Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wolves and Poodles

I was walking out of Stewarts yesterday with a coffee and two big bags of firewood. I buy their super-dry wood to start up a super-hot fire that burns my scavenged (and slightly damp) wood hot and true. My wood is good, but not entirely dry and if I can get the stove hot enough to quickly dry out wood within moments of being set to flame - I keep the heat instead of running a very complicated and expensive steam machine…Anyway, I was leaving the gas station and crossing across the front door with two giant plastic bags and this woman walked out with her pack of children. I was stuck right in her path and had to either stay still like a tree or move around the herd of kids to get to my truck. So what happened was this clumsy lumbering past a few children to simultaneously get out of their way and get the heavy wood away from small peoples' temples. I got out of her way, she smiled and herded her pups towards her vehicle.

She was what I used to consider Otherkin, a woman like me but so alien in her appearance and lifestyle that I felt like another species. I could guess by her clothes, her hair and make up, and the new SUV idling with a fellow in the driver's seat, that she was experiencing life on a different planet. She would probably go home to a house already warmed by a thermostat, probably without livestock, firewood, frozen water and fence gates, and the mortgage paid. She had a family, a partner, and time to apply eyeliner well enough to pull off a perfect wing. I've watched Youtube videos on how to do this but I always look like a Slovak Chola. It's not flattering. This woman totally pulled it off. As I loaded the wood into the back of the truck and struggled with the door (it freezes weird and makes it hard to open sometimes) I got inside my truck (which isn't heated) and pet Gibson who was waiting patiently for me. I had hot coffee and a five minute drive home to a place I consider paradise. My life was harsher by most people standard's but it was exactly what I wanted, which is what few people are lucky enough to say honestly.

So I had absolutely no interest in this woman's lifestyle, but don't take that to mean I think mine is better. This is not about that at all, just an observation on two people in the same town, in the same timeline, in the same gas station parking lot experiencing the world in entirely different ways. I think this is great. I envy her comforts and perfect eyeliner, her partnership, even her children. I envy her beauty and her wardrobe. She seemed rich in all the conventional ways. A perfect little nuclear family in an ideal small American town out for hot cocoa on the way to the ski resort. I think it's awesome. But here is what is also pretty awesome:

We live in a time and in a place where a woman can go home to her thriving small farm, cut down trees and haul them home with a draft horse, chop firewood, and heat her house the way homes have been heated long before Edison and Tesla boxed it out. She can raise her own meat for the grill, vegetables for the pot, hitch up a cart and ride via equine locomotion to a neighbor's house for a night of board games and storytelling with home-brewed beer and then tuck in to a sea of wool blankets to wake up and do it all over again. The next day she can string her bow and hunt, herd sheep, write, sew, and laugh. She can mend fences, care for sick animals, birth beautiful new lambs and kids and cry over her mistakes and pain… in the year 2014.

And we also live in a time and place where a woman can go home to her climate-controlled restored Victorian with furniture right out of the newest issue if Dwell. She can adjust buttons on the wall to make each room just as warm or cold as she wants. She can drive to any farm or store in a beautiful vessel and buy food from anywhere in the world on demand, relatively cheaply, and cook it in a redone kitchen. She can have her husband watch over the kids and call friends and spend a day at the mall, or a spa, and unwind under a masseuses' hands or take a cooking class, plan a trip to India, or start training for that half marathon. She can go to sleep curling her spine into someone she loves under a down comforter in a house warmed by family, contentment, fossil fuel, and blessings. And she can also deal with the realities of her ailing parents, her college and personal debts, family arguments, bi-polar disorder, or chemical dependency and cry over mistakes and pain… in the year 2014.

I think it is amazing that we can live such totally different lives (or any combination of the two) and still share the same emotions and desires. I see far too much judgement from the female hard-core survivalist/homesteading community towards the Otherkin. Scoffs and jeers from the wolf pack at the poodles. Truth is we are far more alike than we are different, and neither life is more valid. We both have advantages and disadvantages in the long run. Us wolves are better off in some future scenarios and worse off in others, and since I can't see the future (nor can she) we can only live the best way we know how in this short life. Live in a way that honors who we are and what we know, and if we aren't hurting anyone else we have every right to strut our stuff in the show ring or shine as we sprint after a whitetail. Do what makes you feel pretty, damnit. I used to see us a wild and tame, but now I just see us as canines: just as real and valid but with lives that followed different paths. As one of you readers once told me: There is no reality vs escapism. It's all real. Life is about choices.

There are things from her world I desire. I bet there are things from mine she does, too. I would love to curl my spine into someone I love under a down blanket. I would love a heated car and the ability to apply winged eyeliner that well (don't judge). Maybe she always dreamed of a horse, or desperately wants a flock of sheep and some chickens? She doesn't have to give up her thermostat to enjoy a wood stove in the kitchen and I don't have to hide my mascara because I know how to wield and axe either. We are who we are, more alike than different. We are both pack animals, hunters by daylight, lovers of warmth and community, wielders of fire and light. I may be a dire wolf and she may be a poodle but we both have sharp teeth and even sharper wits.

We are both, my dear friends, awesome bitches.

photo credit: kamera kevin on flickr


Blogger Cathy said...

Well said! There are also those of us in the middle - the Labs. I love Labs so that's what I am. I don't have the upscale house or car but also can't apply eyeliner without looking like I went 2 rounds with Mike Tyson.

I don't have a farm or animals (yet) and heat with a thermostat that I am constantly fighting to keep at 65 degrees (Tim and Joe like it much warmer). My house is under 1000 sq ft and I drive to a job outside of my home.

But you are right, we are all canines, we are different but as long as we are happy and not harming anyone with our thoughts and actions, we should stop nipping at each other.

Woof, y'all. Less barking, more tail wagging.

January 2, 2014 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

Well Said. I think among women there should be more acceptance of different lifestyles; more building up vs. tearing down. Seems like men don't get into this mudslinging that women do towards each other. I hope in 2014 there is more love and tolerance and less judging and prejudice in the world.

January 2, 2014 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger kbrow said...

I'm really glad this post ended with the conclusion that it did. I am a woman with one foot in each world. I love makeup and nail polish - though like you, I can't apply eyeliner worth a damn. I don't have a woodstove, I have a crappy too-big fireplace, but it's great for putting slightly damp wood in to dry it out while the fire is burning. It also is just fine as a place to rise bread dough. I make my own soap and laundry detergent, knit, spin, compost, and celebrate the sabbats with enthusiasm. If you saw me on the street, though, I might pass for a poodle. About those poodles...I am a longtime Standard Poodle owner and lover. My old poodle was a tracking dog and retriever. My current one is hands-down the toughest, most intuitive, easily trained dog I know. When I think "poodle," I think smart, versatile, athletic, and yes, good-looking. Because we all want to be pretty, and pretty can look like a lot of different things; a hot fire, a rose bush in bloom, a cloak pin, and yes, the elusive winged eyeliner look, which I don't have time to perfect because, well, life calls...

January 2, 2014 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger PansWife said...

When I was 16, and starting to consider what college to go to, my immigrant grandmother said to me "I envy you, there is no better time and few better places to be a woman." I asked her why and she said: "You have choices, and you live in a society that will allow you to at least try to be whomever and whatever you want to be." I have never forgotten that and I am grateful for possibilities and freedoms that so many women before me never had. I have no romance with the past; the days before birth control, sanitation, antibiotics and rights for women were stifling and even prematurely deadly. I like it here now, and if I want to throw in a little tradition from previous centuries I have the freedom to do so at a safe distance from the historical reality. Follow your bliss.

January 2, 2014 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I love the term LABS for the Middlekin! Ha! So well said!

thanks for all your comments guys!

January 2, 2014 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I think it is awesome that kbrow, me, cathy and holly and Panswife can choose the life we want. I would be burned at the stake a couple hundred years ago and today I could run for president. It amazes me how wonderful this change is, and how lucky I am.

January 2, 2014 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

thanks Jenna for a great post .... the other day I came to the conclusion that everyone lives in their own world with their own rules because each of us look and experience their surroundings differently .... even sounds don't have the same impact on every one .... each of us is 'wired' differently because of multiple parameters and that is totally more than fine with me since there is already more than enough standarization.

Wish you all a happy and industrious 2014!

January 2, 2014 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Jenn B said...

Longtime reader, first time to comment! Well, cause I wasn't down with google yet ;-) Thank you Jenna! I love this.

I feel like I am someone who feels best and true to myself when I am working outside with my hands, growing my food, canning it up or feeding the stove. Every now and then I wear something that needs ironing and I wear bronzer (just tried it a few weeks ago!) I have an office job and occasionally I share parts of my personal life and they are always surprised that I have chickens, prefer some dirt under my nails and make homemade soap.

Such a mixed breed I always say! I've got to admit, I sometimes wrinkle my nose at the "poodle" types. Mission 2014: bark less, wag more like Cathy said :) Cheers ladies!!

January 2, 2014 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Elle Cashen said...

Happy New Year Jenna! Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your writing (I have 4 of your books) and blog and your adventures and your excitement about your life.
I have just had the most difficult year of my life! Just thinking about my own farm/country living fantasy gives me hope. Seeing you doing it on your own and how you keep trying new things really gives me hope.
I wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year! Keep doing what you do! I am blessed by your work and life!

January 2, 2014 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

This is awesome. I'm probably right in the middle here (a hound dog, maybe?) and really appreciate this post recognizing the validity of our differences.

January 2, 2014 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

This is awesome. I'm probably right in the middle here (a hound dog, maybe?) and really appreciate this post recognizing the validity of our differences.

January 2, 2014 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Trish said...

A beautiful post Jenna!! I have to admit that at the end, I was really just glad that I am not the only person who can not get that wing thing right with eyeliner. I think it looks wicked cool on other women! And although I am jealous of both the wolves and the poodles at times, I am really quite content here in the middle realm. Thanks for your vision and your words. Someday I'll figure out that eyeliner thing and share the secret with the world!!! Mwaa Haa Haa!! ;)

January 2, 2014 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

What made the most impact on me reading this post is the fact that you are BUYING kindling and burning wet wood.
Why are you not splitting your own wood for kindling and bringing it into the house to dry? You could also bring in firewood a few days ahead and get that dryer than it is outside.
Feed bags rolled up make good kindling, as do newspapers and dirty cardboard egg cartons (All things we use)
Hope you stay warm through the storm you are getting.

January 2, 2014 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

thanks for the comments. I do know that wood takes a year to dry, and I also know how to burn flammable materials :)

I don't have the time, ability, tools or money to cut or purchase a full year in advance right now. When I can or am able, I will. I spend the whole summer collecting and cutting up just enough to get through to spring.

As for kindling. I am not buying kindling, I'm buying big honkin' logs that are super dry. I can 6 bucks on a bag of ten logs and burn three in the monring to create enough heat to keep my wood going fine and raise the house 10 degrees in 2 hours. I have cut up my own wood and dried to to burn indoors, that is what the super dry wood is fueling.

You guys need to have some faith in me!

January 2, 2014 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Josh and Haley said...

Glad this ended the way it did!! I def. feel like a Middlekin! Herding my littles around, with a thermostat, a hubby and -yikes- a van. But I also go home to a pretty big garden, 8 chickens, a wood stove for extra heat, the man kills all of our meat and we can tons of veggies for the winter. I'm a wanna be farmer but sometimes life's changes are gradual...I used to think I had to be one or the other...wild or tame. But I've learned not to wait for everything to be just right to live my dream... I'm not gonna wait until we move to he country or have land or whatever. I'm gonna be a farmer here and now...and hopefully,someday the country land will come. I read a quote once..."life is not about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself." I try to remember this when I start to think I have to be what everybody else thinks I am....

January 2, 2014 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger Angela Boyko said...

I find it interesting that you appear to think this poodle doesn't have a job.

I was once very jealous of a woman who came into a room with total confidence, introducing herself with aplomb and grace. We became friends later and I confessed my jealousy. She admitted that she had been terrified that night, and what I saw was a mask.

So maybe she isn't a decorative dog like a poodle, but a woman who puts on her eyeliner as her disguise.

January 3, 2014 at 12:35 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

This is my first time commenting here, and I just wanted to chime in with my love for this post. Like Jenna, I think as I've aged (to a ripe old age of 31, whomp whomp), I seem more inclined to see the similarities and less defined by this differences. I do occasionally get a little side-eye from my office mates when I talk about our chickens or bees, or the awesome owl pellet I found in the woods behind my house, but I've also found that I also care much, much about presenting myself as someone I'm not in order to please. I'd consider myself, as we call indeterminate mutts in the heart of Appalachia, a West Virginia Brown Dog.

January 3, 2014 at 1:35 AM  
Blogger KirstenJL said...

Yup, in all the talk of sheep and sheepdogs, I generally find myself more of a ....llama. I'm neither interested in following the herd nor policing them. I think it is a true miracle to live in a time and place where a woman can live alone and have her own life.

January 3, 2014 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Karen from CT said...

It is a post like this that makes me so happy you have comments on again! Loved the post and the conversation that followed. Happy New Year Everyone!

January 3, 2014 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Joie said...

Loved this. I'm a Lab, too (ok, I probably more identify with my wirehaired pointing griffon, who looks really rough around the edges but is a sweetie and a purebred) - I have a thermostat but I only use it to prevent me from having to get up at night to stoke the stove. I live in a restored Victorian with a redone kitchen, but we eat almost exclusively venison these days. I wear muck boots at home and shiny flats at work. None of this makes me better than any other woman. It may set me apart slightly, but I would have to agree that for the most part we are all awesome bitches.

And PansWife, my grandmother said the same thing yours did: she wished she could have grown up in my time instead of hers. Let's make it so this time is one worth envying.

January 6, 2014 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Liz Witter said...

I believe I stepped over the line middlekin in 2013. On top of my many chores, I started killing the chickens myself (never becomes a pleasant chore, but boy you will never catch me buying chicken from the store again!) I wore eyeliner twice (maybe)in 2013, I wear my jeans and roper boots everyday, have lovely calluses on my hands that I am SO proud of, and wear my hair in a long braid, everday (low maintenance is key). I've never felt more confident and beautiful in my life. I sometimes run into my former poodle self at the store and think what she must think of me and laugh! And I don't care what she thinks, which is an amazing feeling. It doesn't matter if you are a poodle, lab, cocker spaniel - as long as you are a happy confident person - I will wag my tail at you all day!

January 6, 2014 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Goose Goose said...

I love this!!! One year after you posted this, I love it.

What I'm finding is that I am all of us. I find that one year I was such-and-such and that year I was this-and-that. We aren't that different, but we do have different visions / experiences.

Phases of life for sure, and I really enjoyed this.

(*do you read new posts to old posts?)

July 21, 2015 at 11:42 AM  

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