show details 10:42 AM (19 hours ago)
Today: fold the metastasizing laundry. do the dishes. Wash The Dog. The small one, low to the ground, smells like a chicken house. Disgusting, this urban agriculturalism. I am working from home today. A blessing to be able to occassionally. When my brain is busy, I feel competent and well-managed when I can be at home working for work. At “the office” the level of distraction is often too high to actually get work done. You are working, because you are at work, but the amount that you actually get done is small compared to that which is accomplished off-site, not at work. Oh, work.
I need to go to the feed store, Southern States, down by the river. I like that place. It makes my life feel real like when I was a little kid. I don’t think I respond well to architectural homogeneity and the “could be anywhere” – ness of the interstated land we have created. Heart-breaking, how much has been lost to shopping centers, suburban highway expansions. The transition neighborhoods at the edges of towns have always been some of my favorite places to travel through. Big anticipation in these places, you are always either almost there, or almost gone, no matter where you’re going. These little stretches where suddenly there are railroad tracks and houses beside businesses, and you can drive a little faster or a little slower depending on which direction you are traveling.
I like the north stretch of Broadway, the river so dang close to the road. I need to buy wood pellets for the stove. It will be cold next week. My breath will be ice in the early morning kitchen. I will not buy oil. I might, however, buy a bigger space heater. However, the old, old electric, partially updated?partially not?, carries a heavy load already, with that high-wattage lamp for those low-wattage hens. Who are, by the way, be-fowling my garden to hell. It is frankly hideous out there. Mud and the trampled iris stalks that just last week gave me hope for spring. Dang. Three of them, four?, will have to go.
A trade – three good hens and help with a coop if you will help me build a pedicab/modern rickshaw to take my kids to school in, ride to work, take to the store. Such a contraption would change my life.
Wasn’t I talking about cold? Or lists? Shouldn’t I make a list?
Pasta (a lot)
Clementines if good
Big plastic bags –
Golly. There is no way we’re getting out of here before noon.
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show details 10:57 AM (19 hours ago)
Dang – in my last flurry of domestic activity, eggs and toast for the children, miscellaneous wiping of non-porous surfaces, the realization that our dogs, rescued strays though they are, have deemed themselves too good to eat raw egg off of the floor…in the middle of all this, I realized I was eating Winnie the Pooh gummy vitamins as if they were candy. Easy mistake to make. They’re delicious. I must’ve eaten about six or seven of them before I caught myself.
I already feel sick to my stomach. But that may just be the result of looking at my yard. On the bright side, the few remaining perennials will be well-fertilized. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a whopping huge vegetable garden. I will grow my tomatoes on the roof of the sculpture. The rain from the roof will water them deeply.
It was time for a change anyway. This is what I tell myself. Constantly.
I bought myself an American Chestnut rafter, about 4×6″ 5 board feet. Forty dollars for a length of lumber, wormy and washed beige by the time that has passed since the American Chestnut actually grew to heights un-blighted.
show details 4:04 PM (14 hours ago)
It is remarkable, how a single day can hold so much. First cold and filth, rainwash and mud. Then sun, no sweater. Small insects lit up midair. Blue moon. New Year.
I am emailing myself ferociously today. In between trying to clean up the house. “We need to start the new year clean and happy and thankful…you should take a shower.”
I scrubbed and sprayed the porch, midwinter hose usage be damned. Made a fence for the chickens. Which they promptly got out of. Because I left it open. Dang. Here they are in the witchhazel, which – I am reminded on close inspection of it’s branch ends – will bloom its spidery blooms soon.
Also near, the star magnolia beside the back porch. Small, but graceful. Until it blooms. Then it looks ungainly.
The children, miraculously, cleaned their rooms. They listen well these past few weeks. They are reasonable people, after all, it seems. And somehow they sense I am outnumbered by them under this roof…they seem proud when they do something helpful. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing. This calm, in my home.
Ha! I just spent the hour and a half that immediately followed that sentence running interference between Leo’s wild moodiness and Olive’s carefree oblivious stomping of toothpicks he had scattered on the ground as arrows, a battlescene. I’m sure he had laid them cross one another with serious deliberation; He has a bit of an eye for composition. Just like his mother.
I had such big ideas this morning. Where did they all go? They got lost in the lists. It’s a funny thing about lists. You feel a rush of inspiration and you try to harness it in a list. And then somehow, by the end of the list you don’t feel like doing a dang thing..
show details 6:32 PM (12 hours ago)
At last at last at last – the children, bless them, have gone to hang out with their father, go out to eat. And I am left with a quiet porch, a cloud-scudded sky, a small and very clean dog stretched obnoxiously across my thighs, his teeth squelching and popping across a Pinky Hi-Bounce that…just flew across the porch, propelled by my exasperated hand. And of course the Pinky became lodged behind the animal food bins…and of course I had to go get it.
My life is ridiculous at times. I am on my porch, waiting for a blue moon to rise. It is New Year’s eve. I am writing letters to myself.
I am so lucky to get to do what I want. To pursue joy. It is, I think, the responsibility of the privileged to seize every opportunity – be they proven sound – that is laid before them. To not deny their privilege, but to not ever take it for granted. To use their fortunate circumstances to do what they need to do to feel true joy. Not fleeting culturally-commercialized glee, but real, satisfied, joy. And let that joy come from living right…from living true.
I’m getting preachy again, aren’t I? Sometimes I can’t stand myself.
The thing is that I finally finally finally get it. I had some bright, bright insight at the kitchen sink at some point today. I don’t recall what I was doing, but I clearly recall what I was thinking. That it’s a shame shame shame that so many people in my demographic group could do so so so much with their personal capital of privilege. Really, the choices that middle-class white Americans have just stagger my mind. We can be educated what we want, where we want, we can finance travel, we can read read read a million words and understand them, we can go to the store big shiny bright and buy not just what we need, but what we want. We can spend forty bucks on an old piece of lumber from a blighted species. Not all the time, but sometimes.
When I speak of privilege, I am not referring to the rich, or even the upper-middle class. I am not, nor have I ever been privileged like that. But, I have had plenty of choices and was taught the right language. I could do just about anything. I have done just about anything trying to figure out what that one thing might be. I drove myself quite far quite literally quite crazy .
The thing is so many of us, the people that news magazines refer to as Generation X and Y, choose the dumbest ways to spend our time. Ways that are not in the least bit reverent, or thankful, or interesting, or interested, or remotely even true.
I mean, really, we rant. We are outraged, truly outraged. But, we’ve structured our lives in ways that prohibit proactively pursuing true goodness and joy. We are highly alienated from our work, so many of us. Just a voice at the end of a line or a filer slowly filing. Our middle-class work is unfulfilling because we have chosen careers that are convenient and accessible, that are comfortably mediocre. Because pursuing joy is a brave thing to do, because the line between joy and hedonism can be easily blurred.
Let me define joy as I understand it: Joy is the capacity to appreciate your own life. Not within the context of material trappings, but within the amount of small good you bring to your small world. The amount of living right you do. The ability to fall asleep satisfied that you’d done enough in the course of a day.
Joy is abandoning that old notion of never having done enough and allow that which you have done be enough. I guess. I don’t know.
It isn’t likely that lying about in bed, eating potato chips and watching television will ever truly feel like enough. Seriously.
It’s such a rip-off, to have every chance in the world to be happy, truly happy…and to settle settle settle for less than a true sense that we are trying to live our lives in the best possible way.
The cynic in me is gagging myself with a spoon. Puh-leeze.
But, really – how sad is it that the people most empowered to increase the goodness in the world simply do not do a dang thing.
We are a miserable lot if we do not seek a true right way for ourselves. Imagine: the joy revolution. The economy would belly up if people realized they hated answering phones and filing files. If they sought a simpler way that gave them a sense of rightness at the end of the day. Having lived well in whatever way is uniquely your own. As long as it’s not eating potato chips in bed all day. Perhaps for a bit in the afternoon, but only after you have had a joyfully productive morning.
Productivity has an enormous amount to do with it. This thing I keep calling joy. We have such a dysfunctional relationship with our work. We want to love it, we can’t love it…we hate it but we need it so we better try to love it…
My dad once gave me the advice: find something to do and just do it.
My mom often mistakes complacency for contentment…at least they seem happy.
No real joy is ever uniform. It is in symbiosis with our frustration. In proactively seeking to resolve our frustration, our inability to sleep without worry, we stumble upon a strange empowerment: we can affect change. If you can’t sleep, you better figure out why and deal with it. So many people just slog through life. It doesn’t matter what you do, just want to do it…do it well and love it love it love it. Good will inevitably come.
This place, this world, is full of poor poor poor people who have no choice but to do what they are doing and most of them find some way to love it, because until you are faced with the unspeakable, there is always someone worse off than you. Why is it that we don’t seem to get how dense it is that we settle for less when so many people – if they had what we had – would be so blessed.
Or would they? Would they reverently reach for the stars or would they gradually slip into the melancholia of petty worry and guilty conscience. I certainly ran myself ragged trying on different lives. I tried valiantly to settle. It was so much harder to try to settle for a life that didn’t feel right than it is, I have found, to just work it out through sheer courage and cleverness to be able to do the things that bring you joy. Because one light begats another.
Boy, I AM getting preachy. The most overzealous are always the converts. I don’t know if I’ve found a god of sorts, but I do know that I feel like my life is being well-lived. And that, my friends, is deeply satisfying. How many lives do humans get, if cats receive nine? I feel like surely we get as many as six second-chances.
With this second-chance – (a narrow escape!) – I declare that I really enjoy my life. It has been a long time since I’ve made that claim.
Happy New Year.