Sunday, February 2, 2014

Comfortable Beasts

Last night I found myself driving in a slick snow squall to Joanna and Greg's place. The weather was a little dodgy but I was going slow, being careful. I had a crockpot in an insulated carrier riding shotgun and that was all the comfort I needed. Inside it was slow-cooked barbecue ribs from the pigs I had just harvested a week earlier. I had big plans ahead, a night out. I was on my way to share special food with special people. I was dressed perfectly for the night ahead - which meant I was comfortable. I had on old green canvas work pants, a peasant shirt I bought at the feed store on clearance (five dollars!), and a brown vest. I threw on a wool cap and braided my hair and called it well enough. I smiled to myself, hands on the steering wheel and the smell of ribs filling the car like a blessing. I was downright excited. Tonight was all about catching up with exciting young people - authors, farmers, world-travelers, cooks, businessmen, and artists. It was quite the hip scene and it was happening 30 feet from a chicken coop.

Joanna and Greg have a small farm just a few miles from my place, and yes, their dining room table is in view of their flock of laying hens. It was Game Night. If you've been reading this blog for a while then you already know the Veryork appreciation for European-style board games. Tonight was all about Agricola, a farm-themed strategy game we adore. When I ordered it last winter it sat in the box for months, intimidating me with its rule book, weight, and thousands of little wooden pieces. But Joanna felt up to the challenge of learning it and teaching the rest of us, so I told her to keep it. Now all Agricola games are held at We Grew That? Farm. It's a tradition I hope we never stop participating in.

I arrived in the snow and recognized Tyler and Tara's car, Greg and Joanna's SUV, and felt warm all over. These were my people and they were amazing. I'm so lucky to have them in my life, far luckier than they are to have me in theirs. The five of us have all lived all over the United States, have different backgrounds, careers, and totally different pasts but tonight we converge to play a game, drink cider, eat pot luck and laugh. Everyone is the avatar of comfortable. No one has the slightest interest in impressing anyone with their hair, makeup, or clothes. Far as we're concerned fashion is fabric that keeps us warm on cold nights. That's not to say we don't have our own styles, but on Game Night none of that fuss matters. We're here to have fun.

We play a few games, tell stories. I talk about nearly losing Italics while out hunting rabbits with my sponsor and Joanna talked about a greenhouse she nearly bought on impulse. Tara is knitting a hat for Tyler before he heads off on a business trip to Boston and Murray the cat plays with the yarn at her feet. As I try to figure out if cattle or sheep are better for my family of three (in Agricola I am always married to Tristan from Legends of the Fall and we just had a baby (in game) which I need to figure out how to feed by next harvest in 3 turns….) Anyway, I am figuring out Tristan's and my future when I stop to take a moment to look around.

Shit. I am lucky.

These people are some of my closest friends. They are so talented, beautiful, intelligent and independent. I had been thinking over the past few days of people I used to call my closest friends who have been lost to entropy. I miss them and wish they could share this table. But that's not how it works, is it? We all have people we lose along the way, or most of us do. My friend Raven told me that everyone you meet is in your life for a reason, a season, or forever. The reason isn't always pleasant, and the season can last just a few episodes - but few stick around for the long haul. But those ones that do stick it out, those people are the most valuable things in the entire world. I have certainly learned that much.

I have only known these folks a few years now. When I moved to Vermont they weren't even on my radar, some weren't even in my country. Joanna and Greg would have been sitting around another table in Portland, Oregon. Tyler and Tara were in the midwest planning a world tour on the back of a pair of bicycles. I was starting a career in web design at a fly fishing company, working on my second book and as excited about backyard sheep as a drugged-up pet store puppy. But somehow chance and luck have brought us into each others lives, around a little table in a house without a television. Damn, I am rich. It's all I can think about as Greg places his game tokens on assigned spaces and Tara tells us about a recent conference about trees she listened to in Vermont. We joke, jab, tease and smile. We are buzzed and full of good food from good farms. The snow has stopped and turned to rain and we make plans for the days ahead. I send Tristan fishing and move a sheep into the cottage because the barn is out of space. Murray attacks my feet. These people are wonderful. I hope we last a few seasons, I really hope we last more.

My last five years have been a rocky journey of changes, successes, flirtation, depression, anxiety, fear, joy, wins, losses, love, mistakes, and failures. I'm not talking about the farm either (though that certainly applies). I'm talking about relationships, family, romance…all the stuff I never write about here. I'm an entirely different person than the girl who moved to Vermont five years ago. I could easily kick that girl's ass. She wouldn't even see it coming.

She also wouldn't know how lucky she is to be spending the southern tier of middle age with such amazing people. To not have to worry about impressing these people, competing with them, or worried about any of the judgment I manifested in past friendships. These people love me for me and I love them for them. Tonight we're 17th century farmers but we would be just as happy around a campfire or in line for a movie. We're five adults who no longer need to shed layers of our skin over and over to figure out who we are and that is a powerful combination. I know this because I'm certain there are other people our age planning dinner parties a lot fancier, spouting off the verbal vacation slides of career and travel accomplishments between sips of drinks I couldn't mix if you paid me. They are living the life best for them but I don't envy them. I love my crockpotluck. I love the cat bites. I love people who talk about training turkey poults to return to shelter between bites of ribs I knew on a first-name basis. And for the first time in my adult life I have people around the dinner table whom I admire but don't envy. I respect the hell out of them and think their lives are beautiful but I don't want their lives and they don't want mine. We are our own beasts. If you can find a Game Night Table of Comfortable Beasts I suggest you hold onto them. They are magical beyond knowledge.

They are worth sharing your pork with.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. You put into words what I feel many times in my heart. Have you ever been in a place, with people you love to hang with and get a warm feeling in your heart, that then goes all through your body? I love that feeling. It happens to me at home, at friend's homes and even, believe it or not, sometimes at work.

February 3, 2014 at 6:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice, Jenna. That is what we all long for!

February 3, 2014 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Mare said...

Jen....Legends of the Fall...and Brad Pitt...The best EVER!

February 3, 2014 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

It is truly a blessing to have these people in your life. A wonderful are very fortunate indeed. Yeah, Brad is pretty cute in that movie..

February 4, 2014 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger TMF Alpha Mom said...

You are blessed. I am happy you have found your happiness.

February 5, 2014 at 10:38 AM  

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