Thursday, October 12, 2017

Take a deep breath. Get to work.

This morning I woke up fretful. I had nightmares again. The same kind I have had all month. I am me, but I'm back in college; this limbo of being a child and an adult. It's time for a new fall semester and in all the fervor of academia, extended daylight, and schedules I had somehow forgotten to enroll in housing. This idea of an exciting life ahead—full of learning and art and friends— yet thwarted by bad planning is my version of being in the classroom naked. Somehow I have managed everything but the roof over my head. And here I am, days away from class, and I have no where to live on campus. It feels like knowing you had picked winning lottery numbers, your birthday, and lost the ticket. Haunting and selfish and cold.

I wake up and realize college was 15 years ago and I've been a homeowner for 7 of them. That the roof over my head is (at least today) legally mine. That the rules of campus, HOA, landlords and even zoning (Jackson NY has no zoning) is gone. I can have horses or build a used car lot now. I'm a taxpaying member of my community in good standing but it still takes a while to come down from that panic. I wake up covered in sweat and terrified.

I am terrified but not alone. Friday and Gibson close in on me in comfort. Border collies understand that front legs can be used like our primate arms and hold onto me. Their paw pads grasp like individual fingers on ribs and shoulders. This is what I do to them when it thunders. This is how we show care, we hold on. And with them holding me I start coming back to reality. I know they are here and part of this farm. That while I am broke and worried I am still insanely wealthy for any woman in the history of civilization. I am okay. I close my eyes and smell sweat and fur and say my everyday prayer:

Take a deep breath. Get to work.

I own 6.5 acres as an unmarried, openly queer, woman. That would be impossible a hundred years ago. It would be insanely tough fifty years ago. It makes me an outsider now. But I am here.

I went outside with a mug of coffee and fed my stock. I keep horses for cart and saddle. I have a flock of sheep, dairy goats, a small sounder of pigs, poultry, gardens and hive. I have land. I have a pond, a stream, and a well of water 398 feet into the good earth. My bank account might only have $27 in it, but that is because every goddamned penny I earn goes towards the live I fight to have. And I do so as a woman alone. I do it without government assistance, family help, or husband. I do it with words, and design, and meat, and art.

Take a deep breath. Get to work.

We're told we're supposed to be humble. It's a fine Christian trait in our shame-based culture. But I am not a Christian. I think women should boast. I think we should raise our glasses high to hard work and accomplishment and accept praise and criticism with the same raised eyebrow. People have watched this life for a decade. They have seen me go from girl to woman, new to practiced, farm-curious to experienced farmer. I used t shudder at comments here. Now I just ended them. You want to tell me how you feel about me, go ahead* But you better be willing to put your name, your worth, and your reputation on the line to do so.

Breakfast was a dozen eggs in a cast iron skillet Jon Katz gave me when he was moving Bedlam Farm. I miss talking to Jon. I use that skillet every day. Once fried up the whole lot was split three ways between myself, Gibson, and Friday. The eggs came from hens I raised as chicks. They were outside pecking at grain and bugs, ranging free on our land. It tasted as good as you think - eating your own farm-raised eggs on a week day morning. Hens drinking the same well water as me. Hens feeling the same sunlight on our shoulders as me.

Lunch was defrosted sweet Italian sausage fried in a pan with pasta sauce and caramelized onion. I raised those pigs. They came from the daily care of beasts. It tastes like sunlight and sweat and fur exhaling from a bad dream.

Dinner was a butternut squash, cut in half, seeds scooped, and roasted in olive oil and chicken seasoning for an hour. It tasted amazing. Those small plants were set into the earth here in May. I have 50lbs of them resting all over this farmhouse, and that is a modest harvest. It was perfect.

 My body was sated. I spent the day doing work of hands, heart, and strings. Sometime after supper I picked up my fiddle and played a droning version of Blackest Crow. How many people even know that song anymore? And may I dare not discount the work of learning to play it. May I raise the glass of whiskey I am sipping high to old songs, old work, old fears.

I never know if I am safe. I never know what will come of agents, book deals, classes, or contracts. I just know that I am madly in love with the life I built out of twigs and tears on this mountain. That as scared as I am of not having a dorm room at 35, I feel insanely wealthy. That I am so lonely, but too busy to tend to it so it trots past me as bliss.

To be a woman, alone, and eat like this.
To be a woman, alone, and live like this.
To be a woman, alone, and hope like this.

Take a deep breath. Get to work.

twitter: @coldantlerfarm

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