Taking Stock

It’s Christmas Eve, the work is done, and the room is aglow in anticipation of tomorrow, a joyous day to be sure.  It’s time to take stock with Mountain Farmgirl Cathi Belcher, as she invites you to review the events of the past year (how it flew!), and to just sit in front of the fire to revel in the moment, enjoy the here and now, and count our many blessings …

Christmas Eve, 2010

I think no one will disagree that once again, another year has flown by, gathering speed like a rolling snowball these last few months especially, as we head toward Christmas Day and the soon-to-be New Year. And suddenly, here we are!  Right now I’m sitting in my favorite chair, watching the flames flicker in the stove, knowing that my preparations are mostly done, and what still needs attention can wait until tomorrow. It is my time now, time for solitude, for reflection, and perhaps for doing nothing but watch the flames lick the bark of the oak log I just threw into the stove. I give myself permission to empty my mind and do nothing. But soon I find that  I’m taking in the yummy smells still lingering from my daughter’s holiday baking this afternoon, and  listening to the laughter in the other room  of my mostly-grown children come home to roost this holy-day season with the rest of our clan who still resides here.  They are alternately playing a board game and pausing for lively discussions & much laughter, with our ‘adopted” new member of the family, Jeanine. She is a student from South Africa who is living and working with us at our inn for the next 4 months. I love her almost like a daughter, and my own daughter feels like she finally has a longed-for sister. She is a delight! They are all bringing peace and joy to my heart as I hear them ‘going at it’ in the other room. I will join them later, but now it is their time together out there, and mine in here.

I am remembering a Christmas Eve long ago when I was perhaps 8 years old.  It is one of those cherished crystalline memories that will be with me forever, and I think I may have written of it before, so potent an event it was for me. Our dining room table was piled high with platters of beautifully decorated Christmas cookies, soon to be distributed into tins by my sister and me for our family and friends. We were wrapping presents in front of our tree while we watched a black and white episode of  Father Knows Best on TV (I don’t think it was a re-run, either, so that tells you how long ago THAT was!). Our mother was busily baking in the kitchen for our Christmas feast, for which she was well-known far and wide, while flakes of snow fell fast out the window, piling up on the lawn and bushes outside by the hour. Overly romanticized? Perhaps, but that moment is exactly how I remember it, with all of its sights, smells and intimate details etched into my mind, and at that point in time, all was right with the world.

Of course we all know that all is not right with the world. We live in a scary time of terrorist plots, the very real possibility of nuclear war, plagues, earthquakes, global meteorological oddities, a continually soaring divorce rate, a broken health care system and a struggling economy that has left no household untouched. Certainly there is enough grist for the mill here to make even the most optimistic person depressed this time of year (or any other), and it would certainly be justified. But as looming and overarching as these prospects are in the world, we cannot focus on them too strongly in daily life. Without sounding as flip and irresponsible as Scarlet O’Hara (“Fiddledee-dee, I won’t think about them today, I’ll think about them tomorrow”), we must do what we can, but continue to live in the present, one day or even just one step at a time. (God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.)  Whew, that helps!

As I look over the past 12 months in my own life, I find that I could be thinking about my husband’s two recent surgeries, or the fact that he and I do not often see as eye-to-eye as we once did, making life sometimes more ‘interesting’ than ‘intimate’; our personal challenge . I could focus on my daughter’s recent health crises as well, which have thus far been un-diagnosed, though something is surely wrong … or worry about how we  are possibly  going to pay her tuition over the next 4 years at a prestigious (and EXPENSIVE) art school.  At a time when our own business is suffering the effects of a slow-to-recover economy, helping with the cost of two upcoming weddings which loom on our horizon, also gives us pause to reflect and ponder. Certainly there is plenty for us all to worry about, whether at my house or yours, spawning more than a few gray hairs in the process.

But I must stop myself  from this downward spiral, which tries to pull us all into its gloomy vortex  at some weak moment or another. Once again, easier said than done I know, sometimes  requiring the physical and deliberate act of just picking up one foot in front of the other and soldiering on. I recently read a relatively obscure Lousia May Alcott novel I discovered in the attic, titled An Old Fashioned Girl, which had some good advice on the blues:

Polly tried to conquer the bad feelings, but it worried her, till she remembered something her mother once said to her ---
“When you feel out of sorts, try to make someone else happy and you will soon be so yourself.”). 

As good advice in 1870 as it is today.
And so, having just tossed another log into the hungry fire, I choose instead to count my blessings this Christmas Eve as I wrap up the year 2010.

I am so lucky to live in America, and know the taste of freedom.  I think about a man who has stood by me for 40 years, through all my ups and downs and wacky phases. A good man, who doesn’t drink or do drugs and is faithful; a man who has been an excellent father to our children, a good provider, and a calm steady influence, and I think how lucky I am!

With a good medical team to back us up (and some health insurance to help pay the costs) I am confident that our daughter’s health challenges will be addressed soon. I am so proud that her artistic talent has merited her the  college’s Presidential scholarship, which will relieve us of a large portion of the expense of her tuition.

I am thankful that I have a business and steady work, and that each year we make it a bit more efficient so that I don’t have to put in quite as many l-o-n-g  innkeeper’s hours. I am so delighted to be gaining two intelligent, beautiful, smart (after all, they are marrying my sons!), God-honoring women into the fold; they are the daughters-in-law I have been praying for since my little boys were born.

I have my own mountain getaway, a charming log cabin where I have done much writing this year, one of my most important personal goals. I became the Mountain Farmgirl for Mary Jane’s Farm this year, an accomplishment that has to top my list. For all that I could become discouraged about, God has blessed me many times over with his bounty. And as you, my fellow Farmgirls and Kindred Spirits take stock of your year, I hope that you can count your blessings, too. Know that you will see many silver linings in the dark skies you may be enduring.  If they are not visible yet, know that your day is coming, as that is what Christmas is all about, the Birth of Hope! 2011 is on the horizon as a clean new slate.

Chistmas Blessings, Christmas Bounty to you all from The Mountains.
Much Love,

Cathi Belcher, The Mountain Farmgirl

December 24, 2010





By: Debbie
On: 12/29/2010 08:03:42
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Cathi!

Beautifully said... As I write this note to you I can most certainly say I feel the spirit of hope for the coming year. And as I look back we too have had our challenges like so many other folks. With each challenge a blessing is not often far behind ( or right in front of our eyes ).

It's so good you found a few moments of quiet reflection in front of the fire...Every busy mom needs that kind of soul food especially at Christmas time!

I too count the sisterhood, and my connection to Mary Jane's Farm high amongst my many blessings for last year and I am so looking forward to " more good work" from the farm next year!

There is hope in our hearts and our hands for a better tomorrow and if we can keep them both busy the world will always look a little brighter even on the grayest of days!

Thank you for your wonderful words in 2010.. I look forward to more in the coming year!

Peace, Love, Comfort and Prosperity to you and yours Cathi!
By: Mary
On: 01/05/2011 21:53:27
Of all the Farmgirls, you are my favorite. :) You have such wonderful eyes to your world, and I am grateful you share it with us. Each time you have written, it has sparked positive change in my soul. May God's blessings continue to be upon you in this new year.
By: Roxanne
On: 03/18/2011 07:49:56
Hi Cathi,
I too want to thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts regarding all that is important and meaningful in our lives. It is a gift to be able to write words on paper that reach so many people and makes a difference in ones life, attitude, outlook and caring for all. I live in Post Mills, Vt. Born and raised. I too harken to and for the mountains. It is in the blood and soul. God Bless.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir