke that I am a ‘woman who keeps up with her correspondence.‘ This doesn’t mean that I actually sit down each morning with a red box and open it to see what correspondence needs to be accomplished that day.

What it does mean is that I live in a very different world in my head than reality plays out. -ha!

I was proud of myself for putting together some Mother’s Day cards this year. I wanted to tell the women of my life how much I noticed them and their enormous hard work. I finished the cards early because my daughter was coming to visit from out of town and I knew I needed to get an early jump on them before cleaning bathrooms (that dang reality again) set in. The first unfortunate thing is that I didn’t get cards completed for the entire list of women I find admirable and the second unfortunate circumstance is that they remained piled in my brand new MAIL holder on my desk. I mailed them on Tuesday…after Mother’s Day. Aargh.

I clearly had no recourse but to blame my daughter for this unfortunate turn of events.

Why can’t I just be normal???

in the in-between

I read an interesting description of Advent this morning in Common Prayer. While describing Advent as a time of waiting and expectation, the author wrote that ‘we are the midwives of another world.’

That sent me into a quick Google search of what a midwife’s responsibilities are: educating the parents before labor, nurturing the mother in preparation for labor, assisting her during labor, and caring for the parents and the child after the child was born. 

A midwife has their feet in the before, during and the after. Some of those stages are sanguine and reflective. Some are stressful and highly charged. And yet throughout, a midwife must remain consistent and always at the ready. 

Days like yesterday seem like the stressful and highly charged times. Senseless death. Another pre-adult’s life ruined by a violent act. Many more traumatized for a lifetime. We wept. God wept. When will the new creation come? 

Giving Tuesday was also yesterday. A time to pour resources of money and time into charities doing important work. Midwives, themselves. 

We stand, firmly planted, in two worlds. Each promising new and exciting things. We cannot abandon one for the other. We must hold them both with great expectation. We cannot forsake our fellow earth traveler in lieu of mansions of gold. We must walk with them, feeling their deep pain when needed, keeping each other healthy and whole. And we cannot ignore our Heavenly Father’s directives for the enticement of momentary earthly gain. 

A midwife exists in the in-between space, filling it with reassurance and direction and a calm confidence. 

‘Will you let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
We are trav’lers on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.’
– The Servant Song

Midtown Farmers Market

We look forward to Saturday every week. The Midtown Farmers Market is the perfect size. It’s not an overwhelming market, so you can slow down and see it all. We are also developing our ‘favorites’ list of vendors we must stop and see what they have new for the week. For Scott, it’s the vendor who sells the freshest Brussels sprouts. He heads there first thing. For me, it’s a mixture of vendors: florals, boho, and plants. (Sidenote: I’d love to sell my propagated plants there someday. And some plant merch. Someday, someday, someday.)

Golden Hour Designs has such cute macrame’ rainbows, earrings and stickers. Speaking of which, I am SUCH a sucker for stickers. Cabbage patch kids… Convenient store gum that came with stickers… The current sticker craze is speaking my childhood language! The owner of Golden Hour is also so engaging and always nice to chat with. I’ve started taking my bags back to her to get them refilled with something new and delicious each week.

And while the farmers market offers all kinds of organically grown produce and adorable boho accessories, it’s also a fantastic place to people watch! I mean – look at this fantastic dad! I think if I threw three balls at him, he’d be able to juggle them while doing all the rest. Superman

We haven’t taken Tilly to the market yet, but we are almost (mentally) ready. She would love it, of course. But when it comes down to it every week, we get selfish and want to stroll aimlessly without the responsibility of watching her (see: super dad above.) The dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are plenty fun to watch too. I heard that someone was walking around with a plastic-domed backpack this week so their cat could also enjoy the people. -ha!

Each week we try something new. The bakery booth was filled with delectable things. Scott picked a cinnamon roll twist that I might have taken a few bites of.

We haven’t purchased anything from this jam booth yet, but their signage is straight up awesome. Love the creative simplicity of it.

Umm. A schoolbus converted into a vintage clothing shop?? Be still my heart. And again, watching the uber cool people coming in and out of it is worth pulling up a seat and taking notes. (Oh, and here’s another sidenote: skoolies. I’m thinking retirement??!)

A few weeks ago we purchased this market bag. It’s hard outer shell is perfect for tossing our veggies and flowers and goodies inside while we browse around. This particular booth features fair trade baskets from West Africa. It’s a very small way to help a family with healthcare and school supplies through each purchase.

And come on… how cute do flowers and carrot tops look, peeking out of the top??!

Live musicians, avocado trucks, seafood booths and freshly bagged chai leaves. The diversity and community-feeling that farmers markets bring to my soul is refreshing and renewing. Thank you, Sacramento, for bringing us all together to browse the streets, supplement our own garden and plan our weekly meals.

Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

Spring in Northern California…wow. From February to the end of May is northern California’s show-off time. It’s a gorgeously long season of magnificent blooms and growth. After a few months of rain, everything catapults to life.

This was just a walk around the block…

Clearly this house has mastered the art of rose bushes. The whole front yard is lined in various roses. As delicate as a rose bouquet is, a rose bush loves the heat and drought and sandy soil of California!

Isn’t the above tree so cool? I’d love to know its story.

The tree below is a crepe myrtle. The bark is SO smooth. I love these trees even when they’re not blooming.

And hey… why not grow artichokes in your front yard! Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

It’s hard to give an update on our lives without (endlessly) talking about our garden. After a few seasons of trial and error, we’ve hit on some successes.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am used to the growing season being, basically, June to September. But here, you need to plant things MUCH earlier. We (…and by we I mean Scott…) had everything planted by March. The young plants and seeds grew for a couple of months to get good and established and now we’ve covered the raised garden beds with a breezy black shade tarp to protect them from the brutal afternoon sun.

We are at the take-the-peas-and-collard-greens-to-work stage. We’re taking stuff to neighbors because we can’t keep up.

And now our first tomato has appeared. Scott ROCKED tomato-growing last year so I’m curious to see how they do in a different spot. So far they are TALL and filling up with blooms. Salsa is just around the corner. We…again, Scott… blanched a bunch last year and froze it for sauces.

How much stir fry is too much stir fry?? We haven’t reached our limit yet. Pork one night, chicken another. So yummy! And such a sense of pride that it was grown right in our backyard.

There isn’t much healthier food than collard greens. So many nutrients! (Which are only slightly hindered by the bacon and broth mixture.) I read an important statement about cooking collard greens: ‘There is no such thing as cooking collard greens too long.’ They simmer on our stove all day and are a home-run every time.

I’ve been so happy with my lavender experiment this year. Seeing all the bees buzzing around makes me doubly delighted. Tilly tries to catch the bees while they’re working. She’s going to get a muzzle full someday.

Our independent, graying old six-year-old cat, Haddie, is a real trooper with overly playful Tilly. But sometimes, a girl just has to take a break. Her favorite spot is against this graying old fence.

Tilly firmly believes she is a toy poodle lapdog. I wonder if toy poodle lapdogs have to keep their back legs on the ground for stability??

Random things:

One of our neighbors gave out May Day baskets, which was just so cute. I haven’t met them yet but I have to wonder if they’ve seen me working in the yard and made the decision to get a large print word search. -ha! (Speaking of old and graying!)

The news about Bill and Melinda Gates was upsetting. They’ve appeared to be such a successful couple who work together and feed off each others’ ideas. I read Melinda’s memoir last year which always makes me feel invested in the author’s life. They’ve done so much good in the world, I hope that can continue.

Speaking of doing good, I am still enjoying everything put out by The Bitter Southerner. They highlight the new south. The progressive stories happening in our beautiful southern states. Better South | Better World

Scott gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and card for Mother’s Day. I particularly liked his character explanations.

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

…a long phone call with my son, Baird (we never quite get them under 3 hours) -ha! He even had the good sense to marry the world’s greatest daughter-in-law (who managed to be the first to send me a Mother’s Day text.)

They made motherhood easy for me. Their continued support and love is invaluable to me. They’re good people.

I’ve already had to start manipulating the shades… open in the morning for the plants and then closed in the afternoon to ward off the blazing sun. We are taking a trip to Kansas City in early June. It will be nice to be back in temperate heat for a little while.

I grew this ruffled philodendron selloum from a single leaf cutting a couple of years ago. We brought it to California with us and, well, she likes the weather! She’s huge!

Speaking of temperature (and then I promise I’ll close this long post), I am crocheting a Temperature Blanket. I’m not sure why I decided a king-sized pattern was the right way to go, but here we are.

While the colors aren’t usually my thing, I am enjoying the challenge of it. Each row represents the high temperature that day. These colors (starting on January 1, 2021) represent the 50s, 60s and 70s. I’m very ready to move on to the next group of colors (80s, 90s and above 100) but I’m not ready to experience them in real life. There’s nothing like a king size blanket of yarn to work on in 99-degree temperature!

My head needs to be checked…

Okay. I promise these weekly summaries won’t be this long. But it’s been a bit so I thought I’d catch up on all the (very) random things going on.

Maybe the biggest news is that the fitting rooms in area stores have opened up again. Woohoo!! It’s been a long year of buying stuff, taking it home to try on, then returning what doesn’t work. God bless the customer service industry.

Be safe! And welcome to a slightly less-restrictive summer.

commonality

In a world of disconnection, it has felt even more comforting to gather with people all over the world as we circle the same scripture on the same day. That is the beauty of the liturgy, for me. Similar thoughts are being mulled over. Time of year is being considered. The great joining together happens at different times throughout the day and probably over different types of coffee or chai or a whiskey sour. We enter God’s presence with our burlap bags of angsty needs, we read through our ancient common prayer, and then leave that space, emboldened to help those less fortunate than ourselves. I find a great sense of connection with the world in those moments. Even in the solitude of my home.

our days…

“Our day is but a path we tread, a gentle walk among possibilities.”

Kent Nerburn

lemons as neighbors

We certainly know we’re no longer in the midwest when we come home to a bag of fresh lemons on our front porch. Our neighbors across the street share their bounty with us. It’s been such a good way to get to know them.

And their taste far outweighs grocery store produce, for sure!

Thank you for your bounty, California

Deeply thankful.

Since Scott works next week, we decided to have our Thanksgiving dinner together on Friday. When your family is sitting down to turkey next Thursday we will be in the oh-no-not-turkey-again stage of leftovers.

This was supposed to be a table set for five. Our children were going to be here all at one time and I could imagine the talking and laughing and plates being passed. But then Corona took over and cancelled all our plans. Flights that had been booked for months were re-adjusted to a later (unknown) time in 2021. This was so disappointing at first, but I find myself, today, deeply grateful for cancelled plans. From the time we decided to eliminate plans for Thanksgiving (and Christmas) until now, the COVID rates have skyrocketed. It would worry me far too much to think of my children getting on planes with other holiday travelers and either getting the virus themselves or bringing it to our home. We have all worked so hard for six months to avoid this horrible virus. A vaccine is on the horizon so why not hang on just a bit longer. We can do it. Our decision was one of love for each other and respect for the fight we have been putting up so far to keep COVID at bay.

So instead, it was just me and Scott. We started listening to Christmas music this week and began putting up our trees and holiday decorations. It is, by far, the earliest we have ever done this but this year, I think we are all wanting a change of pace. We need the joy and promise of Christmas.

6, 893 attempts at one little picture. In the end, we are just going to have to settle on the best we can get with a 9-month-old puppy. We didn’t even attempt to include our cat, Haddie, imagining the cat and dog chase down the center of the table.

Scott played all the cooking hits. Lots of carbs and calories, but oh-so-many memories. He worked on the meal (with Tilly’s help, sampling the food) while I worked on the house. Before long things were looking and smelling like the holidays.

We included a family favorite: Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Mom used to make this salad/dessert and we all looked forward to it every year. It is, actually, a big pain to make. Maybe that’s why it’s a once-a-year favorite. It includes my favorite food group: salty and sweet.

Instead of people pouring through our front door, it was a much smaller gathering than expected. But we had fun and enjoyed every minute of our Thanksgiving meal from prep, eating and much-deserved nap to follow.

I’m quite sure the gnomes are enjoying having a puppy in the house this year. There’s no telling what goes on when we go to bed each night. I am sure they are up to no good!

You hope your children have tender and gracious memories of their childhood holidays. But just recently my son brought up the insane reindeer we had (as I am sure many of you did as well) that would CONSTANTLY topple over. It had a bum leg so it teetered off balance at all times. Just looking at it for longer than a mere glance was usually enough to bring it to a pile of wood in the middle of the living room. The expletives he now includes in the reindeer’s descriptions do not bring forth merriment and fondness. -ha!

That rickety reindeer has long been gone but a few years ago I found this smaller version and snatched it up. The funny memories it brings to mind was worth it. This one, luckily, is much smaller and much more balanced!

Last year I was gifted this Willow Tree nativity scene. I had momentarily forgotten about it until I started unpacking the Christmas boxes this year and was pleasantly surprised all over again. I have never been more grateful for a humble baby and His saving grace. I marvel at the resolute dedication of a young teenage mother and a faithful fiance’. So many families have seen death and suffering this year – all around the world. Jesus walks before us. The path may not be easy or end as we desire, but His hand is there to offer comfort. He can lighten the load we bear, whether it be the heaviness of worry or the tragedy of loss. May we be as faithful as the holy trio as well as those who took up the faith and followed the Star.

NOEL. An exclamation of joy at Jesus’ birth. My personal prayer is to loosen the grip on the burden of fear this holiday and concentrate on the joy of a guiding Father. The joy of birth.

We wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving. I understand the disappointment and discouragement attached to plans being cancelled or minimized. It is a difficult year. But it is also a forced-opportunity to spend less time maximizing on the unimportant details and further appreciate the simple blessings of breath and connection and irreplaceable memories.

The deepest love and gratitude, from our house to yours –

g.

I bought a thing. I did a thing.

As a plant seller on FB Marketplace, I have not been much of a buyer until recently. I have picked up a couple of cool things during Quarantine. Inexpensive items but nice additions for our home. The added bonus: thrifting is better for the environment!

I saw this cute round table for $25. Low investment = low risk. I feel freer to experiment with stuff when I haven’t invested a lot of money into them.

The original color of the table was gray, I believe. But the bottom had been painted black (which was still in pretty good shape) then the top was spray painted white.

When I picked it up she mentioned there was also a leaf to expand it so that was a nice little surprise bonus.

We have a small kitchen nook area that I enjoy reading in because the natural light is so fantastic. I’ve recently painted the room (…which I’m not sure I ever blogged the results.) I wanted a round table where I could sit and read, journal, etc. I also decided I wanted to do a ‘tone-on-tone’ by painting the top of the table the same color as the walls. Since the room is small, I didn’t want to feel like the table was cluttering the space. Painting it the same color as the walls gave it continuity for the eye.

After a few coats of paint I then topped it with a glossy polyurethane finish.

It’s the perfect size. I’m so happy with it. A cup of chai and the London Book Review magazine and I am in complete relaxation mode.

A room of blue-ish silver-ish plants, walls and now tabletop. A pretty good $25 investment.

Sidenote: the table leaf storage is kind of ingenious. Maybe you have a table like this but I’ve never seen a fold-in leaf. So I made a dorky video for you to see…

What great finds have you fallen into lately?