A few days ago we ate Chinese food for lunch, followed - of course - with fortune cookies.
Matty's said something vague about hard work and opportunity. Emerson's was: "People are saying good things about you" - which of course is true, and turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy as she asked us to repeat it over and over again. Ophelia's fortune - which she immediately folded up as small as she could and put in her pocket for a later date - was: "It's better to have a hen tomorrow than an egg today."
Mine read: "It's wise to be prepared for the unexpected." After much debate about the paradoxical nature of the statement - how can one prepare for something they don't expect? - I decided it was a bad omen, placed it on the table with the uneaten cookie, and left with dark clouds forming in my brain.
I've had enough "unexpected" for this summer.
But then we arrived home (we had been camping in the woods -sans wifi) to the news of a hurricane the size of Texas sweeping up the east coast. Unexpected? Yes! This I could handle.
So we prepared. The girls and I picked peaches before the fruit was blown off the trees. (Or before the trees became so water-logged they fell over).
We bought water (our well pump runs off of electricity, so when the power goes out we have no running water), pulled everything in from outside, picked all the ripe fruit from our garden, parked our cars under the car-port, set out flashlights, and looked at our woodpile and said, "that's going to blow over."
Oh yeah, and we went to the fair.
As I kissed the girls at bedtime last night we all felt a safe excitement of what was to come, although I couldn't shake the damn fortune, it's foreboding nature, and the coinciding thought that I was being too blase about it all. Did it mean a tree would come crashing through the roof and onto one of my children as they slept? Had I "prepared" enough? Could I ever prepare for that?
As it turns out, there were both expected and unexpected parts of today and the fortune cookie was (fingers crossed) not so ominous after all.
There would be no serious flooding at our house - True! We live on a hill nowhere near water (except for our stream, which swelled tremendously but still never came close our house) and therefore weren't concerned about flooding.
Our woodpile would be blown over - True! Quickly!
Tons of branches, large and small, would fall into our yard - True! It looks like we just held a javelin competition in our yard - branches are sticking straight out of the ground left and right! Nature's tree service...and fuel for brush-fires this fall.
Trees might fall and do damage to our house - False! (Although we did hear some pretty big snaps other places in our yard... we'll explore tomorrow)
Our sump-pump might fail, and we might end up with a wet basement - False! Yeay!
And finally, no matter what, we will Definitely. Lose. Electricity. We live in the woods. We always do.
Yet here I sit, writing this blog, on my computer that is by no means wireless. Aside from a few flickers, we have been going strong all day.
And after all is said and done, I was prepared for the unexpected, because despite the fact that I knew we would lose electricity today, my plan was to can peaches (which calls for a hell of a lot more water than I bought at the store, and also for my stove - which is gas, but has an electric starter - to be on all day) Loosing electricity could have left me seriously stranded in the middle of this process....but let's not forget the unexpected.
The reality is, that our everyday life is a hurricane - moving swiftly and apt to change direction at any moment, and though we try our best to prepare for it, we always fall short. This is true all through the year, but especially poignant in the summer, as we try to balance a need to live it up and get away with the need to be home for and do all the work that comes a long with the harvest time. Although I dream of having vast stores of food we have grown and processed in our own kitchen (someday!) what our summer usually boils down to is us trying to schedule our picking in between the fun - vacations, parties, weekend get-aways, swimming - and the not-so-fun - work, sickness, yard projects, house projects, my father dying...
And then there is the processing... which usually happens into the wee hours of the night because we haven't planned well and the fruits of mother nature can't wait...
Isn't this what your kitchen looks like the night before you go on a two-week camping trip with young children?
(Matt pickled forty pounds of cucumbers and an undisclosed number of green beans while I made blueberry jam -with the measly amount of blueberries I was able to get this year- and made batch after batch after batch of pesto to freeze so that all that fresh basil wouldn't go to waste)
Our life is full of rushing here and rushing there, trying to fit too much into the hours we are offered in a day, having to let things go more often than we'd like...but in the middle of it all, there was the gift of this exceptional day. In the middle of roaring winds, high waters, branches blowing here and there, our family enjoyed a moment of repose; a time when we all worked together at a slower pace; a time when our hands moved with purpose and joy; a time to be thankful for what we have and for being together; a time to relish in the unexpected.