Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday Meditation (from the garden)

“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”
– Wendell Berry

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Meditation

“Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously.”
– Tom Robbins

Friday, December 19, 2014

Find the Moments… and Seize Them!

It’s crazy sometimes—juggling work, personal goals and other commitments while still trying to make time to be a good parent and spouse.  Life gets busy.  Sometimes it feels insanely busy!

And it’s not just us grownups.  Our kids feel it too.  Since I was growing up—way back in the 1970s—the amount of time kids spend in unstructured outside play has decreased by half.  Think about that for a minute.  Do you remember those golden moments of your childhood—riding your bike home under a darkening sky with the moon lighting your way, playing kick the can until it was too dark to see, sitting in the branches of your favorite tree, making snowmen, building forts or just hanging out with friends in the park and laughing?  Too often the kids we love are being robbed of those free and easy childhood moments.  On average our children now spend more time strapped into the backseats of our minivans than they do playing freely outside.

I struggle with this.  I’ve been guilty of overextending my kids (and myself)—running from afterschool language classes to music lessons to sports practice before rushing home to gulp down dinner then scrambling to finish math worksheets and a book report before bed then getting up before the crack of dawn to do it all over again…  Phew!

We add all these things to our lives because we love our kids.  We want them to succeed.  We want them to have every experience that could possibly benefit them, and we sometimes forget that letting them run out the back door untether to explore an adult-free world and get their shoes dirty is a crucial part of growing up too!

As a dad I think one of my jobs is to remember what it was like to be a boy, and to help my kids find moments like the ones I cherish most in my memories.  If we pay attention, if we’re thoughtful, we can help our kids find and create moments of freedom and discovery.

I have two sons, one in middle school and the other in elementary school.  I have morning duty in our family, which means I fry the eggs and drive the school bus, dropping my older son off at 7:20 and the younger one at 7:50.  That’s a thirty minute window of opportunity.  It’s an opportunity for me to help my youngest son get outside and find a few of those golden childhood moments.  Thirty minutes isn’t a lot of free time (especially when you factor out about 10 minutes of driving), but over the months those short periods add up!

Some mornings we go to the beach or the park, and I let him chart our path and set the pace.  Other mornings we go to his school garden and check out all the changes in the greenhouse and the raised beds.  A couple times each week we take our mandolins (we’re taking lessons together) and we find a cool place to sit and jam for a while.  Whatever we do, I try to make it his time.  I try to let him call the shots.  He has the opportunity to open his senses and lead the way.

Yesterday as I opened the car door to drop him off at school, he turned to me with a smile and said, “Dad, I really love our mornings together.”

I cherish them!  Thirty minutes is a short window of freedom.  We’re not doing anything extraordinary.  But for a few minutes every morning we’re setting ourselves free, giving ourselves opportunities to observe things—like the groups of pelicans that glide in unison along the crests of waves, or the delicate tendrils of new life growing out of potting soil in the school greenhouses.  And it’s a chance for us to connect, to each other and to the place where we live.

Life is busy.  But if we stay aware, we can all find our moments.  We can momentarily set ourselves free.  We can get mud on our feet!  Find your moments and seize them!

Jason Kapchinske is the author of Coyote Summer.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Meditation

“Always be like a water. Float in the times of pain or dance like waves along the wind which touches its surface.”
– Santosh Kalwar

Friday, December 12, 2014

Family Fun at Wild Willow Farm

The weekend after Thanksgiving Pam and I took the kids to Family Fun Day at Wild Willow Farm and Education Center.  And it was cool!

Wild Willow Farm is located in the southwest corner of San Diego County, less than three miles from the Pacific Ocean and two-thirds mile from the Mexican Border.  The fields opened to the public in 2010, and the farm is now in its fourth year of development, growing food while educating locals about sustainable living.  It’s a cool place!

We made crafts, enjoyed fresh guavas, fed goats, prepared planting soil, sowed seeds and more.  They even fed us a fantastic lunch, including fresh sourdough bread baked in a wood-fired oven.

Making wreaths with native plants and local shells


Relay race through the passion fruit tunnel

Preparing potting soil

Yum!  Thanks!

There is a growing movement of urban farming and community supported agriculture.  Getting involved is a great opportunity to eat healthy, get outside and help your family connect to nature.  To be honest, I’m kind of new to all of this, but I’m finding there are lots of neat ways to be a part of some wonderful local farms.  I’ll share more with Mud on Your Feet readers as I explore and learn.  In the meantime, here are a few links that can help you get started.

J.S. Kapchinske is the author of Coyote Summer.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Meditation

“Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container.”
– Wallace Stevens

Friday, December 5, 2014

Old Banner Grade

A few weeks ago, I woke my family early to take them on a fall hike in the Cuyamaca Mountains near our home.  I wanted to explore a short trail known as the Old Banner Grade, which was originally used as a wagon road in the 1800s.  I’d never hiked that stretch of trail, but I’d heard it led to the ruins of an old mine, the Warlock Mine, which was started in 1870, and I thought the kids would enjoy a taste of local history.

What I didn't realize is that a fire had recently burned through the area.  Wind gusted as we arrived at the trailhead, blowing dust off the bare ground and into our eyes.  What little vegetation remained was charred and dead.  My wife looked doubtful, like I was taking her on a hike into the apocalypse, and I feared the whole outing was about to flop.

But the kids didn’t hesitate, taking off down the trail, immediately imagining themselves as worn survivors in some long-ago battle ground, the dog at their heels, wagging her tail and sniffing.  Pam and I walked behind them, squinting against the wind-blow grit.  But doubtful as we were, the simple act of being outside eventually worked its magic on us too.  The burned and gnarled oaks captured our imagination, and after a while we made it through the burn area and into scrubby vegetation that ran down the hillsides to the desert below. Eventually we found the mine and explored a little before sitting on an old concrete slab to enjoy a simple lunch.

A small, collapsed mine shaft along the trail

Scrub vegetation beyond the burn area

An old shaft at the Warlock Mine

The Warlock Mine

Gone savage with charcoal face paint

Savage bird dance strut

On the way home we stopped in the town of Julian and ate apple pie with ice cream, and as I sat there enjoying the treat with my family, I felt satisfied.  We hadn't done anything extraordinary.  The kids had bickered some, and we’d even gotten dust in our eyes.  But it had been a good day.  Getting outside had done us all some good.  It energized us, painted our imaginations with old miners and wagon rides, and brought us together as a family.  And it was just one more reminder that it’s always good to get outside.  Even the simplest of walks can wake you up to all the small, wonderful things in life.

If you live near San Diego and want to explore Old Banner Grade and the Warlock Mine ruins, drive one mile east from Julian on Highway 78 and turn right at Whispering Pines Road.  Make an immediate sharp right on Banner Road, then a quick left onto Woodland Road.  After about half a mile on Woodland Road the pavement ends.  Park in the cul-de-sac and respectfully follow the private drive downhill to the trail.  One the way home, eat some pie!

J.S. Kapchinske is the author of Coyote Summer.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Water is Fun!

Water.  No matter where you live, warm or cold, it’s fun!  Go outside and get wet!

“The water you kids were playing in, he said, had probably been to Africa and the North Pole.  Genghis Khan or Saint Peter or even Jesus may have drunk it.  Cleopatra might have bathed in it.  Crazy Horse might have watered his pony with it.  Sometimes water was liquid.  Sometimes it was rock hard—ice.  Sometimes it was soft—snow.  Sometimes it was visible but weightless—clouds.  And sometimes it was completely invisible—vapor—floating up into the sky like the souls of dead people."
– Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses