My ole’ pal Rachel “interviewed” me, for her blog Mogantosh. If you want some Calamity wordspew, head on over!
Archive for the ‘The Leftovers’ Category
Friends, I am actually in the middle of a real post! An interesting, contemplative, reliving the good ole’ Calamity days post. Though it could take me another month or two to finish.
But in the meantime, two things.
1. Check me out, I made another website. Don’t worry, not a real blog, if I ever come back, it will be here to you. This one is just a virtual ego stroke in which I name my whole homesteading-project-extravaganza and thereby give it identity and recognition. I am now master of Feral Edge Rainfarm. Ha! Take that!
2. We are planning a short vacation to central California– from San Francisco to Carmel (family reunion)– and I have a nagging feeling that one or another of you live in that neck of the woods. Is it true? And if so, can we crash at yer place for a night or two? Extra credit if you live on a farm, or downtown SF.
Email me! I’m scarletfevir (at) yahoo (dot) com
Also just email me if you missed me and you want to tell me all about everything, and how you can’t live without my posts every week.
PS. I missed you.
It’s been awhile.
I am well and happy, my family is all good, we are settled firmly back home in Cordova and beginning spring work on our tiny yard-sized homestead. I have lots and lots of things I could write about, many cool projects underway and, as always, deep thoughts aplenty.
But the truth is, I waited and waited for it and the urge to blog just never really came back to me. Since I left you all waiting as well, I thought I’d better at least come back and say it– farewell for now, it’s been a good run.
I do feel the need to explain a bit. Because it’s not completely without reason that I have abandoned writing here. I wish I could say it’s because I’m not using the computer much, but that’s not the case– I have been researching permaculture all winter, and now I’m on to botanical medicine, both involving lots of computer time.
Honestly, it’s more about the particular perspective blogging gives you on your world. Have you ever been into photography? Carry your camera around long enough and you get ‘photo-eye,’ everything is seen through it’s possible worth as an aesthetic composition. You don’t see life as it is so much as you see potential photographs.
Blogging is like that. When I’m deep in it, I see life through the post I will write about it.
Interestingly, this downside is all wrapped around the upside, the thing I loved best about blogging– the way it gave me an outlet to process my thoughts, a way to make sense of the world and my life. Blogging was immensely useful and enjoyable for me, during a very hard time.
But the long enforced break of our move home shook off the ‘blogger-eye.’ Eventually I remembered what it was like to just be me, living my life with my family, instead of Calamity Jane: Punk Housewife Extraordinaire. And, I liked it. I like being plain old me.
I do miss the glamour, the acclaim and the page hits. I miss the way I felt important, big.
Some would say I need to find ‘big-ness’ in myself, not in others’ perception of me. I don’t know. It’s complicated. I think we as humans want to feel useful to the world at large. We crave purpose beyond self. Doing anything very useful in the world is all tangled up with the self-satisfaction of having done it. What are we to do?
So many of what I consider my important writings on this blog were about learning to find value in the eminently humble work of motherhood and housewifery. Don’t you think it’s ironic that in writing about it, I created for myself a more auspicious and vainglorious work? I made myself a “writer,” with loyal readers around the world. Although I tried so hard not to, I inevitably framed my homemaking as punkier than it really was. There is really no way to convey truth in this media. Without intention I painted a very cool picture of myself. Hardly a way to actually submit to the humility of motherhood.
I don’t mean to devalue my writings in any way, or their worth to you or myself. They were genuine expressions of my humanity. They were good and true and useful to so many of you, and I feel blessed to have been able to give in that way. I loved being Calamity Jane, and I reserve my right to reclaim her at any time.
But for now, I’m enjoying being just plain old me. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for existing as a community, however virtual. That’s the part I miss most. I don’t forget friends, even ones I’ve never met.
Here’s to life, in real life.
That DIY permaculture “class” I posted about a few weeks back took off over at Homegrown. There are about 12 participants reading The Manual, as well as an offspring ‘beginners’ group reading Gaia’s Garden. It’s great.
I have been devouring Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, the 560 page textbook/bible. It is essentially earth science as it relates to ecological food production, coupled with a very methodical approach to the design process. I love it. Bill Mollison is the scientific counterpart to Wendell Berry’s decidedly literary work, and you know how I feel about Wendell. They are both extremely thorough and concise, dense enough to be academic but with heart and pulse (and a healthy cynicism about academics). Putting them together fulfills all my fantasies of intellectual stimulation.
And, guess what? I had fantasies. They were unspoken, nearly unconscious. I was jealous of My Man when he was in school. Not because I wanted to be in law school, hell no! But because the idea of taking one’s knowledge to the next level, of devoting oneself to studies and furthering oneself intellectually, was delicious.
But, I gave up on the idea of finding the things I wanted to learn in a school setting long ago. I love to use my brain, to challenge my brain, but the things I like to use my brain on are the domestic issues never ever discussed in universities. Everything else just seems mundanely boring. I have always been mildly interested in ecology, but never interested enough to put any time into it. Ecology as I’ve read about it before seems so unrelated to me. It was not until now–reading about it in the context of learning to grow food based on natural ecological processes– that it became fascinating.
At first I thought it was because permaculture relates everything back to food and/or design (my two top favorite subjects, hands down!) but there are plenty of food history books that I find boring. After some thought I realized that it’s the fact of being related to something I can do, and furthermore want to do! It’s the possibility of involvement and participation that compels me.
That’s all good, but what I really wanted to share with you today is just how much blissed-out fun I am having learning something big! Considering that the manual is 560 pages of dense, sometimes technical reading, coupled with the self-made ‘final project’ of creating a genuine permaculture design for our property, I have given myself and the Homegrown group 5 months to get through it. It’s like a real college course! And since it builds on what I already know, it is quite literally ‘continuing education.’
I think my ecstatic joy at the learning process might be particularly based on where I’m at right now, mama-wise. I was at a kind of a shifting point, well primed for a learning phase; and having just moved back to our own place, I am ready to re-immerse myself in the project of living sustainably in this environment.
Whatever the reason, my oh my, does it feels wonderful. If anyone else is feeling the need for some continuing education, I highly recommend taking a good book on the subject and turning it into a DIY class. I did this once before, years ago (Tom Brown’s Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, doesn’t that explain in 8 words the shifts my life has made?) and also really loved it. The right book is important, but I think equally important is treating it like a real class. Which means setting aside consistent and adequate time. That’s the hardest part. After that, if the subject is of interest and the book is good, the rest unfolds itself.
She was trying to explain something to me, just exactly how she wanted me to open the cheese so that the wax held together, and I wasn’t getting it. She was getting increasingly frustrated, her voice rising. I was getting increasingly agitated, my voice rising and hardening. Eventually she was yelling at me and I was yelling right back at her not to yell at me, which always feels so stupid. So I changed tact. I summoned all kindness and patience and carefully evened my voice out. “I can’t just let you yell at me anymore. I’m going to stop listening until you stop yelling.” A threat obviously, in retrospect, though it didn’t seem so at the time. I don’t believe in threats, partly because we are incapable of upholding most of them. But there I was.
She immediately broke out into tortured sobs and I felt the regret flood in for a move I could no longer take back. She crawled under the table and wailed for several minutes before the words finally came. A pivotal moment in any mama’s life.
“You don’t love me! You don’t love me!”
There was some mad in her voice, and certainly a little drama, but so much raw emotional devastation that I wanted to cry. I came over and crouched beside the table, explaining as I have before that no matter how mad I get, or how much I don’t like the things she is doing at the time, I always, always love her. “The love is the part that doesn’t go away, ever.” I say.
But she’s too wild to hear me. If you don’t have a child like mine, you might not understand what I’m talking about. You might make the mistake of thinking I am describing a fit. It is not a fit, she has those too sometimes. These are different. I understand them because she is my daughter and the fruit did not fall far from the tree. We are sensitive. Not that we are easily thrown into oblivion– in fact we are both, in a sense, fairly stable. But that oblivion, when we do hit it, is exceptionally engulfing and terrifying. The difference is that I have always been stoic and private. I experience life and emotions on an extreme level, but I do no share that level with the world or almost anybody at all. I keep it all locked up healthily inside. My Girl on the other hand, is expressive.
At any rate, she screams at me to talk to her, then when I do, screams at me to stop talking. There is a lot of screaming, while I go back and forth between trying to calmly and undramatically reach out to her, and tending the soup on the stove (see this old post about her 2yo fits for the story of how I arrived at this “technique”). Eventually she starts to calm down and, still teary, asks to watch a movie. “Sure,” I say. “Will you come out and sit with me for a minute first?”
She hesitates, but climbs out onto my lap. “Mama,” she says, still upset but quickly deflating, “You never say ‘please’ when you’re mad!” She says this to me often. I don’t think it’s really about the please, I think it’s about the way that I get mad and then stop being kind and caring, the way she thinks a mama should be. I think that she feels upset that I am not consistently nice, not realizing that she is asking me to be inhumanly perfect.
“You’re right.” I say, “You know I honestly just forget. When we’re mad, we kind of forget how to be nice.” Which is certainly true. Ideally, as perfect people, we would hold it together even when we were mad, and all of our actions would be intentional. We would be like practice scenarios at the counselor’s office. But in real life we get mad and lose it. We are all of us imperfect, by a long shot.
I try to explain all of this to her, and suddenly I realize that the solution to human imperfection is forgiveness, and that I have to explain forgiveness to her. That the concept is essential to her right now. She needs to be able to forgive me, and to understand that I forgive her. She needs a way to deal with the budding knowledge that I am not perfect and that that’s okay, she is not perfect and that’s okay. That we get mad, and we get over it, and we have a special way out of it, a special human way that we move forward with love.
I stumble around, trying to figure out how to define forgiveness to a 5 year old. I tell her that when someone does something you don’t like and it makes you mad, forgiveness is “accepting that they aren’t perfect and loving them anyway.” To which she says, predictably, “What’s ‘accepting?’”
….Shit. Then I have a little brilliance. “When you were under the table, you were still really mad at me. And when I asked you to come out and sit with me, you kind of didn’t want to, right? ‘Cause you still felt mad? But you did anyway, you came out and let me put some love on you. That’s what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is when you came out from under the table.”
I don’t know if it worked. It’s a big concept, and probably takes time. I had honestly never even thought about it before. Like so many milestones my kids have hit that I had never thought about. And maybe she’s not even really ready yet, but it’s a start.
Straight from working full-time away from my kids, to 24/7 solo parenting for three weeks. Geesh, we are writing a case study for crazy-making this year.
The good news, the great, fantastic, thank dog news, is that My Man passed the Bar. Although I have no doubt that the next year of setting up his practice and finding work will be very hard, at least we know (more or less) what lies ahead. We can make plans now, stability of a sort has been found. Waiting the three months for his test results, and not knowing what the future held, were absolutely excruciating.
This also means I am back to full-time mama, pretty much indefinitely. And I am glad. It was really excellent to have a break, and do some other work. I felt almost guilty with the enjoyment of it. But to work away from home year round would get wearying for me, in a different way. Overall, if given the choice, I still choose the mothering and revolutionary housewifing. I made my first batch of granola since the move this week, and I feel ridiculously satisfied.
But, not unrelated to the mess, I have time to do projects with my kids! I didn’t miss playing, and I certainly didn’t miss the endless hours of fight-breaking-up, but I did miss projects. Currently underway is a T Rex costume–
All this glowing pontification on motherhood is quite sweet and absolutely true, but I didn’t plug my kids into netfl*x so that I could write because I was so overjoyed. Nope. I did really good for the first 5 days of solo-parenthood, but about day 6 I started to crack. Last night I let a really shrieky-mean yell loose on them right at bedtime. They were caught off guard and looked genuinely scared. I realized that with these few months of doing other work, of getting my own separate physical and mental space for 8 hours/day, I had not had many attacks of mama-rage.
Solo parenting is hard. Three weeks will definitely be my longest stint yet, though My Man’s finals while in law school probably compared in hard-ness. These next two weeks will be pretty rough. But, good news for you, you’re likely to see more of me here! Desperation makes for the best blogging.
I’ve just finished my second reading of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and have been obsessively listening to a set of free online permaculture lectures given by Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton. The world outside my window has been recently blanketed by snow, and temperatures have fallen to 20 degrees F. The long winter is here, and I am feeling the need for some juicy brain-work.
Although I had dabbled in it before, I have only recently started serious exploration into permaculture. I am attracted by it’s depth. I’ve been doing and thinking ‘sustainably’ for long enough that I have fully exhausted all the classic beginner books. Permaculture seems to me to take things to the next level.
For those many of you who have only the vaguest idea what permaculture is, let me take a moment to explain. Permaculture (permanent agriculture) was coined by an Australian named Bill Mollison back in the 70s. It’s about conscious design of functional landscapes; it’s about following absolute ecological principles, but keeping human needs as the end goal.
It’s also a lot about thinking outside the box, creatively turning ‘problems’ into ‘solutions.’ (Your garden doesn’t have a slug problem, instead you have a lot of duck food in need of ducks.) Sadly permaculture has grown to a full on religion, complete with a living prophet and an actual bible, the $85 Permaculture Design Manual. It’s ironic that something intended to push us past our mental boundaries has created new mental boundaries, but– that’s humanity for you. We love a dogma.
Anyway, I’ve gotten better about looking past the dogma for the pearls. All widespread religions are based on something really good, that’s why they take off. And I just can’t resist permaculture anymore. Permaculture is all about design, and I am a designer, above all else. I am designed to design. I love to garden, and I love to read about gardening, but designing my garden has always been my favorite part of the process by a factor of 12. I have reams of designs for gardens I never even planted, I once designed a homestead for a piece of property I coveted but knew for a fact I would never own. Just for the shear joy of the brain-work.
I can’t help myself, sometimes it’s actually a problem. Because although I love the work, I love thinking about the work even more, and doesn’t that make me one of those dreaded ‘dreamers?’ But permaculture tells me it’s not so. Permaculture instructs me to spend 100 hours observing and thinking for every one hour of doing, thereby insuring my actions will be appropriate. Whether or not this is a truth for the world, it sure sounds attractive to my brain!
So, winter is coming on. The perfect time to do a lot of thinkering, and I am primed. With limited free time, you all might be thinking, ‘Damn her! She should spend those free moments writing posts for us!’ And I do hope to do a little of that as well. But there are times in one’s life for sharing, and times for learning. After several years of mama-induced intellectual stagnation, I think I am ready for some serious learning.
For the uninitiated, permaculture is an international phenomenon with accredited Permaculture Design Courses offered all over the world. There was even one in Anchorage last summer! They are a minimum of 72 hours, sometimes spread over a full year, other times done all at once as an intensive. They’re a big damn deal, and priced accordingly– starting at $1,500 and going up considerably from there! Even the online courses range from $800-$1,600.
I would LOVE to take a course, but 1. I’m poor, and 2. I live in the middle of nowhere. I started thinking about it, and realized this must be a boringly commonplace problem! Surely there are other perma-curious folks out there willing to spend the time, but not the money….
Reading books is all well and good. I read a lot. Drawing up my own plans at home over and over is great fun. A teacher would be fabulous, and I do not mean to diminish the value of a qualified mentor. But I think what I would value most out of an actual course is the commraderie and idea sharing of a group.
So, here’s my idea. We make our own online class! If we are so keen on doing everything ourselves, why not education as well? So, I’ve put together a permaculture study group prospectus, over at Homegrown. I hope to find at least two or three other folks interested in committing to 6 months of serious independent study, I’m thinking 3-4 hours/week. If that sounds like a good time to you, come on over, join up and introduce yourself!
Yes, I am still here. I’ve been deep in my studio for weeks, cranking out pots in a mad dash. My Man leaves in a few days for three weeks, and I needed to get all my throwing done. Next week, after this three month hiatus, I will just be mama again.
It has been quite a whirlwind. For those of you who’ve not done it, the working mama business is hard in it’s own way. Not harder, but different hard. Life in general is harder when you work 40 hours a weeks and play mama in your off hours– cleaning the house and getting supper on become nearly impossible, let alone finding a moment for anything extra like time to write. But, for me at least, in the context of our family, my psychological/emotional life as a mama is easier. Working away from home gave me the personal space that I have so missed and needed as a full time mama, the previously coveted opportunity to simply complete tasks, to go about my job without anyone hanging on my leg or yelling at me.
The work itself….? You know, it was a taco bus. But oh, these past few weeks in my studio– joy! I get to do quiet, contemplative, creative, satisfying and productive work! I feel blessed. And yet, at the same time, getting in a full 40 hours a week at home is a unique challenge. Which resulted in no days off, furthering that stretched tight feeling even more.
So, even though I know I am a fool, I am looking forward to next week when I’ll just be able to ‘relax with the kids’ and get my house in order, no other job tugging at me.
Important things have happened during my absence here. My mind is full of big posts. My boy turned three, started (finally!) sleeping through the night on a regular if not reliable basis, and weaned. Not in that order. My girl started kindergarten. My Man still doesn’t know if he passed the Bar (10 more days…) We secured ourselves the title of ‘real Alaskans’ by acquiring a chest freezer, another load of ten fish, a $350 pick-up truck, and consequently 4 cords of firewood. It snowed. Followed by frenzied attempts to get all the outdoor shit done that we still hadn’t finished. I began seriously investigating permaculture in the wee hours of morning.
Of course, mothers of toddlers will know that the rest of that paragraph hardly matters after the first pivotal point. Sleep! Has finally come to me. There was an adjustment period, after he started sleeping through the night, in which I suffered from some infuriating insomnia, but all appears to be smoothed out now. Which is why I can manage to rouse myself at 7 am, in the pitch black still-night of an Alaskan October, to read about permaculture.
And why there is some hope that I will soon take back up with regular writing. I do miss it.
It’s not that I’m not thinking about writing. I’m thinking plenty, and even writing some. I have three unfinished posts in my inbox. But, aside from the fact that I have no time whatsoever to put toward this blog right now, I’m also having some pretty serious identity issues.
To be honest, I am having something of an identity crisis. A murky kind I have never before experienced. I am accustomed to understanding my own self. I almost always can find words for my various emotional malaise; they might not come easy, but if I sit down earnestly, I can pick them out. This time around I am at a loss. People ask, ‘Are you glad to be home? Do you miss New Orleans? Do you feel torn?’ The truth is all of the above, and none of it, at the same time. It’s the none of it that troubles me.
It seems that the more I try to put words to my cloudy emotion, the more I undo the truth of it. Like explaining a dream. I am glad to be home. But is it still home when I am not the same person who left? I don’t feel out of place, it doesn’t feel wrong, or disappointing. I could say any of those things and they would be almost right, but completely wrong.
And thus, I am at an impasse. Both personally and writing-wise. Being the honest-to-death type, I cannot seem to just carry on as if everything is usual. Though a part of me would like to, I can’t just write about laundry and jam making and the disappointments of plugging my kids into the iPad so I can fillet 20 salmon.
Coupling with, not coincidentally, the identity confusion is a kind of ‘place disorientation.’ I am so incredibly tied psychologically to where I live that, even though I was coming home, this move has entirely thrown me. I don’t know where to stand, or who to be.
I just recently realized that this accounts for at least some of my absence here. I don’t know what to write. I feel like I have to reconstruct myself first, reconstruct this space and then begin anew. I might even have to re-open somewhere else. Start fresh.
This probably seems drastic to you. A good more than half the posts will still be the same– making bread, keeping house, growing a garden, raising ruffians, psychoanalyzing myself. But it’s all about context for me. I really cannot explain the profound difference in physical and psychological environment here. Or maybe what I cannot explain adequately is the profound effect that change has on me.
Either way, I love words because they help me to make sense of things, to unravel a few syllables at a time the tangly confusions that clog my mind. Apron Stringz gave me a place and a way to make sense of a few years of my life. This new phase might just take different words.
The idea of starting up a whole new blog is incredibly daunting to me right now. I don’t know when I might get the time for that sort of endeavor. Let alone that I need to sort myself out a bit more first. Our life is in all kinds of upheaval, not just the move, and I feel like it has to settle out some before I can hope to make any sense.
Will you wait for me?
Friends. I’ve wanted to tell you this, but the time just wasn’t right. Err, the time just wasn’t there. Like, I had none. Anyway now it’s upon us.
Tomorrow, after five years of nearly continuous stay-at-home mothering, I start full time work. Away from the home. Shlepping tacos out of a bus for $13/hour, plus tips.
My Man will be home with the kiddos. Full time.
This will go on for two months, wherein I will get to retire from taco-shlepping to do pottery in my home studio.
(What? I never told you I was a potter?
I see there are quite a few topics left uncovered.)
Many forces have converged to create this upcoming change. One is my constant bitching about how hard it is to be a full time parent and how desperately I need a break to do anything at all that involves grown-ups, as well as the overdosed state of My Man’s brain after three years of such intensive study and his great desire to stay home and “just play with the kids” for awhile; the most obvious and logical reason however is the excruciating three month gap between taking the Bar and finding out if you have passed the Bar and are therefore allowed to begin attempting to work as a lawyer and even dream of paying off your loans.
We need dough, and taco shlepping is a quick and straightforward way to get it.
After the summer season winds down, and the bus closes, I’ll switch to the slower income of my pottery business. I actually make more per hour at that, but it’s all investment at first, followed two months later by a big pay off. I make functional kitchen and tableware, by the way. In case you couldn’t have guessed. And I have a real, grown-up studio, not big or fancy but serviceable for a small scale home business.
At any rate. Working mum. That’s me as of tomorrow. Will you still respect me? Will I find any time at all to write the many posts that have been swirling in my brain? Most importantly, do you have any advice? I’ve never done this before.
Don’t tell me to cook ahead. And don’t tell me to make a little time for myself every day. C’mon. Give me a little credit. Any other less obvious ideas though?
Today, after I was bemoaning all the house projects, and when we will find the time to do them, My Man said something about how he would be able to rebuild the broken woodshed roof while he was home with the kids. I snapped back,
“Yeah, If you are a better person than me, you might be able to manage it.”
As my shithead comment sat with me I realized that, given the fact that I do many things while I am mothering that My Man won’t do (like grow a garden, cook everything under the sun homemade, etc) it is only logical that he will manage to do things that I didn’t get done.
I had already accepted that the kids would not eat as healthily under his watch, that our food bill would be higher, that the house probably would not be as clean, our home generally not as efficient by my standards. But I had (predictably) failed to turn the equation around and realize that he would excel at other things, surpass me. And that’s okay. Or at least it had better be.
We are approaching the big blank hole on the map. Yonder lie dragons.
After thinking it over for some time, I’m certain that I will come back to writing here, someday soon. I miss it too much, enjoy it too much to stop. I have posts composing in my head every day. But as always happens when I take a break from blogging, I seriously cannot figure out where I found the time. An extra hour or two a day? Nrrr…?
Granted, life has been on high around here. Studying for the Bar is like finals x 100. And occurred directly following finals. Oh yeah, except for the part where we moved our family of four across the continent right in between.
So I have been doing time-and-a-half parenting for some four straight months. Refer to the early January posts to see how I feel about parenting without a break.
Nevertheless, when I stop to tally it, I realize how much else I have managed to do in this time period. Day by day it feels like I barely manage to keep the house from inexcusable filth and my children from clawing each other’s eyes out, but looking back I have lots of good stuff to report– garden work, canning projects, a re-entry to knitting, and lots of afternoons wandering around in the rainy woods with my kiddos, contemplating life, the universe and everything. I guess that’s what I get for my extra non-blogging 1-2 hours/day.
My most recent activity was 20 fat sockeye salmon bought from a friend who commercial fishes. I got them at a great price straight off her boat, which meant days of processing to follow. Gutting, filleting, vacuum packing for the freezer, smoking and canning, and because I’m a fucking freak, don’t forget making fish stock out of those precious carcasses even though all this was done while My Man was out of town and I was/am solo parenting.
Because you have all (whoever of you are left, keeping my stats at over 100 a day, even though I personally haven’t written a damn thing for months!) been so patient, I took pictures of the fish project to share.
I wish we could have a big badass-mama potluck, and I could share some of this red gold goodness with you, and tell you my months’ worth of stories. In leui of that, here’s some pretty pictures…
And yes, that is flagrant tattoo narcissism.
Is this fair? Maybe it’s because I took a break from reading blogs, as well as writing, and now that I am going back to just a few of my favorites I’m finding some goodies.
This one is called Love and Lunchboxes, by Mama Mogantosh– a fellow erratic blogger and probably my favorite writer on the polarities of motherhood. She can crack me up hard, but this post is bit soft and cuddly.
I am coming back to you. Someday soon. I feel the stir in my brain. The desire, nay need, for an outlet.
In the meantime, Shannon Hayes latest hilarious and true post on motherhood Naked Rules. I hear you sister. My greatest daily angst is wrestling clothes, of any kind or shape, onto my two naked revellers so we can leave the house.
We have been home almost two weeks now, and I think we are just beginning to feel the delayed adjustment pains. Both kids have been challenging, the 2yo fussy like he’s sick but he doesn’t appear to be actually sick. The 4yo sensitive like only a daughter of mine could be, and reverting to 2yo style screaming fits– except so much more sad and personal. She needles me and needles me and needles me until I finally get mad and blow my top, and then she wails with wounded fury. She said the other day, “When you talk so mean to me, I think you don’t love me.” And although the whole of it is obviously a composed plea for my attention, focus and care, that end point of rejection is painfully uninvented.
For my own part, the back pain that started a few months ago has reared it’s ugly head again. It’s hard to patiently lift up your 4yo who wants to be carried to quell her Lost Home anxiety when your back is already screaming it’s own song. My Man keeps saying, “Just rest it” and I give him a big ole middle finger.
I have started working already, earlier than we’d planned, but only one day/week. We are strapped for cash in this after law school, before taking the Bar limbo. I was filling out the paperwork for Medicaid yesterday and it asked for level of schooling completed for both adults. Mine was 12th grade, which looked about right on a form for government assistance, but when I wrote out “law degree” for My Man, it seemed a bit silly. But how is anyone supposed to make this gap between school loans and steady income when graduation culminates in two months of intensive study for The Biggest Test of All? At any rate, my job here is the most basic sort, working the till and milkshake machine at our local taco joint. I realized the first day that the work was strangely similar to what I am used to– cleaning and service. But, the ability to carry through with each task is a pleasure. None of the customers (so far) hang on my leg and cry.
My emotional homecoming has been unexpectedly complicated. I’m not sure I can even suss it out yet. It feels good to be back, but I feel I am a bit ruined for the weather here. Talking about weather sounds like a joke, but it’s in fact most definitely not. This place is incredible– beautiful mountains, thriving wilderness, old fashioned small town community, the best salmon in the world. But it all comes at a very direct price. 100-160 inches of rain per year. That’s an average of more than ten feet. And cold rain, an average June temperature of 50 degrees. Farenheit.
The bad weather largely accounts for those good things I mentioned though. The mountains are so striking because they are young and raw, so recently exposed by glaciers that are still only ten miles away. It’s that same enormous pack of ice that makes the river so cold, which in turn makes the salmon so extra-ly luscious with fat. The wilderness is intact because the town is small, and the town is small because the weather is so shit. Between the weather and the remoteness, you have to be devoted to this place to live here, which makes for a very special community.
Every place has trade offs. New Orleans was balmy and lovely for many months of the year, but I had a friend who’s neighbor was shot in his own front yard while his kids watched because he was trying to help someone who’s car was being stolen. I feel like I could take any number of cold rainy days to avoid that creeping fear in the back of my throat.
I am having an awkward time synthesizing these two realities. New Orleans felt real and normal (by the end anyway) and I worried that it had changed me, changed my expectations for normal, that I would feel lost and adrift after the move. Of course the minute we got back to Cordova, the town we had lived in for seven years, the house we had lived in for almost five, it also felt absolutely real and normal. Everything was just the same and I fit right back in as if I had never left. But my brain is simply not big enough to synthesize those two disparate realities. Only one of them can be right, making the other a ghostly dream.
It’s going to take some time to pick it all apart.
In the meantime, here are a few pictures of my new old Homeplace.
We made it in on Friday night, just got the internet connection yesterday. As is usual when I take a break from the computer, I’ve not been missing at all. I don’t feel any big urges to get back at blogging. But fear not, there are still several guest posts lined up for your reading pleasure. Thank you so much to everyone who wrote for me! Reading your posts has been a wonderful introduction to my readership. What marvelous scope and variety!
I don’t miss the computer, but I must miss the strange pleasure of internet community at least a little, since I’m using my early morning time to write here, instead of pecking away at the vast amount of work still to be done. It always comes down to escape of one form or another, doesn’t it.
We are all well, and happy to be home. We loved our time in New Orleans, but small town Alaska life really is made for children. Especially when then sun is shining– thank you weather gods and goddesses.
This photo was taken moments before the little guy stepped in too deep, lost his footing and got swept several several yards down the creek. Hello Alaska.
We leave today, in six hours. What am I doing blogging, right? Well, amazingly, I am feeling pretty on top of things. Both kids are sleeping late after a 4yo complete meltdown at 12:30 last night. Her screaming was so heart rending, so disturbing, I was literally afraid someone might call the cops. Unless they listened close enough to hear the words, “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED!!! I WANT TO SLEEP IN MY OWN BED!!!!” (Which is to say, rather than camping mats on the floor. Poor thing.) She has been dealing with the move so unbelievably well, I was not too surprised by the 40 minute screaming session. Sometimes you just gotta let it out.
I am about to jump on a few last tasks, and then hopefully take the kids to our favorite French bakery for one last croissant. But, in a moment of nostalgia, here’s a few pictures:
Good morning my brave, hardworking, heart loving mamas of the world. I don’t have a new post for you to celebrate Mother’s Day. But I thought I’d link to some of my favorite older posts about the hardest job I’ve ever done.
And in case anyone has not yet found their way to it in the sidebar, my most personally transformative post ever– Submission.
Now, get off the computer and go enjoy your family! (I mean me.)
All I can say is, there is some ironic justice in getting a tattoo of a stinging nettle.
Today is my birthday. 35. Half-way to 70. I’m getting that tattoo I told you about, of a stinging nettle.
We leave New Orleans in 6 days, and packing is mostly done. We are now to the moving sale and deep cleaning stage. While going through my drawers I re-discovered this traditional Inuit poem/song, which has come through to me in my life several times. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.
I think over and over again my small adventures
those small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing
the only thing.
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.