the herd.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2009 by babywrangler

the journey through the desert, painted on my 39-weeks belly

12.9.09  For me, the journey to Maizie’s birth was epic, a difficult pregnancy that required endurance, faith, and mercy.  But one year ago today, my pregnancy took a turn to Maizie’s birth, and I’m returning to cairns along the way–writing touchstones of this time, and taking small moments throughout the day to remember my birth story as it unfolded, right about this time, one year ago today…

~8am One year ago today, just about this time, I woke to storm colored clouds and a snow muffled earth.  The schools were closed.  The roads were snow covered and slick, and the neighbor got his car stuck in a snowbank on our driveway, blocking me in.  The power  went out and a thin cord of fear laced through me…I was a  few days from my “due date,” but my life seems to be composed of good stories, and a birth in a blizzard with no power and no way to drive out of the house seemed like a good story.  My cell phone rang.  My friend Karen called to say, “You DO know you’ll go into labor today, right?”  We both had a laugh, and then the cell phone went dead.  I tried to call her back, but the call wouldn’t go through.  The cell towers were so congested from the widespread power outage that it was my last phone call all day, in or out.  Blizzard + widespread power outage + no cell service + inability to drive anywhere = ripe conditions for birthing, ripe conditions for story.

~11am  Right about now, I tended the fire and watched the snow falling, falling, falling.  I sipped red raspberry leaf tea, and I found our last spare jug of water–we have a well, and the pump is electric.  I tried not to worry about going into labor.  Surely I would have enough time to walk–or ski, if the snow kept coming–to the ranch for help.  After all, my mom had labors of 24+ hours with me and my brother.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about how my midwife, Kiersten, predicted I would have an “efficient” labor–she said this on two different occasions.  She said I fit her “profile”–built tiny but strong with efficient muscles.  The second time she mentioned this, Tadz tensed and asked, “Well, how fast do you think it will be?  Do you think we’ll make it up here?”  The Taos Midwifery birth center (which feels more like a cozy home) is an hour from our house–on good roads and without any slow-moving vehicles in the winding canyon.  Kiersten responded that I would make it, not to worry.  Tadz asked her how many women hadn’t made it to the birth center, and Kiersten counted them on three fingers, and recounted the stories.  Kiersten has attended a lot of births–A LOT–so three fingers didn’t worry me.  At the time.  Now, however, I could imagine three fingers turning to four.  So I read and sipped and tended, and then I fell asleep for 3 hours.  When I awoke, the power, phones, and vehicle were still out of commission.

~2pm And now, one year ago…I got my “labor project” ready for whenever I started labor.  I had been counseled to have a project ready for the long hours of early labor, so I dug out my wedding and blessing photos from Kenya–stacks of them–and a beautiful leather album I purchased in Kenya.  I planned to put my wedding album together, finally, once labor started.  If you know my birth story, you’ll know why this is humorous.  And you’ll know why that album sits here, still empty.

snowy sunsetting on black mesa

~3:30pm  The snow stopped falling; I got up from my nest on the couch and put my boots on.  I zipped Tadz’s puffy black down jacket around my belly; I looked like an 8-ball with limbs.  I took the dogs for a hike in the fresh snow, veins of orange and pink already in the sky.  It was perfectly silent, save for the crunching snow beneath me, and the “shooosh” of snow moving around the dogs’ legs.  The peace and stillness seemed intense, and the beauty powerful.  It was almost too much.  On my way back to the house, I scaled the 4-strand barbed wire fence one last time as a pregnant woman, a fence my un-pregnant friends and family need help climbing over, and I thought to myself, “I might be able to say I climbed over this thing the same day I went into labor.”

~6:30 pm  Tadz came home from work and we ate dinner by candlelight after lighting the gas range with matches.  We read books with headlamps next to the blazing woodstove.  We talked about having regular “power outages” because the glow was so warm, and life felt so simple.  I said something about being happy I didn’t get any stretch marks on my pregnant belly, and I joked that I would probably sprout a whole crop of them seconds before labor.  I didn’t feel the baby moving very much and I thought she must be gathering strength.

~9:00 pm  The power came back on.  It seemed sudden and loud.  I turned the computer on, wrote emails to the family letting them know we were all okay, and no, there was no baby yet.  I didn’t feel any different, other than the power was back on.

~9:20 pm  While checking Facebook, I heard and felt a sudden “POP!” low in my belly, then a warm trickle; I thought it couldn’t be my water breaking, because in the movies, it always comes out in a flood, drenching everything and everyone in the waters’ path, and I wasn’t having any contractions.  But what else could it be?  I got up and walked into the kitchen silently, but Tadz took one look at my face and instantly jumped from his seat, yelling out, “This is it!  This is it, isn’t it?!?”  We called Kiersten and she told Tadz to make me some food and to go to bed, because at around this time tomorrow, we would need the strength.  Tadz put Trader Joe’s chicken nuggets in the oven.

~9:35 pm I started having what I thought might be contractions.  But I wasn’t sure–I had never felt contractions before.  I told Tadz I didn’t want the chicken nuggets.  We decided to start packing for the birth center and called Kiersten.  While we were on the phone with her, I began to suddenly have CONTRACTIONS.  There was no question or uncertainty.  Kiersten asked Tadz to start timing the contractions and to prepare to drive up to Taos.  Our carefully organized phone tree was out the window as my husband called everyone and their brother.

~9:47:40 pm  Tadz starts writing down the timed contractions (we still have the piece of paper).  Contractions less than two minutes apart, lasting about a minute or more.  Kiersten tells us we need to start driving.  I am dropping to the ground on all fours with each wave, head tucked under me & jaw loose, vocalizing, trying to cope with the sudden intensity, trying to figure these contractions out.  The learning curve is steep; this baby is not interested in a slow, peaceful labor.  It feels like I’ve never ridden a horse before and I’ve been offered a racehorse as my first–no speed between zero and 50mph.  Galloping waves knock me down, again and again…but now I’m learning to ride them.  The power is wild and unimaginable.  Voltage.  I feel like a herd of mustangs–not one horse but the herd–the energy drumming and rippling through muscles as one, the spirit and consciousness of many channeled into one great force, the very earth quaking with the magnitude.  I ask Tadz to hang up the phone as he walks by me, laughing excitedly to whomever he is talking.  He doesn’t hear me, so on his way back past me, I grab his arm and tell him we need to go.  NOW.  I am excited and confident, exhilarated.  I am riding the unknown and I have never felt so powerful.  I lean forward, urging, and give my body the reins.

~10:15 pm I am in the car.  I had to drop to my knees in the snow and ice and gravel 4 times just from the door to the car for contractions.  I feel the need to labor on all fours in the backseat, so all the bags of stuff I wanted to pack, but will not need, must be moved and rearranged to make room for me, and the baby’s car seat must be removed.  I tell Tadz I will not make it to Taos before having this baby.

~10:25 pm  It’s only been an hour since my water broke, a little more than a half an hour of labor.  Tadz calls Kiersten while driving and asks her how to deliver a baby because we’re not going to make it, and the baby is going to come out in the car.  I hear him ask her if he should turn around to go home and call all the neighborhood women over to help.  She tells him to drive to the hospital, and she tries to get another midwife to meet us there in the parking lot, to see if I’m actually going to have this baby imminently.  We call another midwife, Seva, who is in Santa Fe at the time, and she hears me in the background, moaning, and says “I won’t even make it halfway to the parking lot before she has that baby.”

~10:45 pm The streets are black with ice, and Tadz slides past our local hospital entrance.  When we park, Tadz jumps from the car screaming for a gurney.  Someone meets us with a rickety wheelchair that doesn’t push straight, like the worst grocery cart you can imagine, and the guy doesn’t even work in the hospital.  He is a friend of a cousin’s stepbrother, or something, who works there.  I don’t want to sit in it anyway–it’s physically impossible for me to sit.   So I walk, interrupted by 4 or 5 knock-you-to-the-ground contractions from the parking lot to the ER doors.  I have drawn a crowd of onlookers.  I had imagined a slow labor in soft candlelight, carefully chosen music and hypnosis scripts on my iPod, long coaxing walks in the desert:  this is not it.  I am a stampede overtaking the ER.

The lights are bright, and there are dozens of pairs of eyes trained on me in the ER waiting room as I drop for more contractions on my way to the entry desk, and a little boy looks terrified–I am wild, my contractions ripple out around me and threaten to flatten anyone who dare attempt to tame them.  I feel amazing, brilliant.  It is not the way I expected to feel–so fierce.  Some of the ER staff are gathered around, and I hear one of the nurses say, “She’s bad-ass!”  I am feeling powerful and confident–I am almost laughing.  The power of the universe is coursing through me.  I’ve never felt such intensity before, and while it’s incredibly painful, I love it.  I’m having this baby.  My body is doing what my body was designed to do–it’s inevitable, it’s destiny, it’s a force that cannot be reckoned.  There’s nothing I can do to make it stop, and I don’t want to.  The stampede is not scary when you are the stampede–but if you’re trying to stop it…look out.

~11:15 Someone has pushed me into a wheelchair, and she is running down the hallways to Labor and Delivery.  She is screaming at people to get out of the way and telling the nurses that the baby is coming out.  One of the nurses asks me how many babies I’ve had.  I tell her none.  She looks surprised and says, “Wow.  You’re doing really well.  With the pain, I mean.”  People rush at me and start tearing my clothes off and trying to hook me up to machines.  I start to feel manhandled and scared.  I’m at 8.5 or 9cm.   The ER doctor is ready to catch the baby because they don’t think the OB on-call will make it in time.  I don’t have a birth plan, because I didn’t need one for the midwifery center, and in my state, I can’t for the life of me find the words inside.  The nurses can’t find a heartbeat with the tape they wrap around my belly.  They are asking me when I last felt the baby move, and I can’t remember.  Panic.  The lights are so bright and I don’t know any of these people.  The herd is splintering; the power shifts to fear.  I ask for a bath to be filled; I want a water birth.  The hospital does not “do” water births.  The nurses tell me I don’t have enough time for a bath.  Tadz asks them to fill it anyway.  I feel myself trying to stop the stampede–the wild whites of eyes, uncertainty, the power isn’t channeled and it starts to feel dangerous.

~11:45 The OB on-call has arrived and informs me that she will be inserting an electrode in the baby’s scalp to find and monitor her heartbeat.  I refuse.  I know the baby is fine.  She gets very angry and tells me that she has two patients here and I don’t have the right to tell her how to manage her other patient, my baby.  She says something harsh that makes me feel like I would be threatening the life of my baby if I don’t make the decision to insert the electrode.  Tadz tells her not to speak to me that way.  I am paralyzed with fear, and I agree to the electrode.  The electrode is inserted.  The baby is fine.  But I am shutting down.

~12.10.09 12:30am  I am still at 9cm.  I feel scared and powerless and nauseous.  I am stuck in transition because I feel unsafe and watched; I want to go somewhere dark to hide.  I start saying I can’t do it, and I feel as though I might be dying.  One of the nurses holds my face in her hands and looks into my eyes; she says, “You can do this.  You can and you will.”  I realize I am stuck in transition, and that I need to find a way through it, not out of it.  I feel something like hope.  Tadz calls Kiersten.  She says I need to be alone.  She suggests moving around and listening to running water.  We go into the bathroom, alone, and run water into the bath.  I sit on the toilet, and I lose myself in the sound of water.  Tadz tries to get me to use my hypnosis, and I open my eyes and ask him to be quiet.  I start chanting in my head, “Surrender.  Power.  Surrender.  Power.”  Over and over, like a wave and a trough.  I don’t remember much else from the outside–I go inside and I’m in a timeless space.  Eternal.  I’m the ocean.  Not in the ocean, but AM the ocean.  From the waves crashing come horses.  I AM the herd.  Dark warm rhythm.  Hoofbeats.  Shoulders and flanks shuddering.  All of a piece.  Connected.  Fluid.  Surging flesh.

~1:20am I open my eyes quite suddenly and announce, “I’m pushing.”  Tadz looks stunned.  The power of the universe is channeling through my body and it feels as though I could break cleanly in half.  I move around, feeling like the baby’s head is stuck above my pubic bone.  I breathe through the contractions, and two or three pushes per contraction feels right.  The nurses start yelling at me to lay back, to hold my breath for 10 seconds and push as hard as I can.  I don’t.  It doesn’t feel right.  I have learned from my earlier experience to trust my body and to make my body the safe space of power.  I tell them no.  Politely but firmly.  I tell them my body knows what to do.  Tadz is amazed at my clarity, because I seem so internally focused he doesn’t realize I can hear everyone, or that I can respond intelligently.  He feels scared because the way the nurses are yelling at me makes him think something is very, very wrong.  I know everything is right.  The baby and I work together and she slides under the bone.  I am roaring–or lowing would be a better way to desribe it–low and deep, from the belly, not very loud.  I do not scream.  Only lowing.  A low thunder rolling across the desert.  A herd of thundering hoofbeats.

victorious birth!

~2:10am Maizie crowns once.  I push once more and her head emerges.  It is the greatest relief I have ever felt.  The doctor exclaims before Maizie’s body is out, “She looks exactly like her mama!”  Tadz screams, “Yes!  Yes!  YES!!!”

i kinda maybe sorta look like my mama

~2:12am I push Maizie Blue into the world.  She comes out with such force that she slides right through the doctor’s hands and, fortunately, lands on the bed.  She does not cry.  She never cries.  I reach for her and someone gives her to me–I don’t know who because the only thing that exists is this baby.  I don’t study her face right away–I hug her to my breast, skin to skin, smelling her sweetness, and someone wraps a blanket around us.  I don’t remember saying anything–I just remember fierce love and a feeling of my soul opening wider.  A dawning.  Tadz says, “We have a purple potato!”  I finally look at her, and I’m surprised by how alert she is–her eyes are wide, taking everything in.  She can already hold her head up on her own.  She is big–7 lbs 12 oz–and she is strong.  And she is singing.  She sings when she breathes, when she nurses, when she sleeps.  She is the sweetest music I have ever known.  Tadz says I look like I “just stepped out of a salon” within seconds after birth–I snapped back from labor-land instantly.  I feel as though I could climb Everest.  I drink gallons of juice.  The mood in the room is outrageous excitement coupled with brand new giddy love.  We all agree that Maizie would most likely have been born in Taos Canyon, had we not stopped at the hospital.  I don’t sleep for days–not because Maizie keeps me up, but because I can’t bear to miss a moment–I want to witness each sigh, breathe each breath, touch this impossibly perfect skin.  It is 6 days before I sleep longer than 45 minutes.  I have so much energy and I have an insatiable need to hold her and memorize everything about her.  This new love sends Tadz and I off on a babymoon–we feel like newlyweds, like there is no world outside of our own.  A baby cocoon.

maizie blue kostrubala

Happiest of first birthdays to the sweetest of peaches…my little pony girl, Maizie Blue.  I am blessed by your delivery, and honored to mother you.   Wishing you a life of peace and poetry, giggles and sunshine, and a whole herd of stories as adventurous and wild as your birth.

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blue corn.

Posted in Mama & Baby, New Mexico life, Women with tags , on December 5, 2009 by babywrangler

big drum belly in the desert....mama mattie, 37 weeks, in ojitos canyon

My pregnancy was precarious.   Far from the natural, sweet ripeness I had imagined pregnancy to be, mine was medical, torturous, and dangerous.  I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and I vomited upwards of 20 times per day.  I was so nauseous that the normally imperceptible padding of Itty Bitty Kitty’s soft sauntering across the wood floors felt like capsizing waves.  Noise, light, movement, touch, smells…every sense was taut and tight as a trigger.  My throat bled constantly, a thin trickle that tasted rusty, horrible.  I had a mask of broken capillaries around my eyes, and the whites of my eyes were blood red with broken blood vessels from the violence of the vomiting.  I was hospitalized, had home health nursing care, drug cocktails, IVs, and a drug pump installed in my thigh for continuous anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medication.  I tried acupuncture, herbs, cranial sacral and kinesiology treatments, homeopathic remedies and chiropractic adjustments.   I re-cracked a rib in my second trimester; it was an old horseback riding injury that opened up again from the pressure of the baby and the force of the vomiting.  I didn’t know vomiting could get any worse, but it did–I almost passed out from the rib pain each time.  I was dehydrated and malnourished, gray and uneven, bony.  Most definitely not glowing and ripe.

Our families were scared, holding their collective breath; this had not ended well with previous pregnancies, due to Hyperemesis.  After losing our first baby in the second trimester, in a violent hemorrhaging loss, the doctor had advised me against getting pregnant again within 6 months to a year–she said I could die.  She made me promise to wait.  We did, and then had another miscarriage.  When we announced my pregnancy with Maizie, Tadz’s mom had a bracelet made that reads simply, “Hope” on little white beads.

The Hyperemesis loosened its grip on me around 6 months into the pregnancy, though I was still very sick.  As soon as I could be upright, instead of laying next to the toilet in the darkness, I wanted to walk in the desert, in the light, behind our house.  I was still vomiting every day, sometimes 10 times per day or more, still on bedrest, but I felt different.  The first day I tried to walk, I could barely make it to the gate.  I got a little further each day, but I was so weak for so long I would often have to lay down, under a juniper tree’s shade, watching the light shift on Black Mesa, my dogs laying around me in a protective circle until I could make it home again.  Tadz and I had not discussed naming the baby–it seemed to tempt fate.  But on one of these walks, Maizie told me her name.  I was looking at Black Mesa, on the San Ildfonso Pueblo, thinking of clay and earth and sky, feeling my hands and fingers in the cool slip of a pot or a cup or a jar in the making, and I suddenly said out loud, “Maizie.  Maizie Blue.”  I wondered why I said this, because Maisie is a Scottish name spelled with an “s”; it doesn’t have anything to do with clay, or earthen colors, or the desert.  But I imagined it spelled with a “z” and I somehow didn’t see the similarity to maize, the color and the corn, nor did I make the Blue Corn connection.  It was only after Maizie was born and our neighbors, with San Ildefonso Pueblo members, started calling Maizie “Blue Corn” that I realized what her name meant.  They called her little “Ku’u”, or “Corn” in the Tewa language.  And they told me of a famous potter from San Ildefonso Pueblo, who died several years ago, named Blue Corn.  Blue Corn Calabasa.  I trembled when they told me, and I remembered the distinct feeling of clay between my fingers, looking at Black Mesa, walking in the desert sun.

blue corn, blessed at a pueblo seed blessing ceremony, for maizie blue

blue corn, blessed at a pueblo seed blessing ceremony, for maizie blue

I found this poem recently, scribbled on a piece of paper, as I was going through mementos of my pregnancy and of Maizie’s birth almost one year ago.  I don’t write poetry, and I know it’s not a well written poem, but it means something to me.  I wrote this before I was pregnant with Maizie, after I suffered the great, gaping loss of our first baby.  I felt so emptied and scarred, but when I was ready, I opened myself to pregnancy and to longing for a baby, and I wrote this.  When I dug this poem up, I only vaguely remembered writing it, and when I re-read it, I was struck by the part about “maize flowers in a blue clay jar.”  I feel as if I was writing Maizie to me.  Tadz and I often wonder why we waited so long to have a baby, and then why it was so hard…and one of us always responds, “We were just waiting for Maizie.”  I guess it’s true.  Blue Corn:  a blessing and an offering.  The Eastern rising sun, the beginning of life.  Maize flowers in a blue clay jar.

Pretty Song

I will sing you to me

listen

I’m singing hard and singing long

an antelope in the dust.

I’m a coyote in the river moonlight

curling over the lip of day

a ceremony

howling this song to the rhythm

of a rattle

the tick and flicker of snakes

winding their way home

to the mesa.

Inside, I’m a faded country dress, loose and thin

turquoise laced into buckskin boots

muscles ropey and strong

free

I’m the moonstone’s glitter

velvet and beads

the feather of a redtail hawk

worked loose by time and wind

flying like fire.

I’m a prickly pear cactus bloom

succulent

apricot light and sage green dreams

maize flowers in a blue clay jar

thunder in the afternoon

tangled up in the wind

a gypsy

but I will hold you.

You’re the only one who will really see

this desert song of me

you will know me, the me from the inside

and I you

the you that grows from the inside out

and you’re music

and I’m the song

we roll together

rocking back and forth

the desert tide

such a pretty song

inside.

mama in the sage

pregnant mama in the sage

you do not have to be good.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 by babywrangler

8 months pregnant, walking in the desert, loving what i love

The cottonwood bosque hemming the Rio Grande is alive with geese and sandhill cranes.  Every day this week, the geese have been sunbathing in the alfalfa fields of the ranch next door, and Maizie “honks” every time she sees them.  In one of her favorite books, she loves an illustration of geese flying through the sky, and a wild lookin’ woman dancing in the maize colored grass below them.  Maizie makes a honking noise at the illustrated geese, but then she lovingly touches the dancing woman with this sort of wistful look on her face.  When she does this, I am reminded of a poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver, and I want Maizie Blue to know it.  It makes my soul ache.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

prickly pear.

Posted in Family, Mama & Baby, New Mexico life with tags , , , on November 22, 2009 by babywrangler

currants in a basket

Mid September.  The coyotes are eating prickly pear cactus fruit.  The currants are just about dried up on the bushes, and the grapes are long gone.  Rosehips will sweeten with the first frost.  The fringe of wild sunflowers makes way for purple aster, and the winterfat thickens with downy stems.  The cottonwoods lining the Rio Grande are starting to turn, and a neighbor saw elk tracks in the bosque.  

I wear a big straw sunhat, Maizie dons a purple polka-dotted one, and we pick the last currants from our bushes with the sun on our backs.  Maizie naps and nurses in the mei tai carrier while I pluck each deep aubergine globe of fruit and put them in a basket.  I make one more batch of cream & oat scones with the currants–the currants are even better than blueberries because they hold their ripeness taut through the baking, and almost explode in your mouth. 

Late September.  I can see the horses’ breath this morning–they snort and whinny when they hear me open the front door on my way to feed breakfast to all the “outside animals”–hay for the horses and chicken scratch for the hens.  Ruby and amethyst leaves of sumac adorn the fences.  A chainsaw whirs somewhere down the road; a neighbor is cutting and stacking wood for the winter.  I make my way to the hot tub, coffee in one hand and towel in the other.  As I sink into the water, I can smell our pinyon woodstove fire, and I watch the steam from the hot tub rise up and tangle with the tendrils of smoke. 

We still need to put our wood in; we have a small stack of pinyon left from last winter, but I always feel anxious until the stack towers along the back fenceline, until the haybarn is full for the winter, and until the deep freezer is full of meat. 

rosehips

Early October.  The summer has slipped away with the apples dropping from the neighbor’s trees. We have more horse apples than the horses can eat, and more jugs of applesauce than we have space to freeze.  One of the horses gets sick from too many apples, so they are gifted to the compost pile, and we keep the small hard ones for Maizie to use as teethers.  The first freeze comes, always unexpected even though we know it’s coming.  Maizie and I trade in our big sun hats for warm hats, and we pick rosehips from our bushes, sun on the early snow in the mountains. 

Winter is settling in, slowly and quietly, like sleep.  I love winter–the cozy fires and wool socks and hearty food.  Warm house, cold windows.  Winter-coated kitties in the bed, fat furry horses outside.  I love bundling up to feed the horses, making them warm mash on cold mornings, crystals of ice around their warm, soft noses.  I love the desert cold–bright and prickly.

hunting and gathering.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2009 by babywrangler
raspberry vampire

raspberry rosebud

Mid September.  The coyotes sing down by the river, and the raspberries ripen on the bushes while we pick them.  As the sun creeps higher in the sky, berries that were not ripe minutes before are suddenly ready to harvest.  The grasshoppers jump inside the bushes heavy with bright berries, and the earth is sandy and wet.

picking berries

picking berries

Last year, at this same time, I was pregnant, and picking berries with the same group of women.  Sometimes we chat while picking, and other times, it’s comfortably silent as we nibble on the sweet fruit.  My hands are torn and stinging, but I don’t want to wear gloves.  I love the feel of the tender, fragile raspberries on my fingertips, falling into my skin, slipping from my hands into the milk jug.  Maizie sleeps for a while, and when she wakes, she wants more raspberries.  She plays on the blankets I lay on the ground between rows of berries, and I’m careful to keep her contained, though she wants to crawl and explore–there are thorns and stickers all over.  She giggles to herself and shakes her maracas, then taps her carrot against the raspberry vines.  When she wants more raspberries, she calls out, “Mamamamama MAMA!”  Her little rosebud mouth is stained with raspberry juice, and with each berry, she says, “Yumyumyum.”  The sun is warm, the sky is bright, and the berries sweet.  The earth moves slow, and I move even slower.  Simplicity and bliss. 

Later in the day, I enlist Tadz, my husband, to help me wash and prepare the fragile berries.  My plan is to take small batches of my little jewels into the colander, rinse them, and carefully place them on cookie sheets and plates, one by one, to dry.  Otherwise, the weight of berries upon berries crushes the ones on the bottom, and if they are not dried separately, or if they are crushed, they congeal into clumps.  Before I can talk to Tadz about my plan, he is grabbing fistfuls of the berries, crushing them, juice dribbling between his fingers onto his knuckles.  “Neanderthal!” I think, but don’t say.  We disagree about how best to prepare them:  he thinks of efficiency, and I think of tenderness, not time. 

He partially modifies his process, after much grumbling about how it is going to take him “for-EV-er,” and he still crushes the berries.  He complains and moans and tries to pester me into agreeing to his most time-saving way.  We’re both laughing, but I still keep one eye on him, cringing.  I tell him about the day of gathering–standing in the sun for hours, almost in the same place, just picking tiny pink fruit, nibbling and chatting and dreaming, and scratching my hands to stinging.  The only decision to make is whether to eat this berry or to place it in the basket.  I can tell he’s asking several questions in his head:  You don’t map out which areas have the most berries?  You don’t strategize and develop plans for a production harvest line?  You don’t test variations on your picking style or catchment system?  Maybe if my life depended upon this, but today, here, now…no.  I just tried to pick and enjoy and keep Maizie happy and safe.  And right now, I just want my berries to remain perfect, no matter the time. 

IMG_0092

helping daddy map his route to the Gila; truck is packed and ready to go!

Tadz  just recently returned from a week of bow hunting for elk in the Gila National Forest; he was depleted, completely drained of everything when he came back.  He has a passion for hunting, where there are maps and routes and constantly modified strategies, where adrenaline and cortisol are coursing through his veins.  He barely eats and barely sleeps.  He prepares for months before the hunt, and when he returns, it seems like he requires weeks of “re-entry” time, as I call it–endless phone calls to tell and re-tell the stories, eternal “what ifs” and “if onlys”.  I call myself a “hunting widow” when elk season starts; a friend of mine jokes, “Does hunting season ever actually end?”

I too thrive on adventure–I shrivel up without it–and I seek intensity and adrenaline.  But I also love sitting in the sun, or in the shade, chatting among women while crafting, or sipping wine, or picking berries.  I wonder if he would find the joy in being in one place, staring at the same scratchy berry bushes, or if he would find it tedious and boring.  I know that he would mention that cutting wood is tedious and time consuming, and that he doesn’t move around a lot, and yet he enjoys it.  And I would say, “Yes, but there are power tools involved, sharpening blades.  And chaps.”

sweet peaches.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2009 by babywrangler

winner 2-1September in Santa Fe = peach bliss.  Our wonderful neighbors gifted us over 50 pounds of organic peaches. They also gave us at least 10 pounds of organic pears for Maizie and green fallen apples for the horses.  For me, this was a lesson of intention–I had no idea where to find boundless organic peaches that we could afford.  You see, I love peaches.  L-O-V-E them.  I could live on peaches, avocados, and pizza.  So every day, I thought about bushels of peaches.  Infinite baskets, boxes, and bags of ’em.  I dreamed of their watercolor skin and their ripe shape.  And one morning, my neighbor called. 

IMG_1541We ate peaches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; even Maizie, with her one bottom tooth, managed to palm the fruit in her pudgy hands and bite into the fuzzy, slippery sweetness.  Every night I sunk into a peach coma–flushed cheeks, sticky breath, wild fleshy dreams–and I found that there is, in fact, a limit to how many peaches I can eat.

new essays coming soon!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 25, 2009 by babywrangler
gimme that camera and start writing, mama!

gimme that camera and start writing, mama!

I have fallen woefully behind in posting new essays…Tadz’s bowhunting trip, a frenzy of fall fruit picking, family visiting, and a new job commencing (for Tadz) have left me in a perpetual state of “catch up”!  I have 3 new essays almost ready to post!  In the meantime, I have been keeping track of Maizie’s “stuff” in the Maizie Blue Journal under “~9 months.”  Thanks for all the positive feedback on my little blog essays–I love all of your comments and emails!  xoxo~mattie