THIS WEEK IN FLOWERS

 
this week in flowers
this week in flowers

" To me, that concept of surrender, of giving

yourself over to something inexorable,

something so much larger than yourself,

is the basis of what we call faith. "

this week in flowers

"It was at this time that I began believing in what I call the Spirit of History. Others might call it Fate. Or Destiny. Or a Guiding Hand. Whatever it is called, I came to believe this force is on the side of what is good, of what is right and just. It is the essence of the moral force of the universe, and at certain points in life, in the flow of human existence and circumstances, this force, this spirit, finds you or selects you, it chases you down, and you have no choice; you must allow yourself to be used, to be guided by this force and to carry out what must be done. To me, that concept of surrender, of giving yourself over to something inexorable, something so much larger than yourself, is the basis of what we call faith. And it is the first and most crucial step toward opening yourself to the Spirit of History."

— John Lewis, an excerpt from Walking With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement


+ More about the beloved community.
+ Find the book near you; or, from my favorite independent bookseller. (What's yours?)

This Week in Flowers is a series where I combine my love of arranging fresh flowers with my love of books. It is a simple way to share with you what's in season around me, and what words I'm finding particularly inspiring. What books do you love that I ought to know about? 


—S

WORKS OF THE HOME: LINE DRYING

 
windowsill
hanging laundry

When I think about clothes drying on the line, two particular memories come to the forefront of my mind. The first, when as a small girl I would look out our kitchen door and see soaking wet pool towels strewn every whichaway on the line. The towels took days to dry because my siblings and I would drag them into the water with us, the reason unknowable. Bless our mom for schlepping our ten pound towels from the pool to the clothesline, summer after summer. (And while we're at it, bless every mom, everywhere.) My second memory is the first time I smelled the garments that had baked on a line under the hot Greek sun. Mark and I spent the summer after college living in Porto Rafti, Greece with his dad and Greek side of the family, and it was there that I fell in love with the art of line drying. And it is an art—just look at the socks on an Amish clothesline, or the number of garments deftly hanging from apartment windows in Europe.

When works of the home feel artful, they are less Chore and more Cheer. I might go so far as to claim line drying as my most restorative choice of summer, though it must contend against bread baking, ocean swimming, and peach eating. Instead of feeling worn down by the fast pace of the season, or melancholy knowing it will soon be time to make way for a new one, might we all sink a little deeper into restorative acts, however small. You know what your mind, body, and soul needs. If you need a bit of guidance, might I suggest line drying? Below are a handful of ways to do so (even if you inhabit a 100 square foot third floor apartment). Happy dog days, friends.


a handful of ways to go about line drying:

for indoor use —
+ This small floor rack is an economical option for drying just a few things.
+ Erin shared a great post about wall-mounted drying racks for tiny spaces.
+ We use one similar to this for kitchen towels, woolens, undergarments, and airing out denim.

for outdoor use —
+ This entire page is chock full of outdoor solutions to fit your situation. Most are USA made.
+ We installed this kit and dug a post to mount it onto, though it could easily go between two existing structures. (See ours in action with cloth diapers, with sheets, and with a smelly raincoat.)
+ You can tie a thin rope from one tree to another. Voila, a clothesline. We did this very thing outside Pink Cameron.

for if you are loyally devoted to your electric dryer* —
+ Ditch the dryer sheet.
+ The prettiest wool dryer balls I've laid my eyes on.
+ The uses for clothespins are truly endless. In a pinch I used one as a hair clip.

*It never helps to be a zealot, and I want to be transparent about our practices. We use our electric dryer roughly half the time in the summer, and 100% of the time in the winter, though I intend to change that this winter. We are actively working towards drying the majority of our things outside, but all in good time. And we have yet to figure out how to line dry Rosemary's prefold diapers without them feeling too stiff. If anyone has suggestions, please do share.

laundry line 2
sedum
back garden 2

—S

JUNE WAS

 
June 1
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June was . . . 
Laying our girl on the floor, naked as she came, underneath the big, happy peace lily. I watched her watching. I experienced her learning. I listened to what she was hearing. Her shoulders arched back and her head tipped upwards, trying with her newfound neck strength to see what lie behind her. Not only was she incapable of leaving her post on the floor, but in that moment she did not want to. She was content to hear her own voice, feel the softness of the goat pelt on her back, see the summer green of the peace lily, smell the air, touch her belly and taste her hand. It's easy to believe the five senses mean something different — more, maybe — to a baby. Her little body seemed to always be perspiring, and I can understand why: it's summer; she's growing. 

Dutch Standard
Beer

June was . . . 
A flurry of planting a perennial shade garden and guessing if what grew from seed was wildflower or weed. While we wait to find out, the coneflower blooms. Far and away my favorite flower. Female jays and chipping sparrows visited us every day, but we remain partial to the mourning dove who walks, not flies, up to the feeder. We came to better know two squirrels, Nut Ken (stops by daily since last autumn) and Puné (a recent attraction). One volunteer winter squash has overtaken our compost pile and the better part of our backyard, and though it wreaks havoc on our hands, who are we to halt the forces of nature that want this cucurbit to live? And so it grows. And so it goes.

Botanical Gardens
Blue Morpho

June was . . .
Words becoming action. We threw ourselves into experiments in fermentation, a rising desire in both of our culinary hearts. 30 pounds of carrots and brine went into the crock to become softer, tangier, ferment-ier. One of us started making yeast at home for homebrewing, and the other delved into sourdough. Words became action as we took our small family to a rally, to a lake, to a botanical garden, to witnessing the fireflies outside. We took and we gave. And by June's end, we intuitively sense that our daughter is on the precipice of experiencing sustenance beyond breastmilk alone—a monumental step for all of us—but that's for July.

This was June.


—S

ROSEMARY, IN WORDS | PT. 3: BIRTH AT HOME

 
labor

This is a multi-part series on the home birth of our daughter, Rosemary. Click here to read Parts One and Two.
Note: My home birth story is triumphant and positive, though not without intensity and pain. This is safe to read if you are avoiding stories of negative birth experiences.

Moments after I told my mom to stop saying labor would come, labor came. It was 8:30 p.m. and I can still picture the look of excited hesitation Mark was flashing me when every five minutes I would say, "it's happening again."  All day I had been waxing between anger and calm over the absence of labor signs. A woman overdue is a force unto herself, or I was. Mark and I spent a large part of the day encouraging labor. So fond is the memory of those final hours just my husband and I. We took a walk to the post office and the hardware store — less than a quarter-mile but all the walking I could muster. Beyond just walking, we tried a host of recommendations for encouraging labor: spicy food, a bath, physical affection, aromatherapy, the whole kit and caboodle. (A quick digression: I have chosen to be open about the physical aspect of our pregnancy because a) there's only one way a baby is conceived, and it should not be taboo to discuss the same thing in pregnancy, and b) if pregnancy came to fruition in a healthy and consensual way, it can only fortify the couple to be physically affectionate during pregnancy — especially before a cataclysmic event like birth, after which time there is a long spell best summed up like this: ain't no way.)

Whether a combination of efforts or just the baby's time, it worked. 

 After having eaten a supper of red miso soup with rice noodles and cilantro, we settled onto our sofa to watch an episode of some such food show. The first sensation of the uterus contacting is not unlike menstrual cramps. I messaged my sister and asked if it could be true. She confirmed that it was absolutely so. We excitedly timed my contractions at five minutes apart and thirty seconds long. My contractions never spaced out and never stalled. Mark made the final preparations in the house: dishes washed, floors vacuumed; snacks set out for the team, bone broth thawed. In the mix of it all we forgot to get our cat out of the house, so he spent a cozy 20 hours in the laundry room. We lit candles around our icons of St. Isidore and the Nativity and prayed together. Mark got some sleep and I settled into the brand new sensation of working to get a baby out instead of keeping a baby in. 

In the middle of the night I experienced a strong contraction that lasted 60 seconds and a few more just like it piggybacked. Officially in active labor. We called my sister and got ahold of our midwife, who sent over her assistant midwife. My labor continued for another fifteen hours. I labored down in the birth pool through the night and well into the frosty, overcast morning. Aimee and my mom sat beside the pool and prayed a rosary aloud to me. It was so soothing that I fell asleep between contractions. During the pool hours, everyone took turns resting or reading, eating or making coffee. It was a wonderfully calm time. Mark said that for the ten hours I was in the water I kept to one thing: steady breathing. I could feel my body making progress, like my cervix was dilating with every contraction and I was sending my baby downward. It was challenging but I was not afraid. Submitting to my body felt good.

I focused on my breath and my womb, imagining that the sacred home our baby had occupied was ready to send forth the incredible life it had nourished. The intensity was mounting; once I hit transition I lost sight of everything going on around me save my husband. I held tight to my gaze on Mark. He held my arms in the pool; we looked into each other's eyes and cried. Who would our baby be? . . . Late morning arrived and I had no idea so many hours had passed. And I was fully dilated! Up to this point my labor had been a dream—not without hard work, but the hard work was making it all happen and thus felt very worthwhile. 

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I got out of the pool around 10 or 11 a.m. and thought I would just wait to feel the urge to push. I supposed that since I was fully dilated I might not have as many contractions. Not so. For all the reading and listening I did, no external source prepared me for what my body would do. The baby had to move down the birth canal, which would prove hours of the most challenging — at times excruciating — work of my life. My mom and dad (yes, my dad was there!), three of my sisters, and Mark were all there, plus a substantial birth team of eight or more women, and eventually Mark's parents joined us in the house too! My family would take turns rubbing my back and offering counter pressure. They would place cold towels with lavender and frankincense essential oils on my forehead and neck. The towels felt so good. Inhaling peppermint oil during each contraction staved off vomiting. Nicole (our midwife) determined that baby's head was not in an optimal position and some positioning and belly manipulation was necessary.

This was the stage of labor where every contraction felt like the strongest pain I had ever been through—I thought it could not possibly get more intense, but this was before pushing for three hours. My mind was blank to everything except that my baby had to come out, had to come out, had to come out. Some part of me — greater than my hope, greater than my courage, greater than myself — held fast in understanding I could and would persevere. If I had never witnessed hundreds of animals give birth I might've faltered in that belief. Also, it became abundantly clear that Mark and I both needed the support, touch, and voices of every person there. Like ancient history, we gratefully allowed a whole village of women (and men!) to take care of us and usher in new life.

labor 2

There were hours of pushing—first with my bottom in the air, and later on my back. I hated those positions. But in doing so the baby was successfully adjusting and moving. So I kept to it. Eventually I was able to move onto all fours on the bed with a peanut ball to rest beneath my chest. It was agonizing. I remember saying the words, "I want to die." In that moment—but only for a moment—I was defeated. I would have preferred my body expire than keep working. But I needed that baby to live, and there was only one way to ensure life: keep pushing. I was using every ounce of energy I had, depleting my womb with every series of pushes and restoring it with bone broth and a high-protein smoothie. I could hardly abide the wretched texture of the smoothie, the honey sticks, and an especially harrowing spoonful of peanut butter, but I could feel each swallow literally restoring my energy, like I was Mario leveling up. In retrospect, the way I was nourished by food was a very powerful experience. Without sustenance, I 100% would have transferred to the hospital for a cesarian. I could not have pushed her out on my own without food, and for that I feel immense gratitude to the animals, insects, and plants that helped bring forth life.

All I saw or knew was Mark, through broken blood vessels and swollen eyes. He was supporting the weight of me — emotionally and physically — with the fortitude of a husband truly devoted. 

Nicole rightly suspected she had her hand up by her face and manipulated her position as she was crowning. How can I put this delicately? It felt like someone poured kerosene on my vagina and threw a lit match on it. Instantaneous red hot flaming heat. Pushing (obviously) made it worse, and the only reason I continued to push was to keep our baby alive. Fire, fire, oh God I am on fire, is what I would have said if I could have spoken. This went on for a veritable eternity, or long enough that I was so consumed to have no idea when her head came out. There was no relief in that moment. I heard nothing; I only felt the fire. I had no idea everyone in the room was telling me our baby had a head of hair; no idea about anything at all other than fire, fire, fire. I had entered into this delirious state of Beyond, and in that space I pushed harder than I knew myself capable of.

I felt a magnificent whoosh best described as a slippery flood of water extinguishing the fire: she was out. Alive. Life entered into life. I reached for her through my legs with an animalistic need, brought her to my chest and all but collapsed onto my back. I closed my eyes and touched her wet, warm head. Mark was crying. I have no memory of what he said, only that he laid next to me and smiled. I opened my eyes to behold her, whispered the graceful words, ". . . our baby is a cone head," and smiled my first. (More accurately, she was a train head. That's what hours in a narrow birth canal do to an unfused skull. Truly miraculous design.) A few minutes passed and my mom asked if we were "ever going to check if it was a boy or a girl," to which Mark looked and announced with 90% surety (our room was dark!) that she was a She.

She was. . . resplendent. My 9 1/2 pound daughter with a 15 inch head and the chubbiest legs you've ever seen was common as a baby and extraordinary as my own. Rosemary Isidora, our child of the good earth, born on the feast of Saint Agnes.

In an instant, my life took on incomprehensible meaning. 
I was deliriously glad.
I was supremely proud.
I was, and still am, and hope to always remain, fully transfigured.
Thanks be to God.

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mark and rosie

Rosemary and I two days after the birth; Rosemary one day after the birth; Rosemary and Mark a few hours after the birth. You can see that just a few hours after the birth her head had already resumed a normal shape.


—S