Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Humidity: Life in The Shire

When I stepped outside my front door this morning with Gibson to do the morning chores I was stepping into a brand new world from the one I left the night before. It has been so dry, for so long, and this morning the blessed humidity was back and I was bubbling with energy. My body instantly burst into a light sheen of sweat. I took in a deep breathe of the wet air and let it fill my lungs, smiling. In half an hour my body would be dripping, and then I'll change into running gear and really learn what humidity is. Water and life, everywhere. I love humidity.

People complain about this weather because they feel it is uncomfortable. Yup, sure is. So why is being uncomfortable bad if you are a healthy, young, human animal? Why do we think constant comfort is normal? Or good? I know a lot of people who are never sweating, never heaving, never working their bodies and they are killing themselves doing it. I may be a sweaty mess of gasping effort, but you can see the white of my eyes and I am getting into the best shape of my life.

To me, humidity is the reason I am comfortable. Sweat and heat, those are not things to avoid. Those are the things that make my body hum. They're also the things that make my farm, hell, my region of the country, hum. Last night I sat outside in a hammock in the dark, watching thousands of fireflies light up my farm while thunder rumbled in the distance and lightning danced. The storm was far off. If I was in danger, I didn't care and wasn't moving from under the giant broad-leafed king Sugar Maple. I was barefoot, and below my swinging feet was a lawn of soft grass and clover. My arms were feeling long and strong. They were deep brown in their summer tan, and wet with sweat (the default condition this summer). Bits of hay and chaff covered them like sparkles, sticking to my skin like so many set jewels. I felt beautiful. I felt lush, and heaving and alive out there swaying above the world. I felt young, full of possibilities, and I could not stop smiling. I was drunk on this free summer, where a Monday night means nothing different than a Friday night.

All around me the fireflies waltzed, the thunder purred, and the sky shot full of light. I was so tired from a day of shooting, riding, writing, and running and this resting pose felt decadent. Even though the world was hot, I knew what it felt like to be dripping sweat and gasping for breath earlier, running up my mountain to drop pounds and remove toxins from my body. In comparison this humid night was a cool breeze blowing through a sauna. It was heavenly.

Humidity is my best friend. It means I live in a place where water is so abundant that it thrives in the very air, in the mud under my feet, in the flashing sky. My friend Othniel says we live in a deciduous rain forest and he is right. The Northeast is so lush, so alive, that you can put a rock out on your front lawn in the shade and it will grow moss. Life is always finding a way here. And the best part of course, Autumn. When all this life explodes into one last party of color before sleep. When nights wrap you up in heavy hooded sweatshirts and your favorite pair of jeans at bonfires and Halloween cornfields. It's the payoff in relief and respite a summer of life offers. Celebration an entire season that ends with that first pristine snowfall. A howl and a prayer.

I lived out west for a while and while I appreciated its particular kind of beauty, but it wasn't correct to me. I didn't realize that until I moved back to New England and saw a spring explode the forests and hillsides in non-stop green. It was shocking, almost a fantasy. I remember just staring at a May forest totally shocked. It was the most life I had seen in a year. Holy cow, it was a festival of lushness, almost pornographic. Not just trees, but thousands of leafy, bustling story tops where pines were the rarity. Growth below in vines, mosses, bushes, flowers, ferns. Everywhere sunlight touched there was clover or grass. Here was the Shire, not the Misty Mountains.

I belong in the Shire.


Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

My towels have been outside on the clothesline for three days and this morning I finally had the result I've been waiting for... they were dripping from the rain we had last night. My towels will be fine whether they are wet or dry today, but my garden and the farms in the area will wither and die without the life-giving rain. I am so grateful.

July 24, 2012 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

I agree completely. I enjoy the hard, sweat enducing work that comes from picking rows of veggies or spending time out cycling and running. In fact, Sunday I did both. Went for a long ride, then took the dog for a run, followed that with another longer, solo run. A few hours after I began, I was cooling off under a fan with my lunch. Burning 1500 calories in the morning wasn't enough though, I then dug about 50lbs of candy hybrid onions which started in the garden as tiny little onion bulbs only 3 months ago. It's amazing what happens when soil, seed, sun, and water combine. Or, more importantly, what happens when one commits to a life of honest hard work, with no fear of sweat, aches, or pain. Bring on the humidity!

July 24, 2012 at 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Katie said...

Jenna, what a beautiful post. I just finished reading Barnheart in two days. I couldn't put it down. And when I finished, I was tempted to start it again! Your writing makes my heart sing and inspires me to work towards living the life I dream of. Thank you.

July 24, 2012 at 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Katie said...

Jenna, what a beautiful post. I just finished reading Barnheart in two days. I couldn't put it down. And when I finished, I was tempted to start it again! Your writing makes my heart sing and inspires me to work towards living the life I dream of. Thank you.

July 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM  
Anonymous cowgirl said...

Yes. A Midsummer Night's Dream all over again.

"Out of this wood do not desire to go."

July 24, 2012 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

I love this entry Jenn. Many of our friends and family have moved south (we are at the so called retirement age) and nag us to do the same. They will try to tempt us by saying things like "you can garden all year" or "think how much better your horses will train". As much as I love to garden I need time off and our horses train just fine in all weather, short of a blizzard or -30 and there is no such thing as retirement for farmers (and that's fine by us). Next time they bring up the topic I will email them a link to this entry. You captured it all. Thank-you.

July 24, 2012 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Melina said...

Just went for a long work out on the Harlem
Valley Rail Trail. The experiences I have there echo your words. I've never felt more alive in my sweat, my breath and my body. We don't use a/c and I've noticed others find the heat more unbearable. Well written. Thank you for this post.

July 24, 2012 at 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How funny, I was just writing about how it's been humid here (in NorCal) and it's not supposed to be! I do appreciate the Shire-like lushness that you all get back east, and maybe if I hadn't spent most of my East Coast time in NYC I would have stayed out there longer than 3 years. I sometimes wish the summers were greener here, but this place is in my blood and in my bones and the seasons just make sense to me. Out here, little magical oases form around the creeks and rivers, and team with life in the dry summertime, and when you take shelter from the sun under the branches of a giant oak, it's actually cooler the shade!

July 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

domesteading, I think all of us have a geography that speaks to us. Some of us need the ocean, the desert, high plains or western flowered mountains and sequoias. I just belong here, in the wet woods with rivers and trout, stags and bears, coyotes and cottontails and fireflies and thunderstorms.

July 24, 2012 at 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post was timely. I've lived all over the world as well as both coasts. Right now I'm on a small farm near Indianola WA. Your writing this morning made me realize how much I miss the East Coast and why. Did you ever feel that need to just "jump"? I'm coming to the end of a career I've loved and been very good at but a new supervisor turned my life to hell. I've wrestled with fighting this or leaving and reading your post this morning I got my answer. You can view difficulties as problems or opportunities - this is my opportunity to head east for a new life. Shake off the dust and look for new possibilities. Thanks Jenna - keep writing.

July 24, 2012 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

This right here is why I will never leave New England.

July 24, 2012 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Yet another stellar post, for a moment I could smell woodsmoke and maple leaves, with your description of a N.Y Fall.

I have to admit, I'm a tad bit envious of your ability to handle the heat and humidity, as I get older I seem to lose that, to the point of illness if I stay out too long. It's gotten so bad that we're looking at moving West to escape it. With it's homeschool friendliness, amongst other reasons, Northern Idaho is looking like a good fit for us. I've been researching and reading threads, and people have been complaining of humidity there also. Is it just a fluke from all of the rain they've been getting this year, or is there just a difference in the type of humidity from coast to coast?

July 24, 2012 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

That drastic seasonal change known to all New England just does it for me, too. While I do try to soak up the sun during the summer, after the long Maine winter, I'm not much for humidity and typically by August, I'm ready for Autumn...and sweaters and wooly socks and morning mits! Mmmm...just thinking about makes me happy!

July 24, 2012 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Discomfort is a sign of life! I always loved the brutal cold. Especially getting so hot with activity that I had to strip off layers. You can't do that when you're dead or almost dead in front of a TV!!! ALSO, comfort is all the sweeter in contrast to DIScomfort.
Love the bit about feeling beautiful outside. What would we all think of ourselves if we had no mirrors or photos? Would we feel ourselves reflected in the way other people reacted to us? Feeling beautiful out in nature (I feel it especially after a swim in the waterfall) is truly being beautiful. Feeling that inner light creates beauty that transcends all the other crap. I believe that we can carry that beauty into the world and let others see what a gift it is! How amazing would it be if people sought out a hard days work and a nap in a hammock in stead of a salon! (nothing wrong with a salon, I'm just dreaming here).
Yep, loved this post, Jenna!

July 24, 2012 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger bookkm said...

I totally dislike the heat BUT I want to work in my garden more when I can sweat. I almost relish the dripping and the heat. It makes me feel strong. That reminds me I should tie up my tomatoes.

July 24, 2012 at 5:16 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

Yeah, wet air is where it's at. Wet, moving air in fact. I grew up, and still live in, the mountainous rainforest in the northwest coast of the continent. The first time I left it I was in Quebec where there weren't any mountains and I found the huge sky frightening. Then I travelled through Europe a few years later. The only place I really felt safe was in Austria, where there were nearby protective mountains everywhere. Just a few weeks ago I went to the Okanagan Valley here in British Columbia -- the Canadian desert. It was SO hot and so dry and I almost went crazy wondering why the air was just sitting there. Then I came back home and I went out for a bike ride and the wind nearly froze my legs on a July afternoon and I was so happy to be back home.

I very much want to visit the Grand Canyon as it's so much the opposite of what I know. Red everywhere as opposed to green and blue. I'll go in February though, as I can't stand heat! :-P

July 24, 2012 at 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Janet said...

Gesu, you write beautifully!

July 24, 2012 at 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely post! I lived out West for a year and half and felt similarly . . . it just felt . . . not right. For me. And I knew it was the lack of green and the lack of moisture, and I am so happy to be back in my Eastern half of the United States where there are humid days and high green grasses and where the water hangs out in lakes, rivers, soils, air, and yes, on my skin.

July 24, 2012 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger Daisy Farm said...

And weather is what makes this United States of America so spectacular! Here in the mid-west, I tend to think that we are so fabulous living off the depths of the Great Lakes and their weather-altering whims. I like to think that this country is great not so much for it's stuff but rather for it's weather regions. If you don't like where you live now, drive a few hundred miles and find someplace that better suits you!! We are so fabulous!

July 24, 2012 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger mhuddle10@yahoo.com said...

I live in the Sierra Nevada, and have four distinct seasons. Love you Jenna, but you can keep that humidity. I've been on the east coast in the summer and I thought I was going to die. I could not breathe...

July 24, 2012 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Sewing Machine Girl said...

gratitude brings blessings from the mundane.

July 24, 2012 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yes!! Jenna, you nailed it! I am from New York originally & now live in Colorado, where the locals out here all think humidity is a bad word, but I love it as much as you do. You said in your post every single thing I miss most about my home state--including the fireflies! I miss the life it brings; I think desert people get excited about seeing life where it's unexpected--I have a friend who will literally bound off the trail we hike after a flower, mid conversation, as if afraid it will run away (it's kind of like being friends with a wood sprite). I prefer the riot of life that humidity brings, and the richness of color. Thanks for making my memories so alive again--as you do so often with your blog!

July 24, 2012 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Reminds me of the summer before I got married, when I had a landscaping job. I worked all day in the heat and humidity,in NH, and was in the best shape of my life! I felt invincible. We didn't have A/C, so a swim and a fan were my sources of "comfort", and it was just fine.

July 24, 2012 at 11:31 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I think humidity might be one of those things that you may have to grow up with - like grits or scrapple - in order to appreciate. My husband HATES the humidity here in Florida; every summer he spends about two months straight wondering why we don't live in California. I don't enjoy days where the air is like breathing wet cotton at six a.m., but I do like a good sultry breeze during the summer. Because you're right, Jenna - water IS life.

July 25, 2012 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Black said...

I know exactly what you mean. Gorgeous post, love it.

July 25, 2012 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

I live on the west coast (Canada, but north west Washington is the same)where we are green and lush and have moss covered rocks, and lots of moisture. Actually too much moisture this year. My sister is in Ontario, where they have humidity, and she hates that part of it. I know I would too, judging by the taste of it we get occasionally here.

July 25, 2012 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i live in nw WA state,just a couple hours from the coast. i lived in KY for 3 years, and as pretty as it was, i couldnt wait to go home! I missed the ocean so much, and real mtns, deep, lush greens and blues.When a place is the right place, it gets into your blood, your dna is changed, some king of magic happens.

July 25, 2012 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i lived in Ky for 3 years, and as pretty as it was, i missed WA state so much. I live about an hour away from seattle, and to see the deep greens, blues, and the gray ocean again! When a place is home, it gets into your DNA.My blood is here, if you get what i mean.

July 25, 2012 at 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Raining Iguanas said...

I'm with Janet, I love the way you write.

July 26, 2012 at 10:15 PM  

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