Friday, September 20, 2013

Poor Folk

I'm not sure if I ever shared this story? When I used to live in the little cabin in Sandgate, Vermont—before I moved here to Jackson—I did my laundry on the front step of the porch. I was out there, scrubing with my Rub-Lite and singing a tune to my earbuds when a neighbor's car drove by slowly. It's not a common scene these days, at least not in that neighborhood. I waved and smiled and they drove past. I thought nothing of it.

A few days later that same neighbor arrived with a box of canned goods, which he gave me "for the chickens" but all the cans were in good conditions and with long-distance expiration dates. I was confused why anyone would use perfectly good storable food on chickens, who will happily forage for most of their food anyway? I then rememebred the slow drive past, and the laundry, and wondered if he thought I was too poor to use a quarter machine in Cambridge? I realized then the food was for me, not the birds. It was an act of charity, offered in a way that saved pride. Double the kindness but totally unnecssary. Even if I was dirt poor I had a flock of chickens, a huge garden, and wild game was everywhere. How could I possibly be hungry in such a paradise? But people who do not homestead see some of our choices as a last-resort or act of desperation. This was a lesson I needed to learn. Not everyone wants to scrub a plaid shirt by a trio of geese.

I was washing at home that day because I wanted to save the drive into a town. I had parked my car the day before (Friday) and had vowed not to start it up again until Monday morning. I wanted to spend the whole day in my garden, with my chickens, in my cabin with my instruments and huskies. I saw this as a vacation, total luxury. I didn't care if it took twice as long as a machine to wash by hand, wring, and hang on a line. I had an audiobook in my ear and sunlight on my face. It cost me nothing but elbow grease and lunch was thirty feet away in the greatest garden I ever grew. I thought the peopel who had to leave home for food, entertainment, and chores were the poor folk. I was rich as baroness in my own mind.

But I need to be mindful that laundry on the front steps will always be seen as result of poverty or an eccentric choice, something done more out of a whim than as a regular chore. I have a laundromat a few miles away now and I do use it, but on glorious days or days when I do not want to get in that truck I would rather get out the Rub-Lite and listen to more of Kvothe's adventures at the University (Read Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss if you haven't yet.) I am more than okay with people who drive by thinking I am incredibally poor. I'm okay with people thinking whatevcer they want. If you go by available cash I am incredibally poor, living bill to bill and month to month. But I don't feel poor. I feel like a woman on that long weekend vacation every day, even when relaxation is the last thing on me mind (i.e. escaped pigs, panic attacks at 3AM, or late bills). Life isn't perfect, but it is mine. I'm working towards a sustainable career, and eventually getting out of as much debt as possible. And if people want to share their heads with pity as they drive down the hill that's fine.

I mean, I am almost out of canned corn...