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Didn't Know They Should Want for More


{Camera charger was left in Connecticut so it's been a lot of phone pics lately.}


There was man in town who painted one side of his house every year, essentially giving him a freshly painted home every four years. He was the grandfather of my friend and lived with his wife in a stately New England Colonial, in the most historic section of our small town. She was an artist; he, retired. Sure enough, every May or June you could drive by and see him dressed head to toe in tan colored Dickies, ladder pressed against the three story structure, paintbrush in hand. I was glad to see him use a paintbrush. A painter’s daughter, I've picked up on a few critical skills of the trade through the years, and I know well enough that a home should never be sprayed unless the time is taken to back-brush for proper adhesion, which people who spray don’t often do. But this man carefully brushed on a fresh coat of white, one side, per year. Maintenance. He seemed to have a good system down, his home looked beautiful and cared for, albeit practical given his single choice of white paint. It was a proper Yankee dwelling.  

I have this habit of looking at homes when I’m out driving around, and mentally adding up what it would take to care for and to occupy them. Not the effort necessarily, though in part I suppose that too, but more so in the sheer expenditure of time and materials required to tend such a place year after year. How much of my life would I have to trade in order to keep up with that? The first home Adam and I lived in was an older two bedroom cottage, weighing in at a mere 765 square feet. Palatial by global standards, micro by American. I loved that house. It had as many windows as one could pack into such a compact frame, allowing sun to pour in over the length of a day. I could deep clean the entire place in a little over an hour, and you could easily see that if certain things needed to be done, a new roof for example, the job was a small fraction than that of a more typically sized house. Both in labor and in cost. I remember the vegetable garden and apple orchard on that one acre plot occupied four times the space as the home did. That house and property always made sense to me.


There is a (true) story that tells of a midwestern woman and her family living on a rural farm in the early part of the twentieth century. It was a typical homestead, providing for themselves first, and using surplus of eggs, meat, milk, and vegetables as currency within the community to acquire things they could not produce. They did not want for anything; in fact, their life felt deeply satisfying and well provided for. They didn’t know they should want for more. Their life was not simple or easy, but it was a good life. Then the prospect of electricity came to the area and local government needed the community to help pay for it. Folks were enticed with low interest loans to connect to the grid, hence funding the project’s move through the area. This family had no interest in bringing electricity to their farm, feeling life was fine without it. At a town meeting the woman was told that times were changing, electricity was a mark of civility and only the poor were without. Poor? We’re not poor, we have all that we need and then some! They were told this is the way things are now, this is progress. And it was reiterated that only the poor went without this modern convenience. Poor. Uncivilized. Shame set in, and vulnerability. So... How do these loans work, exactly? How much per month? At what interest rate?... ?... ?... ? And with that, electricity was fed to her homestead and she spent the rest of her days paying off that loan, feeling poorer and poorer, both in means and in spirit, with each payment she made.


I think of that woman often while on my daily walk, just as I pass the old house in that photo up there. Electricity never did make it down this road, there is no plumbing either. Forget internet. And yet this adorable well cared for home still stands just fine; life takes place and memories are made. I shared this photo on Instagram a few days ago and it quickly became the single most “liked” photo I’ve ever posted there. I don't think it was its off grid nature that appealed to so many of you as its manageable size. I could feel the collective sigh of relief; this home feels doable. I can't stop thinking about how telling this is. I don’t need to suggest exactly what it tells as I imagine we can all draw our own conclusions, but there's something to ponder here. I guess for me it suggests that maybe we’re living in a time when people are ready to dismantle the once ideal american dream of more, more, more, and replace it with something more attainable and sustainable, less chaotic and depleting. I don't know, maybe all those likes didn't mean that at all, but it’s nice to imagine so. I couldn't help but feel comforted by a glimmer of idealistic hope as the admiration for Posy’s cottage rolled in; a simple home that has never known connection to the power grid, but where life has carried on just fine for over two hundred years. Who knows, maybe more people are ready for this than we are told to believe. 

Before First Birdsong


Due to my car battery’s decision to enter early retirement, Adam came up yesterday to swap it out and spend a quick night. It might have made more sense to call someone local to fix it, but with “hottest day of the year” temps in Connecticut and humidity to match, it didn’t take any convincing for him to point his truck north. We had a really great night, blink of an eye that it was, and I was grateful he insisted on helping. 

He left early this morning, well before first birdsong or light. Not able to get back to sleep, I lay listening for that first permissive tweet that signifies it’s time for me to get up, too. After some time, still waiting on the birds to rise but noticing there was now a hint of light, I heard louder than expected footsteps outside. This was not the pitter-patter scurry of chipmunks or squirrels. There was some heft behind these feet. And then, that oh-so-familiar exhale through the nose sound. I knew the animal before I sat up, but what I did not expect was to look out the window and see a sprite young bear cub flexing her independence, sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs by the fire pit. Although the campfire is a dozen feet away, the chair she chose was about eight feet from the screened window, from behind which I watched. She was flopped into the chair, all rounded and a little unsure, but looking pleased as all get out. I was sure mom waited just beyond the treeline, but this wee one was proud and curious to be exploring our area. Because even though we do not leave food around, and we compost hundreds of feet away, we are here and they know it. There is a lot to check out. Or at the very least, really comfy chairs to goof off in. 

I watched her silhouette for a minute, wishing I could watch longer, but knowing that I needed to send the message that it was time to carry on with her bad self. So I did what any self-respecting human would do: I grabbed two sticks that I keep tucked in the corner of the camper and placing them in perfect “X” formation, banged them together over and over... kidding! I just really wanted to reference this. What I actually did was far less dramatic because the last thing I wanted to do was excite or scare the little thing, or more so, mama. So, a couple of quick hand claps and she fled into the trees without argument. Kinda felt bad for wrecking her moment, but I’m sure she would have done the same if I made myself at home in her camp. I waited ten minutes longer, then went outside to get the coffee going. Just as the first birdsong moved through the air.

Stand in the Chaos


The rain made for a quiet weekend which I was grateful for. It was just the two of us, and it was nice to see him slow down for a couple of days. Sometimes I think he has no idea how much he accomplishes in a day. A couple of sunny days would have put him to work, but the rain gave us permission to turn away, have the lake to ourselves, the winding dirt roads to ourselves, camp to ourselves.

I’ve been thinking about returning to day to day life as just us. I think we’ll be good at it; I like us. Life was different eighteen years ago, the greatest aspect being that prior to parenthood, life did not include internet or cell phones (internet came to our home when Emily was four or five). Remember life before the internet? It’s easy to romanticize and suggest things were simpler then, I’m sure they weren’t. But they were quieter. Maybe that’s what people mean when they pine for simpler times and are criticized for doing so. Maybe it’s not a simple life they’re looking for, maybe it’s a quiet life. Maybe it’s the need to expend more energy than is received, because how is a person to manage the intake of stimulus without physical release.

About ten years ago I was in the midst of a difficult time (crisis, if we're being specific), while simultaneously working closely with one particular yoga teacher. Knowing my tendency for a fluid, movement filled practice -- lots of hip openers, twists, binds, etc -- she suggested I scrap my current practice for the time being, and switch to something entirely earth based, strengthening. Legs and arms rooted in Goddess, Warriors, Dolphin, Plank, Chair, and so on. It might not be a stretch to say that it saved me. This practice got me through that difficult time, and became my fieldwork for understanding the importance of strengthening the physical container in order to protect the spiritual body. We forget these things, of course, but it’s nice to remember. And return.

Life has never been simple, but it has been quieter. And if we cannot rearrange our entire lives to accommodate the level of quiet we seek, at least let us strengthen our ability to stand in the chaos, to be of service to ourselves and those around us. To let the soft animal within expose what it was made for.

Caught Between



"I'm trying to picture what it would feel like to not be permanently here, but caught between here and somewhere else. "

Michelle left these words in a comment last week and I’ve been thinking about them ever since. Probably because I’m trying to picture it too. I’m trying to picture a lot of things these days. Upon reading, my initial thought was not in relation to being caught between Connecticut and Vermont as she intended, but rather caught between a nest that requires an engaged level of tending, and one that is empty. I don’t write much about parenting an only child, despite requests to do so landing in my inbox more than any other. I guess I don’t know what to say; I’m not an expert on parenting a single child (is anyone?) so I do not feel qualified to answer most of the questions that come through. I only have our experience to go on, which is unique to us, and I’m not sure how that could be of help to anyone else. Actually, that’s not true. Of course our experience could be helpful to others, that’s how human interaction works. I think the real reason I don’t write about it is that a discussion about parenting an only child feels divisive, which is not something I’m interested in. Although, I have spent 18 years silently defending how “easy” I have it which got kind of old by the time Emily was four, so maybe... nah. I will say this though: when you have a single child, everything is amplified. This includes the relentless tick of the clock that reminds me daily - regardless of all the transition talk I’ve been spewing - how unprepared I feel for what is to come. In fact, the closer we get to that August day when she'll move five hours away, the less prepared I feel. Abruptly, this too big house will go from being filled with a bustling family, a family that has spent most of its days together, to one of quiet halls and empty rooms. I guess that is why I’m compelled to stay in the woods this summer; it is the only balm I can think of that soothes the caught between. I forget just a little. I relish the denial of reality, safe among the trees, if only temporarily. Because sometimes, temporary denial is exactly what a mother needs.

When I am among the trees, 

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

- Mary Oliver


{Edited to add: As I reread this post, it sounds sort of melancholy, which is fine, except I'm not. Just processing... the one thing I am doing an excellent job with this summer. Thank you, as always, for being the best sounding board. xo}