This week we celebrated…

24 years of marriage
This boy’s return home after his first year at college and the first time seeing his grandparents in over a year…
Whiskers’ safe return home. (He’s an indoor cat who got out of his house by mistake and spent a day and night at our house before we were able to reunite him with his people thanks to Nextdoor!).
A garden bursting with exuberant blooms…
The return of the absentee father, (we think? we hope?!)

Creature Comforts

When we first spotted the fox pups, they were always close to the barn under which they’ve been living. Lately, they’ve been having wild parties in our backyard. I could watch them gamboling and cavorting all day long. I wish I could capture it on film, but they’ve gotten much warier and will usually disappear into their den as soon as they spot me.

They’ve been venturing further afield into the paddock and the woods, I think in search of food. Sometimes they dig in the ground, maybe for worms? I’ve seen them tentatively taste the weeds. This poor pup was hungrily gnawing on some dead leaves.

After a busy day, the pups usually collapse in a tired heap in front of their den.

This morning I spotted them making themselves even more comfortable. One of the cushions from a deck chair must have blown into the yard. I was sure the pups would bolt if they heard the door open, so I took these photos from my kitchen window.

Dearest Yang,

In loving memory of my friend Yang, who was laid to rest today. May her beautiful soul rest in peace. (First posted March 15, 2020)

IMG_0610

I’ve been trying to remember when we first met…Was it nine or ten years ago when you first moved to Charlottesville from Germany and our boys became friends at school? This is the earliest photo I can find of our two boys together.

IMG_0591.jpg

They look like they could be brothers…

IMG_0593
At elementary school graduation
IMG_0594
2012
IMG_0595
2012

I think our boys were glad to have each other through their last years at elementary school. Being a non-white student in a rural community with little diversity can be hard. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for your son to go from a German school to an American one. Remember when you told me he never uttered a single word at school and I was shocked, because he never ceased talking at our house? I loved hearing his perfectly unique, lilting Chinese-German accent. Our boys are both sensitive dreamers, who have always marched to the beat of their own drums. Remember how we used to laugh and sigh about their shockingly messy backpacks? And to discover they both never knew what their homework assignments were, and that when they miraculously did manage to complete their homework assignments, they both scrupulously forgot to turn them in? Remember when my boy started to learn Chinese, and we talked about him going with your family to visit China one day? Remember how we discovered they both had a passion for music? We tried (as meddlesome parents are wont to do) to get them to play the piano together. We failed, of course.

I’ve been so glad for your friendship over the years. Like our boys, we have a lot of similarities…Maybe we look like we could be sisters? We both married academics from other countries, and followed them to Charlottesville. But you have always been braver and more resilient than I am. I don’t think I could have made the move from China to the U.S. to Germany and back to the U.S. again with three young children in tow. I have always appreciated and admired your open-hearted spirit. I have always loved hearing your generous laugh. Your friendship has been a treasure to me, especially during these last couple of years, which have been difficult for both us. Many of the things that used to bring me joy (like writing) have fallen by the wayside. I wanted to come visit you this week, but I worried about your health. You told me to stay at home, because you worried about mine. You said, “I have to keep you healthy. I like to read what you write to me.” And so this week I will write for you, my dear friend. More tomorrow…

Love,
Adrienne

Dearest Yang, Pt. 2

Dearest Yang, Pt. 3

Dearest Yang, Pt. 4

Dearest Yang, Pt. 5

The Peace of Wild Things

April 19th

It’s been a rough week…I hadn’t realized how much I’ve been depending on my daily dose of baby fox therapy until they disappeared for a couple days. I thought they had abandoned the nest, and I was devastated. Thank goodness they came out again today, because couldn’t we all use a little baby fox therapy? It’s just been a few days, but they already look more grown up…

Fox Pups

Yet here was the thing in the midst of the bones, the wide-eyed, innocent fox inviting me to play, with the innate courtesy of its two forepaws placed appealingly together, along with a mock shake of the head. The universe was swinging in some fantastic fashion around to present its face, and the face was so small that the universe itself was laughing.

Loren Eiseley, “The Innocent Fox”

The Vixen

Late one night last winter, my daughter heard eerie, high-pitched screaming, and was convinced I was being murdered in our own yard.

What she was hearing was the lovestruck moonlight serenade of this vixen…

Her siren call did not go unanswered, and now we have pups nesting in the old groundhog burrows under our barn.

Septuplets! And as far as I can tell, she isn’t getting any help at all from the baby daddy.

She’s the hardest working mama on the block…

She is always hustling back and forth from the woods to the den.

The pups are still nursing and are always clamoring for her attention.

They are always so happy to see her…

Sometimes I watch her trying to get a break from the pups. She wanders away from the den and wearily gazes off into the distance. I imagine she is reflecting on her life choices, and wishing the kids’ deadbeat dad would show up every now and then to help out.

Tomorrow: Fox Pups

Tie Dyed Eggs for Easter

I’ve been eyeing Easter eggs dyed with silk ties on Pinterest for years. A couple years ago my friend and I went to a Goodwill store and actually bought the requisite ties, but they were stashed away in a drawer like so many other unfinished projects.

Yesterday I finally mustered the energy to dye the eggs…It turned out to be a lot more work than I anticipated, mostly because I wanted to try it with blown out eggs I could keep. Hello, my name is Adrienne, and I am a Hoarder.

In case you want to try it, I have a few suggestions. I’m not sure why, but for some reason the ties have to be 100% silk. You have to pick apart the ties and you’ll probably only be able to get about two pieces big enough to wrap the eggs. The ones that worked best were made of the thinnest silks. I was disappointed that the tie in the next photo, for example, did not transfer its dye at all. The tighter and smoother you can wrap the eggs the better.

Shall I even bother to tell you how I blew out the eggs? It was such a pain and a mess, I don’t think I’ll ever do it again! Again, I’m not sure why, but it’s supposed to be helpful to put the eggs in warm water for about ten minutes before working with them. My daughter and I made holes on either end with an unfolded paper clip and wiggled it around to make the holes large enough. The paper clip also breaks up the yolk, which makes it easier to blow out. We used a bulb syringe to blow out the eggs. We used that same syringe to try to fill the eggs with water so that they would sink in the pan, but they still floated up and bobbled around in the pan. We tried weighing them down with various utensils with little success.

After filling the eggs with water, (or just using hard boiled eggs like a normal human being!), you wrap them with the right side of the silk. You wrap that with some light-colored cotton fabric. I cut up a flour sack cloth for the purpose. We used flexible wire cut to length to twist around the top of the eggs, but you could also use twist ties or rubber bands.

Cover eggs with water and add about 1/4 cup vinegar. Bring to boil, then simmer 20-30 minutes.

Spring Flowers

We are currently in the midst of the few livable days of the year in Virginia. It’s glorious: not too hot, not too cold, and nary a mosquito in sight.

The garden has been waking up and the best part of every day this week (other than hammock time with Chloe and Gingersnap), has been the time I’ve spent outside yanking weeds out of my garden.

This morning my daughter was looking out the window at a whisky barrel planter on my deck, which holds a Golden Celebration rose. It’s a David Austin rose with extravagant, deep yellow blooms and an intoxicating scent of “wonderfully combined notes of Sauternes wine and strawberry.” At the moment, however, it just looks like bare, wiry stems.

“Oh, look Mama! There are beautiful flowers blooming in your planter,” my daughter exclaimed.

“Really?” I asked, trying to remember if I’d underplanted the rose with something else that I had forgotten about.

“Yes! They’re white, and lacy, and really pretty!”

I went over to the window to investigate…

Yep. Those are the same weeds I’ve been ruthlessly pulling out of my garden every morning. A good reminder that notions about what is beautiful and worthy are arbitrary constructs.

Mary, Mares, Meteor Showers, and other Miracles

One Sunday morning this past December, my daughter was the lay reader for our church’s Zoom advent service. She read a passage from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1, Verses 26-38. This is the part of the Christmas story in which the angel Gabriel drops a bombshell on a very young girl, who is about to be married to a carpenter named Joseph: “Oh hey, Mary, you luckiest of girls! Guess what? You are about to give birth to the baby Jesus.”

“Ummm…Hang on. How can this be?” Mary asks, “since I’m a virgin?”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.”

My daughter is probably about the same age as Mary was when Gabriel revealed his startling message to her. As she read the passage, I tried to imagine the panic and terror she would feel if she were in Mary’s shoes. I imagined my own crushing dismay upon suddenly learning that my baby was about to have a baby.

The true miracle is Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s astonishing revelation: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”

Seriously, Mary?!

During this year of unsettling, sometimes devastating news on the personal, national, and global level, I have not been able to muster anything even close to Mary’s preternatural aplomb when given the news that she is about to become an unwed teenage mother. Her radical attitude of trust and openness to the possibility of the miraculous seem too passive, too naive.

Later that same evening, I cajoled my husband and daughter into joining me on a late night adventure: “The Geminid Meteor Shower is supposed to be amazing this year. It’s supposed to be really easy to see a ton of shooting stars tonight.”

For years I’ve been dragging my husband and children out to fields in the middle of the night on futile quests to witness celestial phenomena. We’ve shivered for hours in the dark, craning our aching necks to the heavens. What almost always happens is, just as we settle in and turn our gaze skyward, a thick blanket of clouds rolls in to obscure the view. Based on past experience, my husband was rightfully skeptical, but he pulled on his coat and merely noted with a wry sigh, “You really have a thing for these kinds of events.”

We drove a little way from our house and stopped on a quiet country road that traverses gently undulating fields. As soon as we stepped out of the car, a shooting star streaked through the sky directly in front of us.

We set up our camping chairs on the side of the road and burrowed under a shared blanket to watch for more meteors in the deep silence. Suddenly, we heard a strange noise. Our eyes strained in the darkness as we tried to discern what was making the noise. We could barely make out the outline of a horse. She had walked through the field and right up to the fence line to be near us. That night we saw more shooting stars than I have ever seen in my entire life. Our breath curled and intermingled with the horse’s in the chilly night air as we stood watch together. I couldn’t say which was more miraculous: the celestial fireworks, or the presence of the horse, who matched our every cry of wonder with earthy, companionable nickering.

In the darkest of hours, may we be open to the possibility of miracles. May we recognize the miraculous in whatever shape it may take. And may we accept these gifts from the universe with open arms and open hearts.