Ever since I left the 9-5 world and gave up my dental insurance the Dentist stopped being about maintenance and moved into the slot of Damage Control. I was last at the Dentist in September to repair a filling, and am good about taking care of my choppers whenever something cracks or gets a cavity. I refuse to give up on my teeth, however wonky they may be. I brush and floss and all that, but any sort of extra care is just not an option in my life right now. So this is where we are at: Abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.
I was crying because it hurt so damn much, but also because it was the final straw in a very fragile week. I have not been blogging because all of my creative sit-down-and-make-something-in-front-of-a-screen energy has been going towards Birchthorn and Logo Designs. After a day of chores, shoveling, firewood chopping, 4 logo clients, and a thousand words on monsters in 1918 - I am creatively drained. I just want to sit back, watch an episode of Community, drink some warm tea, and get ready for tomorrow. Maybe invite some friends over for a board game or a movie. You know, relax. But the cold we've been experiencing up here this month has been relentless. And that has been getting to me in body and spirit.
As you know, I heat with wood and so that means keeping a supply of dry firewood and the presence to not stray too far from the homestead. This means (generally) staying close to home and keeping pipes thawed (some exploded anyway and destroyed a carpet) and the home fires burning. Yesterday afternoon was kinda warm so I felt it was okay to attend a class and see some friends up north, and that class is where the tooth demons took over my body.
You can only keep it together so long before something gets irrevocably broken. You get me? If you're still reading this let's update the emotional tally. This is where we are at now: Exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby. Let's hear it for me!
Also, I was driving home in a truck with a late inspection. Not a horrible crime, but another example of adult scolding our society likes to slap us on the wrist with. The truck is safe, but it has a bad 02 sensor and a crack in the windshield. It needs both things repaired before it can pass inspection. No big deal, right? Well, it wasn't until I got pulled over by a cop and given a court summons. Now the law is onto me and this inspection NEEDS to be done before I have to go to court next week to prove it to the judge I am driving an inspected vehicle. I had been putting off the non-essential repairs to the truck as long as possible since other things needed to be taken care of first (you know, like the mortgage, electricity, etc) and knowing I was probably looking at a root canal was a 2-3 reality punch combo. So this is where we are at now: Driving an illegal truck, late mortgage, court date looming, truck repairs needed, exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.
Also, I am dealing with some personal stuff I don't feel comfortable writing about here. Nothing serious, so please do not worry. There is no horrid physical diagnosis or death in my family. But what there is is a lot of the kind of emotional upheavals that happen to all of us living a human life in 2015. Family drama, regrets, fears, anxiety, and personal doubts that I can actually pull this adventure off. It didn't help that I was dealing with PMS either, which doesn't make me angry or snappy but does make me very pensive. So this is where we are at now: Scared about being a 32-year-old single woman farming alone, dealing with PMS, feeling overwhelmed, driving an illegal truck, late mortgage, court date looming, truck repairs needed, exhausted from the relentless cold, bursted pipes, ripped out carpets, plywood floors, abscessed tooth, intense pain, 45 minutes from home, crying like a giant baby.
This, my friends, is my rock bottom. Welcome. I'd offer you a chair but all we got is rocks. We sold the chairs to keep the pigs fed.
Guys, I am a tough woman. I do not usually let myself fall into any selfish despair. But man oh man, this pain in my face made all those other problems and stresses feel a thousand times worse. Anyone out there reading this who deals with anxiety and panic attacks understands this, and I was headed for a serious bender of pain and panic. I stopped to picked up a bottle of Elijah Craig at some cagey discount booze place and headed inside the farmhouse to begin the process of self-medication. When you are one of the uninsured Americans that twenty bucks worth of booze is a lot cheaper than running to the emergency room for some percocet.
I got home to the cold house, started a fire, and in a haze of pain and googling I started to remedy the situation best this farm girl could. Enter the triple threat of swishing warm salt water around my mouth, spitting it out, then swishing bourbon around my mouth, spitting that out, and then walking around the farmhouse counting to ten and breathing deep before repeating it all over again. I took 800mg of ibuprofen. I used a topical numbing agent. All of this was not helping. My ears were ringing, my face was throbbing, and the only thing that made it somewhat better was the placebo ritual of salt, whiskey, counting, topical numbing, etc. Just doing something felt like I was punching back at the monster. I did this for hours. The dogs slept with their full bellies of kibble and the sheep chewed their cud in the moonlight and I just wished someone would knock me out with a blow to the head so I could fall asleep. If the good people of Kentucky knew how much bourbon I spit out into my sink last night I would be lynched.
Around 10PM I broke down. At this point I was so exhausted from the pain and the constant swishing of spiny agents I couldn't take it anymore. I decided to just feel it. Just let it wash over me. Just deal with the pain and accept it. I sat down in front of a candle to meditate. I started to slowly breathe and be all zen about it.
That didn't work.
I ended up screaming into a pillow so the neighbors didn't call the police. I was coughing and spitting up I was crying so hard. Not knowing what else to do I lit all the candles on the home altar and the statue of Brigit glowed in the tiny midnight farmhouse of this pathetic, writhing, woman. And then I just prayed. I didn't sit there with my hands over my heart like a yoga class just ended, no no no, this was pagan prayer. This was primal. I howled out my prayers of healing and paced like a caged animal. I did that until I collapsed to the floor, too tired and too hurt to do anything else but heave and sweat. And when I stood up, it was gone.
I am not shitting you, the pain had nearly stopped. What was a whale had turned into a slow-moving tuna. I felt my tooth with my tongue and realized I couldn't feel anything up there anymore. Be it divine intervention or just the accumulated effects of constant salt, booze, and numbing agent I was finally able to focus again. I was so grateful I shook. It took moments after that to fall asleep. I did so with a border collie in my arms, breathing slowly alongside me, keeping me warm.
Mornings are always better, aren't they? That was how I usually feel but the pain that I had defeated in honorable combat last night came back again. It crept back into my head like a water snake slides up a stream. It slunk in slow, but steady. I knew I had to see a dentist ASAP so I called the practice i always go to and the number didn't work? What? I tried again? I knew the house phone was working because my mother called me four times already, worried about me thanks to last night's sordid Facebook post. I tried to call again, no dice. Then I realized that even though Arlington Vermont is just 20 minutes away, it's a different area code and therefore "not local" as far as my landline provider was concerned. So this is how my "brand new day" starts huh? So, with a hearty, "FUCK IT" I told Gibson to get into the illegal truck because we were just going to drive our asses to the dentist, and I needed him for moral support. I wasn't expecting any instant help, but at least I could get an appointment without spending the morning on the phone with Verizon working out a new long distance plan.
Okay, so I had a plan. I would go outside, get all the animals seen to, and once chores were done I would leave my cold house (no fire started yet this Am or coffee drank) and head to the dentist with my co-pilot riding shotgun and reminding me that no matter what, I owned the greatest dog in the world. It mattered, that.
As dog and Shepherdess headed outside to feed the horse and sheep (they are always fed first) I noticed something odd. Only five sheep? Where was Brick, my sturdiest ewe? Looking west, I saw her. Up on the hillside inside the sheep shed walking downhill towards me and bucket of cracked corn I was holding. Behind her trailed two brand new lambs, still wet with birth goo and walking behind their mother. At this point I clenched both fists and just screamed out, "TIMING!" Gibson watched them in awe. The flock had gone from 6 to 8 before dawn. And the pre-menstrual rush of emotions flooded my tired brain and this farmer went on auto-pilot.
I turned off the fence, told Gibson to lie down and wait, and bounded up the hill. There I discovered two beautiful ram lambs, strong and eager, with tiny horns. I checked them both out and saw they had fat bellies and were clearly drinking milk. The sun was out and the temperatures weren't bad at all this morning so far and I knew lambs this strong and from this ewe would be okay to leave for a bit while I headed to the dentist. If this pain got any worse I'd be useless to the farm anyway. I fed the rest of the animals and G and I drove to the dentist.
Soon as I walked into the dentist's office there was a framed photograph of two newborn lambs. The gods laugh. I laughed with them. I mean it, I walked into my Dentist's office (without an appointment) laughing to myself. Now, you need to understand that this is a rural Vermont office. It's just someone's house, all yellows and browns and old wallpaper and lace curtains, turned into an office. No part of it was a stupid, sterile, high performance office with flat screen tv sets on the walls. It is old school and I love it. I explained to the folks at the desk (briefly) about the pain, the night, the lambs, and could they possibly fit me in soon? The first thing the receptionist asked for after my story was photos of the lambs on my cell phone (Which I loved her for and laughed again), and I explained I don't have a cell phone, I gave it up, but I would email her some later. She then told me to come back in an hour and they would do x-rays and help me out. Brigit's Fire, was that ever good news!
At this point I realized I should really carry a watch if I'm not carrying around a smartphone that subs as one. Anyway, I was elated, and so I headed back to the truck and told Gibson we had an hour to kill. So we headed south to Shaftsbury to go to Whitman's feed store, an old stomping ground. I bought some amazingly clean fresh straw, a new heat lamp, lamb and kid paste, a brooder light, and some fresh syringes. At this point I just paid the woman, surrendering to the day. I knew I would have to write checks to the dentist, the pharmacy, and hay barn already so might as well go down towards the red with two comfortable lambs. I was honestly feeling that if everything fell apart in my life at least on this day those two little lambs would be clean, warm, medicated, and nutritionally supplemented. (Note: I usually have this stuff on hand but I wasn't expecting lambs until 2 weeks or so. Guess Brick wasn't waiting for permission. Good for her!)
I got X-rays done and a prescription for antibiotics and pain meds. Serious pain meds. I drove back to Cambridge to return to the farm and get the Rx filled, but something urged me to stop into the Wayside Country Store on the way home. I wanted to check in on Nancy, who just lost a husband of 50 years a few weeks ago. I wanted to see how she was doing?
Soon as she saw me I melted and gave her a hug. Inside the store were three generations of their family including her granddaughter who messaged me last night on Facebook about my tooth. I felt this rush of warmth, this overwhelming sense of okay. How can I believe in pain and stress more than love when I am surrounded by amazing, caring, people? There are new lives to rush home and take care of. There is a dog I love more than anything in this world waiting for me in the truck. There is this grace filled woman, who is listening to my stories about the tooth and the lambs and the dentist and the pain and just hugs me and pulls out family photos of their first milk cow and her kids in the 70s holding it by a halter in the family portrait. And I stand there with this overwhelming sense of love for this messy life I live, and that all of us live. I had a prescription in my pocket. I had warm coffee in my hand. And I had these people I love sharing with me their stories and offering me pain meds and advice and empathy. How could you not love this world every day?
Goddamn it life is so beautiful.
We are not just our bad weeks. You, me, we all contain multitudes. I am the woman crying on the floor in terrifying pain and I am the woman smelling a newborn lamb in her arms and smiling like an idiot. I am the scared woman under a lead vest at the dentist's office and I am also the woman in a small country store moved by an old woman's faded family portrait with a jersey cow. I am the defeated, pathetic, howling monster from last night and I am the hero standing tall on a sturdy plank floor having already spent her morning ignoring pain and feeding pigs, sheep, horse, goats, poultry, rabbits and more. I am shit and I am sunlight. I am a mess and I am perfect. I sipped my coffee (the pain now again subsiding thanks to the Dr visit and more numbing gel) and let out the kind of sigh you hold in for days. I chatted a bit more and then walked around the little store and picked up some provisions I needed. While walking back to the counter to pay I noticed an antique pocket watch with an eagle/hawk design on the front hanging from the junk/costime jewelry display. It was eight dollars. Sold. Problem number 2325325 fixed. Time was once again, on my side.
The sun was out. I was heading home to my adopted town. I knew I still needed to pick up hay and some extension cords for the heat lamp, so I stopped into town. Gibson and I walked into the hardware store and chatted with Bryan. I told him about the new lamb and he congratulated me. He and his family raise chickens, rabbits, and beef and know the work and love that goes into newly born stock. I dropped off the prescription at Rite Aid (praying that it wasn't a jillion dollars) and then headed over to Common Sense Farm because I wanted to just dish with a best friend about this insane past 12 hours.
I walked into the kitchen at the commune and familiar faces invited to me join them for tea or a meal, I politely declined and headed to the second floor in the mansion to Yeshiva's apartment. There I found her and her glowing, pregnant, body. She looked as tired as I was and we hugged and spent time just being two women with a lot on our minds. She talked about her life, I talked about mine, and I felt so much better. I left a check I owed them for hay and loaded up three more bales into the back of my truck from their barn. I threw it into the back of the illegal pickup along with the county-fair-display straw. So much work ahead of me when I got home. I took three deep breathes. The day was just starting.
I bought the extension cords, a 100ft and a 50ft, and headed home. I let out the dog to be a dog and he instantly started herding Quark away from the wood pile by the front door. I told Gibson, "That'll do" and picked up the old rooster in my arms and set him onto the bed of the pickup with some cracked corn. Then I went right to work outside. I rebedded the sheep shed, set up the heat lamp for tonight's colder weather, and set up the extension cords. I made sure everyone outside had hay and water and then headed inside to finally start a fire and get to work on logos and writing. I had a few hours before evening chores started again. I opened the front glass door and what did I discover?! A note from the power company! I had 72 hours before electric was shut off. Great! I came inside with the door-knocker notice sheet and set it on the table. I set the problem meter back to 2325326. I took the pain meds and antibiotic with some water and I won't lie, part of me wished I took it with whiskey. I didn't. Once that bottle becomes the answer to your problems you have a lot more to battle with than bills and truck inspections. I have enough battles to fight as is.
All right. So that's that. That's my last 24 hours. That's where I have been and what I have been dealing with. I wrote it all out, all of it. I think the pain meds have me a little light headed, but that's not the reason for this long post. The reason for the post is the reason for this entire blog: an raw portrayal of farming alone and trying to live a creative life.
I assume some of you will read this and think I am an asshole. Others will read it and shake their heads and think. "Man, this girl needs a break". And yet others will read it and see a person in love with her messy, passion-filled, wild life. Well let me tell you something boys and girls, I agree with all of you. However, since I have to spend 100% of my time with myself, I am pretty forgiving. When it comes down to the brass tax I love myself, my farm, my life, and my choices. Every day terrified on this farm is better than the most comfortable day in someone else's office.
Like I said earlier, we contain multitudes. I am the monster and the hero, and the life I choose to focus on is comprised of a million tiny decisions every single day. Last night I chose to sink to rock bottom. This morning I realized that a rock floor is damn sturdy ground for standing up on. And I'll figure it all out. I'm already figuring it out. Even when things get this rough around here I need to stop and realize that this is one beautiful mess I chose and every year it gets less messy. I need to take a moment and accept with absolute joy that I am living an intentional life I am so passionate about. That every morning I wake up and create, and laugh, and fall in love with the world over and over again. I stretch, and sip coffee, and plan workshops and prepare for animal births. I play music, I work in my home office, I visit my friends in this community I love so much and loves me back. As bad as things may get I am well aware these are nothing compared to the problems some of you deal with. That my biggest failures are just fuel towards a better self, and that most of what is wrong just needs steady work and relentless stubbornness. I have those things in spades.
And I need to remember that while times are tough now, they are just a passing afternoon. They are just what life is like "right now". How many times have I been here, in this place of worry and pain and figured it out before? Why should I doubt myself when I have always figured it out? It is a fact on paper that I bought this farm in 2010 and have paid FOUR YEARS of mortgage payments, even if I am a little behind right now. That means a lot. And this slump can all change in one book deal or a rush on logo sales or workshop attendance. I see that illegal truck outside with a driver's side door that stopped opening and I don't see a burden. I see a vehicle with just 13 more payments left until I own it1 I see a Fell Pony I dreamed of, found, learned to partner with, fell in love with riding, and have paid off in full! I see a hawk I took from the sky and learned to hunt beside. I see an entire farmyard of animals I raised for myself and others. I see myself down to a size 10 instead of the 14 I was in December. I see a strong woman with the power to make art, life, music, stories and food and that would make me a goddess in a better age! So I can choose to spend this day focusing on the fear and problems, or I can spend it focusing on the hope and solutions.
I choose Goddess. Hear me howl.
I also remind myself that outside are two beautiful lambs. They are this farm's future and healthy and braw and gorgeous. More lambs are on the way and as simple as those little beasts are, they are even more drive to figure out the problems and continue this wonderful, glorious, fight for the life I love. I say fight with joy. I am not interested in any sort of pacifism in this short time I have. I am a martial artist, a hunter, an archer, a farmer, and a damned tough fighter. I like my world being one where sweat, blood, and beautiful force and hope combine to give me purpose I see lacking in so many others. Better a passionate asshole trying to keep the lights on than the person I could have been if I didn't try.
Listen, I don't know what you guys think of me and frankly, it is none of my business. I'm writing to you because I can't help but write. I would go insane if I didn't do this every single day in one form or another. You're just a witness to the addiction. But if you made it this far into the blog post then I hope you read this with compassion and it gives you a sense of fire, light, healing and hope. That is what I got out of writing it.
Okay. Time to check on those sheep, get their shed toasty for this cold night ahead, get the fire restarted (it's gone out since I've been writing here this past hour or so) and get back to the good fight. I wish all of you a day a blessed with challenges, meaning, friendship, joy, pain, love, and warm dogs as I have been blessed with.
Here I go.
LUCEO NON URO.