Gurl on wheels – spastically settling in and what it is teaching me


 

Quote of the week:

“…People should be able to walk into their back yards and say, ‘that’s a cicada, that’s a tree frog, and that’s a bird.’ Then, when they hear a bird scream, ‘get out of my territory, get out of my territory,’ I want them to recognize the cadence and remember that Beethoven put it in a symphony…” Conservation Biologist Dan Jenzen quoted in “Where the Wild Things…Must Stay”, Penn Arts & Sciences Newsletter, 1997 (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/sasalum/newsltr/fall97/janzen.html)

RV’s are not too far of a step from tiny houses on wheels, other than the obvious obliviousness in regards to ‘green building’ concepts. At least, this is what I keep telling myself 🙂

Today marks mark two weeks that I’ve been living in the new space. Fourteen days to come face to face with some of my most egregious habits. Tiny living causes you to re-think everything, not just how you think about “stuff”. It informs how you shop, how you prepare your food, how you get ready for work, how you clean, and a bazillion other things.  It feels daunting at times, liberating at others. It makes me swear a lot as I trip over something or have to rummage around to try to find what I know I just saw. And it pushes me outdoors.

I thought that I liked my private patio. I actually hated the missing dimension of visually expanding space and understand clearly now why my walks, bike rides and hikes made me feel so good. Distant empty vistas. While I fully understand that the current perception that all of this is mine is only temporary (the snowbirds have flown!), I am hoping that eight months a year of being tickled pink will make up for the four months of shoulder-to-shoulder living that will come once the season rolls back around.

I’ve had the pleasure of introducing my oldest grandson to lightnin’ bugs and trash dumpsters, along with the beginnings of reading the night sky, and the different calls of whippoorwill and owl. He knows that Bubbe keeps the toy box stored under the jackknife couch and that it will smash his fingers right quick. While the youngest is too young to grasp any of this, he still likes riding atop my shoulders on a night jaunt through the park and drooling into my hair while his brother and I yammer about rabbits, dumpsters, how important garbage men are, and how long our legs look in shadow form. You know, serious stuff.

Here are some highlights of the first two weeks, good and bad.

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I recently was asked if I am homeless, due to my car still being full of stuff crammed in for moving. No, but I may have to move out and live in my tent so that my stuff has a home, if I cannot corral it into something more manageable.  And I gave away a LOT of it. Just…not enough. Against my better judgement, I rented a storage unit for a while. For a brief period over the weekend, my ‘yard’ looked like a redneck junk sale might be occurring at any moment. I think my “Mossy Oak” storage containers gave it that initial flair.

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I was doused in gasoline on my way to work by a malfunctioning gas pump and the verdict is still out on the lifespan reduction of my favorite high heels. For a few milliseconds in time I had a burbling of conflicting thoughts race through my headspace. Headline News: “Woman Suffers Spontaneous Combustion on Morning Commute”. The next thought was giggle-inducing, one where I imagined I could have “Shoes on Fire” a la Katniss from The Hunger Games. As I started my car I wondered if a spark from the ignition might blow me and the poor lawn crew into smithereens. So I drove the remainder of the way to work with the windows all down and hoped for no static electricity events. My skin was saved because we have showers at work and I availed myself of one for the first time in ten years of employment. Made for an interesting morning – who needs coffee after THAT?

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Despite the flammable footwear, the first-time commute was pretty easy (yes, that happened on my first drive in from the new location, lol!). Biggest civilization score? Dunkin Donuts both coming and going 😀 Have I mentioned how much I like their coffee and how sad I am that they discontinued the 2-6 “Happy Hour” where any size coffee was a buck?  But I digress. It still takes me an hour to get to work, but the drive is interesting at least. I pass over rivers, through acres and acres of Spanish Moss draped towering oaks, hear cicadas announcing their presence, and watch fog lift from the nooks and crannies of the verdant edges of the road for the first third of the drive. It reminds me of Tennessee and always makes me smile.

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I successfully emptied my black water and gray water tanks without blowing a poop fountain out of the top of the RV in the vein of Robin Williams in his gag-laden funny movie “RV”.

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Kind of like “The Hills Have Eyes”, even when you think you’re alone in an RV park with your own struggles, you really aren’t.  I finally decided that the weather looked safe enough to try out the awning for more than twenty-four hours. I went out to unfurl it as I had practiced at the sales lot. I *thought* I remembered every step, but when I went to tug the thing outwards, it made a horrid sound like I was ripping through all of the hardware, and I abruptly stopped.  The things aren’t cheap to replace. Diligently I hauled out the step ladder, checked and re-checked all of the knobs, arms, cam lock and such to make sure I’d done as I recalled. Tugged again. Another pterodactyl screech emanated from the bowels of the awning mechanism. A new arrival, currently setting up his rig across on the next aisle hollered something unintelligible other than ‘cam lock’. I was too embarrassed to holler back “Say what?” So I did what any sensible person would do at that point – I went inside and pulled up the YouTube instructional video that I had tucked away after watching several times. It still looked like I had done everything correctly. Back out I went to check yet again. Cam lock, arms, bars – check. I was standing there perplexed when a tiny, ancient and fragile man in a golf cart drove up.  He alighted and began helping me investigate. I think he knows less than I do. But with his arrival, the flock showed up.  Hollering man ambled over.  Two other knights in white golf carts appeared. Much muttering and head nodding occurred, while hollering man simply went to work and had the awning down in about 45 seconds. I HAD done everything right. The awning was simply loudly complaining about being unfurled. But I’m not one to argue with a bunch of guys, and so I thanked them all and joked I hoped they’d all be around when it was time to put it away 🙂  What did I learn? Retired people are bored and watch new arrivals like a sit-com television show.

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That I began my own personal Exodus during the memorial of Pesach was not lost on me, nor the appreciation that I felt having my children come and visit me and bring the babies. They were comfortable and relaxed other than being worried about the kids being so loud in a place so very, very quiet.

Two stellar nights will probably always stick out in my mind about my first weeks here.  The first, as the sun huddled behind the thick stand of oaks and slid away, was nearly magical. There were lightning bugs on the wing, dancing like tiny LED’s on invisible strings. That’s something I’ve not seen in my home state since I was ‘knee-high to a grasshopper’, to quote my late Grampy. Well established Barred Owl communiques echoed in the dark sky spaces as the pair hunted the area, quietly calling back and forth to each other. Folded into that was the trill of the whippoorwill floating on the lightly stirring air, punctuated alternately by the harsh rasped calls of the Sandhill Crane pair as they strutted through the area. The scent of cows ruminating hay arrived on the breeze along with that damp, pungent and expectant smell of warmed earth and night things. The moon was low and fat in the sky, and I felt pure joy and contentment at that moment.

The second night is the night I used the laundromat. I see a ‘Say whaa?’ on your face, hah! I’ve hand washed my clothes for nearly three years now. But here, there is a laundromat within walking distance inside the park. It sits right beside the pool. So I sorted my laundry, dropped in my quarters and headed out to the pool. Most units were dark, and the pool was empty except for me. I floated, swam, dove and generally behaved like a deprived porpoise returned to water. The stars were overhead, clouds scudded across the moon, and it was quiet and cool. It was a pleasant end to a tiring work day.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from this move so far is that it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Small things make a huge difference. Oh, and living with sugar ants is a new challenge every single day 😀

Some wild things photography from my new neighborhood should make their way onto the blog at some point this weekend, so hang in there 🙂

~SE (who likes permanently camping so far…)

 

The Intimacy of Moving


Just like going to the Doctor for a check up is not intimate when compared with the touch of one who knows you, neither is having professional movers wrangle your stuff from one place to another.  But to have people who know me trail their fingers through my things is something quite different for me.  It is like granting access to the hidden parts of me.

I did not realize that I felt this way until a co-worker came by to assist with a walk-through of La Coquille.  He was very helpful and set my mind at ease since he has great familiarity with RV systems and many years of experience. His knowledge was invaluable and gave me a far greater sense of comfort with the environment I’m migrating into, making things seems less foreign.  While rooting around for switches and fuse boxes, he had to open my cupboards and drawers and he kept apologizing profusely. At first I was puzzled at his endless politeness, because most of my treasured daily things are not there yet.  Things either out of season or little used but making the final cut for the move are what inhabit the cubby holes and recessed spaces and such right now.  Most of me is not present, other than a large box of scented things, baskets, and a picture of a sunflower that has traveled far and wide with me for years. It is a small stamp of my presence.

Family has helped me move before, after my husband’s death; but that too, is different. My daughters have been a part of my life for years and are part of me, so their hands on my things were familiar and comforting, particularly at that point in my life. They represented strength and support at a time I was sorely in need of both. The gentle mockery of things I still held on to was a source of quiet laughter and shared history. Some things of mine went on to live another life at friend’s houses, and when I visit that, too, is comforting.

So while I may have some help toting my life out to the new home, this packing is done all by me. As my hand curls around a Mason jar filled with harvested Tabasco peppers or Dill, it reminds me of happier times and places, even if I have to rid myself of both the contents and the jars due to lack of space. It reminds me of my competence at gardening when I had good ground and the proper tools, and lays the groundwork for a return to that life in the hopefully not too distant future.  It is I who determines what will go and what will stay, by some weird sort of emotional calculator that lives in my head.  Most likely on that last day, there will be things lining the alleyway that I don’t wish to leave behind, but must. It has happened time and time again over the last twenty years now.

I was reading about a young woman who built and moved into her first tiny house at the early age of twenty-three. The photos showed a sparseness that I have to reach far back into my life to remember. Back ,back my memory goes, to my very first apartment or three – where each move was made solely in my car.  Everything I owned would fit in there. I had no history, no emotional accumulation.  When you first move out on your own you are busy divesting yourself of the remnants of minority and drawing on a blank slate, creating your own life. Most of your time is spent out and about with friends or at work, and ‘home’ is just a place to store a change a clothing and catch up on some much needed sleep. But now, ‘home’ has a different meaning.  It is a place of comfort, of retreat, and where I spend the greatest part of my time. So somewhere between austere and bohemian indulgence is where I hope to find and create a happy medium 🙂

My birthday is approaching this weekend.  Last year at this time I was also exploring something new – primitive camping and a new-to-me section of the Tennessee woods. While for a time La Coquille will not put me in the places where I long to be, it is a step on that path that calls to me.  And while I may be far from the country right now, sometimes the country comes and finds me. On my dog walks lately I have been treated to a gently voiced ‘whinny’. I thought I knew the call, but since it has been many years since I heard it, I wasn’t absolutely certain. The last place I heard that regular voice of the wild was back in Virginia.  One night this week though, it was confirmed.  I have an Eastern Screech Owl in the neighborhood! They have been cutting back trees while developing a lot which possibly disturbed its nest I suppose.  Last night it was glorious. Standing in the shadows under a big oak tree, I listened as it ran through its verbal repertoire.  Then, I was permitted a glimpse of a successful hunt – Owl 1, Rodent 0.  I am certain that anyone watching thought me slightly off kilter, as I smiled a huge smile and gave thanks to the Almighty. When my children were little, I called things like that ‘God smiles’.  Nature will often reveal itself to us, if we are but still and aware. This swallowtail caterpillar is gnoshing on my patio.

Just checking my last pair of feet...

Just checking my last pair of feet…

As an aside, I’d like to highly recommend two very disparate books I’ve read recently for those of you that enjoy reading.  The first book is The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux.  It is a great book for those who like to read in small bytes.  One of my favorite quotes from that book is by Freya Stark, from Riding to the Tigris:

“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.”

It is a book that beckons  you to read other books, tossing one tempting morsels from their pages. Writers writing about other writers is usually boring to me, but this one is an exception.  I  now have an impossible list of books to try to find and read over the next  year 🙂

The other book is more sobering. The Unsettling of America – Culture and Agriculture by Wendell Berry. Written in 1977, it is even more relevant today as we see things coming to fruition that Berry warns about. It is not a light read at all. Perhaps my favorite chapter so far is chapter five – Living in the Future: The “Modern” Agricultural Ideal.  A lighter passage is found on page 56, but is heavy with meaning.

“By means of the machine metaphor we have eliminated any fear or awe or reverence or humility or delight or joy that might have restrained us in our use of the world. We have indeed learned to act as if our sovereignty were unlimited and as if our intelligence were equal to the universe. Our “success” is a catastrophic demonstration of our failure. The industrial Paradise is a fantasy in the minds of the privileged and the powerful: the reality is a shamble.”  Berry is not reading for the faint of heart or the supporter of the status quo. He will surely make you think.

And so, as a thinking woman who needs to pack more stuff, I leave you with a new musical discovery from this week. It is an apt song for the technical generation, sung by a group that pulls from the history of our musical paths and infuses it with liveliness, a great smoky voiced lead singer and a little bit of glamour too.  Perhaps you’ve not yet heard Lake Street Dive.  Enjoy!

As a photographer and an unexpected single woman, I find the humor and irony in this song, as well as a touch of sadness.

And what one of us cannot identify with this power packed piece (and it’s nice to see a well-dressed band for a change).  Oops, I think my ‘maturity’ is showing, hah!

So rest up today, because the weekend is coming!

~SE

Memorabilicus – or The Umbilicus of Memory Found in Objects


Catchy and academic-sounding title eh? My brain works weirdly in sleep deprivation mode. I also love to make up words that have meaning probably only to me.

Memorabilicus via papered words

Memorabilicus via papered words


Last night was a late night (morning) working as the next in line is out for medical assistance for his partner. That left me in charge of herding cats and satisfying upper level customers in an IT tizzy. Diligently afterwards I tackled my continuing work of packing/sorting/remembering.I came across this in the back of a notebook that contained the notes taken on my husband’s death. Not the emotional ones, but the practical ones – mortuary, costs of death certificates, phone numbers, etc. My handwriting is never static in form, although I retain certain characteristics no matter my slant, font, cursive or printing. Running across it was like returning to an old friend. I wish I had written it. I know it is from a You Tube movie that used to be online. I played and re-played what was said in the movie, writing it down by hand. It had no credit noted on the page and for a moment I hoped I HAD written it. But turning back a few pages I found names of people in the margin and looked them up until I associated it with the true author, Steve or Garrett Kroschel (father and son); I am not sure to whom the actual credit should go. I hope you find value and depth in its simplicity as I did.

From The Beautiful Truth

For each of us eventually, whether we’re ready or not, some day it will come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days.

All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else. Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or owed. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear; so too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to do lists will expire. The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end. It won’t matter if you’re beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built. Not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of compassion, integrity, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered, or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many people will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone. What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.

A life lived that matters is not of circumstance, but of choice.

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

I experience people and places by the emotional impact of the thing. I sometimes cannot recognize a place until I smell it, or touch something about it. People are the same way. I may not be able to tell you their eye color or which way their hair parts; only how I feel in their presence, or how they smelled. Anyone else like that?

Yesterday, coming in from the humid and hot patio and entering the studio with its little hard-working window unit, I had some ‘feeling’ memories go rushing through my core. The scent of that little air conditioner and its chill across my skin reminded me of yesteryear’s vacation rooms as a kid, coming in from the hot sun and reveling in the cool. Of long days fishing with my girls on the pier and entering our little rented house on the beach with the air blasting. Of a place called “Palmpineoak” in the Ocala National Forest where we used to visit – an old Cracker style house with wooden floors, iron bedsteads and soggy tropical-smelling feather beds. It takes something that small to riffle through the card catalog of my mind.

I found a box of assorted photos – black & white, Polaroid, photo booth, professional styles. Pictures of people and places, times and spaces, living and dead. Photos of boys and young men I liked; photos of boys and young men who liked me (usually not at the same time; funny that, huh?), a declaration of love via snowmobile, written in snow from a boy smitten over summer vacation. How easily that word ‘love’ appears on photo backs and in notes from youth, before we understand the depth and breadth of what love requires and truly means. Love is a term I use now with the paucity of a miser, but when I do use it, I mean it with all of my being.

While sorting through additional life ephemera that tends to overtake me at times, cards from my late husband fell out, along with cards from my girls. How do you value those things? To anyone else who would come along after my passing, they’d be tossable things. I’m a continual note-taker, writing on everything, including things of value. I found my announcement of acceptance into Phi Theta Kappa, a monumental thing for me due to not entering college until post-divorce and in my thirties – and the envelope is written on. Pristine Smithsonian archaeological preservation will never be my style. I am an emotive and effusive human and it reflects in all aspects of my life. And this leads me to muse – can a pile of human evidence indicate what or who a person was? I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was younger; to dig through the detritus of lives of antiquity. I wanted to ‘see’ lives that were long since past. Tromping in the deserts and hills and digging through dirt seemed fascinating and interesting. I still feel the same way when entering an abandoned house, or finding notes in margins of used books, or looking at people’s trash by the road on pick-up days. I’m not sure if I am nosy, insatiably curious or what. I don’t want to peer into people’s windows, so it isn’t voyeurism. Perhaps I seek the common humanity in us all.

I’ve found a place to park La Coquille! I go to pick first and second location choice this weekend. If I were not working I’d love the nomadic thing. But some stability is required around which to form new daily patterns. This place meets the many competing needs required of the people and plans that formulate my life:

Nature – proximity to multiple parks, bike trails, hiking trails, canoeing and fishing
Country locale – being only thirty minutes from my birthplace, it still harbors closely the state of the countryside from years gone by
Proximity to work and competing family interests – those advancing ahead of me and those coming up behind me

Overall, La Coquille allows me to have in hand something for my rental dollars while preserving the future potential travels and locales I’ve bandied about. The best of both worlds, albeit a tiny world.

What remains to be seen is how well this found place provides me with the solitude and privacy that I require to recharge and be the best me that I can be, while also easing me out of hermitess status a bit. My move date is ratcheted up by a few days and I’ll be running to and fro a lot, in addition to working, packing, attending to familial issues and celebrating another year of living on the planet.

A friend’s comment recently jiggled loose this group’s existence from my memory banks where they lay unappreciated for many years. This song is so lyrically astute and vulnerable. Plus, Bob Dylan’s and my hair often could be exchanged 🙂 Perhaps one day, there will be someone I can sing this together with poorly, by a fire (did I mention I am a dead-on, hopeless romantic trapped in a pragmatic brain?)

And along the lines of the photo-pictorial background shots from the video, I’ve included an ‘evoloution of me’ photo collage from my wee years to my early 20’s for fun. Note the deadly serious photo for the HS yearbook. What’s up with that? LOL! I think I just wanted to be taken seriously for five minutes, and instead it is preserved in the annals of history as a look from a stern mother. I probably thought it was sexy and studious, one of which I was and the other which I was not, lol! (In case you’re confused, here is a hint: I graduated early, with Honors)

Evolution of 'me'

Evolution of ‘me’

Are you dizzy yet? I am, hah! But that could be from sleep deprivation and stress.

Have a marvelous day in your life of choice!

~SE in a tizzy of pack and play

Riding the Four C’s


Reading novels makes me feel like I am stuck in a really bad one sometimes, one that I might produce on my first stab at such. Since I’m winnowing my books, my reward for working towards packing is reading books I’m getting rid of before spiraling into sleep, instead of my normal perusal of the interwebs.

This poem popped out tonight, in between packing.

Riding the Four C’s

Blank space canvas lies canted to one side
Propped up by dreams, imagination, desires
Dusted with the debris of failed actions, nearsightedness
Gilded with golden edges of hope

I can paint any future I choose, but how to identify the palette?
Safer to only draw in black and white for now, maybe some gray too
Not to limit or set expectations too high
And keep that debris dust to a minimum

Leaps into unknowns require either slight insanity
Or really good working parachutes
Of which I might lean towards the first
But am always short of the second

If I close my eyes, I can be anything I’d like
Butterfly coming from sheltered chrysalis
Rakish explorer wearing a cloak made from ‘devil may care’ attitudinal thread
Or simply who I am, one willing to take risks – and fail

Canvas. Cloak. Chrysalis. Choice.
Like the grading of diamonds, should be found the same measure for dreams
I meet the four C’s; or is that the four seas?
Either way the marks I make are small, and each one begins with action.

The packing continues, hastened now by my formal announcement to the landlord. Already I am lingering fondly on this place like you do once you forsake anything – lover, automobile, home, employment.

But this place has been my own little private hell in many ways. It is in a beautiful spot, with an active night life, galleries, unique restaurants and ample opportunity for social interaction.  I’ve been out in the area a grand total of nine times in almost three years – three times with my kids, three times on dates, and the rest with female friends. In other words, I haven’t availed myself of many of the things I chose the place for.

You really cannot combine debt pay off with a highly active social life. I became a work hermit(ess?) I go to work, and then I come home. When I got back into hiking, long put away after my husband’s death, I still do it alone; but at least it is getting me out of the house. I love it. But soon the enjoyable time for hiking here will disappear and heat stroke season will appear once again. Cycling I can do even in the heat due to the speed-induced breeze, but I’ve never repaired my ancient Raleigh, nor bought a new bike. Dating went by the wayside nearly two years ago, although I’ve engaged in conversations with people met online that I thought might click; they simply never did. Good friendships? Yes. But that is all. I just can’t figure out if I even want to date, even though it seems to be the answer several people think that I need. I simply don’t agree yet.

The memories of daily life compromise, shared sleeping arrangements, who gets to put their feet in whose lap during the movie, the dance of cooking and preparing a meal together, him shaving and me brushing my teeth – they seem so long ago as to be nearly foreign now; like someone else’s life. And they induce fear and memories along with pain, when I contemplate doing so again, quite frankly. I don’t even know if I’d make someone a good partner anymore, truth be told. I’ve gotten far more independent and driven, less tolerant of what I perceive as a huge load of BS that comes rolling off of most people, and it is still considered rude to roll your eyes and walk away as a grown-up.  I guess one day this will resolve itself either because I’ll wake up as an old (insert animal companion here) lady, or I’ll meet someone that makes me want to be a good partner again. Maybe while trying to wrangle the workable by only two people awnings found on RV’s, while I am simply one person!
 
Now you begin to see why the moving from my walled compound into the circle of extroverted and helpful people typically found RV’ing is a little, well, it is causing me a bit of consternation honestly.  As I prepare to leave here and go to who-knows-where-yet, all of the things that I do like about it rise up to taunt me; things that I will lose once I set foot into my turtle-home.  Privacy, for one. Here I can turn out the lights, light twenty candles, put on my ear phones and dance like mad and no one’s the wiser.  Kinda hard to do that in an RV without, well, actually rockin’ the house, so to speak. No suntanning out of view of others (safe for me AND the others, lol!)  No stumbling outside with coffee when one awakes too early for work but with not enough time to go back to bed really, and lounge around in your robe half-awake.  No visual break from the evidence of other people’s lives, for the most part.

Then there is the weather to consider. While the micro-haus has flooded time and again until the owner put in gutters, and the ceiling tiles like to jump around, it IS connected to the ground and has been here a long time, so unless it floats away in a hurricane tidal surge, it probably isn’t going to move much. Potentially not so for an RV.  I finally went with a Class A instead of a 5th wheel simply due to that fact primarily (secondarily, I am currently not capable of towing a 5th wheel, and can’t imagine I’d ever grow comfortable with it either). The sheer weight of chassis and engine at least gives me some more solidity under me, and if it looks bad enough, I can drive away from a storm 🙂

Staying behind also is my patio and plants, and the little tadpole farm.  While I can purchase a screen room and a mat to create a make-shift patio and that will do I think, I really don’t think I’ll be able to lug my pony palms raised from little stubs, the massive rose bush I’ve nurtured from stick to monster, and all of my flower pots, greens and herbs.  Maybe I can tote some off to one of the girl’s houses for holding while I decide where to light, but I don’t anticipate staying in a place for very long initially, until I find one that suits me and is in good proximity to work and family, along with the outdoor amenities that I seek. I will be a short-term nomad for a while around the area, looking for that glass-slipper housing fit.  I do have a line on some acreage in the country, but I really don’t feel like facing all of the initial challenges of the RV systems all alone in the boonies, hah!  It would be nice to avail myself of other’s knowledge in the first stages of acclimation.  That also means there might be witnesses to my stupidity!  Ah well, there are always trade-offs.
I am fabulous at second, third and fourth guessing myself when it is already a done deal. I’ve been down this road before a time or two. I’ll live 🙂 In the meantime, I’ve a date with some boxes waiting to be filled.

But I leave you with this, a poem that has rushed around in my brain for some time, primarily this one line:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
 
from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.
All rights reserved.

Well…?

~SE

And so it begins…


I did it!  I am now the owner of a rolling version of a tiny house.  Well, me and the credit union 🙂 And yes, I drove it, adrenaline inducing event that was. I’m scheduled for a full driving course prior to taking actual delivery, after it goes through its bells and whistles review and safety testing.

La coquille entre deux

La coquille entre deux

 

For a long time now I have been plotting and dreaming of a way to return to the woods in some fashion. As I couch-surfed initially after the loss of the farm, and then rented, watching money go down the drain for nothing to show at the end, I have inwardly fumed and fretted and imagined.  For nearly three years I have lived behind a  square six-foot fence enclosed tiny studio that flooded and has had squirrels and fruit rats running amok in the dropped ceiling; the one with the tiles that rise and fall like Styrofoam piano keys any time there is a decent wind, and watched pink fiberglass now orange with age occasionally puff out from the edges, and I have dreamed.  I have wrestled with the person who planned so poorly while things were good and berated her, even though truth is, she couldn’t have known how things were going to turn out. Still, she could have planned better. In the process I’ve become so annoyingly analytic about some things that I irritate my own self.  Where often there used to be joie de vivre there is now sometimes this plodding and painstaking person, who will then on a whim throw caution to the wind after causing herself so much damn inner turmoil. Yes, I mean me 🙂

 
Being here in the micro-haus after I did the final clean out of the farm has been brutal, but I refused to pay to store my crap. I’d either have to live with it, or get rid of it.  Mostly I’ve lived with it, carting a box or so off once in a great while.  Now I am carting off, parsing out and donating with intent. Yes, even shoes have left the building (grudgingly). The space of an RV is actually larger than where I have been living.  It is just laid out differently with less open space to cram a box or a Rubbermaid tub into – well, and still be able to walk. Plus, they have a maximum weight limit safe for the chassis 😉

My original plan was to buy cash, but I soon learned that I could have another grandchild or two arrive waiting for the livable RV that I could buy for cash without worrying about falling through the floor or having a ceiling crash in on me, or living with more black mold than I’ve put up with here. So I bumped my budget and began hunting. I promised myself I would not buy anything the first time I found something that I considered really a good deal. I watched one or two get snapped up, but I stood by my commitment. Finally, I found something that was selling for more than the actual determined value by the tireless arbiter NADA value. Still, I did not buy on first view. I negotiated a bit to see if my budget could handle it and went home to think about it. As of yesterday, I am an RV owner!  I have named her  “La Coquille Entre Deux”, which roughly translated from French is ” The shell in between”. It is the beginning of my transition to smaller and simpler living, in between here and the beloved woods, and I can always duck into it, like a turtle to its shell. I will have more thoughts in the future about such a massive change in living environments, but they might be slow to arrive as I prepare to move. Please be patient with me as time is now a premium (isn’t it always?!?)

Now I have to find a place to park it!

The road to...?

The road to…?

I have to decide if I will nomad it for a while, trying on different living spaces like Goldilocks, or settling right away and living with my choice for an annual lease. One decision always leads to another. Currently the most commonly heard decision discussion taking place around here with myself moment by moment is: “Do I really need this?”

Thanks for taking this ride with me!

~SE

The gory…err glory road to downsizing ‘stuff’.


Yes, it is gory.  Gut-wrenching. Painful. Overwhelming.  That’s why I am taking a break to write about it instead of doing it. Heh.

 

We squirrel away for all kinds of maybes. Maybe they won’t make (insert item of choice) any more. We stock and store because we’ve a prepper mentality so maybe there will be a shortage. We hang on to emotionally pleasing or historically important things because maybe that person will die and this will be all we have left to touch and remind us; to transport us back to then.

The last time I faced this challenge it was against my will.  I had to leave my farm and sell it to avoid foreclosure. I still ‘own’ it, but someone else lives in it and pays for it while I act as the mortgage company. But I had no choice in the matter. I blogged about it here: https://sunflowersolacefarm.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/shedding-19-years-of-skin/

This time, I am choosing to do this and forcing myself to divest of even more.  I’d like to say that factor makes it easier, but truth be told, it doesn’t.  It still fills me with anger, ambivalence, sorrow and all kinds of other emotions. It’s also confounding as hell at times, to be standing and going…”Why DO I have four colanders???”  Then I remember.  I had plans to build my own sprouters for wheatgrass, buckwheat and sunflower seeds which need dirt in addition to the normal sunshine and water portion for sprouting things like alfalfa, mung and lentils. The fact that they are still spotless and stuffed in a cabinet indicates how successful that little plan was.  You have to have a window with sunlight to do so, and mine all have awnings over them or face into a breezeway or such. Dancing with the ghosts of ideas past is what I call it. This brings forth not only dealing with the stuff, but the remorse or regret of not following through with previous ideas that seemed so stellar at the time.  It allows that old friend self-doubt to hang out with me for a while, mocking what the current and ongoing plans are.  “Think you’ll follow this one through eh?  Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Ummhmmm.”  It would be easy to brush that dude off my shoulder if there was no truth in the matter.  But there is. And so downsizing vomits up your glory days, your bad days, your abandoned projects and basically just stirs up emotions.  It makes me want to lie on a settee with a cold cloth and colder lemonade (or maybe an adult beverage).  Alas, no time for that though. Thirty days is what I’ve got.

Oh…did I mention I’m moving? 😀  Stay tuned, as I’ll be adding  a new occasional feature of the blog, v-logs of transition from one life to another.   Here’s a hint:

I actually kind of like this. Credit goes to http://oldwoodies.com

I actually kind of like this. Credit goes to http://oldwoodies.com

Sometimes the road to where you want to go has a lot of unmapped switchbacks…(me)

 

~SE

PS. Holla if you need a colander, I’ve a spare or three 😉

Blither and blather about little things that matter


Did you know that online RV shopping is a LOT like online dating? No? I did it for you, so you don’t have to. In all seriousness, it is somewhat similar. Nice photos. Catchy list of amenities. Make appointment. Show up. Think you must be at wrong place as nothing looks like the photos. Then the life story of the RV comes out. Yeah, pretty similar. My first two appointments were pretty horrific. I quickly realized that my budget was going to land me in a mold-infected ne’er do well kind of place. Expectation adjustment moment. Fiddled with the spreadsheet of my life, called the credit union, and waited. Surprise! You’re approved at a lower than published rate. Amazingly enough, my near dance with foreclosure did not linger long on the credit report after paying it all up, with large legal fees to boot. Advice for free: If you are beginning that tango, pay it as soon as you can. Much cheaper to just pay the mortgage and skip lining attorney’s pockets. (You’re welcome)

Once I was approved, the pressure was off a bit. Now I could look without going through the dreaded used car schmaltz routine. The dealership I visited let me shop unaccompanied. Good move. I hate being shadowed. Then two more private showings, both of which were in excellent shape for their age. The one couple was a real pleasure to speak with and we ended up discussing tiny homes, homesteading, canning, gardening, hunting,simplifying life, etc. They would make nice friends if it weren’t for the oddity of hanging out with a married couple.(Never mind that several of my closest friends are married, lol) But when most of them formed, I too, was married.

Then my vacation time got grand baby crashed, and I had a sleepover, then a four hour car ride with two under-threes. I had quite happily forgotten what being in the car with car-seat restrained little bodies was like. It’s like pregnancy; you vaguely remember discomfort, but promptly forget it. All in all, the boys were good. They are just…well, boys. Luckily they DO love sleeping in Bubbe’s sleeping bag in the chilly apartment that lacks heat. Indoor camping!

Mummy bag surround

Mummy bag surround

The trip to see RV sites was less fun. The one that I found that I really, really like is about 1.5 hours from work. That’s using the pricey toll road route too. I’ll tuck it away for ‘maybe’, even though the amenities of the area are stellar for hiking, biking, working out and hitting the Gulf beaches. At least at that one, I didn’t appear to be THE youngest person there. But close.

So now I am in thinking mode – futzing with the spreadsheet, moving numbers around, trying to think of what I’ve not thought of in this delicate balancing act I am trying to pull off.

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I am supposed to be primitive camping right now. In some ways I am glad I am not. In other ways, I’m really longing to be there. The temps are really low, with lots of snow (for the area, not for say, MA or such). It would have been a good gear test, if I had known in advance and been prepared. But if I wasn’t, it could have been a close call. Since I am trying to make a moving decision, I decided to forego the camping and use my time off to look around, plus tuck that gas money saved into the new portable homesteading budget pocket. While my AT hiking gear is three season, I’m really not certain that my lightweight tent would handle the snow load. With a predicated wind chill of down to 15 below, I don’t think I’d have been tromping around taking fairy wonderland snow photos as much as I think I would. That tent would get mighty small if that was where I had to stay all day and all night. Still, it would have been a good challenge and experiment. Now I’ll have to wait until I’m on the trail to see, or maybe next year at camping time. The most limiting factor would have been the ice en route and the winter storm predicated this Friday. I don’t mind camping in the snow and cold (I’ve done that), but I am askeered to drive in that stuff! I’ve only driven in snow once or twice, and the first time was dorky but fun. It was a harmless way to showcase my ignorance. See, I didn’t know that you had to shovel a drive way when it was just a foot or so of snow. I learned that pretty quickly when my SUV simply wouldn’t move. Out I got, and stared at the little snow mountain mounded to just beneath the hood line. Hm. I also didn’t own a snow shovel, but I did have a regular shovel in the barn. Like I said, a harmless showcase of ‘stupid’ which ended just fine. And it was beautiful on the drive once out of the drive way, lol. I was probably more in danger from trying to take photographs than from any weather issue. So yeah, I wish I were there, but I’m not.

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The result of looking at RV’s has me now scouring the ‘net for how to detach from the emotional connection to stuff. Whereas I thought I’d be moving to something larger than the micro-haus come the time to leave, for a while I will be living in something possibly a mite smaller than where I am now, and maybe for a few years past that point as well. Eeep. I read an article by a woman who got rid of 91% of her things. That’s 9 out of 10 items you can lay your hands on. That’s one tough cookie there. I have boxes for the kids, boxes for Goodwill and trash bags sitting around. Some stuff has already left the building too. It is difficult to shift from a prepping/storing/canning prepared mindset to ‘how little can you live with?’ mindset. And of course, some discoveries made no sense at all. Seven spatulas? Seriously? Why? Granted I used to cook for much larger groups and far more often, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never used seven spatulas in one day. Three whisks. Okay, so they were small, medium and large sized, but still. We won’t even venture into coffee cups, glassware, lingerie, jewelry and perfume either. Or shoes. Definitely not talking about shoes. My task has been to go through a drawer, a cabinet or a box a day. No pressure, right? Except some of this stuff sticks to my hand when the hand moves to a box or hovers over a garbage bag. It would be funny if it weren’t so silly. Or so emotionally charged. While RV’s are designed to maximize space options, they are still only about 27-35 feet long and 8 feet wide. I actually looked at a toy hauler because that’s like a tiny house with its own storage unit! And I could tie the boys down when they get too rowdy, to those tie downs in the floor, lol! But they don’t look or feel like a house at all. That leads me back to getting rid of things so I can inhabit something that looks remotely like a house or an apartment.

What is it with the granny look in these things too? Oh, wait – I am a granny. But I don’t decorate, feel or dress like a granny. And I’ve never, ever owned anything in blue velour, I’m fairly certain. Or all of the frilly stuff? The one RV I really, really like, it has SATIN on the valances!?! That’s not why I like it. The floor plan and the generator are why I like it, plus an honest-to-goodness real life sized closet. Why are there no RV’s that look like a wood cabin inside? Pecky cypress walls and stainless steel would look nice together, yes? But no, the age group of vehicle I’m looking at usually resemble a cross between Grandma’s house and a slightly upscale hotel room. It’s a little frustrating. I feel like the Goldilocks of RV’s.  Or maybe the Chameleon…

Indecision is humorous when it isn’t you!

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Hiking has taken a back seat lately to running around to look at RV’s and sorting through my household goods. I miss it. I’m going to get out there this weekend and do some of it. Trying to coordinate surgery, relocate so my kids can help me recover, find a place to live for a year after that, sort through stuff, plan an AT hike, keep up my herbalism studies, write something now and again, work a full-time job and then throw in some babysitting and parental visits, and I’m out of time. More. Time. I need it!

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My rewards for doing the things I need to do are either computer time or reading time. If you’ve not read “Unbroken”, I suggest you do so. I am always reading more than one book, so here’s an insight to my current reading selections:
“Unbroken”
“The Tao of Travel”
“The Unsettling of America”
“Small is Beautiful”
“Fresh Air Fiend”
“The Sex Lives of Cannibals” (no, it’s not THAT kind of book)
And AT books too numerous to count. I just realized I don’t have many ‘fluff’ books in that bunch. Well, there is always the internet for plenty of fluff 🙂

And that dear readers, is what you get when I empty my mind at the keyboard. It might just qualify as ‘fluff’ itself!

Be well, stay warm, and be happy 🙂  Live in the moment…

~SE

Thoughts from the week


BW RS IMG_2919

I feel like I’ve joined the ‘writer’s abstinence club’ of sorts lately. I think of great things to write, but I’m busily doing something else, and then I have tasks to tackle or familial bonds to reinforce with listening, advice, interventions or the like, and a dog to walk and a job, and well, then it’s past bedtime and I’ve neither read nor wrote a single line here at WP.

RV shopping:
This is one of those activities that really would benefit from the ‘rent-a-husband’ idea. Granted, I’ve polled a few male friends for input, but a woman tire-kicking just doesn’t have the intimidation factor, ya know? (unless you’re my eldest daughter who memorizes mph, engine sizes, torque and the like, but only on cars). If you’re a regular reader you’re probably going “Wha, huh? Wait, what about the tiny house in the woods deal?” Consider this practice. I’ve lived in a tiny space for almost three years now, watching monthly as money goes down the bank drain with nothing to show for it except fading receipts from Chase bank. Despite one of my closest friends repeatedly pointing me towards RV living, I kept coming up with excuses – until I realized it solved several areas of concern. Part of this was also motivated by finding out my idea of a tiny house and the landowner’s idea of a tiny house were, well, neighborhoods apart. So that might not come to fruition after all, at least the way it lived in my shoe-string budget brain.

Part of this includes RV parks themselves, the places you live in your RV. Now, I’m not socially challenged, but I am socially grumpy. I don’t really want to know my neighbors other than to say “Hi, nice day yeah?” I have those conversations with the guy that rides his bike down the alley who lives catty-corner to me, except normally it is about the stars, the grocery store prices, or, his laundry (last random 30 second chat). I have a detente with my other neighbor, who put duct tape over a hole in the fence because I stuck a solar light stick in it prompting “Your stick is in my yard” (imagine 100% Long Islander there). She yells at my landlords too, so it isn’t just me she’s taking to task. Miserable lady, I hope I don’t grow up to be her. And then of course there are my face-touching, plant destroying landlords. In their defense, it was due to a fruit rat problem – but they are par for the course when one has fruiting trees of any kind down here. It does look nice for pavers and it is easier to pass through in heels after work while juggling a laptop bag, purse, coffee cup and lunch bag.

As such, an RV park gives me pause. I think of people who don’t work, who play cards and drink gin, hoot while scoring in bocce ball early on Sunday mornings, and have small little fluffy dogs that my anti-social Jack Russell thinks are moving chew toys or personal blow up dolls. I think of people knocking at my door, say, after a long network outage involving people from India, the West coast and a frantic remotely located boss, wanting to know if I am up for gin and cards or if I’ll be attending the pot luck, and my reaction if it strikes my one remaining nerve the wrong way and the resulting emotional energy it will take me not to look like my crotchety neighbor. It other words, it makes me shudder in some respects. It is also likely to be a very broad generalization that many RVer’s wouldn’t fit!

Then, I think of actually having a conversation with someone other than myself, having someone near by with more experience to pepper with questions about the RV life that I am ignorant of, or actually maybe feeling like socializing at a pot luck with other grown ups not connected by work, and that doesn’t require a long drive to attend. That gets a half-smile.

I tried to rent a couple of acres in the country, near the kids. THAT was a fun activity (that’s sarcasm – thought, why isn’t there a sarcasm FONT?) After arriving at a random GPS mislabeling and having to re-route the drive while reading text directions, then having to fill out a form that contained more questions than an online dating form…and then never hearing another word, text or otherwise, after handing over the information, my desire for that waned a bit. I dunno, maybe it was my joke about the Craigslist murders putting a dent in the property showings, or the question did he have authority to rent the property derived from the legally listed owner, or my pointing out that there was no water or electricity visible as listed in the ad. Anyway, I apparently wasn’t a suitable renter, as he continued to post the ad repeatedly while not answering my texts. Maybe he went to a Superbowl party on my 25.00 background check fee?

Downsizing:
And so in preparation for an anticipated move, I’ve stepped up the organizing/downsizing event. Eh, it is going slowly. LOL! I get sidetracked often, stumbling on notes and cards from my kids when they were little, notes from my late husband, photos from Junior High, the birth announcement from when I was born, photos of when my kids were born and other time travel trivia. I found my hair from when I was seven and in a fit of pique my mom had it all chopped off, saving the pony tail it was put up in :/ Kids teeth, jewelry and cards handmade by the kids, four eyelash curlers (?!?) and…37 pairs of socks. Do not ask me why I own so many socks, because I do not know! I was talking to a friend the other day, trying to figure out why I save things that do not have emotional value. We are the generation who learned about barges of trash circling the seas, declining resources, toxicity in manufacturing and so a natural wrestling match happens in my brain. “Throw that away.” “No, I could use it for…” “But you won’t.” “I might!” (now you can see why real neighbors might just be less tedious than endless arguments with myself) And I have duplicates of things that apparently I really never want to be without. Cheese graters, for instance. And juicers. Also random cute colored dishes for one. Tea kettles too.

Then comes the off-grid factor into play when sorting through stuff. I’d like to go solar, even while in a park eventually. There goes the coffee maker and the blow dryer. Hm. Also the blender, the high-end juicer and possibly the toaster oven. Eek. I comfort myself with the thought that I am not off grid quite yet, and those oldies but goodies can still be stashed under the counter. I’ve done a technology refresh over the last few months to extend battery life and lower power consumption on my electronics, so should be good to go there. This often leads to a break and peeking at You Tube for videos about something that pops into my brain.

Camping and Hiking:
Last weekend’s camping trip and hike were stellar. It was gorgeous weather for both activities. I got some great bird footage, some beautiful sunset, moon and sunrise shots too. It was marred a tiny bit by my youthful and noisy camp neighbors, who were playing night frisbee OVER my tent after I went to bed and seemed to have an intense interest in smokeable herbals. I don’t know how to tell them that a grill fire just doesn’t cover that scent…

I love to camp, but I don’t love to camp with a bunch of people all smooshed all around. I guess I will have to look for less popular sites in the future. There’s always the primitive site I discovered a couple of hikes ago, but that was too remote, as well as harboring too many alligators for my sleeping comfort. Just call me the Goldilocks Camper, lol!

The park itself was closed to vehicular traffic due to an early morning bicycle race, so I had a beach entirely to myself since I was on foot. That’s never happened in my entire life that I can remember. A duck into a mangrove cove at the side of the footpath allowed me to watch a Pilated Woodpecker digging into his breakfast completely undeterred by my presence. I had no problems with racoons this visit, although I did hear the partying campers next to me shrieking about one during the night. I think my camp was too boring, hah!

The hike was great and I averaged about 1.5 mph, including photography stops, with a 37 lb. pack weight. I look forward to an all-day hike in the near future.

A few shots from last week…

Now back to work for me on that downsizing! Be well, dream often, smile more often.

~SE

Rose Seep Visionary – a poem


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Did I feel a tug at the corner of the dream
Which I must have ignored, glossed over
Darted at through rose-colored glasses
Via an edgewise glance

And kept on dreaming, looking forward

Did I hear ambivalence whisper, or
Was it dissonance maybe?
They can be so hard to differentiate, tease apart
No matter which, dream delay dances with either indiscriminately

And I keep dreaming, looking forward

Did I cut myself on edges of expectation
The glittering shards of excitement perhaps;
Either, or, the life drain dripped
As I moved towards a distant goal,blithely unawares.

And I kept dreaming, looking forward

All along I have thought my rosy vision
Was a gift, never once imagining that
The visionary tint was from seepage of a thousand
Paper cuts into the soft flesh of dreamy eyes

So I no longer wonder why I am drained;
Looking at the puddles at my feet in this moment
Fingering the bagged evidence of previous clean ups hidden behind
Smiles, can-do thinking and coated with the grit of determination

And so, I keep dreaming

Gently and quickly bandaging the seeps,
Tenderly applying the balm of “What if…?”
Relying on an infusion of “But surely…”
All the while busily swallowing a dose of stony reality that catches in my throat

Because it is dreaming that keeps me moving and seeing at all.

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~SE

Monday musings of a mentalist (the British sort, not the magical sort)


I’ve been on sensory overload lately – not sure why. In this post are tidbits of thought, internal and external conversations, sights and smells, a photo or two and the requisite songs that have been running through my mind lately. Best read while drinking hot tea and listening to Jackie Greene’s “Travelin’ Song” Don’t have it handy? Here, let me help you out with that…

 

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Nearly every night as soon as I log out of work I throw on my pack and head out the door. It is so commonplace now that when I move my pack, the dog jumps up and heads for the door – even when I’m moving it onto the bed to play rearrange the contents 🙂 Tonight was a night I could have just kept walking until I got where I didn’t know I was going. I had a week’s food on my back, clothes, water, shelter. The night wind was brisk and stinging, taking your breath away to another place when it hit you full on frontally. The smell of frying rice, Thai chiles, garlic and meaty things bowled me over as I passed behind a little Thai restaurant in the alley and made me remember fair food on crisp February winds from days long gone by. The wind scuttled the clouds to and fro over the brilliant sliver of the moon in a blustery game of hide and seek.

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Sometimes people give you the smallest little gift and makes your heart sing and a smile bust out every time you use it. Can’t beat useful things that make you smile. It’s a gift from my Mom, surrounded by my teas of choice this week. Yuummmmmm, hot tea and brisk nights.

He just makes me smile like a goofy kid

He just makes me smile like a goofy kid

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Gear testing faux pas was followed quickly by beauty and joy this week. During an anticipated storm I pitched my new tent (pitch being relative, I have no yard, just a concrete patio) to test it for waterproof capabilities. It helps greatly when testing that to set said tent up correctly. Did I do that? Nope. While I had set the tent up once before, that was on a nice sunny day with no wind. This time I tried to repeat normative expected conditions on the trail – after dark, whipping winds, impending rain. I did not close the top vents, and when this discovery resulted in rain in the tent, I then closed them…also incorrectly (but on time delay setting). After a microburst tossed the 100 or so lb deck umbrella and stand around and crashed it into my apartment awning, I was wide awake and shaking. Regrouped in the apartment and headed back out to tough it out. The lightning wasn’t nearly as frightful as the wind. But the rain dropped to a gentle patter and I finally fell asleep about 3 a.m. That was followed by a drippy alarm clock of rain on my face at 5:30 a.m. (time delay, remember?) Although I had closed the ridge vents, I did not do it right and while I snoozed the rain oozed. I woke up in a big sponge (also known in some quarters as a sleeping bag). I was dry and warm inside, but the outside was a puddle-sucker. Frustrated, I went inside and crawled into my windless, dry bed. In the daylight I discovered my erroneous ways, fixed the tent, and hung everything up to dry. The following night was pure bliss: no rain, cold temps and crystal clear skies. I fell asleep staring at the stars and listening to Ray Lamontagne’s “Winter Birds” and slept like a warm swaddled baby.

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It has been a long time since I bought a collar for my dog. I don’t recall ever reading this in my past purchases. My most recent acquisition came with the following warning. I think I might need brain bleach after mentally envisioning Bubba or Missy on all fours acting out some Realtree fantasy as a result. The horror.

Say huh, what now???

Say huh, what now???

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I may get to try a real live ‘gear’ test of my future lifestyle while still down here werkin’ the J.O.B.  I have found some acreage with a shed up close to where two of my daughters live. Its amenities are acreage, electricity and internet. It would cut my monthly expenses more than half and add only 3 more miles to the daily work drive. I can garden again! There is a place to store my 9,247 Realtree containers of stuff (they were on sale, don’t hate). It is lacking some um, common things that my kids just can’t get past me not having. My youngest who is going with me to take a look-see this weekend finally busted out with “MOM! Why are you so weird?” I was finally able to articulate a bit of what I am feeling, and it came out kind of like this:

“Lil bit, think about every Monday since you were born, getting up and going to do something someone else wants you to do, and then add 15 years to that number. Think about all of the weeks that you give, and you get two days a week and two weeks a year to call your own. It makes you tired, all of that doing for someone else – and for what? A bigger television, a newer car, larger house, all of which insure you will continue that grind because now you have more bills to pay. Then fast forward to now; you’ve moved up on the ladder an now you give your days AND your nights, plus, sometimes when you are out on a weekend trying to capture some happiness, your job also calls you when you are in the middle of the woods trying to unwind and let go. I am to the place that I would rather live small and, in your mind, hard, in exchange for more time to do things that bring me pleasure, making memories instead of money.” I then asked her if she could remember any gift I had given her very clearly over the years. Then I asked her if she remembered the hours we’d walked on the beach at night with a flashlight and talked, digging up funky or pretty stuff at the surfline. If she remembered the hikes up Amicolola Falls, or the walks along the Toccoa River in winter breaking ice and boulder jumping. If she remembered the summer at the beach house and me taking her sisters pier fishing. She could not remember any gift, but those things, she did remember. Maybe, just maybe, I got a fraction of my feelings across to her at a time when she and her partner are trying to climb the ladder of ‘more’.

Why would I choose to live primitively on purpose? So I can get back to the lifestyle I enjoy faster – save money, garden again, work the kinks out of the life I envision. Plus, it’s good practice, because if I can live like that in the heat and humidity here, anywhere else will be a cakewalk.

Besides, what good is life if is isn’t challenging you, stretching you, finding out what lies underneath?

I’ll leave you with your own musings, and another Jackie Greene song, “Gone Wanderin'”

~SE Dreamin’ and wanderin’….what are YOU doing with this one fine life you have?

Minimalism, life and hiking


When you begin to consider carrying all that you need on your back for a few months, the contents of your home begin to loom in the mind as well. The idea of ‘comfort’, ‘luxury’ or ‘morale’ items becomes a topic of thought. We really don’t think about these things day to day, just like we don’t think about availability of water or food, shelter or medicine. We as a whole (define ‘we’ as you wish) mostly have never experienced true want or need. Yet more than half of the world wonders about those things daily. That is what they do each day, locate and haul water; cultivate, forage or barter for food.

So this again is a new thing, at least for me. I have had periods of want, yes – relatively speaking. I have had times of wondering, true. But I was wondering and wanting from a dry place, with plenty to eat and only things like banks to worry about, over time. As my future mode of living takes on new mental shaping, I am thinking about these things a lot. It is still abstract though, not what I face every day. I am still doing it from shelter, with access to a quick faucet of water (however nasty tasting and smelling it is), a pantry and fridge of food items, and with electricity and of course, interwebs!

On my trail journal, I was chided for discussing ‘off grid living’ while writing on the internet 🙂 So I suppose I should modify that label and say “partially off grid’ to satisfy the purists out and among us, and to keep things realistic. I plan to have internet through my cell phone – both a luxury item and a necessity when one lives alone, travels alone, camps or hikes alone. It is a lifeline of sorts. It would be pure foolhardiness to try to do ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ style as a single female, in addition to being very isolated and socially inhibiting. I have never even been close to a minimalist. Never even sought after it. I have lived most of my life with an eye on comfort and enjoyment. And quite frankly, for a long time, most of my ‘stuff’ was my security blanket. I believe it still is now as well. So when I look to packing a backpack, or to the appointments of my future home, changing my perspective is still a continuing task I need to diligently work towards.

Much of what I wear now in an office environment simply won’t be needed I suspect. It depends on what kind of work I find. But I also want to retain some of those things in order to just go somewhere and look nice. I continue to winnow through my working wardrobe, and of course, appending it with a hiking wardrobe. Right now, if I held everything clothing for hiking, it would fit in an area almost the size of the purse I carry to work each day (excluding boots of course, ha!) The fabrics don’t wrinkle, they are super lightweight with exception of my rain gear, and they are created to be stuffed into crevices or plastic bags to be kept dry. I want to be able to get dry, at a tolerable temperature and be somewhat comfortable at day’s end. That’s because during the day you are everything BUT those things. My day hikes are tiny toe dip experiences in those realms, excluding the rocky and uphill terrain that I simply cannot really train for.

Last weekend’s hike was a good look at where I am today and where I think I need to be – in preparation, in packing, in physicality. Hiking is not like preparing for a 5K, or mountaineering, or some other short burst of physical endurance and speed. It is just walking – for a very, very long time. It is walking in rain, fog, cold, heat, bugs. Walking for many hours without pack weight is easy-peasy. Add pack weight, and the dynamics change. My hike was short, less than a full day and only ten miles – an average beginner day for any kind of trail. The terrain was flat, root-covered in places, in the sun some places, bugless, and hot. I am a heat wussy. Drop me in colder temps and I’m alive and loving life. Drop me in heat and I am a sweltering, sweaty, miserable wretch. I kind of straddled that line last weekend. Yesterday’s hike was far more pleasant in the temperature arena, but not so much in the wading arena. Too much water for me for a day hike, although my boots passed with flying colors in regards to waterproof testing and my feet continue blister free, yay!

The most interesting awareness dawning of all is just how much stuff I still own. Duplicates too, of most things. I prevaricate often, knowing that my financial status will be very different two years from now. Do I keep and store duplicates for future restock without cost? I’ll have to pay to store it all while I hike, so, could I replace it all for the same costs as storing? On some things, likely not in one fell swoop truthfully. I will narrow that down when it comes to the final size of storage needed, and cost. I may end up having a huge alley sale 🙂

Earlier today, I set up my new tent. It is lighter but more durable and designed for three season camping. I’ll get to test that in another primitive camp upcoming in February for many days. And see, still more consumer behavior. So much thought and planning, and buying, for a ‘simple’ lifestyle. I’ve tried not to fall into the ‘ultra-light'(read, exorbitantly priced) mindset. After two weekend minor hikes, the weight I’m carrying is obvious. It isn’t unbearable, but I also know I’m taking it off in a few hours, driving home and not looking at 10-12 hours a day of it, end upon end. February’s experience should help me with the winnowing.

As I began my hiking day yesterday, a herd of deer browsed beside the road to the trail. This trail is smack dab in the middle of housing developments, by fast driven roadways, and a lot of the deer get hit by cars despite the ‘deer crossing next five miles’ signs. I enjoy both observing deer, and eating them. Kind of like cows I guess, just smaller poop 🙂 Just a short hop off the trail were massive high tension power lines. I’d never been close to them that I recall, or been in a quiet enough environment to hear their static – a metallic and weird sound to me when juxtaposed with the hawk’s calls. It is reflective of humanity too, that clashing of environments.

Hiking sets my mind free, but I have nothing to record those free-wheeling thoughts on. Stopping to write would make my pace even slower than a snail’s! They come, reside, bounce around and I try to grab some of them to record later – then get distracted by a tiny yellow flower or dual pair of blue ones, the soft spongy green of some kind of moss, and they are gone. It is just my mind, my eyes, my body; all working together in joy. Yes, it is joy. Surely not effortless, but, it is very enjoyable. Here are a few photos from the last couple of hikes. Enjoy.

And so now, after an exciting Seahawks comeback, I’m resting with a cup of Earl Grey and planning my next weekender.

Have a marvelous week all!

~SE

Grandsons, tumbles and trail names


Yesterday was a rare treat, a double-header with two of my daughters and my four grandsons, plus helping the third daughter watch shop by text 🙂  It was also a two restaurant meal day for me, which is exceedingly unusual.

In the midst of my ‘fake hiking & camping’ fun I had a birthday luncheon date with my middle daughter. In her favor, I did actually take a real bath and did not drag the Esbit stove to the classy waterside restaurant that she chose for having a birthday luncheon.  We had a nice upper level view and plenty of room for wiggly little boys to not upset other patrons.  There were air boats, kayaks, cigarette boats and pontoon boats to keep the boys engaged, in addition to finches, seagulls and….bees. Yes, I had bees in my food plate. It was a good opportunity to teach about the difference between bees (non-aggressive and slow to sting) as opposed to say, yellow jackets.  The bees climbed over my mandarin orange and strawberry spinach salad with curiosity, then moved on to the meat and fries before flying off and landing on my grandson.  No bees or grandsons were harmed 🙂  The next to youngest boy of the four is sporting a cast, having suffered a broken elbow inflicted by a drop knee move by his three-year-old brother. I’m glad I had girls, lol!

From there, we went to a couple of local parks to walk off birthday cheesecake, a glass of  Pinot Noir and the energy of two under three’s maintaining good behavior for more than an hour at the restaurant.  Little boys are naturally outdoors oriented it seems, full of running, jumping, stomping and ball throwing.  We did over an hour’s worth of walking, including off-road stroller fun, riding on Bubbe’s shoulders (called ‘flying’ by E-man), tried out a hammock for the first time in their young lives and left hot, sweaty tired little boys who went home with mom and crashed.  It sounds heretical to let you know that my backpack weighs more than my grandson and so this truly was a jaunt of fun.  And back packs don’t hug your hair and say “I happy!!” while bonking your cranium with a newly acquired cast forgotten in his excitement, reflecting your own dimples back at you in a beaming face. It was a beautiful and enjoyable day with part of my family.

From there it was a short drive to my youngest daughter’s home and time with two more boys, including my youngest grandson who is now running everywhere and has a full set of teeth, and he doesn’t turn a year old until the end of this month!!  They are growing up far too quickly 😦  They decided to treat for pizza and everyone, including the baby, enjoyed it immensely.  Then me, my daughter and the boys headed to the near by park to walk off yet another meal.

I won bicycle duty, which consisted of helping the older boy on his bike with training wheels.  I’d forgotten how tippy those things are!  The bike helmet with a plastic mohawk was a nice urban touch (grin).  We did great the first time around the trail, even spying a fleeing bunny in the flashlight’s beam while successfully navigating a quick downhill slope and turn. I even got in some jogging along the way as the cyclist showed how fast he could pedal.  But the second round proved more problematic.  On approach we did well, but hitting the curve we were faced with three other walkers on the trail.  I got behind my grandson  to single-file it and had to grab the seat as he was gaining too much downhill speed.  My feet got tangled under the training wheels and the fun really began!  I catapulted over my grandson while managing to push him sideways into the dirt, missing the other walkers cleanly and strong-arming to avoid face planting on the asphalt.  He was fine, not even a bump or scratch.  The same can’t be said for me.  I don’t bounce quite as well as I used to. My right shin bone got caught under the careening  pedal, so I have a nice bloody gash there, some light road rash on  my left knee and elbow, but the best is my left hand.  I didn’t really feel any of it and had no idea I was bleeding until meeting up with my daughter going the opposite direction, who pointed out the blood on my white shirt.  Mangled the left pinkie pretty good and left a nice trail of drips until we could get the half-mile to the car where my first aid kit awaited.  My grandson was a trouper, holding the flashlight, pouring the peroxide, identifying the words ‘Band-Aid’ and generally not being squeamish.  This was unlike his mom, who made barfy, gagging sounds upon the inspection of the wound under flashlight.  Funny thing about that is she had more injuries growing up than the other two combined.  Good thing *I* am not squeamish.  We finished up on the playground and I got to swing, one of my favorite past times.  Boys are fun, if a bit more active and intense than little girls. They don’t freak out at bugs or blood, and they are all still young enough to express love and affection freely without embarrassment.  My favorite statement of the day was from my oldest grandson who explained to me that I should have his mom kiss my boo-boo, as when she does it for him, it makes it better right away 🙂

Which leads me to trail names.  I am fairly certain  mine will not have the word ‘grace’ in any association when the time comes. Maybe “Crash Test Dummy” would be more fitting? I’m enthusiastic, don’t whine, and accept my bumps, gashes, cuts and bruises with equanimity after a life full of them.  Currently in addition to my road rash I’m sporting double blisters on my left heel too, as my new hiking boots seem a little tighter on the left foot (what’s up with the left side thing here??).  But leukotape, blister care band-aids and different socks still enable me to put in some miles each day.  I’m simply not likely to win any accolades in the office next week, where my banged up body and high heels will be quite at odds.  Ah well, I’ll rely on my seniority in age and employment tenure to silence the laughter, except that I’ll probably be the one laughing the most. “Know thyself” is always a good place to start…

This old song was on my mind yesterday while holding little hands, feeling little arms around my neck, and watching little eyes take in the world. We teach by who and what we are; what we do – not always what we say. I’m not the best Mom, daughter or grandmother – I’m just the best one that I know how to be at where I am right now.  That is causing some of my family unease. This too, is part of life.  Learning that other people don’t always fit the molds that you have in your mind, or even the dreams that you want them to fulfill. Maybe my girls dreamed of an apron-clad gray haired lady reading stories and baking cookies instead of embarrassing them by hiking to the local grocery store, talking about herbal remedies, and primitive camping with coyotes howling in the background – and being excited and enlivened by it. I still bake cookies (sometimes), and I own a couple of aprons. I love to read to the boys, but I need a lot of quiet time on my own too. I love and support them in the way that I think that I should – honestly, intensely, and with complete confidence that they too, will find their way in life and make it their own.

I only hope that they allow me to do the same, and love me the same way today, and far into many tomorrows

Happy first week of 2015, may it be a good one for you and yours!

~SE

Walking into 2015


I remember the times when January 1st was a bleary-eyed sleeping in day.  A day that didn’t require going to work, woohoo!  Those days seem to be long behind me, although if I had television I might still be tempted to watch the ball drop in Times Square. This year my goal was to go to bed early and get a good ‘hike’ in on my day off. So I worked my shift on the 31st, said good-bye to my eldest who left for a new job, and headed home full of Village Inn pie.  Try as I might, I couldn’t stay up much past 10 p.m., particularly knowing I wanted to be up at 6:30.

Now I walk the dog regularly, so walking isn’t entirely foreign to me. But we take the same path nearly all of the time – down the block past the barking Shitzhu and the three cats, past the house with the amazing night blooming jasmine, across the road to the empty lot, up through the vacant bank and over to the park for a couple of rounds on the shell trail. Sometimes I’m lazy or it is raining and he only gets a cursory tour of the alley.

This walk was to be different.  I need to get in training for the AT any time that I can. I also like to be efficient. I surmised that I could get in a five-mile hike AND get my grocery shopping done. After checking to make sure the grocery was open on January 1, I set out around 8 a.m. The weather was overcast and cool, and my backpack was pretty light.  This was a jaunt!  Well, except for the hiking boots, which I’ve not had on since last winter’s camping trip. They are heavy. On the way to the store these are the things that hit me about walking.

Walking takes you back to childhood.  For most of us, that is how long it has been since we were pedestrians.  Once we got that driver’s license in our hot little hands it has been auto travel all the way. Walking somewhere changes things though. The homes become less of a muted blur and more personal. It is apparent who cares for their yard, who grows herbs, who picks up the trash, who likes their citrus tree harvest and who lets it go to waste. It once again makes a neighborhood up close and personal.  It makes it your neighborhood. I discovered creeks that I drive over regularly that I confess I had no idea were there. Cool tiki huts along the creek in the backs of yards. Sleek kayaks hanging from sides of houses. Big boulders in yards that had never even registered in my mind during the drive. It was a wake-up call for me as to how much I miss because I’m driving around, mind on other things, absent from where I am.  Here are some snaps of things I saw on my hike.

People do look at you a bit strangely when you are backpacking, I admit. Not really a ‘town’ kind of thing. It was nice to get inside the grocery store and take the pack off, but it didn’t fit in the place I normally put my purse. My goal was a week’s worth of camping food, plus some normal groceries.  I needed to see what it might cost to resupply in a town so I can budget that into my planning. Since I don’t normally eat much processed food, I am pretty unaware of what is out there. Suggestion: If you want to cut your grocery bill, hike it home in a backpack!!  After doing my shopping and checking out, I had to take the buggy outside and pack the backpack with the food I just purchased. It suddenly became QUITE clear why Ramen Noodles is a preferred food on the trail.  It is light, very light.  Granted, I had things in the pack that I’d not normally lug on a resupply: some chicken stock, a quart of half & half, three lbs of onions and six lbs of apples.  Suddenly that nice stroll up to the grocery store in a little under an hour felt like a breeze.  How would getting home be?

It was a little less pleasant but not horridly so 🙂  It took me the same amount of time, but there was a lot less ogling the view and a lot more concentration on where I was putting my feet, adjusting the pack, and having some water. Even in 60 degree overcast weather, I was sweating buckets. Suddenly my cotton sweater seemed too heavy. I had another shirt in the pack, but wrangling the pack around didn’t seem like such a fun prospect at the time. I think it was the bag of apples making things so ungainly. Or maybe the sloshing sound from the stock and half and half getting irritating. On the way home, I had an idea. (walking seems to make ideas pop out of my noggin like popcorn!)  I decided that since I didn’t have to go in to the office for the next four days, I’d ‘fake camp’ – bathing, cooking, hiking – just as I would do in real life. Except I do have to work in here part of the time.  So that’s what I am doing over the next few days.

I got home and weighed my pack – 36 lbs.  I would have sworn 80 lbs at the minimum, lol!  I put away the non-camping groceries, stripped down the boxes and re-packed the food, clothing, sleeping pad, etc. A nice 27 lbs. After making my dinner on my camp stove on the porch, I did another two miles that night while carrying the lower weight pack and taking the dog along for company. I still have to add the water bladder to the mix, and my tent as well. But this gets me started and acclimated to the adjusting hiking weights I’ll be facing. Coming out of town it will be heavier as I load up on a week’s food, and lighter towards the end of the week after eating all of that stuff.

This morning I got up at 5:30, made my breakfast on the camp stove (oatmeal and coffee), and then did a mile with the pack before sitting down to write this little ditty.  That leaves four more miles to work into the day before going to sleep.  With work, I”m not sure I can get that done – might have to make tomorrow and Sunday cover a few more miles each day to make up for today.

Some things I’ve learned just in two days:

Hiking makes you smell. Even if you’re bathing and using deodorant. I don’t mind being dirty; I do mind being stinky, lol.

Everything is damp: socks, pack, clothes, boots, hair. When you put damp clothes back on, they are chilly.

You can walk with blisters if you treat them well.

Infection might be the highest worry on the trail. I got scrapes and welts from who-knows-where, in TOWN. Carrying a good natural antibiotic topical treatment will be important.

Two or three hours of exercise in the open air makes for excellent sleeping, and at far earlier times than normal!

I can honestly say that ringing in 2015 with good sleep, hiking and fresh air feels a heck of a lot better than what we used to do when young and foolish. The goals that I put into place last year are still going strong. I have new goals, mostly physical training.

Here’s to working on those things that are important to you, no matter the date or time.  To a year that you make the best decisions for you that you can.  As I walked I listened to the music on my iPod instead of using my phone. Here were my favorites from yesterday:

Jack Johnson

And just a fun song from Jason Mraz who’s music is just fun a lot of the time – great energy.

Get out and walk, and keep smilin’ 🙂

~SE

 

 

Who are you and what have you done with my Mother?


I can tell you first hand that widowhood sucks.  Just like when you marry, you learn to blend, compromise and bend to fit into a pair and it is a little awkward – stops, starts, spills, so too, is widowhood.  In a culture that practically elevates partnership to sainthood status, suddenly finding oneself pulling in a pair of harnesses where one is empty causes one to stumble, fall and struggle at the loss of balance. For many, the first response is to find someone quickly to fill that empty space.  It is too exposed being a One in a world that seems to cater to Two’s. That’s perception though really.  Plenty of singletons out there, by choice or otherwise. And although I didn’t come out of the faltering bit for close to three years, I tried that ‘fill-the-space’ thing and got burned badly. I withdrew to kind of lick my wounds while keeping my foot slightly in the door so it didn’t slam shut totally.

And then, once you get past the initial grief and numbness, the ‘What do I do’s’, ‘Why me’s’ and wobble back into uprightness (although I think one always remains a bit off kilter truthfully), including misplaced affections and the recovery, there are other things that come to the forefront like the ‘Who the hell am I’s?’ It is difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t been through it, what having someone young that is your partner, suddenly die does to you.  It puts that frailty thing right up close and personal. Although I’ve always been someone for whom the status quo didn’t always seem quite right, it wasn’t until after my husband’s death that I began to solidly examine everything. Nothing was spared – life-long beliefs about relationships, God, families, the meaning of success, poverty, other cultures, food choices and a whole bunch of other stuff got hauled out and looked at. Not all at once.  I do read sometimes too 🙂  But it slowly churned away inside of me, manifesting itself in peculiar ways at times.  I went out dancing and drinking a few times.  Hung out socially with different people. I rediscovered writing, photography, the natural world.  I went camping. I drove over 1,500 miles straight through by myself, to places I’d never been. I learned new skills, some by choice and others because I had to do so.  Most of what came out for examination remained basically the same, some tweaks here and there a bit. Some distancing from people who are toxic but genetically attached. Some releasing of misplaced expectations of others. A bit more forwardness in speech in some areas, paired with the realization that I didn’t always have to say exactly what I thought (this still needs some work, lol!), because in most cases it didn’t really matter in the end. I wear what I like, which might be 5″ heels and dressy one day, and a beater tank and faded shorts with bare feet the next. While I feel more authentically ‘me’ these days and not much different otherwise, all of this has caused some people close to me to, well, freak out a bit.  It seems I am not fitting into the molds they have in their minds for me. I guess grandmother and fifties mean certain things to certain people and it isn’t what I am doing, thinking, reading, listening to or wearing.  The decision to live remotely isn’t new, although crafting an off-grid lifestyle intentionally is another resurrected idea that my husband and I talked about a lot but didn’t discuss with others much. Hiking the AT is dream that pre-existed the current time period too; but again, not always talked about with others. My husband and I were a pretty self-contained unit, so many times those things remained just between us. Tonight I am pondering what it means when being your true self causes other people discomfort and puts them off-balance, and how to remain authentic but comfort them as well.  I suspect it will be another thing that I’ll wrestle with under the surface and try, yet again, to explain myself to someone else. I’m not upset that it was brought to my attention (more than once recently), but I am a bit curious at why people think one will always be the same today, tomorrow and yesterday.  Isn’t the point of life to learn, grow, and adapt?

But on to less weighty things(pun fully intended!)  I took my Titan backpack on its maiden voyage this past weekend.  I’ve been walking with it regularly during the week, getting acclimated on dog walks. I’ve scouted local places within decent driving distance to expand my experiences, camp, use my gear, find out what and how things work.  While doing so I was running through music on my headset, and discovered a song with perfect cadence to my stride, and a title that seemed so apt “Dream Within a Dream” Unless I discover something more epic (which is entirely possible!), this will probably become my trail anthem; an aural pick-me-up when pain, fear, or frustration stands in the way.

The Glitch Mob isn’t exactly ‘grandma’ stuff I suppose 🙂  I share it here with y’all, one or two of you whom have expressed a desire to meet up when I’m out there and walk a bit together, and others of you who have said “I’ll watch and encourage, have fun!”  And the rest of you that just drop in for a bit of a read from time to time.  I’ve changed up most of my work out music too, as the new core work I’m doing just didn’t go with the dance-y stuff I usually prefer.

Enjoy.  Close your eyes and walk with me…

~SE

 

Vulnerability has a scent, and I wasn’t wearing it


…and other unusual things said to me lately.

Scent has always played a huge role in my life. As such, I own probably an inordinate amount of scented things, personal and home. I picked up a new perfume on a trip.  It is very green, woodsy with a mossy undertone at dry down.  It reminds me of the woods, of growing things, fecundity – I enjoy wearing it. Most personal scents are worn because the wearer likes them; any additional fans are simply icing on the cake. I have a scent family that I wear most of the time, but I like to be different (shocking, I know) from time to time, or not use the expensive stuff for puttering around the house. Imagine my mental surprise when my mother pronounced “You smell like a man. A woman is supposed to smell vulnerable.” Pardon me while I process that for a moment. If my success as a female is based on my helplessness factor, I’m in big trouble. Now I’m supposed to smell vulnerable too?? What does that smell like anyway? Slight tinge of fear? Residue of tears?  How does one portray vulnerability in a scent? I can think of a lot of things that my scents might project, but I can’t say as vulnerability is ever anything I want to project or even ever considered actually.

Like many things people say off the cuff that reveals how they think, this little exchange stuck in my brain to be toyed with.  I particularly thought about the person who said it – the person who my was my role model for femininity growing up. I was raised that how you look, how you present, is THE most important thing about being female. Not your character or your intelligence. Just how you presented in public for your man. Make-up first thing. Hair precisely in place. Attire appropriate. NEVER leave the house without looking your best, because first impressions are difficult to overcome (I’m pretty sure I’ve blown that one several times just this year, lol!). My professional entertainer family nailed that to a T.  Every exit from a vehicle into a public place was like a stage entrance. As a result, I despise artifice. I’m not talking about manners and decorum. Artifice. Being Southern can include a lot of artifice just by culture, under the guise of ‘manners’.

The other day on my way out the door to work, my landlords were coming in from a morning walk. I hadn’t seen the lady around, but the male part of the pair had been busy tearing down plants to pour concrete, having the main house painted, and polishing the motorcycles in the front yard.  Oh, and goosing the 1950’s hot rod he bought recently.  She’s a very touchy-feely person, and she gravitated towards my new jewelry, asking all about it, touching it, then took my face in her hands(!!) and proclaimed “You have a nice face.”  I am quite certain I had a strange look on my face, because I felt strange. It’s not like she just met me; I’ve been living here almost three years. I remember laughing and commenting “Thanks, it’s the only one I’ve got so that’s good news!”  It was just a weird moment, and wayyy too inside my personal space zone for someone I really don’t consider a friend and barely an acquaintance. While I too am a toucher and hugger, that’s something reserved for people I care deeply about and know pretty well.  But she’s older, close to my Mom’s age, so maybe it’s the ‘motherly’ thing manifesting itself.  I cannot imagine doing that to anyone other than a loved one, personally. People often give me pause lately, that’s for sure.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve resurrected the dream I had for my 50th birthday and unshelved it – thru-hiking the AT.  When I leave my job to go live back in the woods, it most likely will be the only time in the foreseeable future that I can plan a 4 month break from employment and housing responsibilities and achieve that dream. It will mean a few months longer working once I am debt-free, but it IS the right time. I’m a little late in the implementing, true. But the death of my husband threw everything out of whack, then following after that my layoff and unemployment time, so that it is just now within the last year that I feel my feet more steady beneath me. In addition to researching almost full off-grid living  and planning how to do that,I now get to add in physical training, mental training and re-familiarizing myself with the trail information I had stored years back on my older computer. Currently my plan is to be a Southbounder, starting at Maine and ending in Georgia, as it is close to Tennessee where I’ll be returning to live.  When I moved to one of the trail towns on the OT several years ago, I didn’t even know what the AT was. The more that I learned and researched, the more I felt the pull.  I discussed it often with my husband, who just shook his head. Back then I was still someone scared of the dark and scared in the woods. Through his gentle approach to nature and natural curiosity, he led me through those barriers little by little.  Then, when living alone after his death, I faced some more things on my own. Earlier this year when I completed my first solo primitive camp, more of those barriers fell away. It feels like a confluence of all the right things now.

While discussing this with my dear friend and trying to articulate the why behind it, she gifted me a quote that sums it up in entirety for me, and I’ll share it here, from Chief Luther Standing Bear:

“…He knew that a man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.”

When one sits beneath truly black skies and watches the stars unfurl, hears the chorus of the coyotes near or far, listens to the whisperings in the underbrush of creatures unseen but busy about their lives, faces the fury of a storm or the gentleness of falling snow, we begin to realize our smallness, our weakness, our dependence.  Humankind today seeks an escape and illusion to cover this fact, rather than making peace with our place and our fragility. Everything is there to be conquered or reshaped to our liking, imposing our will upon things.  It is a humbling thing to recognize our smallness in scope, and we humans are an arrogant bunch for the most part. We are not farsighted enough to see the long-reaching consequences of our short-term needs-based decisions, which often are not truly needs but wants.

I’d like to hike the AT before our shallowness swallows it up.  I’d like to get a glimpse of things the Native Americans saw, although I know even that today is very little present (but I’m thankful not to have to bushwhack through!) Today there are so many choices, on gear, on food, how to carry and prepare water, that it is nearly unfathomable to think of peoples moving across the land in tribes, living daily lives in the openness that was America way back when. But I am looking forward to a smattering of the taste, to pull it into me and set it alongside the natural wild that lives inside all of us.

And I’ll leave you with some of my ancestral music, one I’ll be certain to take on the trail and into the woods with me – “The Gael” by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.  I already dream of standing at Katahdin or the Whites, watching a sunrise with this in my ears 🙂

I know a friend of mine is living his next year, visiting Scotland and Ireland, and so I say:

Be well, and nurture your dreams 🙂

~SE

This and that and other things


It has been a long and pensive non-public time for me, kicked into gear by the emotional trip to my property followed fast on the heels by Thanksgiving with family, and then as usual, ruminations on all kinds of things. While I’ve written some offline to keep the creative trickle alive, the rest of me was offline doing some internal processing. I’ve even eschewed most music, except for Philip Wesley’s new offering “Transcend” (no, I don’t get paid), I just sincerely appreciate this artist’s talent and his ability to capture emotion in his musical output.  I suspect he might bleed into the piano a bit when he writes his music.  But maybe that’s just my weird perception at  play 🙂  One of my current ‘repeat’ plays is  ‘Unbridled Spirit’, which you can listen to here at this link.  

One of the thoughts that I tried to communicate to the new widow is that with loss and pain also comes new things and abilities to be uncovered. It is difficult to see in the early days or even years. And perhaps again it is my own unique perspective at work here. It is simply the way it has worked for me, and every individual is different. Some remain in the cocoon of who they have become in a partnership, and others realize as I did, that life is too short and lacking guarantees to live differently than you desire to live. It is a time when, uncoupled from the pulling team that you were by circumstances, you can choose to peel away things and re-discover yourself, or work on the things you let lay or subsumed to be part of a coupling. All such endeavors require a partial denial of self in some way generally, although I suppose there might be exceptions (as there always are!)  It is often a step into the Unknown. A warrior(ess) is someone who overcomes their own inner voice, regardless of whose tone that voice carries internally.

Gathering with my family is always a crap shoot.  Sometimes we can pull it off with no awkwardness but usually not. This year seemed to be heading for one of those rare good times, and then at the end it blew up. But because my temperament is more even keeled lately, I simply stopped the train at the place where I wanted to get off, tidied up the kitchen a bit, and left the fray. In the past I might have let my emotions get the best of me, with my mouth quick to follow, but I have learned that is a waste of energy. It simply doesn’t lessen the pain. That now rolls in gently and just settles under the skin a bit, and kicks off a lot of thinking about who I am, where I come from, and where I wish to go. Many of the ways I want to live are a direct antithesis to the models my family is.  Knowing I have a rebel bent, I have to examine my desires to make sure they are mine, and not some knee-jerk rebellion of the type that my life choices are often predicated upon.

Thus followed a deep examination of what I wish to do, and why. Socrates penned “Know thyself” which is well known to us. But an even better utterance of his for me is: “What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of what it is supposed to be.” As imaginative creatures, we excel at crafting pictures in our minds of what ‘life’ will look like and be like and then go about manipulating things to bring that vision into fruition. Some of this is good and involves drive, ambition, planning and the occasional bit of luck. The rest of it can be a bit self-defeating and create a rigidity that just won’t work in the real world.  We can romanticize things until they are unattainable, and cut ourselves off from other viable paths. We must remain flexible and look at all things from multiple sides.  Our vision will rarely align completely with another’s. In every interaction between humans, there is their picture in their head, and our picture in our head.  We’re lucky if we have some milestone posts in common 🙂  We waste a lot of energy trying to get others to stand in our footprints and ‘see’ what we see.  Unless that person is dependent upon us or intertwined with our path and a deep commonality is needed, then go about your business and let them go about theirs.

My spreadsheets are back out in considering a fully off-grid system, defining ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’ (hard to do!) and trying to think outside of the box while not getting too rigidly stubborn on how to get there.  Sometimes you just need to go and work it out in situ. That balance between over-analyzing into deer-in-headlights mode and rash impetuousness is a hard one for me. I have to work constantly at finding that middle road. In the interim I’ve found great inexpensive solar outdoor showers, been led to some alternative fridge methodologies that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and pondered trying to find out what life was like on a day-to-day basis before we had all of these conveniences at our fingertips.

But right now, I need to return to the re-organization going on here at the micro-haus. Busy hands give my mind free reign to explore, examine and process. After helping my middle daughter move, being tackle hugged by two tiny little boys, and bringing home more stuff than I dropped off at the donation center, time, it is a’wastin’!

Till next time, bloom where you are planted, even if in a temporary pot of a color you don’t like!

Bloom where you are planted

“Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.”
Socrates, Essential Thinkers – Socrates

~SE

 

36 hours upright, 3 hours of sleep, rough weather = goofy chick


Ensconced back in the micro-haus in balmy weather, last week feels like it passed in some kind of dream form. I’m pretty bone-weary in all honesty.  It was a very emotional trip, in both good and bad ways, thanks to incredible friends.

The roughshod road trip was to pick up venison on another person’s timeline.  When someone offers you a gift, you don’t argue with their schedule.  You just go.  Rain, tornadoes, accidents all crammed my timeline down telescopically into choices between sleep or arrival on time in consideration.  But I was one dingy person by that time, let me tell you. And I can be pretty dingy on a normal day 🙂  My bed looked like nirvana as I shed my gear and crashed for a couple of hours before going to pick up the Pup and return for some decent lengths of real sleep.

While the week’s turn of events traversed gut-wrenching to exhilaration, most of them deserve a write up of their own, which I’ll attempt to do over the long weekend. The Cliff Notes version follows:

Widow is staying, so I didn’t have to evict a 62 year-old woman, despite the painful discussions that got us to that final point. Will the long term plans she have provide fruitful? Only time will tell.  For now, I have set aside that financial and emotional worry.  To each day its own problems.

Camping was a blast! Primal survivalist me got a pure injection of go-go juice, even if one of my best friends said she no longer recognized me in my ‘citified’ apparel.  In close to ten years, she’d never seen me outside of jeans, boots, ball cap and oversized sweaters or flannel shirts. I think it might have surprised her that I actually have a girlie side, lol! But I can still hoist  a cooler full of frozen venison with ease, even in high heel boots, so don’t let appearances fool ya 😉  Guess it is a good thing I didn’t pack any of my pencil skirts, she might have been permanently traumatized…

I had face time with one of my strongest and longest supportive friends, something we try for often, but, like my other close friend in the Midwest, we often fail to connect in real-time. When we do, those moments are cherished. She fed me like I was a calf going to market next week and took me on a whirlwind visit with some other like-minded people carving their way in the world outside of the box.  I am thankful for the time we had together and look forward to the day we are within same day driving distance again.  And then we will road trip to Kansas for a yak session of epic proportions!

The weather was hairy all the way until my home state on the return trip.  Accidents happened right in front of me.  Rain and cross winds played with vehicles like match box toy cars.  And they put rest areas too darn far apart in GA.  Just sayin’.

So I am home again, fired up for my future plans, stocked with hugs and laughter, and fresh venison. Time with my family awaits this week as we cobble together Thanksgiving plans for my Mom. I am thankful for safe passage to and from, and all the lessons, joys, pains that I experienced.

Life is a grab-the-ring event.  Other people have huge brass rings they want to grab.  I’ve narrowed mine down to very small, very simple things. The bitch is in the waiting for the proper point of departure from one type of life to the next.  I get frustrated that it is taking so long.  I get concerned that I’m romanticizing the real living conditions I am aiming towards when combined with the latter stages of life. Planning for an older, less spry me is difficult when I feel the way I do now every day. Re-framing day-to-day life without the conveniences that are the norm for most of us today is difficult, particularly when there are not many real-life examples to study. Marrying all of this to some kind of employment to fulfill needs I won’t be able to produce is the trickiest part.  And then there is the doing it all alone undertone that sometimes brings elation and feelings of great accomplishment, and at other times leaves me feeling empty and unimportant. In the end, we only have ourselves to answer to – if we are where we are, doing what we love, and hurting no one else.  But I have some of the best friends on the planet, who encourage me, believe in me, and sometimes when needed, hold my feet down on the ground and give me some doses of hard reality to keep me from jumping off a cliff to end up broken on rocks below.  To all of you, thanks.

And that’s the Cliff Notes version.  Stay tuned for an introduction or two to some fantastic folks I met along the way that got smart while young and are carving their own lives off the beaten path.

Happy Monday to all!

~SE (gypsy home from the road)

 

At 13 degrees, don’t touch the iced tent sides!


This experience, while considered by many to be slightly insane, is very educational for me. It is an opportunity to learn while learning is optional and not mandatory, or driven by necessity. I’ve known too many people relegated to a lifestyle they didn’t anticipate with no foreknowledge, myself included.

The saving grace in my sleeping arrangements is a gift I gave to my late husband six years ago this month – an ultralight feather bed. When we moved to VA to a very old house with little heat and regular below freezing weather and snow, he had trouble moderating his body temp while sleeping. My Nordic stock body type doesn’t seem to have that problem and runs more into trouble while trying to keep cool in the humid, overheated South. Irony there, as I was born in the South and he hailed from Chicago 🙂  But the feather bed worked for both of us; he stayed warm and I didn’t overheat unless he got too close, then it was like spontaneous combustion might occur, lol. I’ve been dragging that feather bed around for years now, although it surely isn’t needed in my current housing arrangements.  For camping though, it is the bomb. My ten degree rated sleeping bag is made of a slippery, cold material that doesn’t seem to warm up very quickly, while the feather bed reflects my own body heat quickly. Now I know why ducks sleep with their faces under their wings.

The winds were more brisk last night when I went to bed, and I heard some flurries milling about when the winds died down. No owls or any other creatures heard, as smart critters were in their dens or other protected homes. In less than five minutes inside my own burrow, I was toasty warm.  I made some changes to the sleeping set up to avoid more bruising/sore spots.  Basically I just wrapped the egg crate mat in the sleeping bag, and then halved the feather bed on top of that – kind of making a sandwich to sleep in 🙂

I did an experiment last night, as I was certain that the temperature inside my tent was nowhere near what the outside readings are. I took a bottle of water into the tent last night to see if it froze while in there with me. It didn’t.  That means that in 13 degree outdoor temps with whippy winds, inside the tent where I was sleeping was higher than freezing. Above my head where my breathing condensed, there was ice this morning, even though the water bottle stayed liquid. I should take a thermometer to measure, and do a gradient reading of inner tent, outer tent and outdoor temps. Now you know why my night cap has NERD on it, haha!

Thought I was jesting eh?

Thought I was jesting eh?

Dogs barking outside when in a house are a minor wakening with a quick drift back into sleep.  Not so when they are about three feet from you barking at whatever at 4:30 AM. It was a hazy, warm kind-of-return-to-sleep on and off thing until time to get up. I knew when the household was awake, as the puppy tackles the tent looking for me and I have to yell at her to get off the tent. It is a smile-maker to unzip the inner door and hear them start circling, and then to unzip the outer door and find six bright eyes and three wagging tails communicating their pleasure.

I am trying hard to find good things here as it looks like I will have to ask the widow to leave. There are other things about her financial situation that I was ignorant of. She owns another piece of property nearby with a home on it – smaller granted, both house and property, but paid for so no outlay except insurance and taxes. This place is not a good decision for her, although I understand the love for it; it infects me too. Being here again, with all of the things that I sold along with the house, stoking the fire in the basement, watching the sunrise again from the porch, hearing the owls calling, are all reminders of why I was here in the first place. It has re-opened the ache in my own heart of loss.  I keep having to come here again and again. I have renters within my own family who wish to try things for a year up here. That would give me another year to see what my own circumstances are, and if someone can buy it or if I need to make it my own home again under different circumstances than before. It is even possible that the kids and I could both reside here for a time, although that would be tough.  I love my family, but living with them is a whole ‘nother thing 🙂

Seeing the rote way she goes through her day is so sharply painful for me, as I recall those first days vaguely.  She and her husband would have celebrated their 42nd anniversary this month. This is so difficult, more difficult than I imagined. It is like having your heart torn three ways – the empathy of the grief and confusions she’s feeling; the slender thread by which I maintain my own fiscal health; and the risk of alienating a very small community by doing what is best for both me and her. I don’t wish this situation on anyone.

Time to log in for work.  Just sharing my adventures and my follies while on the road. Call it processing in type.

I’ll leave one piece of advice for any of my male married readers.  Think of your wives.  Pass on skills she will need if you get stricken by illness or death. Don’t protect her. Prepare her, so that the loss of you will not be compounded by the bewildering array of what she needs to know to survive, and thrive.  I cannot stress this enough, as one left alone unexpectedly, and watching another go through the same.

Be well.  Think on the difficult things. Be prepared.  And practice being crazy just for the heck of it 🙂

~SE

Brrrrrrrrrraving the elements (or how to have everyone call you crazy)



So I am on site in the midst of the great Polar Vortex caper (hmmm, didn’t I mention flailing in the vortex a few posts ago…prescient of me eh?)

I like to camp.  A lot. So in order to give the new widow some personal space I brought my camping gear since there is acreage here for use (and it is my property after all).  I arrived in rain (also a recurring camping theme, see last camping trip in March, lol!)   Rainy, windy weather makes solo site set up absolutely festive. Also having two Australian shepherds insist on assisting presents different challenges too.  Darkness was pressing close on my heels in an hour as well, just to keep things interesting.

Due to the extreme temps I decided on an improvised plan, the tent-in-tent plan.  My primary tent is a 4 person (of Lilliputian build I gather), and then I have a single person tent in addition. Please don’t give me too much credit on this, as both tents happened to be in the same storage container.  But I wondered if the layered clothing theory would work for shelter too.  This was initially driven by the amount of water that rained into my primary tent while trying to get it put up.  I like cold, but not cold and wet plus slumber.  I’m pretty sure slumber would not be the end of that equation.  It was also inspired by the fact that apparently I have a Southern tent, as two of the side windows have no flap, just screening.  Not really an issue down south, but in brisk, snowy winds I thought I’d like a little less air flow this go-round.

First layer was a tarp, then 4 person tent, then one person tent nestled inside with storage container surrounds. Lesson learned: Store all tent stakes in the same place, lest you enter total panic when you find only TWO of the four tent stakes you were expecting, turning said tent into somewhat of a kite.  Sorry, no photos, was busy trying to keep my kite errr, tent from going airborne.  Where were the dogs THEN to stand on the tent?  Nowhere to be found, sadly. Probably hiding somewhere terrified by the flapping of the tent-kite.

I also learned that no matter how cold and windy it is outside, when you are hustling to make camp by yourself, you are soon sweating. I wasn’t actually aware one could sweat at 33 degrees. Also, change dressy boots for work boots PRIOR to setting up the tent.  I think I have mud in the studs permanently now 😦  High heels are damaging to delicate tent floor fabric too.  Nothing like a midstream footwear swap while holding an airborne tent for a little blood-rush excitement!  Despite all the fun, I did get set up prior to sundown, get the bedding in the tent with only a little corner drag through my waterfront property, and no dogs were harmed in the non-filming of this adventure.

Fridge on wheels

I was worried because I couldn’t fit my real cooler in the car on the way up.  Little did I know that I was actually driving a very large fridge, as the temps aren’t even breaking the 30’s for the next few days. At almost 2 PM it is a balmy 25 degrees. Problem solved! The doors were frozen shut on it this morning, but a little elbow grease solved that momentary challenge.

When I crawled in the tent at 8:30 PM to settle in for an early rest I found the layering worked wonderfully. Of course, I also had on flannel jammies, socks, fingerless mittens and a hat.  Camping warmly in the cold does not for sexy make. Toasty, yes; sexy, no. Especially when my sleeping hat has NERD in big pink letters across it 🙂  Friends and family would probably loudly proclaim CRAZY would be more fitting a blaze across my forehead. It wasn’t the cold that stalled my sleep, but the hard ground. I’m not a scrawny girl either, but I have a bruise on my hip today :/  Will try to remedy that tonight.  Also, trying to stretch out in a one person YOUTH tent (I though hey, they are short like me) takes a bit of catty-wampus maneuvering to get just right.  Using a portable generator for a pillow helps too. Finally settled, I drifted off to barred owl calls, ‘yote choruses, and ice pellets on the tent roof.  I was so warm that I took off my footwear in the middle of the night, thereby misplacing a sock.  The sock was black and was like a delightful missing puzzle piece when I tried to find it this morning in the pre-dawn chill while dogs were snorfling the perimeter and jumping happily to learn that I lived through the night outside just as they.  Probably barely an inch, maybe two, of snow.  Enough for beauty and not stress.

Coleman Igloo (hey, isn't that a cooler name?)

Coleman Igloo (hey, isn’t that a cooler name?)

Sunrise was beautiful.

Snow kissed brambles

Snow kissed brambles

Coffee was a true delight. A warm shower later in the morning to tame my wild and wooly nightcap hair was truly appreciated.

Tonight the adventure continues as we plummet into the teens.  The laptop won’t go in the tent with me this night. We will see if I weenie out tonight, but don’t count on it 🙂  This will break my previous low temp record for camping if I make it through the night.  Make some extra coffee for me, will ya?

Till tomorrow!

~SE the Valiant (or Foolhardy) Your choice 😀

Hitchhiking ghosts on road trips


I have made this run up 75 North so many times I should be able to do it in my sleep, but this is the first time in ten years I finally did it without taking a printed map. I’m directionally challenged in many ways and so I often don’t trust myself.  But in the age of bossy female GPS directors inside of phones, I figured if I needed it I could always turn to it in the end.

My preference is night travel although I’m not sure why. Maybe the lack of traffic, or simply the cocoon feel of flying along in the dark with nothing but the music seems to make time go by more quickly. Normally I take the straight through right downtown Atlanta, but I wasn’t feeling like racing along with Saturday night revelers, so I hopped on the bypass this time.  But there was more. We lived in and around Atlanta for many years, and the passing road signs are reminders of past times. And so while I traveled alone, there were enough memory ghosts to keep me company.

Road signs reminded me of the first solo trip I made up to Atlanta to see my late husband in his new digs required by a new job. Until I was in my 40’s, I lived within 75 miles of the place I was born, and big cities as such just aren’t in the landscape. And while I traveled off and on during my life, most of the time I wasn’t driving. Arriving in Atlanta was a big deal for me and I was a nervous wreck. But I made it, and learned the delights of the International Market on Sundays, the beauty of Piedmont Park in the fall with piles and piles of autumn leaves, the culinary joy of a Varsity hamburger with the works, fresh challah bread on Fridays in Druid Hills, and the eclectic excitement of Little Five Points.  All of those memories crowded into the remaining cracks and crevices in my tightly packed car and hummed along with me as I sped through the night. There were also memories of a weekend road trip with my oldest girl when I was so broke that we paid for our food with a bag of change, carefully counting out enough nickels, dimes and quarters for a shared meal at Burger King near a little place called Eden, GA. There were other trips she rode by my side as well, back to the house after my husband’s death, and bringing her back home after a hurricane on the Outer Banks had displaced her and her housemates. Memories of trips with my youngest and my first grandchild snoozing in the back seat blissfully as she tried to figure out what and where she wanted to be and sorted through the challenges of being a young single Mom.

As the miles slipped away under the tires, places further north brought back other memories of trips to hike Amicalola Falls, wintry visits to the Etowah River with three girls all used to Florida heat and for whom ice crystal patterns in water frozen by rocks was a new thing.

But there were also signs that reminded me of trips in my new normal of aloneness.  Red Top Mountain near Altoona Lake, where I started my first solo camping trip ever, in the rain, with a brand-new tent I’d only practiced putting up once. These memories define who I am now and stand alongside the memories of who I have been.  They are often very disparate, as I covered the terrain of newly married wife, young mother with more toddlers than hands, to mom of teenagers and to now as a widow. From a girl so scared in the woods that to this day it remains a family joke among my ex-in-laws, to the one who tromped through woods alone with only my camera, and slept beneath a full equinox moon to the choir of coyotes under a light blanket of frost waking to a fire built with my own hands.

Sometimes I am not sure how I really got from there to here – if that person was dormant inside just waiting for the right time to manifest her different strengths; new things found inside of her. I only know that every time I crest the rise past Chattanooga my heart comes alive and a smile inhabits my face, even if it is 2 a.m. and my coffee saturated bladder is screaming for me to finally stop and stretch my legs.

This trip isn’t for fun, although I’m trying to cram an adventure in here in spite of it all.  I’ll be camping in below freezing weather, because I want to.  Simply because I want the experience, to know how to deal with something like that while it is a choice. Everyone thinks I am nuts.  I’ve done it once before under about six inches of snow, but it has been a few years. Yeah, it is cold. But it is also achingly beautiful as you exit the warm cocoon of the sleeping bag and step onto untouched snow, watch the blue haze of dawn spread and see the millions of crystals flare with sunlight that both heightens their beauty and also brings their demise.

I’ve wrestled with the dread of confronting a recent widow, of having to try to pry into finances and private places to determine the future of the property. It has caused a lot of things that I keep inside locked away tightly to bubble to the surface – the helpless, disoriented feeling that comes with the death of a spouse, the long, sleepless nights staring at the ceiling through tears wondering what in the world I was going to do with this new life thrust upon me without notice, the panic and inability to think coherently at times, the aching feeling of knowing there is now no one who knows you so well, who loves you for exactly who you are, and no face that lights up with joy and a crooked smile when you walk through the door.  Most of all, there is no one who understands your fears, follies and strengths to hold you when things are tough. My children and my mother have asked me why I think I am alone still. I’ve come to the conclusion that outside of the obvious lack of interaction due to working hours and my naturally introverted personality style, it is simply that once you have been loved for who you actually are, it makes things tough. It is difficult to meet new people and explore the depths of personalities and how they intermingle, if someone can handle and embrace a strong-minded, often impulsive, goofy and opinionated woman who has lived over a half-century and has enough baggage and memories to fill a couple of small cars. A good friend of mine recently stated that once I am in my little house in the woods and my hands are in the dirt again with the passing seasons reflected in the foliage, someone is going to ride up on his horse and never leave.  I don’t know anyone that rides a horse, so it must be someone I haven’t met yet 🙂  I don’t know what the future holds in that regard, and I can’t spend my time wondering.  I simply have to go live my life. So that is what I am doing.

I also don’t know what lies in front of me during this visit at all. At least I have a family that is willing to rent the house for a year if she has to leave. That’s one less burden I’m carrying as I complete the last leg of the trip. I’m watching the weather closely, as driving in ice and snow isn’t one of the skills I’ve yet mastered and it makes me a little skittish. But hey, what is life for but learning new things, hopefully without sliding a just repaired car into a ditch 🙂

So on this beautifully chilly fall morning, I wish everyone a day filled with something you love and value. A sunrise, an owl crossing your path, a deer within the sights, a toasty fire with a good meal and good companionship and a life worth living.

It is life, let’s do it!  And a song for the road…

 

~SE

Pampering, planning and the musical backdrop


Going to a salon is not really about vanity so much.  It is about going some place where someone takes care of you. I was reminded of this yesterday, as someone brought me coffee, I read magazines I normally do not see and enjoy human touch while having my hair washed. I don’t go any place fancy, but I am always treated well and leave with renewed vigor in my step and feeling a little spiffy and pampered.

On to planning for my next road trip, much of that I accomplished Sunday, but not all of it. I am hoping by mid-week my work life is falling short of the 14 hour days and back into normalcy a bit. Hey, I AM an optimist 😀  The final rush will come Friday as I once again drop off the dog, load the car and hopefully get on the road early so I can have an easy trip.  In between comes car repairs and airing out the camping gear and a hundred other small things. I spoke to the new widow and she seemed to be coping fairly well and is receptive to my visit. I have to tell you, it is weird calling to advise someone you are coming to your own home, which was being purchased as their home, and then life changes everything up.  It is one time I wish that money were no issue, so that it really wouldn’t matter about her means and I could give her time on my dime.  But that ain’t the way the cookie is currently crumbling.

I’m also making room in my freezer for the arrival of this year’s venison and I am so excited! Thanks to a generous hunting friend of mine, I expect to lay some nice venison steaks on my tiny grill in the future.  I wonder if I will get to keep the antlers, as it looks like an 8 pointer, but I’m still a little sketchy on how that determination works. Regardless, I am extremely thankful for what will amount to probably a year’s worth of meat for me. I am always humbled by the generosity and open-handedness of my friends. I look forward to the time when I can reciprocate in some way.

And here are some songs that were my backdrop yesterday while whittling away at my chores.  This one goes out to my friend the ‘Deer Whisperer’:.

 

That led me to tripping down memory lane to some touch point songs at different periods in my life.  Here is a random selection of a few. I think I wore out the “Shooting Rubber Bands at the Stars” media 🙂

 

And two current favorites by Telepopmusik:

 

Musical whiplash, I know.  Welcome to my eclectic mind, where homesteading and survival nestle up against poetry and art, where reggae and classical share bunks, and don’t trip over the kale and sprouts hidden behind my zinnias, cuz every day is new!

Angular

Angular

 

Happy Monday all 🙂

~SE

Minimalist


The Daily Post popped into my Inbox tonight, for minimalist photos.  This one immediately sprung to mind.

Stark. Past prime. Depth. Beauty.

Stark beauty

In bloom, the Zinnia is cheerful, multi-layered, attention grabbing.  But even here, there is a shadow of its former life.

Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.~Rumi

Shabbat shalom.

~SE

11.3.14 Monday Music Mention – City ‘Am Fenster’ (At the window)


I’ve not done one of these in a long while.  During a mini-blog catch up session last night I came across this song on wederwill’s blog.  I had never heard of the band or the song.  But there is something gripping about it, haunting in its melody, musical composition and beat.  I thought I would share it with my audience as well, in this stunning graphical video. (alas, the original disappeared!) Bet you’ll be humming it for a while after hearing it too…

 

Enjoy, and have a fabulous Monday!

~SE

PS. Bet you don’t listen to it just once either 😉

Picking straws


Delicious Fall has fallen upon us for a brief spell and I am relishing it! Doors and sliders thrown open, fans positioned to bring all of that fresh, low humidity air in has really boosted my spirits. It makes working out an invigorating thing rather than a flirtation with heat stroke and misery.  I wrote a poem a few months ago about my desire for Fall’s arrival and I’ll re-post it here:

Famished for Fall
 
Starving for crisp mornings and
Lessened heat in a place
That neither really ever happens
Leaves me famished for Fall.

Falls there might be,
From pedestals someone set
Me upon without my consent
Or, even my knowledge

Falls there might be
As I trip over unfinished business
Here, there, and also over there
Which I ignore with unwavering consistency

Falls there might be
From favor, from friendship
Even from someone’s vision
Which too, is the mutable nature of things

But I am famished for that change
Those autumnal dialogues whispered only for me
As the intimation of winter glances off my skin
Beguiling me with hints of promise among sunshine,

-Leaves me hungering.

As the Vortex continues to swirl me around and deposit me unexpectedly at the straw-picking places that need decision-making, I find myself needing more rest. Decisions are hard work. You have to pull out those tools like Foresight, Consequences, Alternatives and the like. One has to exercise the brain. I usually enter cocoon mode when I need to make decisions.  Sometimes I talk them out loud to my friends until their ears bleed (sorry y’all). I also tend to do other unrelated things to let my noggin hammer away behind the scenes on the issue. This weekend was no exception.  I read up on the Syrian issues – and ended up reading the “Federalist Papers” on my early bed night Friday. (yes, find THAT rabbit trail sense if you can, lol!)  Then after Torah time I watched a couple of preparedness videos, a huge interest of mine.  Since the majority of my life I’ve lived where preparedness during hurricane season is important, the natural extension into other areas of preparedness kind of developed, particularly after being hit not once, but twice, by tornadoes over the last six years.  Then I discovered “Mountain Men” on AmPrime, which provides other scenarios to consider when living in the wilds and how to be safe, or die doing what you love.

My trip request to resolve the property issue was finally answered, and as such I’ll be taking off again for nine days this month. It’s a working trip, so negotiations, conversations and decisions will need to be made after hours. This leads to the next decision – can I cram camping into this trip?  There aren’t a lot of reasonably priced hotels in the area, but there is tent and cabin camping available, all with internet access and power. I realize I could probably avail myself of my own house, but feel that would be really awkward for the widow living there, still reeling with the death of her husband and all which that entails. I could even camp on my own property, if she still retains internet access there. I also have other friends nearby that I could stay with. Each answer comes with more decisions, notice a pattern here?  😀

One other issue was resolved as well.  My employer in no uncertain terms advised me that working remotely is not an option, not even for the term of a year if needed to wrap up things with the house and property should I have to market and sell it should the current occupant have no viable plan.  This just let me know that whatever my future plans will end up being, I won’t be able to count on taking my ten year old job with me. Good to know before I move too far along in my plans, even if disappointing and patently unfair (we have scads of other remote employees, my boss being one of them) and something that half of my tenure here included with no complaints about my work ethic or performance at all.

It also opens up other decisions to add to the growing pile over there in the corner.  I wish money piled up so easily, hah! What would life be though, without challenges to stretch our minds, bodies and hearts; to give things value and weight upon their resolution or accomplishment?  Things that come easily to us don’t seem to have the same gravity as those we struggle for, you know?  That takes the interim care-taking opportunity in NE TN off the table too, sadly and means this nemophilist will be stuck in the concrete jungle a while longer while working to position myself financially for the return to the wilds. And now the future once again remains a bit like this photo I shot on vacation: Uphill, with open points of entry going both ways – perspective, non?

Open Ended Paths

Open Ended Paths

For now, I will nectar in place and deal with the straws one at a time as the Vortex spins around for a few more revolutions until an exit and decision point opens up. One day I will live my vision, like my friend is living hers.  The beauty and peace found in her gardens was amazing and restorative.  It also fanned that ember that blazes inside of me quietly on most days, learning oh so well the meaning of patience. That I had the grace and stamina of the monarch, instead of operating at times with the spasticity of a fly snared in a spider web!  I leave you with some slices of beauty snatched in a shutter click that tide me over in the meantime.

Thanks to all of you who accompany me on my journey with your words of encouragement and delight. May it return to you hundred fold in your own lives!

Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.~ Stephen Covey

Be well. Be strong. Weep a little. Then pick up your head and take the first step towards the unknown.

~SE

Flailing in the Vortex and carrying my Rubber Ducky!


Okay, so there isn’t really a vortex in my life, but there are times as I stand beside my life and look at it that I could swear I can feel the sucking sounds at my feet and hear the power of the strength of the pull away from those things I desire to accomplish or move towards.

Just as I was beginning to explore a care-taking opportunity to bridge me  over to the future one and allow me to get back to the wilds, hands-in-the-dirt, I received a distressing phone call.  The buyer of my property died on Monday.  This wouldn’t be problematic if it were a conventional loan as his wife could continue on.  But it was a land contract, and he specifically excluded having his wife on the contract. He left his widow with no life insurance, no SS survivor’s benefits, and she’s never worked a job a day in her life. When I received that phone call, the massive mental shifts between empathy and worry were difficult. I have been in her shoes, but at least I had a job. I found myself unable to work into the conversation a temporary agreement in writing, and haven’t done so yet. I still remember the crushing burden of finding oneself alone unexpectedly and the scads of details that you face unknowingly until death is on your doorstep.

My fragile personal economy won’t allow me much graciousness in her situation. I cannot let empathy override self-preservation either.  So negotiations started at my job for me to take a working week off to go up and discuss things face to face, see what shape the property is in, and try to get a feel for things and how to move forward. If I have to return to occupy the property, I may lose my job of ten years.  If I don’t go occupy the property, I may once again be facing foreclosure, as I cannot bear the dual burden of a mortgage and rent where I am currently.  It isn’t really a rentable property, as it is quite remote.  Jobs there are scarce as hens teeth and when found are not at the top of the wage scale.  Most homes rent for 500.00 or less, and my mortgage is more than that.  Plus, remote landlord activities are difficult at best and nightmarish at worst. As such, my brain has alternately been in overdrive for solutions, and just checking out on me as I do mindless things like listen to music and read, to balance the strain.

Now that I’m not working so many hours, writing has come back to the surface of my mind, and then Thwack!, a new challenge. Thankfully I had a beautiful working vacation just recently with a dear friend.  We ate well, we languished in the sun around the garden, dirtied our hands a bit and simply enjoyed each other’s company in our down times from work. It re-ignited my drive to get back on land, which I was exploring with another family who needs a caretaker.  What is that saying, “The best laid plans…?”  LOL!  I suspect things will work out, but the worry between now and then I’ll have to clamp down on so as to not let it overwhelm me. I’ve consulted with friends for guidance as well; sometimes a detached opinion is better than when you’re mired inside of the issue.

I recently wrote my first poem in a long time too.  Seems turning my brain inside out for solutions let loose a burst of creativity as well. So I am including it here, along with one of my favorite photos from my trip.  The dusky blue coating on the hairs of this Checkerspot made me smile 🙂  I hope you enjoy it too!

Delirium

Restlessness lives under the skin
Sinuously sliding around hair follicle
Bases, burrowing towards our marrow

En route it touches nerve endings
Deadening some, quickening others
Until it reaches the heart of the bones

And flows throughout all of us,
Carried along in the new cells
Being built quietly under the surface of all

That is where true change is borne
Under the skin, between the teeth
Beneath our nails as they scratch the surface of something new

It is like contagion, raising a fever
Within, burning us with infectious
Desires and making us glassy-eyed and sleepless

Coloring everything we view with a new tinge
Of passion, changing our perspective
Narrowing our peripheral vision

Willfully we swallow the antidote of normalcy
Return to our daily routine, come to our senses
Defeated again, restlessness lingers at the base of the spine

Quietly waiting, dormant, knowing
Only a little imbalance in the system
Will allow it to flare again and ignite once more

Checkerspot in situ

Checkerspot in situ

And so for now, I leave you with this encouragement from someone wiser than I:

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~Helen Keller

Be well, be strong, and be agile 🙂

~SE

Leave-taking and beauty in the wilds


Leave-taking is always bittersweet when it is a long-time friend who is often more family than actual family. I’ve spent a lovely nine days in the Midwest in marvelous company, been fed delicious food, gone out and about, and now am sitting in the airport waiting to return home via Chicago. The trip in was amazingly beautiful – plains sunrises are gorgeous and relatively unobstructed. The sky was scattered with the dazzling diamond star light as I tossed my bags in the back and we had good coffee and conversation on the drive to the airport, musing on the unfolding delights that the sky was presenting us en route.  With the scent of Pumpkin Latte in the air, I snapped this back-lit grassy sunrise with my cell phone outside of the Barista’s purview 🙂

Grass and air

Grass and air

One of the best features of my trip was the opportunity to sit in her garden and watch the amazing activity present, and that often included the circle of life and death.  I muse on why we get sad when a butterfly bites the dust, but not a locust 🙂  While the majority of my hundreds of photos are riding in the belly of the plane inside my Nikon, my dear friend pandered to my immediate gratification need and loaned me her point and shoot so I could garner some posting photos to share.  Sweet camera, I really liked it once I got the hang of no viewfinder.  We don’t have this genus of butterfly in my neck of the woods, so I wore out the card snapping this one and its buddy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The underside of this Buckeye beauty

 

So here is a sneak peek of some of the beautiful garden photo opportunities that came along.  It wasn’t ever a lack of things to photograph, but rather a decision of what to snap first!

I am thankful for the opportunity to visit, to embrace actual Fall (which hasn’t arrived at my home place yet), and break bread and share silences with people who love me and whom I love.

Todah T & K, one of my homes away from home.

~SE (making useful time of waiting in Concourse B)

The Third Garment – Scent


I don’t write often on the more feminine aspects of life that tend to lift and enrobe us in comfort and pleasure, like the tactile feel of certain fabrics,the weather; things combined with scent.  Scent is one of my all time favorite mood drivers. In this arena I am always torn between the natural and the synthetic both for home and personal fragrances.

I have a tendency to be bold in my fragrances and fabrics (I know, you are SO surprised…smile).  My current favorite is Alien Les Parfums de Cuir (Alien Jasmine Absolute cured in Leather).  I alternate between this, Ange ou Demon, Le Secret, Le Elixir and the gourmand version of Angel which blends cocoa with the notes of vanilla, caramel,mandarin,passion fruit,chocolate, patchouli and more. While many people cannot carry off these heavier fragrances, my skin seems to love them, and I’ve only once been cornered with “That perfume smells like dirt.”  While they might have meant that as an insult, as one who loves the fecund and vibrant fragrance of good healthy dirt, I did not take it as such.

I also create my own blends using Vetiver, Vanilla, Cedarwood, Balsam of Peru, Lemongrass and other scents. I have a preference for deep, woodsy, green or resinous fragrances.  Burning in my tea light burners right now is a blend of the above from my own essential oil collection.

Scent creates memories.  My daughters will tell me that when they smell a certain scent that it reminds them of me.  One of them even purchased a gift set for me of a scent I used to wear when they were all young. Back then I favored deeper notes as well; J’Adore, Narcisse and  Dior’s Addict.  Vanilla, Jasmine, sandalwood and cedar have all been notes that run through whatever I wear.  Sometimes I even buy scents for men (gasp!) because they appeal to me.  I am rarely conventional with scents, although I am lucky that my skin effuses scents that others cannot wear in a pleasing way.

One of my deepest scent memories is of woods, from back when we would vacation in the Ocala National Forest and of ocean and woods mingled out on the outer islands of Jekyll in Georgia. Another one is of a building we used to gather in for religious activities.  I can close my eyes and remember the scents of both of these places.  Pine and cedar make me smile when I encounter them in the outdoors, along with the scent of leaf mould; that green, black, living scent of soil being made better, stronger, more able to support life. I am my happiest when I am in a wooded place after a good, deep rain.  You can literally smell living things at that time. At least that is how my mind envisions the smell.

When I went primitive camping this past spring I would have rolled in that scent if I could. It is the scent of balance, of rightness – the lack of man’s touch perhaps? Fall mornings contain it – the way it sits in your consciousness, graces your skin with its light touch. Even Winter and snow have their own clean erasure smell – cool clarity. And when Spring bursts forth in a place with seasons, you can smell it on the warmth of the earth.

What are your favorite scent memories? Are there scents that can take you from here to there?  Are there things that make you smile when you smell them?

Or am I a scent freak? 🙂

~SE  smelling and feeling her way through this amazing thing called Life.

Music, Moving and Mayhem


Briefly dipping my pinkie toe in the blogging world for a moment as the mayhem in my life mounts!

First, on moving:

I was |this| close to securing a tiny rental house; well, tiny for most standards.  It is more than 4x the size of where I live now.  But, you have to be poised to move quickly, and I want to give my current landlord at least 30 days notice.  So the little diamond in the rough slipped through my fingers :/   I can’t give notice and then frantically try to find a place in a month, especially with the 14 plus hour days I’m working lately – no time to even get out and look at prospective digs.It is a precarious little dance on a wire. I’m still mildly optimistic that I’ll find some place closer to work and the kids while remaining within my budgetary constraints.  I don’t want to take away from my debt pay-off plan and derail my return to the woods too badly.  My youngest daughter and the two babies went with me last weekend scouting out places I had found, and we had a good time, giggling a lot.  She makes me laugh often, and the boys were very good despite being dragged in and out of car seats to amble about empty houses. And she did an amazing little thing for me when she heard I’d missed out on the place I really wanted – sent a couple of ‘cheer-up’ E-cards and a note telling me she loved me.  That kind of encouragement and expression of love can take a really bad week and give it an upturn at the most needed moment.

I work so much lately that I really hedge my weekends for time to try to regain some balance, catch up on sleep and get a handle on things neglected during the week. I’m fairly stingy with my time, which leaves me seeing the babies and the girls less often, as I simply don’t have the energy to make the long drive, play with the boys, and then muck it back home.  This is new for me, feeling so overwhelmed that I just don’t want to do anything that requires a lot of time. I used to be a go-go task mistress on the weekends, getting lots accomplished, running about town, working in the yard. It is very frustrating to me. But if I don’t rest and do catch-up, then I start the week feeling even more behind.  Today is a ‘bonus’ PTO day in preparation for the High Holy Days approaching, and it feels marvelous.  I have a little task list written out for things to accomplish – and one of those things is to lie in the bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour, lol!  This might be a symbol that something is wrong when one has to list R&R on a task list, do ya think??

On mayhem:

I reached my breaking  point with my workload this week at work and  wrote a letter to my management. This was followed by an executive huddle and a promise that relief was coming. Will it?  I don’t know. I am my own biggest problem here.  I believe in doing the best one possibly can at one’s job; never being the one to say “That’s not my job” but rather trying to find a solution. My late husband  used to chide me for being a workaholic back when I only worked 9-6, occasionally taking on additional things.  In this position, since it was new and never held by any one prior (and now there are three of us), there were no guidelines. I kind of made up the job as it went along. For a long while it was a pleasant  and  challenging but manageable job with normal hours. We’d have some short bursts of working until eight or nine, but not usually.  In the last three months though, our incoming work has doubled each month, meaning today I’m handling four times the work I was just back in July. I hate to say “I can’t do it.”  This week though, I finally did, because I can’t.  I mean, yes, I CAN continue to work 14-15 hours – for how long before I have a nervous breakdown is anyone’s guess.  I am currently the only one carrying more than one customer, being senior in the department. That’s about to change for our most recent hire though, as they onboard two smaller customers to her. Being her back up, when she’s out I’ll now cover five customers 0_0.  And the reverse is true for her as well, except that there are usually two other people who cover segments of my work when I am out. We’re still down one person due to illness. In chatting with other people, I’m finding that this is becoming the norm, particularly if you’re identified as someone who will take on extra without complaint.  What used to be a positive quality is now a Catch-22.  So I’m stuck and trying to figure out how to establish reasonable boundaries without hurting my company. I could walk away every day at the end of my assigned shift – no one stands over me making me work and I’m salaried, so it’s not for OT purposes. I simply know the work has to be done and that I’ll start the day behind if I don’t tackle as much of it as possible before I fall out of my chair. Lately, despite the hours I put in, the day still starts that way due to the increased influx of work. Have I mentioned I dislike that feeling a lot? LOL.

I am aware that I have created part of the problem – but as yet have not figured out how to stop it without causing things to break. I realize that I could look for another job.  They are out there. Since I am in my tenth year here, that’s almost like trying to contemplate a divorce. The devil one knows, versus the unknown. I like what I do. I like the majority of the people I work with. I appreciate my boss and the confidence he places in me. They are highly respectful of my religious needs (yes, I  know legally it is required, but an employer can make it tough without actually breaking the law). And I know that it isn’t something only in my company or department. It is rearing its head nearly everywhere here in the US.

So as I watched for the New Moon sighting in Israel, which starts the seventh month and ushers in Yom Teruah, I have had a lot on my brain. (what else is new, haha!) Mostly, I am thankful. What I struggle with are first world problems and issues.  No one is shooting at me or burning down my home. I don’t need to worry about what there will be to eat tonight or next week. My health is good and I have a roof over my head. My water supply isn’t going to disappear possibly in a month. A wildfire isn’t looming close to my home and I’ve not been flooded out due to torrential rains.  When you put those kinds of things on the other side of the see-saw, it can make one’s worries seem rather paltry, you know? That is what I choose to focus on, even though lately that is becoming a more difficult choice. However, it IS a choice.

And now the part probably most of you really read this far for, the music 🙂 I got ensnared in some new pop tunes for my workout tracks, but I’m not listening to those right now (wore them out earlier in the week!) As you might expect, these tunes will have a Hebrew slant 😉

Live Like a Warrior – Matisyahu

Matisyahu has gone through a huge personal transformation since I started listening to his music way back when, but his music has always remained fresh and in the reggae vein, a sound I am particularly attached to due to the ‘happinesss factor’ I find in most of it. Like many people searching for a spiritual identity, he’s gone from none, to hard-core rules based, and now come out on the other side in a place where he is comfortable.

Be’yom Shabbat – Idan Raichel Project (On Shabbat)  This includes portions of the Sh’ma, which has always been a favorite of mine.  In Amharic(Ethiopian) and Hebrew.

If you are not religious or if you are agnostic, pagan or atheist, you might wish to skip this part 🙂 Just sayin’.. A clip of something beautiful to me.

While this is a deviation from what is commanded, it still gives me goosebumps every year.

In case you need a crash course in what you are watching, here’s a bit of info. Those facing the Wall (not relevant to me or Torah at all) are all non-Kohenim. Those facing outward towards the crowd (hard to tell sometimes while they are under the tallit-the white covering you see many wearing) are the Kohenim (Hebrew priests), performing the Birkat Kohenim.  The Birkat Kohenim (Priestly Blessing) is found in the Torah in Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:22-27.  It is my greatest hope that in my lifetime, the Kohenim will be restored to their proper place and that this will occur anywhere there is a desire.

I stand outside of the stream of ‘accepted’ Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, Conservative,Reconstructionist, Karaite) because I am a sojourner, or stranger who has accepted the covenant; as such I do not hold to the additional rules and rituals that have been added by man over the years. Although I find them very beautiful, I am careful to separate what is an addition and what is commanded. My validation comes only from my acceptance by a Kohen (a Hebrew priest) and the personal witnessed vow that I made. It is the single most important thing I have done in my life. And the beauty of it is, it doesn’t matter about others. I’m not told to badger others into what I believe, or kill them if they don’t believe as I do, or shun them. I don’t judge them by my beliefs either, because it isn’t required. I am free to love and accept other people exactly as I find them. This has given me great joy over the years.

As we move into another Fall cycle of Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur and Sukkoth, my pulse always quickens. It is my favorite time of year, Fall. The time of gathering in of what one has grown for preserving. The time preceding the blanket of Winter (if you live somewhere else other than where I do…lol!) The time of slowing down and enjoying the fruits of labor.

When I lived in a place with seasons, it was a busy time, filling up jars with bounty, gathering apples and pears for storage in the basement, of digging up tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes, and harvesting huge pumpkins!  I love the crisp bite in the mornings and sparkles of frost on the grass, the smell of wood fires and the mellow golden warmth of Fall afternoons.  It is all a whisper, a hint, of what is to come.

This year I get to travel to the Midwest and spend time with my best friend, who is already having frosty mornings. I am excited to get to visit with her and her husband; to go hiking and to camp. She’s a great cook too, so I get to sample some of her simple but delicious foods (things I don’t have to cook!)

So while I am still struggling with work, with finding a place to live, with finding a place at all for me sometimes as a widow/mom/grandmother/daughter, I am also excited and forward looking. Life can be hard and fast; yes, brutal even. But it is still Life.

No matter where you are, what burdens you are bending under, you are still alive – seeing, doing, feeling, being. Try to remember that, as I too, try to do the same.

Be well.  Smile at least three times a day. And when the crap piles up, well, get a damn shovel and heave that stuff 🙂

~SE

PS. I spilled coffee into my personal computer that was due for a backup THIS weekend :/  Here’s hoping that the flip and fan activities I took make it usable again, at least long enough to transfer the data I need to onto the external drive. 0_0

Work-Life Balance or How Not to Collapse in a Heap


As you may (or, may not) have noticed, I’ve pretty much been MIA except for a couple of automatic posts I set up last weekend in a five minute period of calm.  That title up there…do you recall when it even entered our lingo? Work-Life Balance. Work used to be something you did between 8-5 PM or 9-6 PM if you were lucky and got to sleep in an extra thirty minutes, and then you forgot about it until the next day.  You had things like weekends and holidays, and took vacations!  If you worked Retail, your hours varied and covered weekends, but you got days off during the week instead.  And if you worked in the Hospitality Industry, sometimes you worked four days and made the money for a full week.

But slowly something has happened.  Maybe it is only happening in my field – IT. I used to work TWO jobs when younger, and I don’t think I worked as many hours as I am working at one job now.  I don’t think it is just my industry, because I see E-mails from clients all during the weekend too, which means they are working or thinking about work.  Since the advent of ‘always on’ availability for businesses, something drastic has happened. All those labor-saving devices touted in the 50’s and 60’s weren’t to gain more leisure time, they were to allow us to WORK more hours. Hah, silly us.

My job is normally pretty intense and my hours a bit above the norm – 45 to 50 hours generally.  But for the last three weeks we’ve been down two staff  members for two weeks, and then three staff members for a day here and there.  I happen to be the back up for all three of those folks. In addition to that little juggling act, one of my customers started up a Win 7 migration project.  Some days I’ve worked 13 straight hours without even a lunch break. If you are currently hourly – AVOID SALARY AT ALL COSTS! It’s like those labor-saving devices, a trick! Normally Exempt employees are managerial staff of some sort, but lots of employers bend that rule quite nearly until it breaks.

About a week or so ago, my body started showing signs of this short-term stress: higher blood pressure, irritability, insomnia and rashes.  Rashes are a LOT of fun during the full-bore heat and humidity that are the norm down South. I usually have a super-perky optimistic personality that irritates a lot of people  But suddenly I was snappy with everyone.  I think I even snapped at myself a time or two and we didn’t care for that.  Nutrition and brain supplementation has been a pet sideline interest (obsession) of mine for years and years.  I know what to do to be healthy.  So of course, I did all of that during this initial period, riiiiight?  Oh no.  I scarfed junk food, sugar and alcohol like it was tofu and broccoli. And I exercised for endorphin rush and stress release too, right?  Oh no.  I curled up in the fetal position in the dark on the weekends and slept 16 hours or more when I didn’t have family events calling for my attention.  I didn’t even want to walk the dog because that involved different clothing on top of said rash.  Hmph. Knowing what to do and doing it always seems to be a bit gap-resistant, ya know?

Finally last week I got a grip as the days kept running at 12-13 hours and did what I know is right to do. Supplement.  Eat right. Hydrate. Sleep well (no online reading at 1 a.m.). Exercise. Limit sugar and no alcohol at all. I’m quite a bit closer to normal function again, thankfully.  But it has really made me think quite a bit about what is the reason for this ‘work-life balance’ meme.  I haven’t had a creative thought one in I don’t know when. Writing had to take the hit during this time as I just couldn’t muster up any creativity.

What are we working towards? I personally know two people that have died at my job,; in addition, one under forty who collapsed at the airport en route to a customer site, two who have developed cancer, and two more with heart issues that aren’t hereditary.  Who wants to be gimpy, or worse, die before you make it to retirement??  What are the  prospects for retirement these days anyway, outside of military, federal and state employees?  Most places don’t seem to have a pension plan or retirement benefits other than your own 401K.  And with job-hopping being the norm, coupled with intermittent lay-offs, I wonder how many people still have their 401K intact? How did we get here? For someone like me in my fifties, the future often looks quite muddy, and on a bad day, rather bleak.  It is why I have been rushing to downsize and pay off the debt left from my husband’s early death.  But what about the rest of you? Is it more promising for you younger people?  Does anyone else ever wake up thinking “What the heck am I doing and why?”  How are you changing things – perspective or such?

Today I realized that I received several awards while I was in absentia and I really do appreciate them – I’m not ignoring you!  It’s just, I had to put a fence around me and the rest of the world as I muddle through this. It doesn’t appear to be letting up in the near future either :/ I want to thank everyone who continues to come by and visit and read and to ask you not to give up on me.  I’ll be back to writing more eventually.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear how any of my readers have dealt with these kind of things.  I am always willing to learn a thing or three.  

Ginormous hugs to everyone, and….keep on keepin’ on 🙂

Stressed but recovering ~SE.

9.8.14 Monday Music Mention – Imogen Heap


I know, I missed last week.   Last Monday was a no-work day and almost a no-computer day too.  Hopefully y’all were off doing fun things like dancing, grilling, grabbing some end-of-summer fun. I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus due to stress, and hope to be back writing again soon.  In the meantime, listen and enjoy!

This week’s artist is another Brit, Imogen Heap. I tend to favor non-American musicians for the most part and I’m not sure why, with the exception of the piano and cello, where my native peeps get the luvin’.  Imogen is trained in piano, clarinet and cello.  She later learned on her own the Mimbra and the Hang (one of my favorite percussion instruments!)  She’s also an accomplished mix and sound engineer.  But it is her voice that is so stellar to me. I first heard her on this track with Jeff Beck and was captivated.

While she is part of a duo, Frou Frou, I’ve always preferred her solo work.  This song has had a lot of meaning since the death of my husband.

Artistically, I find this song of hers hauntingly beautiful, and the video is gorgeous to watch as well.  This song was on my mind when I wrote ‘Dreams for Sale’.

And if you enjoy the artist, please support them as I do, by purchasing their music and acknowledge their talent.

Have a marvelous Monday!

~SE

Dream a Little Dream With Me


Yes, it is a little play on words from the duet by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong because today I am writing about my homesteading dreams.  Maybe re-re-dreams is more accurate, since I’ve already started twice and had to stop due to the death of my spouse and another time due to the pesky necessity of that J-O-B thing.  I joke with my close friends that I am on plan number 4,379 🙂

I’ve written on the impetus for the dream’s formation on the blog before, being hit by a tornado and feeling helpless and ignorant. I’ve subsequently been through another direct hit since then, but was more prepared if not less frightened. The added burden of helplessness and ignorance I had lifted somewhat. And just last year one blasted within two blocks of me.  Mind you, in two of these three occurrences I was living nowhere near ‘Tornado Alley’. Here where I am now, there is no way to prep and protect, and living so close to the coast, when water spouts make land they leave very short lead times even for warnings.

The desire was in place prior to the impetus event, but we were inching slowly towards it.  Lifestyle changes were done first in town, then in suburbia. From there I bolted straight to the countryside to a small farm in Virginia as a care-taking couple, although it was more singlet as my husband remained behind to transition his work life and to move our belongings, coming up only every other weekend.  It was during that time that I started writing publicly in another place the snippets of my challenges and wide-open exposure of the ignorance gap between desire and fulfillment.  That I lack in many areas isn’t hidden from me. What I do not allow that lack to do is deter me. I’m still the optimistic, somewhat reckless and impetuous believer in the possible.

Almost five years ago I wrote the below first post as I headed out on that adventure very shortly after my husband’s death (which, for all who might wonder, I do NOT recommend for anyone after the death of a spouse. Just stop and be still.)  But the woman who wrote this post is still alive and kickin’ as is the dream. I’m down two dogs, having had to re-home them when I lost the farm. This is another glimpse into who I am and how I face life.  Enjoy!

 

This is how I thought that my blog would start many months ago….

“The Homestead Seedling of my Mind

The land is quiet, except for wildlife sounds. The diluted light of morning dances off of the rising mist of the ground as a towhee sounds in the distance. He’s been up since before dawn, as I, calling out to the day. The aroma of freshly turned earth mixes with the taste of dew, and I hear the animals’ stirring as fresh coffee scent drenches the kitchen air. I step across the threshold onto our land, and all is right with the world.”

The key word there is ‘our’ land. But now, it is only my land. Oh, I suspected there would be times when I would work the land alone, garnering all of the goodies for myself…birdsong, sparkling dawns, quiet moonlight dances, slug body patrol and tomato horn worm decimation; he traveled for work from time to time. I planned for times of solitude, tucked into my life like little snuggly tidbits. Now that sprinkling of solitude that I would embrace has become the ‘new normal’ of my life. It is too soon to pronounce if it is to my liking. For now, it simply is.

I am ten days out from stepping onto the land that will be my new homestead. What am I feeling? Mostly exhaustion right now. Packing an entire house while working 12-hour night shifts is a bit overwhelming. I entered the realm of second-guessing about, oh, three hours after the closing. Oh yes, the words “WHAT were you thinking?” tumble around willy-nilly when I least expect them. I swipe at them with packing tape and the old scissors. I’ve no time for second-guessing now. Doubts get tucked into the boxes of stuff that make up my life in the corner spaces and crevices, to come tumbling out at unexpected times as I unpack and settle in to the new place. I suspect that doubt will join grief, and keep it company – and I only hope that I learn not to jump so when one or the other comes rushing around a corner and confronts me, catching me unawares. If I keep them separate from sadness, and forbid all three of them from ever occupying the same time/space continuum, I should be okay.

Okay. Such a benign word. “How are you doing?” “Okay.” What? You want the full disclosure? I think not. Surely you’ve other things to do today 🙂 Besides, at any given moment, I really am okay. Doing alright. Hanging in there. It is those other moments that are best left undiscussed for the time being. Remembering. Missing. Revisiting. Those are the land mines of the mind. Or would that be…mind mines?

For now, I need to stay focused on the forward motion of moving. Focus on the future garden beds. Seed catalogs will be arriving shortly! That means planning and dreaming and probably overspending. If I planted all the seeds that I currently have tucked away in their little packets, why I could feed at least three or four families, I’m pretty certain of it. And the flowers, oh the flowers I could have! And I will have them, eventually. The memorial garden will be fitting, and filled with the plants, flowers and trees that he loved. The herb garden proper will come to fruition as well, including the white picket fence with bobbing cosmos and trailing morning glories and moonflowers festooning the pickets. There will be walkways and tucked away places to sit for reading, listening, observing, or just being. All of it will take time though, just like healing does. It cannot be rushed. And I so love how genteel and perfect this sounds in typeface. HA! I know me. More likely it will look something like this…

Mud puddles, with large white and muddy dogs splashing mud buttons on the white picket fence that is leaning up against the barn waiting to be installed. Nearby will be the pile of tools that I meant to put away when I finished chasing the dogs away from the freshly tilled garden beds because I was absent-minded and left the gate ajar. I might even be trying to locate the gloves and weed-eater twine that I know I left lying here somewhere? Oh, and what is that plastic milk jug that is half-chewed doing over there next to the imported beer cans that the Pyrs have brought home from their wanderings in the new neighborhood? And crap, I left the tea kettle going again and it’s empty and smelling up the yard because thought I’d only be out here for a minute and then. Well, you get the picture don’t you?

Yet I will dream, and dream big. I will work, and work hard. And somewhere along the line, as time passes, my heart and mind will heal, and the six acres will begin to resemble some of the pictures that I carry in my head, snipped from magazine layouts and internet sites. And I invite you to come along with me. Maybe you too, are a dreamer. Perhaps a doer even. You may chuckle at my mishaps, cheer my accomplishments, and fend off my frustrations. It is an interactive endeavor, for what good are words that go unread? I cannot promise it will always be fun or happy. It might even be tedious. Because life is never static. Time is unrelenting, moving forward even while we stand still to check what time it is.

Oh, and while you are here, could you help me find the packing tape, scissors and Sharpie? Because I know I had them over there last night….

Here are photos of the babies I raised and had to let go.  It was another bittersweet loss, but I know today they are happily ensconced in new homes with owners who love them.

Their first day of arrival on the farm in Virginia – a brother and sister named Bonnie and Clyde.

Bonnie & Clyde - first day 6.22.08

 

What they grew into, almost three hundred pounds of Pyr lovin’:

 

So yeah, I’m on target for planning and dreaming, and I hope all of you will stay with me on the course 🙂

~SE (who is dreamy today)

“Dreams for Sale”


Ivory towers are difficult to maintain
Too much melancholy seeps into the cracks
Jostling the dust for position of primacy
Longing for an out; escape is a feather duster ride

She hovers among the secreted garden of words
Slender stalks of them over here, ground-hugging clumps over there
Flinging some violently against the canvas of her mind
One or two dripping on to the floor, rolling into cracks
– probably best unwritten

Her hands flutter like butterfly wings, brushing
Against thoughts as they come to her,
Busily beating the air in order to maintain
Her loft and speed, trajectory unknown

Among memories she nectars like a bee,
Hoarding the pollen of them until,
Unable to walk with the full pockets
Of them clinging to her knees, she must fly instead

Some words light on the stretched canvas as
If daintily brushed by pollinating spores, while
Others droop heavily, likely needing
Deadheading to make way for a new bloom of words

Glancing sideways at the canvas she spies motes of melancholy
Stuck; tendrils winding among the petals of thoughts,
Nestled in the seedheads of words past their prime
Needing a fresh breeze to lift and carry them away

Instead, a downpour of tears pummels the canvas
Marring the words, mingling them all together
Until they become an abstract representation
Of all that she is, was, will be; warm palette of womanity

She delicately props the still-wet canvas in the window ledge
Facing the alley, visible to all passers-by
Forming in flowing script by hand the small sign that
Reads, “Dreams for Sale – Limited Edition”

~SE

Floundering for Words


I always have words.  Words to write, words to say when given a chance.  And I am full of them now too – well, thoughts actually would be more accurate.

What does one write on a death anniversary, when writing is simply what one does? Does it make others uncomfortable? I don’t know too many people who have had their spouse die. One or two that are close to my age. I opened up my post-death journal  tonight as I can’t sleep because I am so tired. I was looking through old photos. Listening to some music.  Tried to figure out what I wanted to express on this day. I wrote down so many raw things in that first  year, it is often difficult for me to even read it; but I am glad that I have it now, five years later.

I found an odd thing in my journal, so I thought I’d write about that.  Post a poem that I wrote about dying, love and memory, and some songs, along with one of only about five photos of me and my late husband. It is over a decade old — I used to be young, lol!  And he didn’t smile, because he needed some dental work.  I was always behind the camera, and I don’t like to have my picture taken.

A love of music was something he and I shared, but our genre choices were wayyyyyy apart.  He loved rock – old school rock, hard rock, southern rock – basically any kind of rock.  I’m not so much about that style of music.  But we shared it, listened to the other’s choices, and sometimes danced in the kitchen while cooking. I love to dance, he didn’t. If we went out though, he would dance with me.  One of the first things I did when I returned home to clean up after the death, was pick up the iPod we shared. His favorite band was Queensryche, and I actually liked some of their stuff – particularly their version of ‘Scarborough Fair’.  I put the earbuds in and turned it on – and these were the first three songs that came on.  After the third one, I had to turn it off for a while.  It was just too much. I think you will understand why. It is one of a few very unusual experiences I’ve had in my life.

The gist of why I am sharing this is this:

If you are married or in a relationship with someone, turn to them some time today and tell them what they mean to you.  If you are traveling, call them or better yet, write them, so they can always have those words.  Cook something special. Take home a bouquet of flowers just because. Even if you’re fighting. Make up, if you can possibly see your way to do so. Because you never know when your last day with that person may be. And if you can’t think of a good reason why, or are feeling ornery about it,  just…do it for me, okay?  🙂

The song line up:

As You Fade

As you fade into shades of blue, brown
Speckled like freckled shoulders
I grow.

Handily planted in ashes of your memory
Rises the Phoenix of who I am
Always was.

While you linger within the living me
There is no part of me in you
Except ash.

No forever in love but memory
In my dying it will die,
Set free.

Reborn in love on other faces
Settling ash in foreign synapses
Fresh love.

And this is how as we fade, we also live.

2002 New Years Eve


I miss you.~JM2.

8.25.14 Monday Music Mention – Jack Savoretti


So much emotion roiling in me this week made it a challenge to choose a musical talent to highlight. Jack won out because of the rawness of his emotion in the music coupled with a connection that I feel  internally.

My connections are always mental.  I love a good and active mind 🙂

This song speaks to me quite clearly.

Here is the history behind Jack’s slow rise to awareness in the public eye. Poets are so underappreciated…

Wikipedia on JS:

And one that should appeal to all  reading this (why we cannot let go of that fairy tale stuff as thinking people  I cannot discern- must be something in the brain!)

As always, if you enjoy the artist, please purchase his music!

~SE

Free Flow


It is no mystery to those close to me that this is a difficult time.  What follows is simply another free flow writing I did, similar to “Skin Tight” a few months ago.

******************************

It is trying to try, try and try again. It wearies and robs the soul of happiness that it is its natural state. We seek beauty where it can be found – words, flowers, the rain, fondling things from the past that keep us from feeling the present. And yet, being mindful and pragmatic underneath, we know what it is we are doing…and do it anyway.

Filling the gaps becomes almost a drive. A person here, a person there, like recreating a statue from pieces of string, some bird feathers, flower petals and words. A storm comes and we relate to it; wish for the release that the clouds have.  They fill until bursting, and then flood the terrain all around them, caring not that they flood some streets, endanger lives, swallow up the work of loving hands.  But as people, we try to be mindful of others and not flood them – sluicing our wants and needs through different gates so as not to overwhelm; making sure to not endanger others lives by taking too much of them; taking care to not swallow up the people and relationships that consume the rest of their days and nights.  We are acutely aware most of the time, that we only have borrowed time – taken from this activity, or that person, and try oh so hard to tread lightly, spread our needs around using people like piers on a foundation footing.

Then once in a while, we unburden on one person just that one iota too much that breaks the balance, and we pay. Anger flows from fingers or voices.  Boundaries are set which we must observe in order to preserve. And so we look around for others to bear parts of our burdens, knowing that they are heavy, at times smothering or overwhelming.  Rarely do the others think of what it is like to be us – silent but bursting to the edges.  Metering our conversational times out of respect. Turning inward and having conversations with ourselves, or scribbling furiously in journals or reworking at writing poetry, all so we can keep that conversation in house.

I started writing a long time ago to give voice to things that I needed to express, at a time when I was really leaning heavily on very few people to fill the gap that my spouse left.  We try desperately to not wear those connections thin so that they, too, are lost to us and we are left reeling like a spider in a web that someone ungraciously and accidentally obliterates the ground line of webbing; dangling in mid-air, flailing to find our bearings and lacking the ability to shoot webbing out of our ass to hold us fast to the nearest stable thing.

Usually we will do it with our words or our fingers – shooting things out to find our bearings again. Sometimes in the self-focus of our loss, we do trample others and overstep those carefully erected boundaries of respect.  For that, I apologize. Unless you have been where we are, you simply cannot know the difficulty in re-calibrating your life from a pair to one. It is different from divorce, where things often slowly peter away until there is nothing, where the participants are knowing but ignoring.  It is abrupt and harsh – like the ground opening up under your feet and you lack a parachute, didn’t plan for this contingency, and have no idea what to do.

Today, while I was working on a poem, I realized that I send all of that into the ether. It is less grounding perhaps than to lean on a close friend, but it touches a multitude and spreads the burden out quite a bit more.

I experience joy alone.  I experience bewilderment alone. I cry alone. It is simply a fact, the new balance in my life. But to those of you who allow me time, I thank you – be you readers or close friends. As a friend recently told me, “You run at 78 and I am a 33.”  I have a busy mind, bursting with ideas and expression, seeking beauty every single place that I can find it.  Even nearly five years in, I am still unsteady on my feet, like a new sailor on the sea of life.

I appreciate your patience 🙂

~SE

Collage of the Mind


Quoting Berry from Word and Flesh:

“The religion and the environmentalism of the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something that they do not really want to destroy. We all live by robbing nature, but our standard of living demands that the robbery shall continue. 

We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make.”

The title  of this post comes from the mini-snapshots exposed in my always busy mind this week. It will be a little bit ranty and jump around a bit.  I hope you can find the threads of connection 🙂

To say that work has been brutal lately would be a slight understatement some days. I look around at the stress many workers perform under today and it is not surprising when one of our PM’s collapse with heart issues; it is concerning when another quite young person from another department is hospitalized with chest pains.  These events run concurrent with the corporate announcement that we’ve had our strongest financial month ever, we’ve reduced administrative  expenses (that’s employee count, btw), and our profit  margin surged to 35%. I struggle with this, as the owner is a good man – honest, caring and concerned. Yet what our industry requires from its workers is pathological.  People work eighteen hours straight. When fellow employees fall in the trenches, others shoulder that workload in addition to their normal duties. And customers quite frankly don’t give a damn, as long as their business rocks on. The new mantra of “Do more with less” is taking its toll, and it is painful to watch; more painful to be one of those pawns. The lifestyles we think we need to maintain call for this sacrifice of bodies and minds on the altar of consumerism in the religion of progress and it seems unstoppable. I have son-in-laws in the trades, and it is even running amok there – husbands and fathers not getting home until nine or ten o’clock at night after starting their days at five a.m.

Alongside of this work week I’ve been finishing up another one of Wendall Berry’s incredible books, hence the opening quote  – a huge study in contrast if there ever was one. More than thirty years ago this tender of the land foresaw what we are doing, where we are heading, how people would be consumable parts of the whole, to be raped, pillaged,  drilled, strip-mined  of their intellectual and skill value and left as scarred occupants of our even more scarred natural landscapes.  It isn’t that farming and cottage industries of the home actually called for less hours of work. Nature is a tempestuous task mistress and can force your hand when it is time to bring in the hay; when ewes and hogs birth in a bunch and during bad weather; when drought or flooding overturns your best laid plans; when a scourge of hungry coyotes overrun and consume your laying hens. Where it does differ is that it is your work, your desires, your vision. It is the plan of your mind, the blisters on your hands and the tired muscles of your back, to achieve something of value to you. At the end of the day you can look at food on the table, shelter for animals, a tight fence, clean water supply, and there is something tangible there to mark your hours and effort. In my humble mind-space, this is what we lack today. If the grid went down tomorrow, every single thing I’ve done related to work would be gone and useless (along with these words as well).  At the end of MY day, I’ve created nothing tangible.

I am not naive enough to think that everyone wants to build their own shelter, grow their own vegetables and grains, catch, preserve and raise their own protein sources. There used to be a better balance though I feel. Farming and animal husbandry used to be admired skill sets; honest professions that gave quality food back into their communities, led by generations who understood and nurtured the land with dignity and inherited knowledge. We valued all things more – products, people, food and land.  We understood that resources were finite. Today we live in a funhouse of illusion that things can continue as they are and that science and technology will save us from our own hubris. While I dearly love science and make my living from technology (and type this via technology to boot!), those are not our hope for the future. It is we the people, that are the hope for the future.

Everyone understands the concept of KISS- Keep it simple stupid.  We just don’t practice it with intent. Our intellects are amazing. Sadly, they are not coupled with long-term forethought.  Computer modeling is fabulous, but we cannot account for all of the unknowns. Yet we use them to peer into the future at our own extinction, and then quibble because there are too many fortunes at stake in the consumption of things.  The interior of our country is falling by the wayside, undervalued except for forestry kingpins, monster corporate farming, and commercial developers. 

The most frustrating thing about all of this and my constant mental companion, is that I do not have the answers. Dissonance is constantly bouncing around inside of me.  I only know how to try to make one little space on the planet work with nature, not against it. How to reduce my own consumption and value things differently. But I am a wage slave for industries that contribute to the decimation of our resources!  I don’t want to see a series of cataclysmic events force us to re-learn how to truly live. There will be young people that read this and think “Crazy back-to-lander hippie type, I dig my iPhone and big screen TV”. There will be older people who think “Been there. Done that. Like my Walmart and indoor plumbing, thanks.”  There will be corporatists and scientific minds that think “She doesn’t know what we’re planning, ye of little faith.” And there will be religionists who nod sagely and think “The apocalypse will come and all will be rebuilt.” 

To all of you I say this: Look around you. Look at our land, water and air. Look at our people, drugged up, discontent, suffering from more mental and physical maladies than we can keep up with. Look at our fish and fowl, our mammals and insects. Look at our bankrupt inner cities and our countryside full of abandoned barns and homes. Ask yourself “When?”  Right. We all look, have no answer, and bury ourselves back in whatever it is that we do.

I do it too. Tying myself to a tree will help only one tree. Picketing fracking will put me in jail and I’ll be broke. Showing up at a city council meeting to argue against fluoridation will take time away from work. I’m not independently (or dependently) wealthy enough to travel around for cause after cause. And while I used to think that government could help, it is now too entangled with industry to really hear us any more even though we are supposed to BE the voice. 

That this is a first world dilemma is not unrealized by me. That we have set the flagship standard for up and coming countries is also not lost on me. How rude to say “Oh, no, you shan’t do as we did.” People dropping dead of Ebola, people being slain in the streets for their differing faiths, people watching drought decimate their livestock, they aren’t thinking on these things. They are trying to survive THIS day. Sadly, most of them have more skills to survive than any of us in first world countries. We could learn from them I believe.

My boss always says to me “Don’t come to me with a problem without bringing solutions.”  But to the lovely  few of you who will read this today, that’s exactly what I’ve done. How do YOU deal with the dissonance that any thought on these things must cause to burble up in you? What changes have you made? And if you think I’m chicken little, I’d like to know that too 🙂  Some really bright, giving, thoughtful people read my blog, so I’d love to hear your thoughts, truly.

Because I like to leave some beauty behind, some positive thing (and there is damn little of that in here, lol!) I’ve also attached some of my flowers this week, which keep me sane (questionable status, but we’ll pretend for the moment). 

~SE (Whose brain is currently trying to solve world problems in order to run away from bits and pieces of grief rattling around in her)

 

8.18.14 Monday Music Mention – Idan Raichel Project


The Idan Raichel Project will probably be someone most of you’ve not heard of unless you’ve a penchant for Israeli music.  The project attempted to gather  the voices in Israel together in music – cross cultural and cross linguistic, it focuses on working together in a place where such an idea is often only a dream.

Idan started off playing the accordion at age nine.  I’m glad he went further 🙂  You can read about the project here:

http://www.idanraichelproject.com/en/

Although some of the live performances are better in my opinion, I’ve tried to provide links that include English translations for better understanding.  Enjoy!

My all time favorite, probably due to the subject matter and the triple languages woven into the song: Ethiopian, Amharic and Hebrew.

The first song I ever heard of Idan’s, sent to me by an Israeli friend on a mix CD made for me.  I couldn’t stop listening!

A softer, more poignant sound – I’ve provided the English translation of the lyrics:

Sheeriot Shel HaChaim (Scraps of Life)

What is time telling me
Its all scraps of life
And to?live the moment
To begin collecting the shards
Maybe I will get out more
Start to speed up a bit
Start to get along
And make some noise
Maybe a different place
A more exciting place
Start to shake things up
And make them right again

Last but not least, a beautiful song in Hebrew and sign language.

The Project has a new CD coming out, so if you like their talent, visit the site above and let them know with your monies 🙂

~SE

 

 

A Birth in Gaza


As a general rule, I don’t talk about my faith – on my blog, in my 3D life, or really even to most of my friends, as their beliefs differ from mine.  I truly am the ‘co-exist’ person.  My faith does not call on me to proselytize; it does not have the burden that everyone else must believe as I do; I try to value people as they are, without adding the burden of expectations upon them.  As a result, the bedrock of my beliefs is often at great odds in the world that I inhabit. I am careful and considerate of other’s beliefs, or their choice to not believe. I don’t always receive the same in kind, but I try to look at where that person is coming from and use that to filter – their perspective, in other words.

Across every fence, every line that can be drawn, in thought and in action, there is another human being.

As a Torah keeper (best one can be outside of the land it was designed for), I am at odds with every other faith and non-faith on the planet, even Judaism, the closest cousin and most recognizable in similarities.  I’ve not stated my thoughts on Gaza and Israel because, well, I’d offend probably nearly everyone and stymie those that I didn’t offend. A good friend referred me to this blog post, and I will say more by posting their words than by burdening you with my own. It is their perspective I’d like to bring to you today:

countingducks

To those unknowing of my childhood my enigmatic and disconnected behaviour must have seemed odd and possibly uncivilised. In youth I could not see beyond getting by and surviving day by day; ‘learning’ was another country where less damaged people lived. I was busy trying to fly that alien craft I was to discover was myself. Sometime after youth I became aware I was a bruise, and every touch hurt me: intimacy, my most desired wish remained my deepest fear. In time, looking around me I saw that everyone has their bruises, and understood like me, that to a greater or lesser extent our limping and imperfect journey to a fog-bound destination was marked by the need for self-protection. Those marks, invisible to the naked eye, were our unspoken history, not recorded in those smiling photographs taken on the beach, sitting beside the man who abused you when the lights went out, or…

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Thankful Thoughts


book-of-life-a-tribute-to-the-chernobyls-escapee-children-s-guardian-__605

 Photo Credit: BoredPanda.org    “The Book of Life” – Artist David Kracov

If I had a lot of money, I would so purchase this piece of sculpture. It is metal, and each butterfly is hand-painted. The book contains diary pages, poetry and notes written by the children of Auschwitz. I find it haunting and incredibly beautiful.

***********************

It has been a tough few weeks for me so I thank you for bearing with me while I restructure my writing life. I’m getting better sleep, my smiles come a little easier, and I don’t feel frayed at the ends all of the time.  The thoughtfulness of multiple bloggers who nominated me over the last week to ten days for an award really took me by surprise – made me think a bit.  So to you lovely people and others, here are my thoughts.

There is nothing different inside of me than what is inside of every other person. We each are extraordinary though in some way – you, and you and yes you, over there against the wall, hiding behind your writings. When anyone, in 3D life or blogging life, finds something that lifts, inspires or motivates them by anything that I write or do, that’s really humbling. It makes me stop and think and relates to something a friend said to me earlier this week…

“We all die sometime–it depends on what you leave behind.”

As most of my long-time readers know, death came very close to me very unexpectedly five years ago when my young husband died at forty. People talk about leaving a ‘legacy’: buildings, endowments, hospital wings, charities, etc. What about the ordinary among us? What do we leave behind? Only the memory of who we were. Maybe some scribbles on the internet nowadays too -poetry we thought wasn’t too bad, musings on life and getting through it, photos of things we found beauty in. Words we spoke to others, in anger and in kindness. Deeds we did for others, seen or not.  Encouragement, and strength to do the right thing, even when the right thing is difficult and nobody else is looking.

While my personal life has presented challenges that many do not face, every single person has strength inside of them they may not even know they have yet. And equally, every single person has the choice to do right when the option comes. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. But we always have a choice. We all carry burdens of some sort; some of us face even further challenges from within our own minds.

So to answer the kindness of others who nominated me, here goes!

Three awards from three different individuals – thank you very much for your kindness in nominating me.

http://piecesofbipolar.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/the-liebster-award/

 liebsteraward

http://jemverse.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/inspirational/

vibaward

http://dazzlingwhimsy.com/2014/08/04/one-lovely-blog-award/

lovely-blog-award-1

Since the requirements for most of these awards are similar, I’m bundling them all so no one has to hear twenty-one things about me and be asleep by the tenth 🙂

Seven Things About Me

1. I have a wicked and warped sense of humor in real life. Innuendo, double entendre and sarcasm are my forte. Nearly anything anyone says I hear on multiple levels. I’ve been known to render people speechless and make them rush to the ladies room from laughing too hard. It often happens with my girls when we’re all together 🙂

2. I can wiggle my ears. Comes in handy with grandsons 🙂 I’ve already taught one to do so. Life, it’s fun.

3. I gather things from places I experience happiness.  It’s weird, I know.

4. I have dimples.  I’ve handily passed them on down two generations via strong DNA and I never make jokes about “Did you sleep on marbles when you were little?”

5. My eyes change colors.  They are not hazel either. They are blue-green, sometimes turning silver and also apparently from the words of a co-worker “flash like the Caribbean waters”.(C’mon, you laughed. I still think she was goofing on me!) All I seem to notice about them is they water when I’ve been at the computer a lot  and seem to require a lot more assistance at seeing things 🙂

6. I test INFJ on the MBTI. There have been some arguments about this among my friends. Some disavow that I am introverted. Some say I am not emotionally mushy enough to qualify as a ‘feeler’. They all concur that I am an empath – one with the ability to intuit another’s feelings. (I disagree, as I can never tell an asshole from a normal human, surely I’d intuit THAT?)

7. I am fascinated by Luna moths, butterflies and hummingbirds.  I actually have a Luna moth still in a box somewhere. I’ve fed hummingbirds from my hand (you have to sit still a very, very long time). I’ve had butterflies land on my person, but never on my hand or finger.

The requirements of accepting these awards is to nominate other blogs for the award.  Most blogs that I follow are ‘award-free’ blogs. So I’m not nominating them, but will instead make a partial list of blogs that I’d suggest others visit. They are in no order of preference and since I read (or try to) nearly two hundred other blogs, if yours isn’t on here please don’t take offense. They cover art, photography, poetry,  and just eclectic bits of the WP world I find interesting.

http://mysketchbookproject.wordpress.com/ – Art

http://leannecolephotography.com/ – Photography

http://themirrorobscura.wordpress.com/ – Poetry

http://graffitiluxandmurals.com/ – Street Art Photography

http://lifeasahebrew.wordpress.com/ – Life

http://atrampinthewoods.wordpress.com/ – Nature

http://restorableliving.wordpress.com/ – Sustainable Living

http://beautifuliceland.wordpress.com/ – Travel & Photography

http://jamesradcliffe.com/ – Music

http://michaelmcguire.com.au/  – Poetry & Stuff

http://redstuffdan.wordpress.com/ – Art & Photography

http://alfredsalmanac.com/ – Literally, random stuff

http://wildflowerwomen.wordpress.com/ – Inspirational

http://radiatingblossom.wordpress.com/ -Inspiration & Photography

http://globedrifting.wordpress.com/ – Art, Writing, Photography

So blog hop away, and have a fantastic day!

~SE

The Map Makers


Prose, poem or parable – your choice; but for your reading and thinking pleasure 🙂

The Map Makers
(For K)

She once met a mapmaker
Ordered from the back of a matchbook
She checked the mail impatiently for her buck-fifty worth
When he arrived she was astonished
As he told her it was all lies

When asked to prove it was lies
He drew the first map on the back
Of her hand with rainwater
Assuring her that she would be
Able to read it in the sunlight by applying henna

She was unconvinced

He then drew a second map
But put it on the back of her head
So she’d have to stand in a mirror with
A mirror to see where she wasn’t going
Even though she kept moving to get a better view

She accepted some lies

Finally he gave her a piece of paper
Filled with calligraphy, islands and sea green waters
Told her to pack only one suitcase
Necessities you see, as she’d not be returning
She stood on the paper and disappeared

She fully embraced the lies.

He lived happily in her house and cared for the cat,
Once in a while she would send
Beautiful cards in her neat practical hand-writing
Extolling on the marvelous beaches, emerald sea
And of course, the fabulous calligraphy on all of the walls.

The lies we want to believe we call imagination, as they take us where we want to go.

~SE

8.11.14 Monday Music Mention – Brian Crain


Happy Monday all!  I know everyone is rip roarin’ ready to return to well, whatever  it is that you do on Mondays 🙂

This week’s mention is another accomplished pianist, baseball player turned artist,  Brian Crain.  He is a majestic composer, and has produced several solo piano offerings and others including strings and piano duets (violin, cello). These combinations are very powerful and moving to me. It is difficult to choose a favorite so go ahead, buy them all like I did!  You can find his music at his site linked to his name above, on iTunes and on Spotify (a place he encourages the use of for his music).  A new piece from his upcoming album “Life Is…” titled ‘The Edge of a Petal” is found on Spotify.

Sometimes I find that very talented technical artists lose the power of the instrument along the way in the score. Brian differs there from most.

The first song of his to ever catch my ear was “Song for Sienna” for piano and cello from his CD “A Summer in Italy”.

Intrigued, I searched out more and my first purchase was his “Piano Opus” album.  “Fire” is still my all time favorite, perhaps because of the techniques used.

“Rain” can be found in piano only, or the violin and piano duet piece. For me, the violin adds such richness to an already memorable melody.

As with Wesley, I could go on and on with music selections from this artist.  I encourage you to seek them out and claim your own favorites. As always, if you enjoy the music, please support the artist by purchasing their work.

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
~Victor Hugo

 Have a beautiful and expressive day!

~SE

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