Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I'm not sure if it's good manners to write about such things, because I'm not seeking sympathy or even any words at all from anyone, but this person I have never met is on my mind today.  October 22, 2005 was her due date.  But on May 1, 2005 after an ultrasound with no heartbeat and much worrying, it was clear that I was going to miscarry.

I named her Anna.  I don't even know if it was a girl.  She wasn't there.  She must have died at around eight weeks, and my body absorbed what little there was of her.  All that was left was a 14 week placenta and a little silver dollar sized yolk sack.  They called it a blighted ovum.  I almost don't know if I'm allowed to mourn or be sad.  But of course I am.

That's why I'm writing this, so all you other people who don't know if you should be allowed to be sad...just BE SAD.  It's ok.  It's odd when traumatic events happen on landmark days.  This miscarriage happened on my friend's first wedding anniversary 7 years ago.  I didn't tell her until later, because I didn't want to wreck her day, but anyway she she remembers me and this little baby every year.  I always feel like what if the baby didn't ever actually exist, and there won't be anyone to meet in heaven one day?  Am I allowed to mourn a baby that might not actually be around in any dimension?  But I think she was there.  I felt like she was.  I'm sure her little soul is nestled in some cozy corner of heaven, living it up.  And I think I will know her later.

Her loss feels just as searing as if I had held her just once, but strange and mythical, because I never did.  My mind and my body were preparing.  The hormones even then were bonding my life to hers.  I can't deny that.  So May Day is a weird day for me each year.  It's the day I lost my little Anna.  Her name is Hebrew and means "grace"---and grace is unmerited favor.  It's more than that.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 explains it best:

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, so that my power may be made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." 

I didn't "delight" in losing a baby, but I did feel a warm blanket of God's grace around me even as I did.  Neither do I really think that He's so callous and pompous as to let a baby die when a mom is praying and pleading for its life, just so His power can be shown.  I think it's more complicated than that.  It's something I can't really ever understand, because, hey, if He's God, He should make it all good, right?  But instead, He allows the brokenness of our sinful world to take its toll on us, and instead of plucking us out of it all, offers to hold us through it.

While I was going through this loss, people I knew and even ones I was really just acquainted with shared with me their very similar losses.  This understanding of the depth of my pain was like a rope I could use to steady myself as I walked the tightrope of my quiet grief.  Friends sat with me and were just there.  More importantly, I could feel Christ's love burning in the hearts of each of these people, not only for me, but for all the loss our mutual pain represented.  This is not the way He meant it to be, but even so, He is there for us in the middle of it.  He is still.  He is quiet, and He extends the one thing that helps us walk out of our grief: Hope.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

I know God doesn't plan for us to have bad things happen to us.  He doesn't want to harm us.  But these things happen anyhow in the sadness of this world, and He can always cause to grow the tiniest green seedling of redemption in the charred ashes our trials leave us with.  I have the hope of meeting this tiny Anna someday.  And I have the comfort of knowing that what I've gone through, I can share with others, maybe helping extend that steadying rope of Christ's love for them as they cross the blackest ravine.

Monday, April 30, 2012

April Showers

A bracken fern unfurls

Wow!  If April showers really do bring May flowers, then I think May day tomorrow is going to bring enough flowers to make a parade float!  The rain is dumping buckets (literally, like gallons) on us up here in the Pacific Northwest.

Taken with my cell phone.  Here's the mini greenhouse.  I think next year I will need to use pvc pipe bent in arcs to help rainwater drain off.
This weekend I made a mini greenhouse out of a section of my fence, some tomato cages, some row covers and some white gardening plastic.  My peppers and tomatoes were itching to get their roots into some real soil, and that soil's pretty soggy at this time of year.  I've helped several gallons of water to drain off of that greenhouse today.

In Hawai'i, May 1 is Lei Day.  You give a lei to someone you care about, but there aren't many flowers to make leis with around here.  Instead, to celebrate the fact that it's May Day tomorrow, I worked outside planting flowers and veggies, in spite of the rain!  I planted all of my hollyhock starts, along with some more peas along the garden fence near our house.  If they survive, it'll be beautiful this summer, with holly hocks and peas making a natural border around our yard.

Seed pods of a willow tree.. I think that's what this part is anyway.
I made my way down to the lower gardens, which are very swampy, and tried to destroy the rat tunnels that rats have created near our chicken coop,  Then I weeded around all the plants we've already got in.  I'm so glad we have everything planted in hills, because there were tiny ponds between every hill!

This year, I'm trying to mulch more for weed control, but I'm having a hard time finding enough mulch.  In the meanwhile, I'm reading up on natural ways to control weeds in Charles Walters' book, "Weeds without Poisons."  He started an organization called Acres USA that educates farmers on growing without chemical pesticides and fertilizers.  His premise is that every weed has something to tell us about our soil.

He talks about how there are hundreds of thousands of weed seeds in every square foot of our soil at any given time, but only a few germinate each ear.  This is because each seed, within about 24 hours of sprouting, will send off hormones into the soil called auxins, which tell other seeds to remain dormant.  If we can disturb the sprouts of seeds soon after germination, we can cut our weeding time dramatically!  The auxins will remain in the soil for 6-8 weeks, asking the other seeds to remain dormant.  Wow!

A little wet salmonberry blossom.  I see lots of green baby salmonberries forming now!
So this evening, in the pouring rain I went and roughed up all the baby weed sprouts I could in the garden tonight.  Then, I planted some seed potatoes I had bought to replace ones the chickens seem to have found.  When I was planting them, however, I found many potatoes the chickens had not.  Hooray.

We went to check on our broody hen earlier, and tried candling her eggs.  To do this, you shine a flashlight at the side of the egg in a dark area of the chicken coop.  Each of her eggs has a large air pocket inside and a very dark other section, which I think must be the developing chick... I hope.  I almost am motivated to go back out there, now that it's pitch black outside to see if I'll be able to see more.  I saw a video online where you could see the little embryo moving around!

Normally, what I'm writing here is more coherent, but I think today, my writing can match more how life is in this wet season of spring...frenzied, disjointed, chaotic, but above all, joyful.  There is newness and adventure in every moment of our days.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Meet a tree frog!

Meet the Pacific Tree Frog, or Hyla Regilla, which means "tree regal"  These tiny amphibians are endemic to the Pacific West Coast and are distinguished by a black stripe across their eye and down their side and round discs at the tips of their fingers, which they use for climbing.  They can be many colors.  They range from Northern Mexico all the way up to Vancouver BC, isolated to the west sides of the Cascades, Sierra Nevadas and the deserts of California.  They are known for the noisy croaking of the males during the springtime mating season and for their eggs that can be found in all sorts of bodies of water.  They are also famous among kids, who search the sides of creeks for them as soon as springtime comes.  Meet the latest friend my kids made.