Saturday, June 3, 2017


It's midnight in New York. I'm wide awake.

I'm just home from visiting Tara and Tyler in Vermont. They're home from a few weeks of visiting relatives in the Midwest. I missed them. We made plans earlier in the week to catch up, and I offered to head their way. I figured crossing half the continent was enough travel for them this month. So after the evening chores were done and the farrier had packed up - Gibson and I jumped into the truck.

Gibson just comes along. He's always with me. He's a ghost at people's homes, asleep in a corner or silently sitting beside me. Since he's so well behaved it's expected he'll come along for a night like this in another little farmhouse. 

I live a few miles from the state line. Around here everyone calls it Veryork, a weird spot in America where half our lives are in Bennington or Manchester and the other in Albany or Saratoga. That is the radius I spend most of living in. The ride was less than half an hour and I was at their driveway. The same timber-framed cottage I helped raise and the same people I've known all these years. I parked Taylor, Gibson jumped out of the bench seat, and inside we went.

Tara had just made fresh bread. The house smelled amazing. She also cooked up some bacon, sliced up a giant ripe tomato, and set out lettuce and mayo. BLT's were on the menu and as we hugged and swapped salutations I reached into my rucksack and pulled out a package of bacon from my own pigs. A future BLT night was on Cold Antler.

We ate, we caught up. We talked about their trip, our work, our lives. We ate and laughed, cracked beers and jokes. Things family do. And then Tyler pulled down their giant screen (that takes up a whole wall) and turned on the projector. We watched Get Out on the big screen, with an intermission for Tara's homemade cherry pie.

So I got home late. This is a late Friday night for me these days. A movie at a friends' place, my dog sleeping beside me, dinner, pie.

That's where I was tonight.

I don't want to be anywhere else.

A short while ago, right before I sat down to write this, I was outside with a flashlight, searching every corner of this farm for ducklings. They usually put themselves to bed before dark, waddling into the barn and tucking into the space between the goat pen and bales of hay. It feels safe. It's the best spot. If I had to spend the night in the barn that's the place I'd choose, too. But they were not in the barn and so I started looking for them.

I did it while checking on the other animals, mostly by listening. Chickens know to be silent after dark, but not ducks. They hear footsteps and start to let out shuddering peeps. That is what I was listening for as the beam from the flashlight walked around the pens and fences.

Around me were fireflies, the sounds of the stream, the tree frogs - all the inhales and exhales of a forest and farm. I heard the blowing of air from Merlin's giant nostrils and turned my beam toward his pasture. His black outline and brown eyes caught the light, glowing silver and green. I smiled. I thought of the old superstition of seeing a female horse before bedtime and the bad dreams they could bring you. Merlin's a gelding, not a night mare.

I walked the familiar paths. The flashlight danced and flirted with the fireflies. The half moon was bright enough I didn't need it, but it was a way to direct focus. I checked on the sows and their piglets. They were all tucked into hay and breathing deep. The boar in the barn was out cold. The sheep were in their pole barn on the hill. The chickens roosting. The ducklings didn't peep.

I walked to the mews to check on Aya. She was inside, resting like a queen on her throne. I had spent the day scraping, raking, painting, organizing and cleaning her space.  It looked tidy in there with the gloves and hoods on pegs in a neat row. As I was checking to see her feet and their grip on the perch I heard a duckling's whisper behind me.

I turned. They were in the bushes beside the house. Not a bad place for a camping trip but I wanted them in their barn. I wanted them in the safe place. So I grabbed a large walking stick against the mews and tapped their rumps gently. They stumbled out and soon there was a line in the moonlight - farmer and staff, flashlight and fireflies, and ducklings making their way across the lawn to the open barn door. Now everyone was in their safe place. Now it's my turn.

My safe place is here. Yes this house and this land, but mostly writing. I can't imagine not doing this, not sharing this story. Not because it deserves to be shared but because it's a compulsion. And as far as addictions go this one is pretty cheap and reliable, I'll take it.

I'll be thirty five in a few weeks. Which is great, but a number like that demands a certain amount of looking around. Here's what I see: married friends, their kids, career advancement, and world travel. I see women my age at a different place. For years I felt I had to compare myself to that. Then I felt I had to vocally announce to the world I didn't compare myself to it. I'm exhausted from both.

I'm at the fortunate crossroads of not wanting to be anyone else at a time society seems to expect me to more than ever. I don't want to raise children. The idea of a wedding makes me ill. I don't want to date your boyfriend or girlfriend or have your career. I don't want your passport. I don't want to have your body, your hair, your pets, or your living room set. I am entirely content with the story I wrote.

Yeah, there are still things I dream about, and people, and places I want to stand and feel wind. There are books and conversations yet written and shared. But there's also this duck-sleeping-between-the-goat-pen-and hay-bale contentment knowing that a night with friends, pie, movies, and laughter fills up all the cracks inside me. That safety of knowing fear isn't motivation anymore. That hunger to change and grow and keep expecting things to surprise and delight me is what's ahead.

Women haven't had this kind of 35 before. 

I feel like life is just getting started. It's a weird alchemy to try to explain but it makes me feel lucky. I hope I always keep this feeling. I think it's the trick to the whole thing.

Cold Antler Farm is free to read. If you feel the writing was worth a dollar, click here for a voluntary contribution. It is appreciated and encourages these endeavors. Thank you.


Blogger jules said...

Yes! This. It just gets better from here. Once you get this mindset, it's amazing the things you can do. It's all within you, Jenna. Grab hold, it's a great ride from here on out.

June 3, 2017 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger adirondackdreamer said...

I agree, it just gets 35 or thereabouts you can claim your
future more easily -- you know what makes you happy and whom you want
to spend time with...society's expectations or rituals will become
unimportant as time goes on - in the end, each person has to find their own
path and make adjustments as're doing great and your writing
just gets better and better:)

June 3, 2017 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger adirondackdreamer said...

oops...i wanted to say i just love the line "all the inhales and exhales of
a forest and a farm...." that just says it all...

June 3, 2017 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is my favorite piece you have written. Honest, unapologetic, not seeking anyone's approval of your life choices, comfortable and at peace with your place in the world. I believe we really start to live our true, best lives when we stop trying to conform to society norms, stop trying to please everyone else, stop comparing ourselves against other people and start owning who we really are and what really matters to us. You are exactly where you want to be, doing exactly what you want to do, and you live fully and presently in the moment every day. That's more than most people can say. Keep on traveling your own path - it's all about the journey, not the destination. And age is about attitude and ability, not numbers - numbers mean nothing.

June 3, 2017 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Angelica said...

My new favorite . . . well said.

June 3, 2017 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger LG said...

I have read your blog for a few years now and never posted. I wanted to share how much I admire your ability to live in the present and appreciate the little moments and details of your life. It is so unusual today and I think it may be one of the best paths to real happiness. I know you have ups and downs (as we all do) but thank you for your example and your openness to sharing, it is a push for all of us to think about what we love about each moment and each day. Thank you for your work and your honesty.

June 7, 2017 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Yarrow said...

All I can say is a heartfelt congratulation to be feeling the way you do so soon in life. It took me until I was 45 and divorced to discover the person I wanted to be.
I thought I always wanted to do the marriage and children thing, but the reality didn't live up to the dream. The children did, and I wouldn't change them for the world but being connected to another person just didn't feel right until I found out who I was. It took me 5 years of thinking and being alone and now I'm strong enough in my own skin to share my life again.
I love reading your words :D

June 7, 2017 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger Sandi said...

Jenna, this is beautiful writing.
There's a a book with this tone. If I were envious, I'd want both your life-style and contentment. You are living the life you have chosen, but don't close out other possibilities. Just enjoy what you have when you have it. It seems as if you do. Sandi

June 8, 2017 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger Kelsie said...

So...I don't HAVE twitter, but I follow you as a from-afar stalker on Twitter, and you asked for recommendations for shows. PLEASE watch "Love." There are two seasons so far, and it's fucking fantastic. I figured the second best way to get your attention was to comment on your blog. Watch "Love." Smart, funny, sardonic, sexy. I think you'll like it.

June 8, 2017 at 12:39 AM  

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