“Trees and animals have no problem. God makes them what they are without consulting them, and they are perfectly satisfied. With us it is different… We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face. But we cannot make these choices with impunity. Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them. If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it.”
New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

A low of 37 degrees was predicted for Monday night. It was the first threat of frost, and I faced the challenge of saving what was not yet fully ripened in my garden. Every fall, it’s the same. I try to squeeze out as much produce as possible from a season of labor, with a limited amount of garden-friendly time.

As I thought about what tarps and sheets I had available to protect my plants, to keep them alive and allow them to continue growing, I wished that it was this easy to protect everyone I love this way. To keep the cold-freeze, the bitter comment, the angry look away. To wall away those things that stop a person in their tracks and make them ashamed of who they are and afraid to dream, afraid to put themselves out there.

Last Saturday was spent blanching and freezing what I believe is the last of my green beans. I cut up zucchini and tomatoes from my garden, plus mushrooms, potatoes, and onions to wrap in olive-oil-coated-foil to heat on the grill. I prepared cous cous to go with the vegetables. And chopped up the remaining vegetable odds and ends for chicken treats. Then I baked an acorn squash, which had fallen off the vine in a storm, and seasoned it with a bit of salt, pepper, and brown sugar to have for desert.

While I worked on these kitchen tasks, Steve carried on his own mission of turning sixteen garden tomatoes and fresh basil into jars of canned spaghetti sauce. On Sunday, Steve continued with canning and made a couple jars of pickles and a brandy, dried-fruit ice cream topping, while I goofed off trail riding with my friends.

As Steve and I worked in the kitchen, memories of my childhands slowly and methodically cutting carrots and celery for my mother came back to me — chop (move knife) chop (move knife) chop (move knife). I pursed my lips and knitted my eyebrows with concentration, not wanting the slices to be too thick or too thin.  I also remember holding a large wooden spoon tightly in one, sometimes two, hands as I stirred ingredients together. Unfortunately, the childhood joy of helping and creating was usually interrupted by a heavy sigh that lifted my hair off my shoulders and sent a chill through an oven-warmed room.

“Give me that! We’ll never get done at this rate.” And the spoon was pulled out of my hand in mid-stir. Or “That’s not the way you do it! Let me finish cutting before you hurt yourself.”  This was followed by a rapid fire chop-chop-chop-chop-chop, which I watched with the shame of failure.

I could never do it right or fast enough. I became used to having things grabbed out of my hands because I hadn’t made the right choice, not just in cooking, but in making a bed, washing the floor, even raking leaves. I soon stopped offering to help, to my mother’s relief. I knew myself as clumsy, inept, and useless. I developed a cooking phobia, afraid to cook for anyone but myself and became known as the girl that couldn’t cook.

When Steve and I were camping, there were times where I wanted to ask, “Is this where I should put these?” before I set the chairs around the campfire or placed our things in the tent. I’m often tempted to stand back and do nothing. To wait for direction or for someone to do whatever it is I’m not sure of, so I can see how people who know, people who do, competent people, carry these simple tasks out. Then I will know next time the need arises. But what if the next time the person wants it done differently? I’ve noticed, people have their own ways and any other way is simply not right.

Most of the time now, I push past those voices, the looks, and the gestures I catch out of the corner of my eye-memory. Those shadows are so close, the humiliation fresh as cow pies, that it hasn’t been easy to pull out the cutting board again and risk making a mistake.

But I’m around kinder people now. I haven’t been corrected for a very long time and even when I am, it’s a suggestion, not a right or wrong deal. And there is now a “Maery way” of doing things and a “Maery way” of being. It’s a touch and feel and taste way of going through life that suits me just fine.

I don’t bring up these memories because I’m stuck blaming my hangups on the past. It’s generally a surprise to me when I make these connections. It’s an “ooohhh” moment when I better understand where a confusing fear comes from. It helps to have that knowledge so I can tell myself that I’m a big girl now. I know how to protect my garden from the frost and my spirit from the nasties.

And I know how to ride out whatever else is weighing on my mind.

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. — Albert Einstein

The big news of last week was that one of the chickens produced an egg! Ta Da! There’s been three eggs in total so far. One was so small it could have been a robin’s egg.
And there was another big event! I’d given up any hope that my jungle load of zucchini vines were actually going to produce anything besides a mess. Low and behold, hidden under the massive leaves I found two zucchinis! (The other green things in the basket are cucumbers and beans.)

On Saturday, Steve hung up a new toy for the chickens to play with. I don’t know who had more fun with the shiny chicken bauble, the chickens or me taking photos of them.

One thing I’ve learned about chickens is that they are such curious things. They come running to whatever side of the run that I’m standing on and explore by pecking at anything that catches the attention of their round bright eyes.

They especially are attracted to shiny things, thus the ball was a big hit. 

My Buff Orpingtons love to satisfy their curiosity by pecking at my belt, jewelry, and the bright colored vines and birds that decorate my rubber boots.

The Australorps have the same curiosity. They approach to see what’s going on and you can see the desire to get closer, but they are a much more fearful bird than the Buffs.

Their fear stops them from joining in any chicken games, and it also usually means they lose out on treats. I try to put a pile over in the corner they huddle in, but my movement sends them off, squawking in protest, and they lose out again.

So which chicken would you rather be? The fun loving, brave Buffs? Or the Australorps, who appear to be direct descendants of the fabled Chicken Little, believing that a falling acorn means that the sky is falling?

I think about how my horse Luke used to be when he first came into my life. He was pretty much a chicken too, shying at leaves fluttering or a gate swinging to and fro. He’s grown into a calm, confident horse.

And another example of curiosity in action. 
So what’s the big deal about curiosity? Why am I going on and on about it? Well, I’ve got you curious haven’t I?

I included the quote from Einstein, because what better example of what curiosity (better yet passionate curiosity) can do for a person and how it can benefit the world. I believe that being curious is what leads to great discoveries. I so wish more people – especially our political leaders, special interest groups and those who cover politics – would be more curious and less certain that they know the one and only answer and anyone who says or thinks anything different is someone to belittle or discount with a label.

Curiosity is what leads me to take a closer look at the textured bark of a tree and the strange wonder of how plants spread their seeds. And from there, imagination takes over as I see those seeds, heavy with thoughts, ideas and dreams, carried by the wind and an open, inquisitive mind.

(My abbreviated version of this post is also on Vision and Verb today) 

I loved so many photos that I took at the local Game Fair last Saturday that it was difficult to select which ones to put into this blog post. This wasn’t because so many shots were good – many are fuzzy, cluttered or have fence wires running through them – but through all of that, I think the emotion and excitement of the dogs and the cool relationship they have with their human came through in a big smile way.

Neither Steve and I are hunters so all the booths selling hunting gear were wasted on us. What I went for was to see the dogs and to have a chance to photograph them in action.

This boy was amazing! It wasn’t that he found the decoy in the obstacle course right away. What was fun to watch was the teamwork between the dog and his human. When the dog went in the wrong direction, the man blew a whistle and the dog froze, waiting for a signal. When the signal came, he continued in the direction he was pointed. I loved his intensity! He simply seemed to have character.

And he scores!

Dogs watching on the sidelines, like Java, badly wanted to be a part of the action.

This dog waited with every muscle tensed, eyes focused, waiting for the command…


And retrieve

And retrieve

“Please let me go play too?”

“I think I smell sheep…”

“I do smell sheep! You won’t even let me chase squirrels!”

Besides a sheep herding demonstration, there were agility dogs. This guy was a beginner just starting out.

He looked like he was having fun.

Note to self: This looks like a real workout for the owner too.
May have to rethink pursuing agility with Latte…

Do ya think there was a bit of “treat” anticipation?

There were more experienced dogs too.

“What’s so great about that? I could do that blind folded!”

Did I mention what a good dog training event this was for the dog spectators? Latte was actually better behaved than Java because Java (a lot of retriever in her) wanted to go into the water SOOOOO BAD!
Java might have some herding instinct in her too as the sheep drove her a bit nuts, while agility left her cold, and she proceeded to put her head on some guy’s lap next to us and drool on his pants. Good thing he was a dog person…
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