There’s so much grief and uncertainty in my life right now. It’s why I've kept so close to home, and that’s saying something for a professional homesteader.
The details of what I’m grieving doesn’t matter. All of us are dealing with loss or entropy, all of us have made hard decisions. Understanding them takes longer. And all you can do is wait it out until life makes sense again. I’ve been spending that time, here.
I don’t know if it’s the best choice, but it does make me feel better, to tend this small farm. Today I will work on the grounds, trimming the path in the woods so it’s less overgrown. I’ll weed wack spots the horses didn’t care to eat down. I’ll water gardens, weed the corn rows, work with my mare, plant more flowers, work on my to do list.
I’ll try and promote sales, and stretch, and drink water, and meditate. Mornings here are full of hope and creative energy, then it's a frenzy of trying to make a living/bills/deadlines. I check my social media and email like an addict. By late afternoon I am so exhausted.
Last night, I couldn't find the will to relax. I was pacing room to room, fending off a panic attack. This is something I have mostly mastered, a skill taught out of necessity. No one is going to rush in my living room and tell me things are going to be okay. I need to be that person for myself. So I do the breathing techniques that work for me, I force myself to stop pacing, and I went outside for some fresh air.
There's so many things I worry about. The house needs so much work, just to remain upright, it's actually too upsetting to write about. The news, this onslaught of anti-LGBT legislation and hate crimes, the debt ceiling, climate change, money, love, loneliness, death...
It was nearly 10PM, outside in the dark. I wandered to behind the hawk mews to cut some mint stems. The mint on this property is like grief, It’s everywhere but you can ignore it if you give yourself permission. Let the green fade into the background with the rest of the plants, stand far away enough that you can’t smell it. It's still there. You fucking know it's there. But you can pretend.
You know what happened the other night? This is the person I am dealing with (me). I was walking at dusk on the path, without the dogs. It's where I go when I feel there's nowhere to go. I have this rule anything that is said on the path, stays on the path. It's my Vegas. I walk along it and have imaginary conversations with people I can't talk to anymore. I apologize to people that don't want apologies. I fantasize about selling a book again. Sometimes I just think about JAWS or the perfect Indian meal at a restaurant when that's something I can afford to do again. But this other night, I just let myself talk aloud in my regular speaking voice about how I felt. A stream of consciousness for me and the fireflies.
So I am out there, yip yapping and god bothering. I didn't notice when I reached my favorite spot until I nearly trip on a grapevine and came to. There's this place on the path where I can see everything wild and nothing I farm. It overlooks the stream below, the pond, all the winding lanterns that light up the forest as it grows darker. I watched them flicker on, one by one. and I started speaking again, and without realizing it, in the same exact cadence as Pablo Neruda's Song of Despair.
And I said aloud exactly what I was feeling, like they were extra stanzas in that poem. It wasn't intentional, emotional muscle memory. And in a few sentences I realized I was eulogizing my own dumb heartache to that sad man's poetry, and I burst out laughing and crying at the same time. The pretension! The absurdity that without even trying, my brain forced me to think like a dead Chilean poet. Top ten moments in my life, that. The laughter, not the bad poetry.
But holy shit! to be that 23-year-old in Tennessee, reading that poem for the first time, and then carrying around that tattered book of poetry across lifetimes and this whole continent and to end up here; 40 years old, in a haunted paradise of my own stupid making.
Neruda's been dead for fifty years and still making girls cry. Damn, I love writing.
So, I had this mint in hand last night, an armload, a bride's bouquet worth, and I wanted to do something tender for myself. The panic attack was fading, but the anxiety still sparked like power lines downed after a storm.
I walked back inside. Back to my crooked farmhouse that smells like candles and campfires and a pack of wolves. I love that there isn't any overhead lighting in most of my space. When the day turns darker, so does the house, and small lights fill it up with a low glow of mirth that isn't a lie.
I look around my home, my life... This farm doesn’t even feel real anymore, it’s like a set in a movie or player housing in a video game. Which isn’t to say it’s artificial, it’s just….so intentional. There isn’t an object, book, polaroid picture tucked inside a book, picture on the wall or rock on a shelf that doesn’t double as a story. This farmhouse is my personal nostalgia museum, and if we were to walk around one five-foot section I’d have enough stories to fill a miniseries. Jumping off waterfalls in Tennessee, a young moose blocking my car in Idaho, galloping as fast as I can on the back of a horse on this mountain, friends from college I disappointed, women I loved, family that became strangers, and a life that is a coin toss between selfishness and sanity on any given day.
I rinsed the armload of mint stalks in the kitchen sink and then filled the bottom of my shower with it. I lit candles, put on the little space heater, turned off the lights. When the water came on, hot and true, it started to fill the small space with the wild mint scent. Sometimes smells are songs.
In the shower my rough feet stepped on the tender stems. Every step released more notes, the low light made it calm. I liked how the candle through the glass shower door looked like a campfire in the distance. I liked how gently I washed and tended my tired body, forgiving everything I am constantly trying to accept isn't wrong with it..
If this sounds sad, it wasn’t. Just necessary. Sometimes a woman needs a mint shower in the dark, not to cry, but to remind herself that there’s still soft and beautiful moments in uncertain times. And if the thing you are doing in the present, is something gentle, then that’s your life. That's what's real. Because everything that has happened, is over. And everything I am constantly worried about, hasn’t happened yet. In that dark shower, I'm just warm and loved and every step releases more mint and opens my senses.
Listen, sometimes things are hard. We do our best to deal with it, and hopefully don't hurt anyone else along the way. My goal is get through today feeling better about things than yesterday. I want to watch my grief start to mat and shed off in clumps, because that is what sunlight promises.
I am really looking forward to the first real thunderstorm of the summer. It'll be a goddamn baptism. Don't worry, I won't write about it. This is insufferable enough, but the relief will be something else.
I am going to keep running to the river so I can breath, and walking my path so I can think, and try to become a better museum curator along the way while the foundation still holds. That's the best I can do.
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