Friday, October 10, 2014

Sunset Field Forever

We have the great good fortune to live in a neighborhood near a grocery store, several main roads, and a bunch of cow fields. Yes, cow fields.

It seems the county or some entity gives tax breaks for grazing land, so the undeveloped lots around our neighborhood have been home to quirky cattle herds and a few bee hives in the years since we moved in.

These fields dominate our journeys to-and-fro, changing from lush and green—even swampy—in summer, to dry and brown in the winter, when the laissez faire custodians dump hay for the cattle. The cattle, unregulated by their guardians, breed and birth at will, giving us adorable newborns to watch in every season.

I’ve watched the fields as I took my healthy pregnancy walks, as I toted babies in backpacks, slings, and strollers, and, more recently, as we took family bike rides or I ran for myself. I’ve composed poetry as I meditatively passed the ponds, solitary trees, and seasonal grasses. The kids have laughed in delight over peeing cows, bulls, and calves. They’ve seen cows nurse their babies and “big kid” calves learn to eat grass. I even proved to Big A. that cows can, in fact, run and it is, in fact, hysterical to watch.
On the way to Sunset Field.

One particular field, the largest and farthest from our house, could only be reached on foot on the best days. It’s a solid mile and a quarter there (and the same back again), so to take a mom/baby or mom/toddler duo there requires ideal conditions. All the same, we drive by it on our way to church, one of our schools, the mall, Target, the dojang, the dry cleaner…you get the idea.

One morning when S. was an infant, we drove past an early morning flock of Florida parakeets in the field. New to Florida, I seriously doubted my sanity when I saw that flock of green birds! And I’ve always enjoyed checking in the brindle cow that has stood out from her herd since we moved in. Her beautiful black and brown coat made her easy to spot and I loved that I’d “known” her for over ten years.

Why we call it Sunset Field--and this probably only shows a third of the sky visible.
Home to the bee hives and the largest herd of cattle, this field also offers a beautiful unobstructed view of the western sky. I didn’t realize until just recently that I thought of it as “Sunset Field.” When we drive home from activities or dinner out and spot color in the sky, we always say, “Wait until we get to the Sunset Field—this is a good one!”

Nothing last forever. Around when we expected Little A., developers came sniffing around, applying for zoning variances and presenting development plans to nearby neighborhoods. Well, with Little A. came the recession and the developers vanished for a while. We’ve been grateful for that slight silver lining in the cloud that hurt so many.
The fence coming down.

And now, as things look up for the economy, the developers have reappeared. The zoning hearing is over, the cows are gone, the picturesque white fence is coming down, and Sunset Field will be renamed Cobblestone, home 180 houses instead of a herd of cows.

I’ve cried over this—it’s crazy, isn’t it? For someone who has lived her whole life in areas that are beautiful, rapidly developing, or both, I still get awfully attached.

At least now I have the wisdom to take an evening at Sunset Field, as I wished I had with so many spots before, when other beloved land was lost. Yes, I photographed it, but I also took time to stand there with Bruno and smell the air, feel the open space, hear the evening quiet, and just be.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Live in Peace

So, I have an obsession with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books.

They’re not the greatest books ever; the second and third desperately needed editing. The characters are interesting, but pretty self-absorbed and certainly alien to everything I am and do. So why the obsession? Okay, the endless stream of sandwiches and coffee may be part of it. You caught me.

I think there’s something else, though. When I envy Michael Blomkvist, it’s not his fame or his career or his status as a player, it’s the simplicity of his life. I envy his one room apartment in downtown Stockholm and his one room cabin on the shore. His lack of a car. His European-style fund of vacation days. His prison sentence.

Yep, I said that. I caught a glimpse of a crime show on tv today. A middle-aged, motherly looking woman sat there in a prison interview room, wearing a white t-shirt and jumpsuit. All I could think of was how comfy she looked. Then I started fantasizing about living in a clean, small room with no piles of stuff everywhere. I dreamed of having three meals a day served to me, however crappy the food might be. I positively yearned to have all my decisions taken away—wear this, eat now, shower now, with no thought required.

Add to that the descriptions of Michael Blomkvist’s Swedish prison—basically a “bad hotel room” with a locking cabinet for his laptop, time to work out, and low-stakes poker with the inmates—wow.

So that brings me back to this retro-revolutionary idea I have. Let’s bring back sanitariums.

Whoa! Hold your horses! Do not panic. Hear me out.

I know that the Victorian approach toward treating mental health and women and mental health for women led to generations of general effed-up-ness. I’m not saying let’s go back to hysterectomies and laudanum, for crying out loud. I don’t want people politely hiding pregnancies or dying of TB in these places. I’m calling for rest.

Okay, maybe not sanitariums.

I guess I we have spas these days, although that seems so ridiculously out of my reach. I’d really like longer than I could ever afford in a spa—like six weeks. That’s the number that keeps popping into my head. And so, when I think how I could never afford six weeks in a spa, my mind starts looking for things I might be able to afford—like six weeks in prison. And then I shake myself. Seriously, Rosanne? What’s wrong with you?

Maybe it isn’t me. Maybe it has more to do with this American “let’s work ourselves to death” pact. Maybe we need paid parental leave. Maybe we need to realize that 99% of our kids will never be famous and stop shuttling them to 17,000 activities a week. Maybe we should just let them be happy.

Maybe we need to accept that what’s truly healthy is having time in our day to make and linger over a nice meal, possibly with a glass of wine. And take a walk through the neighborhood after. Maybe we need to embrace vacation time as the savior of lives and health and productivity that it is.

Maybe we need to stop trying to beat each other to the finish line—which, in life, is death—and live in peace.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I will have
                An excellent camera
                And time
                And a driver
For my foggy morning carpool drive

I will capture
In a field near home
                The domesticity
                Of a sandhill crane
                Family, pecking breakfast
Near a majestic bull reposing on a rise

Past the chaos
Stoplights and fast food
                The delicate strata
                Of country wire fences
                And rows of country trees
Interlaces with a wetland fog

Then the pristine peace
Of the soldiers’ cemetery
                Clean lines
                And pure planes
                Honor at rest
Silvered by fog, gilded by dawn

Through wild land
Park land, true swamp
                Blind fog now
                A shaft of light
                Paints a palm frond
We emerge at the school’s white gate

We motor slowly
Past flags of all nations
                Standing sentinel
                Limned by light
                Framed by fog
Craning my neck, I crave a camera

Someday, I vow
Someday I will
These moments of aching morning beauty

When I have time
                And grown kids
                Money for a camera
                And no reason
To take a country road to school in a foggy dawn.