Everyday I pass a place in the mountains where the water gathers and runs off when it is in liquid form. Most of the winter it is covered under snow but there are a few magical days when it is cold enough to freeze naked to the world.
I take my cues from nature. I always have. As I get older I find there is no greater source of knowledge and perspective than natural systems and their inhabitants. I don’t include humans as inhabitants of these systems. I believe that we have lived in our own artificial creation for so long, we have lost touch with the basic wisdom and truth that is readily available in the natural world.
This week brought liquid snow, or ‘rain’ as it is more commonly known outside of New England winters. The mounds of snow that had hidden layered months of leaves and detritus melted away reveling a not so beautiful aspect of the season, the dirty things trapped in between the storms.
As I passed drifts of brown road snow reveled by the rain it occurred to me that time is like snow. It separates the nasty bit of our deeds and doings, holds them suspended and away from each other allowing us time to minimize and cover our ugliness. White washing the past in beautiful, glittering, forgetful drifts. It makes it easier to pretend that we are made of the things we say we are during the time in-between our actions and not the actions themselves.
My mom was a school teacher before my sister and I were born. When we were a little older she started a pre-school at our house called Kid’s Garden. (Sara got to attend the first year but I did not. I’m totally over it…obviously because I don’t even have to mention it anymore.) My early life was filled with children’s books, arts and crafts. There is a book I know is one of her favorites, it is one of mine too. It is called Miss Rumphius.
It is a beautiful illustrated story about a little girl named Alice. She grows up in a city by the sea (from the illustrations it is most likely an East Coast city) She helps out in her grandfather’s shop. He is an artist who carves prow figures and statues for ships and stores. In his youth he traveled the world before he settled by the sea, and at night tells her stories of these far off palaces. She declares to him that she too will travel to far off lands and when she is older she will settle down by the sea.
He tells her “that is all well, little Alice… but there is a third thing you must do.”
“What is that?” asked Alice.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.
The story goes; that she grew up and traveled far. On one of her travels she falls off a camel and hurts her back. It is then she decides it is time to find her place by the sea. She settles into a small cottage. It looks like the Maine coast. There are few other places that look like it!
In 2017 I started more drafts of posts that have gone unpublished than ever before. There is so much I have felt I needed to say but I lack the time to get them to a place worth sharing. These scattered unfinished thoughts have been the benchmark of this past year for me. It is ironic that during the most impotent year of my existence a new life stirs in my belly.
2017 has brought overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and ineptitude, not knowing where to start or where I am headed. It has been hard to find hope and yet this is the time when I need hope more than ever before.
As in so many years passed, work overtook my life. Too often, I put it first and that might be my one regret. I do not lament the time I spent with my coworkers but it came at the cost of time spent at home with family. That being said, the relationships I forged there became a great asset after the news of this new impending change. I could hardly have wished for more supportive group of people to help me through the transition and fear.
My husband and the boys had me brainwashed into thinking it was going to be a boy. All the conversations we had about the new baby used the pronoun “he.” My husband kept insisting that he “only makes boys” (he was kidding, kind of) and with two boys in the family already the concept of another boy seemed natural.
On my husband’s 40th birthday we had an ultrasound and it looks like I managed to get him something he didn’t already have. When the ultrasound technician said “it’s a girl” I think I laughed at my poor husband for about 5 minutes straight. After I got a hold of myself, it hit me- “holy f*ck, it’s a girl.” The thought of a boy was easier for many reasons. Anxiety came flooded in soon after the giggles subsided.
I know how hard it was for me. The battles I fought. The insecurity, fear and pain I felt. The scars that my independence cost me are still livid against my sensitive skin. It is every parents’ dearest hope that our knowledge, experience and hindsight will spare our children the grief visited upon us. The thought of raising a girl in this atmosphere of complex sexual tensions scares the hell out of me.
We often think it is boys we must teach how to fight. It is far more important for the female of the species to be trained in this manner, as she will be threatened by foes who’s natural strength will outweigh her own. I don’t want to make her aware that threats will come to her in the guise of kindness. That she must be aware of entering into unspoken contracts where her virtues will be expected collateral.
I don’t want her to have mistrust be her default. I wish I could hand her a world that was safe but that will do her no favors. By the time the parent is ready to talk of such things- it is often too late. I know what steps I have to take and the path that must be followed, it is just I had hoped for the easier of the two roads. We prepare the boys for the dangers of the fringe but for girls the fringe is so much closer, the path that much narrower. I never realized how scared I was until those three words were spoken aloud.
Four years ago, we were preparing for my dad’s funeral by early morning light. I was back in my childhood home under the redwoods in my mom’s kitchen; writing a joint eulogy with my sister and pouring some good whiskey into a flask for the three of us. It was rough but we were determined to make the best of it, in our own special way.
Many of the day’s events we planned were unique, using our grief as an excuse to have some fun. We decided to end the doins’ with a game of “what’s this for?” A game where we showed the crowd stuff my dad had made for very specific reasons and had them guess what its function was.
For instance; this is a sock hamper, specifically designed to keep terriers away from your dirty socks and ONLY used for socks.
Needing some purpose in the days before I could fly out west, I started the WWDD Homeless pack project in order to introduce and explain our intentions for the memorial the following week. Instead of flowers we asked that everyone bring survival supplies: backpacks, rain gear, toiletries, first aid, socks, etc. We set up some tables along the wall and asked at the end for everyone to compile “homeless packs.”
Homeless packs were a thing my dad used as an excuse to buy military surplus items in bulk. He would put together kits filled with useful things for people living out of doors. He would keep two or three of these in the trunk of his car at all times and giving them out when he ran across people in need of such items.
The response was unexpected. As people arrived, they bought their items with them, overflowing three whole tables with gear and supplies. During the event we explained that this was meant as a personal act of kindness, an opportunity to look someone in the eye and not only acknowledge their suffering but to give them a gift that might help alleviate it somewhat. It means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something nice without expectation of reciprocity.
It might be a bit of a shock that over the last four years of this blog I have left out one of the major aspects of our life together. One of the main reasons behind leaving my job for a simpler life after my dad passed has gone wholly unmentioned. The time has come to ‘go public’ and the best place to start is always the beginning.
In the spring of 2014 I got a call from my husband and The Boys as they made their way north from his ex’s house. It went a little something like this-
“The Boys and I discussed it and we decided you should go off birth control and we should try to have a baby.”
“YAHHHHAH!!!” The little ones yelled from the back seat.
I was taken aback. Before we married we had discussed the possibility of another child and decided we wanted to try but only after we managed to knock down some of the massive debt we had accrued after the relocation cross country. We had made progress in this respect but were far from debt free. The Boys were 5 and 7, growing by the minute and over the moon about the possibility of more siblings.
I thought it was interesting that I was told about the decision instead of asked but not really surprised. The surprise had come years before when I was shocked to find out that my mate wanted more children with me. Knowing the back story of his first marriage I had assumed that he was content with two and without conversation I had accepted the reality that I would only be a stepmom. His desire for more WAS unexpected but welcome.
I am not the type of person that had planned my life in any long term fashion; instead, I directed my choices from the options I actually had in front of me. As a youth; when asked about my plans for a family I always said that if I was married and had a husband who wanted kids too, then I would love to have some but I never put too fine a point on it. Who knows if I would ever find a worthy husband in the first place and I considered that a prerequisite for children. I was not a girl who vowed to have children at any cost and for most of my life I made sure to take percussions against any such situations. I have always been around kids in some capacity, from communal child minding of morning Jazzercise, to private babysitting, the preschool my mom ran out of our house and the kids I mentored in collage- I knew that children would be a big part of my life one way or another.
Children and animals are my favorite forms of life.
After my relationship blessed me with two stepsons (who I think are the best people I have ever met) and after multiple years of trying to conceive I had come to a place where I accepted the reality that another baby may not be in the hand I was dealt.
I can honestly say I never felt there was a void in our family unit that needed filling or fixing. Of course I wish everyday the boys were with us more than they are (weekends during school, Mon-Weds in the summer and alternating vacations) but there is something to be said for having time with just the two of us. I value my alone time (as I consider myself good company) and have always been very aware of the all encompassing effort young ones require.
When I was young, I was allowed to roam the mountain behind my house. Covered in ancient redwoods this steep ascent climbed about a mile to the summit where I could explore the top of the little ridge that cradled my childhood. The lookouts were endless and offered views that seemed to show the ridges of god’s own fingerprints.
In the time before cell phones I know these excursions caused my mom some concern. Not only where the woods home to mountain lions and rattlesnakes as well as the ever-present black widows (though these were more of a concern in the jumble of my dad’s ‘Clampet area’ down by the welding shed.) Adding to the danger, the terrain itself was far from stable or safe. In high school, a good friend from up the street lost her older brother from a fall on the same ridge we often played on.
Preparation for these trips started with snacks and water but most importantly a 9 inch survival knife, strapped to my waist for easy access. I usually brought a couple other blades or weapons for protection since I was alone. These implements were mostly in case of mountain lions but would serve the purpose should I come across other humans with ill intent.
There were no trails, save the ones made by the forest creatures and it was far more likely I would be menaced by four-legged beast than two-legged ones, still as a girl on my own I took precaution. In that four or five square miles of ravines and outcroppings no one would hear my screams.
I went on these trips blithely, preparing for trouble but never really believing any would befall me. As I entered the woods I would make a silent vow that if something did try to kill or hurt me that the experience would not be an easy one, I would fight till my last breath using every resource at my disposal. I wouldn’t be a victim or easy prey.
In my mid-teens I entered to woods of professional kitchens, a place full of danger and people who would not take care of me. As the lone girl in the room I was often harassed, tested and hazed. I approached that situation with a similar attitude as my solo hikes and made it my duty to take on all comers. Making them think twice about their assumption that I was a thing present for their pleasure or purposes. I would not be given a place at their side, I would have to take it.
I made a career of it.
When the #Metoo phenomenon was exploding, I didn’t bother to make my declaration. I noticed that many of my female chef friends didn’t either. For us, harassment was a way of life. As was taking matters into our own hands. I cannot count how many times I have been assaulted, I can count on one hand (with fingers to spare) how many times it happened twice in the same kitchen.
None of my tactics where kind or politically correct. One time I overheard a coworker telling a cohort in Spanish he wanted to bend me over the prep table and have his way with me. I beckoned him over under the guise of needing help, grabbed him in a vulcan neck pinch and bent him over the table, while threatening his rear with an uncut carrot and asking “¿cómo le gusta esto?”- “how do you like this?”
He was also unaware that I spoke Spanish and would take no shit. He did after that and within a day so did everyone else. It is an odd thing to say that after most such incidents my coworkers and I become friends, but it’s true. After all, they could not take the moral high road at my behavior as that was not the path we meet on.
One time, a new coworker placed my share of the kitchen tips on his lap and told me to “come and get them” smirking lewdly. I smiled and told him “wait a second.” Grabbing the nearest butcher knife I approached him and told him to “hold very still” as I used it as a spatula to claim my tips. It was amusing to watch a man of Jamaican decent blanch to a shade of Caucasian. We become good friends.
“Care to join me for a hike?” Dennis Gobets 2009.
Since Thanksgiving is not anchored to any particular date the anniversary of my dad’s death seems to fall on two days some years. This year is one of them.
Black Friday is always the hardest for me. Since he technically passed on the 29th of November, today marks four solid calendar years without him. I don’t really know how to characterize it, except to say that I have adjusted.
Progress has been made, I no longer refer to him in the present. Talking about what happened has grown easier as these things so often do. The sharpness of the pain has dulled but the scar is still there, a marked part of the living flesh. Sometimes it feels like only I can see it now. When it first happened the injury is raw and ragged, your defining characteristic to others in the know. A thing they can’t look away from or ignore. Now, it would seem that the only time people see it is when I point it out, since from the outside it looks much the same as the other bits of my existence. Greif is a process and we have been traveling down this path for awhile now. We have with us the pack of tools we have gathered along the journey.
In the beginning; just after the fall, we struggle to our feet undeniably broken and unable to move in any way without pain from the shock of such a severe insult. It feels like you are crawling, scraping for each inch of progress and knowing that the only choices you have are to continue on or give up and die where you lay. Everything hurts, each effort sharp and stinging so that sometimes the only thing you can do is stop all forward progress and breath.
We all chose to live on. The sorrow didn’t drown us as it felt like it could at first. We got through the logistics of arranging final rites and tying up loose ends, until they are all neatly knotted and safely separate from everything else. All of us finding our own outlets, the individual crutches to help us along our own way. Just like being on a hike with others- each one of us is responsible for our own progress though we started from the same point and share much the same trail.
All night I tossed the turned, dreaming fitfully of the morning’s macabre task. Each time I woke- my stomach dropped as I realized it had been a dream and the deed still lay before me.
I woke up before dawn and headed out to prepare my station. I cut the top and bottom off a milk jug and screwed the handle to a log, machete at the ready. I entered the coop with a sock in my hand. I bid the rooster a good morning and picked him up him gently, fitted the sock over his head to calm him. He struggled very little at first and then not at all as most birds tend to do once in the dark.
Outside, I grabbed his head through one side of the jug, pulled it through with my left hand so that his neck stretched along the length of the log, while grabbing the blade in my right. Three whacks later, what was once one body lay in two parts. Blood stained the fall leaves and splashed the stone wall. There was the usual post mortem flailing and I sat back and bowed to my kill, apologizing and thanking it for its life. I cried a little, sorry for the pain I had caused. It is always beyond me to see suffering and not be struck down by the sorrow of it all.
I reminded myself that this is where all meat comes from. With each of these kills I am faced with the reality that eating meat, means taking life. Most people will pass their whole lives and never look their dinner in the eye. They don’t have to watch as the body and soul part ways- never mind preform the deed personally. I truly understand not wanting to take part in the brutality but for myself I think it is important to participate in the nasty bits before I reap the harvest.
This rooster came to us this summer by way of my well-meaning husband. He arrived home from work and called me out into the yard.
“What is that doing here?!” I said gesturing to the caged bird that had not so magically appeared on our land.
My little cousin got married last month. Though truth be told, he can hardly be called “little” by any stretch of the imagination. He now looks a little like Clark Kent, can bench press an obscene amount of weight and will some day soon be a licensed Chiropractor. In my heart and mind he will forever be the three year old boy sucking on a pacifier, wearing oversize flippers and struggling to shuffle away from me at my summer swim lessons- as I chase him around the pool threatening wet hugs and kisses.
He is a man now. A married man with an amazing, beautiful, kind wife (whom I adore.)
All of this seems to have happened without me. Kind of like I died somewhere along the way and life went on regardless. It is hard not to be sad as I go through wedding photos of my smiling family together for his special day.
Almost eight years ago I made a choice, to leave every person I had ever known and move across the continent in order to support my partner in his fatherhood. You cannot parent small children from thousands of miles away and so there really was no choice to be made only a reality to be accepted and dealt with.
Growing up, I never thought of my family as a “close” one. My memories of holidays and celebrations bear that out now in sharp contrast to my current lack access to them. I am not the only one removed from the system.
My sister currently resided is Guam with her husband. Reports from back home indicate that at least one of my aunt/uncles will be spending this Christmas with their son and potential in-laws in the south of the state. This fracture will mark a continuation of the trend I started almost a decade ago with my migration. Until then, we had all been together every holiday, a thing I now know I took for granted.
Yesterday, I reposted a writing I did a couple years ago briefly touching on my opinion about becoming a woman in modern times. I have written on the topic more than once over the years but only in short bursts and specific situations- never in general. I feel the need to go deeper, though I believe no words can capture the totality of that vast ocean. Since that would be an impossible undertaking; all I can hope is offer more insight about of my own observations from inside the proverbial “locker room” we have been hearing so much about recently.
I stated previously that I was always drawn to the more male aspect of life. My parents raised my sister and me to be competent humans. We were taught to cook and sew as well as weld and change a tire on our own. Under the watchful eye of our mother, our father often pushed us to learn advanced skills not only for our age but often ‘contrary’ to our gender.
As a child I choose to run with the boys, prefering their recess activities to playing My Little Pony or ‘house.’ I would much rather run, jump and climb trees than have fake tea parties. (Real tea parties are a different story.) As a result of my competency in these activities I was often the only girl in the game or group. This prepared me very well for my future in kitchens and restaurants when I would spend decades toiling side by side in rooms filled with men, day in and day out.
A prerequisite for both situations was that I literally be able to carry my own weight. Thanks to a childhood of gymnastics, sports and mandatory chores I was physically a match for my cohorts. I never needed someone to lift or perform any of the basic tasks or skills necessary for my employment or participation.
It means that after a time men stopped acting like there was a “girl in the room.” I have been privy to many conversations, situations and insights that the male of the species don’t often share when “a lady is present.” It is in this expression I find the beginning of the road to understanding the complex dynamic that exist between the two genders in society today.
This dichotomy so often results in the overt victimization of women but there are ample casualties and suffering to go around. If we are to come to a place of meaningful conversation it must go further than it has up to this point. The root of the experience must be exposed in order to come up with meaningful solutions to these tragic systemic issues.
This morning marked a rare day off, sans kids. I had a moment to reflect on a summer filled with work; most of my time spent away from our little homestead. Sitting with the birds in the sun, many thoughts passed through me. I let them come and go as they pleased. I was struck by the complex simplicity of our life on this little chunk of earth and the beings we have chosen to care for.
This spring brought many new additions to our lives and the continued challenge of incorporating old residents with newcomers.
We added Guiana Fowl and additional hens to the flock, which is now composed of four generations of chickens (of various makes and models), three guiana, three remaining ducks and one rooster. Bringing the bird population back to 24, a fine place to be going into winter.
I don’t know where to start, but the beginning seems a good place to try.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe humanity to be insane.
From the time I was first aware of the world outside my own thoughts and opinions; it seemed I was surrounded by contradiction and needless turmoil.
I watched as the world acknowledged people like; The Dali Lama, Martin Luther King, Jesus, Gandhi and the Profit Muhammad; then not act in accordance with their simple teachings of absolute kindness.
Instead, those who exulted them in the first place rendered their words hollow with their actions of violence and persecution.
I was told that differences of skin color didn’t matter, which made sense. No other animal on earth assigns judgements to the color of their coat. Then, I observed systemic persecution that could have no other root.
I learned that all “things” has their “place.” That people were given dominion over “the animals.” This felt wrong on a deep visceral level. When I learned that officially that our scientific classification has always started with the Kingdom: Animalia, I was validated. No one else seemed to notice and the world moved on.
The ads on TV told me to “ask your dr about…” When it was my understanding that it is the healer that is supposed to do the asking. Everyone acted like this was ok.
At its worst; losing a family member can be seem like a bottomless pit of sorrow, at it best it is a empty hollow place- either way it is an unavoidable ‘adjustment.’ Our own recent transition has been… as smooth as a thing that painful can be. We had the benefit of knowing that it was the right time. We had limited her suffering AND got to (more or less) plan her passing.
Most days, I utilized my 3 hour commute to work and back to cry and mourn. This was an improvement from the last couple months. In weeks leading up to the decision my commute was still as tearful. Worry, guilt and fear at what I would come home to, filled the car.
Now that it is done and I have had time to reflect, I am just so grateful for the time we had. My tears are shed in relief and raw gratitude. Her life is now a legend there is no more need to worry about her pain or possible future pain.
I am more aware of the other two ladies who are going through a transition of their own. Each in their own way. After all, they never left each-others side. Pele wants nothing more than to be close and cuddled. Isis (who had taken to hiding under the table for the past few months) has reemerged. A bit of her preciousness has stayed under the table, I think for good. Like most youths’ first experience of a close death it has matured her. We had been a true pack and the survivors are also adapting to the new reality.
All of us in our own way.
Ten days after that day my husband sent me this picture while I was talking with coworkers in my office.
I had drastically underestimated how much this meant to me. To have her close again. Now, like my father before we were able to begin letting her go.
For over two months normal greetings between my husband and I have been replaced with one question.
“How is she?”
At first, the answers were hopeful but as time went on we both had to accept that we had gotten to THAT place. The one no dog lover wants to be, were the only answer to that question is a knowing shrug and a forlorn look. At the same time, it was easy to see that there was only one course of treatment if we were to do right by our matriarch.
Honey, Bear, Honey Bee, Barington, didn’t matter what we called her she was simply the best. I am so glad we took the time to appreciate her while she was still here.
Yesterday, we were honored to preside over her passing. All of us there. The boys outside with the other dogs and my husband and me by her side. All of us able to tell her that she is the “best dog that ever lived;” one last time. Through hugs and kisses, as she smacked her lips contentedly in response.
She left no doubt that it was time.
Thanks to an amazing neighbor who is also a vet, we were able to afford her the luxury of ending her life at home on the couch, rather than a vet office. I don’t think we could have waited one more day without it costing her a measure of the great dignity she demonstrated for 15 (16?) years.
Her life started in California; an abused and neglected pit-mix. When Ry went to the pound they told him “you don’t want that one, she is aggressive. Especially towards men.” She had been returned to the shelter twice already by people who couldn’t handle her willful nature. With his ever-present “we will see about THAT” attitude he entered her kennel and they became fast friends. She was so attached to him that sometimes when he left she would Parkour over a 10′ security fence and go after him.
She entered my life a fully grown, mature alpha and soon after had a horrific accident that would shape our relationship into the deep bond of trust I was blessed to have shared with her.
I have written about the misplaced sentiment that our pets are like our children. I see them as elders and Honey optimized that assertion. She presided over every aspect of our lives. Every important moment she was there, right by our side through it all.
My godfather Mike was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) when I was young. I don’t know how old exactly, or how long he suffered before succumbing to the illness when I was nine.
He had given my parents strict orders that I was not to know he was sick. I think he recognized my anxiety issues and wanted to enjoy me being my usual precocious self, in his final years.
I had no idea that he was dying till he passed on the 4th of July, 1992. Gaining his independence from a body that could no longer contain such a bright soul.
The disease slowly robbed his muscles of their strength and during the last year of his life, he had be assisted full time to meet his daily needs.
All I knew was that he was sitting down more and we were spending a lot more weekends visiting him at his house in Los Gatos instead of the adventures and trips that normally occupied our Saturdays and Sundays.
For months his house was filled to the brim with friends, helping out with what they could or just being present for Mike.
I still remember clearly the last time I saw him. I didn’t know it would be the last day I would ever spend with him.
He had known it was.
It was becoming very difficult for him to speak. Soon it was going to be obvious that something was VERY wrong and he didn’t want me to see him like that. We spent to whole day watching videos of Cirque De Sole, something that I just adored.
He sat with me.
Eating fresh sliced tomatoes from his garden topped with garlic salt. I still remember my first bite of that simple pleasure, it was a revelation. The smell of the garlic wafting from the plate had me thinking I was going to hate this odd snack.
Mike just smiled and handed me one of the smaller deep red slices of fruit. “First try it, Em. Then decide.” The flavor exploded as I bit down, salty and sweet simultaneously smelling of savory garlic and fresh tomato.
I was hooked.
More then a decade ago, this picture was taken. I was a line cook on the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf in a high-end Mexican restaurant. I would come in first thing in the morning, prep for the day, work the line at lunch and stay through the dinner rush.
Anyday I was not in school, I was there.
Holidays were no exception and as a result, I decided one Easter Sunday to surprise my coworkers with an Easter egg hunt.
I shopped and stuffed colorful eggs, came in early and went nuts. I did a pretty good job. The closing bartender even found one that had been over looked by everyone else at the end of her shift. I made everyones’ day a little happier.
I told myself I did this not expecting any thanks or reciprocity.
It would appear that blogs however; will wait, just as they were for this woman. Especially when you neglect them completely. Thank god it is not one of the things in my life that requires daily feeding!
This has been the longest I have gone without posting since this blog’s scattered conception years ago. My reasons are hardly noteworthy. Life needed living and something had to fall by the wayside. That ‘something’ was maintaining this record of deeds and thoughts. There has been no juicy personal upheaval to report, or major life changes. There has been a lot of writing, but none of it cohesive enough to share.
I have approached this update like I make soup. A rough chop of everything in one pot on high heat. There is no graceful way to start- so here goes.
The election gave me writers block. Not because I was surprised. I am well aware of our society’s ability to confuse reality Tv with reality. I have always thought about the world in my own way, judging it by my personal criteria. I hold dirt and plants in the highest regard. It is not a shock that our society could have gotten so lost when we have passed the recent decades exulting people for how they look and what they say, rather than the objective results of their deeds and how they treat the beings around them.
It felt disingenuous to post things about the homestead when there was this ominous threat to all the things that we hold dear. I did lots of writing on the topic but none of it is worth sharing.
As usual it was the homestead that gave me the perspective I needed to move forward.
This winter; I often mused about the critters, so blithely unaffected by the state of the nation. I found a great comfort in their priorities: food, sleep, play. The daily chores and responsibilities have been unaffected by all the madness. Winter was harsh for environmental reasons. Record snow fall was hard on the animals. We lost more than a few birds. It hit the ducks hardest, who I find ill suited for overwintering. Aside from that, most of the inhabitants here are healthy and well.
We added bees back into the mix and it has been really nice to have their music about the yard.
I made the rash decision to get more chickens and subsequently guinee fowl. I was provided with nothing more for motivation than a yellow order sheet that had “Cuckoo Marans” on the top next to a cute little box where you just write in how many you want. A little further down there were Araucanas and below them a straight run (not sexed) of guinea fowl.
There was a gray spot in my memory and when I got back in the car I called my (ever so patient) husband and told him that I had finally found Marans! (They lay a dark brown egg and I have wanted them for some time now.) I told him “don’t worry I only got six…of those.”
I wrote this on the plane ride of the first visit back home, almost seven years ago. I found it recently and was please that my younger self had left such a good reminder of what to focus on as I pass farther along this path that lead me to the opposite side of the world and a place I never intended to call home.
Thanks younger me, I will try to make us both proud.
I mentioned earlier, that having the chickens and ducks outside the front door has been pretty awesome. Most of the time everyone gets along well and this is the first winter in years I have not been running two different coops.
They get along well but competition for food is fierce. The ducks are like wide mouthed vacuums and the precise beaks of the chickens just can’t keep up. Recently, the chickens have realized that they might have small mouths but their bodies are not too heavy for flight.
The ducks try to fly but fail. As they are of Rouen ancestry and far too heavily to manage much more than a tippy-toe-run with wings going full force. That situation has given us this next bit of footage.
I wrote this post some time ago now, and I did more than hesitate to post it. In fact, I almost didn’t at all.
This is because my reproductive health is no one’s business!
After a time, I was compelled to speak out on behalf of an organization that had given me the greatest gift in the world, options.
For those people who have never been to Planned Parenthood allow me to share my experiences, I hope they can be received with open ears. I think I am qualified to write on this topic because I have been a patient with them my whole adult life.
No, this does not mean that I have had STDs or abortions; it MEANS that (because of the services I has access to) I avoided both of these sophomoric pitfalls. Nor does it mean that I have been a healthcare freeloader. I have always been employed and thus; declared my income, then paid for my services (on the sliding scale the PP provides) or gone through my insurance.
When I made the decision to be sexually active I felt it of the utmost importance that I take responsibility for that choice, alone. In fact, I reasoned that if I was incapable of taking on that obligation I was in no way ready for such a life altering decision.
Planned Parenthood gave me that resource.
But this story of womans health and reproductive services didn’t start with a teenage girl in the 90’s. The road has been long and it reaches back to ancient times.
If we go back before christianity to the pagan era, men and womans’ part in reproduction were equally respected. The feminine form was exulted for its powerful life-giving abilities. Women had choices, those choices were private and respected. There were wise people, midwives, shamans and priestesses who provided women’s services to the population. From basic feminine needs and medical care, pregnancy, contraception and yes, even abortion.
The advent of christianity rendered wise woman, witches and the old ways, devil’s work. A women was either a virgin, a mother or a whore. The concept of the of the sacred feminine was taken from us and we were left with the archetype of the virgin mother with no healthcare to help us in this unachievable goal. Our resources and knowledge were declared heresy and the punishment for non-conformity was often violence or death.
Centuries passed and still women didn’t regain our basic human rights. A woman, and all the abilities contained within her body and mind were the possession of others. First; her family- where (when she she came of breeding age) was sold like chattel. She was then the property of her husband and after that- her male children.
I hope we are at a place in this discourse where we can acknowledge that women have been second class citizens for most of the modern age. We are not bought and sold anymore but we have yet to achieve true equality. There are other groups in America that also suffer from the inequalities of a predominately white patriarchical system. These are the populations who utilize the services Planned Parenthood provides.
Planned Parenthood is not just a womans resource they serve all of those members of our community that would otherwise go without medical treatment of any kind. It is true that I saw many immigrant workers and their families in those endless waiting room hours. Many times; I had shared the room with older, painfully red eyed men but I never realized why they were there. Amongst all the bilingual posters and notices on the walls, there was one that was only posted in Spanish. It was a small 8.5 x11 print out with big implications. It said:
They were nice enough to invite me to play again this year in the One a Week Photo Challenge. This week’s (probably actually last week’s, given my record) prompt is ceiling.
This coincided with another snow storm at the homestead and a paradoxical observation.