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Mountainous River of Mud

Booch 1

I'm in Vermont right now, but got a second ferment batch of kombucha going before I left.


Some of you noticed I took down my last post and emailed wondering what that was about. I think as the comments started coming in, with a complimentary tone toward myself, I felt like I’d done a disservice to the story and a poor job in writing it. Stories of life in a homeless shelter are uncomfortable, it is natural to seek the good, the silver lining. I do the same. But I was not the good in that story, and it being perceived that way told me I did not do my part in writing it well. So that’s why I took it down. You were so nice about that post, maybe too nice for my comfort, if that makes any sense. 


Tomorrow I’ll meet with our realtor to look at a house Adam has already seen and liked well enough to suggest I do the same. When he described the location to me, it went something like this: You’ve got to see it, Heather. The drive there is beautiful, a continuous climb up the mountain until finally you’re looking at the full five mile width of Lake Willoughby in your rearview mirror. And, it’s quiet there. So quiet.

Here’s what I heard: Steep mountain... ice... snow... mud season... certain death. So I asked, "How intense is the road to the property?" It’s fine! No problem at all, and man it’s beautiful. You’ve got to see it. 

Now would be a good time to point out that Adam and I do not share the same definition of “intense road.” Nor do we share the same definition of favorable driving conditions. 

I decided to head out there yesterday, thinking I’d scope the area on my own before doing so with the realtor. As suspected, the mountain road immediately ascended as I turned onto it, with no letting up along the way. It was fine at first, I put it in low gear and climbed. Then the mud came. It’s not mud season here just yet, but a stretch of 50 degree days has created a temporary thaw in some places. And this road, with its full exposure to afternoon sun, was among those places. Basically I was driving though a small stream, uphill. I continued to keep it slow, but not too slow, slipped enough here and there to step up my heart rate a little, but not enough to feel out of control. Still, this was not a good time and I struggled to find pleasure in the moment. The road felt totally intense and I wanted my money back on that promise of it being “fine." Before I could throw a full on pity party for my white knuckling self, I noticed up ahead there was a guy with a truck twice the size of my own, ditched on the side of the road. And he did not look happy. I stopped, unsure of exactly how to help with his vehicle being so much bigger than mine, but maybe he’d have some ideas. I remembered that Adam keeps chains and tow straps stashed in my car so we’d at least have something to work with. He said he’d been there an hour already, and that he hadn’t been able to call anyone because he was so pissed that he smashed his phone on the steering wheel. (Told you he didn't look happy.) I faced the wrong direction so I headed up the road to turn around, which given the narrow scope and no actual driveways to turn around in, and my still ramped up heart rate from climbing my way through a mountainous river of mud, I was cautious and went a little further up the road, to find just the right spot to turn. A few minutes had passed by the time I got back, and three other trucks arrived in my absence. These guys knew exactly what they were doing, chains already across the road, hooked up to the pissed off broken cell phone guy’s truck. My help was hardly needed. But now I faced down the mountain, and it seemed a little too fate-tempting to think I’d turn my vehicle around once more, and continue on to the property. So I figured I’d do the logical thing and carefully head to lower ground. I kept an even slower pace than the one I’d climbed with, after all, the guy in the ditch back there was also heading downhill and things didn’t work out too well for him.  

So I never did make it to the property, though I was close. I will say, Adam was totally right. The drive was beautiful, and with each hundred foot climb the sky opened more and more, revealing all of Willoughby’s splendor. The sky was so big and yes, it was incredibly quiet. I hear the stargazing is unreal up there, which is saying something for a corner of the world that’s already got a good handle on night-sky viewing.

I’m not sure if this house will be the one for us. If it is, and if you come over, my directions will probably include, turn right onto the mountainous river of mud. The home is architecturally beautiful, but like most things that are designed by and for others, it offers some impracticalities for the way we live. This is fine and we feel realistic about the process, but it still helps to remind ourselves that perfection is an illusion, be it in property or in the road to get there. Although now that I think about it, the rearview mirror sure held a view that was indeed, total perfection. Didn't even require the hands of man to make it happen. Imagine that. 

Do the Next Right Thing

Snow day 1

This porch. I’m not sure I’ve ever loved and not-loved a thing so much in my life. I was going to write hate, but that is probably not the right word, and one that I try not to use, but man I’ve got big feelings for this porch. The love is obvious, just look at it. My mother thinks they built it at least a foot too narrow, but I’ll tell you what, at only five feet deep you can sit on one of those chairs and prop your feet up on the railing no problem, so maybe they actually got the depth just right. My father would retreat here after a long day of hauling his old International pick-up in and out of the woods, pulling logs, splitting wood. Sometimes there would be a couple of Black Labels tucked by his side. 

It’s easy to sit here on an early summer morning and solve the problems of the world. You don't even have to try, it just happens. Do you find certain places to be like that? Evoking a kind of logic and understanding that is easy to lose sight of within the pace of a regular day. A place where some questions have easy answers, and others feel best left to mystery. This porch is like that. Things make sense here, especially on summer mornings. 

So what’s not to love? Well, when the leaves are off the trees I am able to spot eight houses from this porch, and of those eight houses, I can count five adults that I know of who’ve had/have cancer. Five people in eight neighboring houses seems excessive. A few years back I asked someone on our road if they felt this was one of those cancer clusters you read about, and they said, nah, it’s just random. I’m not so sure about that. If five people in eight houses does not constitute a cancer cluster, pray tell, what does? When I'm on this porch, I think of these people, of their cancer.

Nutrition matters. Movement matters. Sunshine and fresh air matter. Loving relationships matter. All of these things and more are ingredients for the good life, but can we ever do enough? Can we ever reach a point where a woman can stand on her front porch in what is a pretty rural setting by most standards, and not feel her heart break for every person around her that’s received the horrid diagnosis of cancer. Can we really meditate or ferment or green juice our way through Fukushima laced jet streams or fracking or pipeline spills or fluoridated water or the (proposed) abolishment of the EPA? I don’t know that we can.

Geez. What a dreadful couple of paragraphs. I would say I am sorry, but I’m told I apologize too much. I wasn’t kidding when I suggested my relationship with this porch is complicated. 

So, yes, I love this porch, and it also makes me feel really angry and sort of hopeless. But in the quiet of those early summer mornings I am reminded that when I’m in Vermont, my eyes and throat do not burn and the rivers do not carry an offensive smell; that although I’ve not canvassed the entire ridge, it does not appear to be plagued with cancer. I listen attentively as this temple of wood and nails reminds me to keep doing the only thing I’ve ever known to truly work: the next right thing. Of all the problem solving lessons this porch has given me, the reminder to just do the next right thing is her greatest teaching of all. If you are my daughter, my husband, or my friend, you’ve already heard me say this a time or ten. Just do the next right thing. Most days, the next right thing is all I’ve got to give.

And maybe right now, in this very moment, my next right thing is tending the kombucha, or sadhana, or showing my husband unexpected kindness, or calling my senator, or sweeping the kitchen floor. It’s okay if these small actions are all I’ve got, because you know what? The craziest part about doing the next right thing, is that it’s always a good idea. It’s always a success. It’s always what the world needs us to do.

Guess we best get to it.

(Thanks, porch.)

Whatever Plays Out, It Will Be Enough


Since we last spoke I’ve listened to Stairway to Heaven 16 times, Sweet Emotion 27 times, and Foxy Lady 82 times. It seems even corporate radio favors Hendrix. Wisely so. There was one moment earlier last week when we literally heard Stairway and Freebird back to back. It’s like they’re not even trying. If I ever hit the jackpot, I think I’ll buy up all the corporate owned radio stations and create world peace by bringing interesting and unpredictable tracks to the airwaves. Or, at the very least, better playlists will encourage the good soldiers of peace as they infiltrate and dominate the world. Something like that. Honestly, I’m so high on new construction fumes right now, that for the moment, my two-bit idea sounds like a winner.

Over the weekend we realized that we’ve been so focused on waiting for winter to arrive, that we nearly missed the seasonal shift toward longer days, to starting seeds and gathering sugaring supplies. Do you go through that period of time each February where you keep forgetting to start dinner because you’ve grown accustomed to doing so by the changing light, only now it is changing much later, which finds you with a still empty soup pot dangerously close to mealtime? Yeah, me too. We’ve finally caught onto the shift though: meals are getting made, onion seeds have been started, and a new arch for our evaporator pan arrived last night. The oil drum Adam converted for the job last year served as a good no-cost temporary set up, but we’re ready for things to run more efficiently. It’ll be nice to have a proper rig.

It was a little bittersweet starting those onion seeds. Sweet because what is not to love about getting your hands into moist soil and waiting patiently for those elusive first sprouts to appear. Sort of bitter because I was reminded of the brand new, season-long gardening workshop that Ben and I have in the works. The one I needed to back burner in order to place my attention on family matters for the coming season. It’ll be there waiting for us to pick up when the time is right, but man we thought it would have been so much fun walking through a full growing season with some of you... filming and sharing our own food growing escapades, writing up great instructional content, building a community of fellow growers, and the pièce de résistance, bringing the masterful insight of Ben’s wife, Penny, into the mix. Next year, we hope. To that end, I’ve also cleared my spring and possibly summer calendar of workshops. There might be something small that pops up, but I really don’t know if that’s possible just yet. Right now I need to take things as they come and trust that whatever plays out, it will be enough. Family first.


Before I go, a few things I’ve noticed recently (and a question):

:: I was talking with Louis (one of the construction guys that is now living here) about swear words because he was feeling apologetic for offering up an impressive collection within five minutes of our meeting. I told him not to worry about it, they’re just words, and words have meaning. They served a purpose in his communication. Swears are not always gratuitous. Using them does not automatically equate with the person "not being able to intelligently express themselves” (a super pretentious argument that is a personal pet peeve). And while I might not choose to drop f-bombs in a professional setting, they were definitely in Louis’ lexicon. I tried to put him at ease; hopefully he felt better. Then we talked about writing and he told me a friend of his wrote a memoir about his time in the Iraq War. The book is called Lines in the Sand and the reviews offer high praise. I look forward to checking it out, maybe you’d like to as well.

:: Tiny Desk Concert just put out a show with Brent Cobb who is one of my favorite discoveries of 2016. He’s a fine songwriter and if you’re not familiar, you might like to be. Give this a listen while making dinner... I promise it will be twenty minutes well spent.

:: How Utah welcomed back the new legislative session a couple of weeks ago. I don’t even know what to say about this. It is stunning and hopeful and everything I love about humanity. I'm Gonna Walk It With You. (Damn straight.) Gorgeous lyrics can be read here, and you can check out the original artists perform it here.

:: Question - Going out on a limb and asking if anyone knows how to get a song from the Bandcamp app to an iTunes library? I purchased the song in this video* and would love to have it in my regular library. It’s the prettiest version of Down in the River to Pray I’ve ever heard. (*Video is labeled “mature” so fair warning if you click through. I don’t know if I’d call it mature, I do think it’s beautiful though.)

:: A few short and sweet yoga playlists from my library. Maybe you're looking for some new yoga tunes? Lately I’ve been really into twenty minute practices that literally take place while dinner simmers. It’s nice to get on the mat with an empty stomach, so right before dinner is perfect. And I do love the late afternoon light. (It is said that you haven’t yoga-d until you've yoga-d to Otis Redding. And Willie Nelson. And The Velvet Underground. It’s true. Pretty sure it’s written somewhere in the Sutras.)

Yoga playlist


I guess that will do it for now. I hope to back here soon, and regularly, I’m just not sure what to expect from these next several months so I’ll have to ride it out and see. Until next time. xo