Updated: Sep 8
I broke out in hives a couple days ago. It’s a severe stress reaction, because life has been stressful lately and my body has had it. It's something that hasn’t happened since college, but hoo boy did they ever come back with gusto. They were so itchy that at first I thought (read: hoped) it was poison ivy. I tried to fight the urge to scratch but when it comes to temptation I’m either actively-forcing abstinence or totally giving in. I scratched my arms to pieces.
Sometimes violence works. They stopped itching, but I’m sure it will leave scars. Small scars. Nothing anyone will notice until they'e close. Not exactly a problem I need to deal with so I gave in like a mangy dog. Now I’m paying for it with tender arms. Every time I shower they sting from the strong mint soap, bleed again, and a little feeling of failure runs through me as blood circles the drain.
If you’ve been following my story you’re familiar with how hard it is to hold onto a dream. You’re familiar because I never shut up about it. Most of this blog is me writing to myself what I need to either vent or cheerlead publicly, because I decided to play life on hard mode. But I wanted to write something from a different perspective today, because there’s a reason why. Let me tell you about my day.
I woke up after her eight hours of (almost!) uninterrupted sleep) in fresh sheets that had been sprayed with lavender water the night before. The parenthetical “almost" is because, Gus, my 4-month-old kitten, would wake me up every few hours with one tiny paw on my face.
I am not sure if I was snoring or in his way, but every few hours the warm toe pads from a kitten would be pressed against my nose, cheeks, or lips and I’d wake up to his face right up against mine, whiskers tickling my nostrils. I'd wake up, silently, look at him, and once I was awake he’d just walk a few steps away on the mattress, curl up in a ball, and go back to sleep. But hot dang, did you read that?! EIGHT HOURS on a WEEKNIGHT. Listen, you go tell 26-year-old Jenna when she was working in a corporate office that 41-year-old lesbian you was in bed, at 9PM, pillow-talking with a kitten and starting her day on her own farm at 5 the next morning.... Well, she would tell you to leave her alone because fortune telling isn’t real and please respect her 6ft berth of personal space, but she’d also be very happy that was true, because when I was just getting home from my old job at 6PM the idea of being asleep three hours later was too depressing. That I had three hours of conscious time to myself, and then straight to bed for your skin and health please, hell no. I was up until midnight and on the road to work on 4 hours if I was lucky.
Now I don’t even use an alarm.
I wake up when my body wants, which is around 5 and 6 AM, daylight depending. And when I go downstairs with the kitten and dogs, we say our groggy g’mornins’ and I start the coffee. And once the coffee is made and the dogs went outside and the cats are fed, I get to start my day exactly how I want - which is slow. I love it when it's still dark out and too early to start chores, so I sip a few mugs of creamy dark-roast, curled up in a giant bean bag with candlelight to enjoy one episode of a favorite TV show before the farm wakes up. Some days are already lit and I want to stretch with my coffee on the yoga mat, or perhaps get my vitamin D in early and sit on my deck or swing in my hammock or stroll through the woods on the path…
I start every day like the first morning of vacation.
Nowhere to be, I'm already here.
Chores go fast. I let out the birds from their coops and open the barn door for the pigs. I check water, which is overflowing from last night’s storms. I get the pigs their grain, the chickens theirs. I open the horses’ pasture gate and let them into the yard to mow the lawn because I’d fenced off the yard yesterday. I swear the best thing that’s happened to these horses is that mower breaking, because they’ve done a lovely job landscaping/fertilizing and you can’t know the joy of walking out onto my deck, mug in hand, Gilmore Girls' rapid-fire dialogue behind me yapping from the computer screen as I pet my mare in my pajamas. This is my farm. I did it. I am here, sharing my once miserable commuting time with a chestnut mare in joggers.
Chores done and body caffeinated, I head out with my hawk trap. It is September after all, the beginning of my favorite time of the year and it's absolutely dripping with hope. Fall really is the fireworks before my winter hibernation sets in. Guys, I just cleaned the Subaru yesterday and she’s shining like a gold star. Sure, there’s tape on parts of the leather seats and she’s going on 14, but she runs better than 96% of the vehicles I’ve had the last decade and it feels like a spaceship when I get inside. I turn on 1989 DLX and New Romantics comes on and I am singing as I head out looking for a new roommate, hot coffee in my taxi-yellow thermos. The sun is shining, but the air is cooler than it’s been this last heat wave. I’m smiling, so full of hope! At any moment my new bird could show up, could be around the next bend! I could be starting a LOTR marathon tonight, watching all three extended editions with my new hawk, a Woginrich Tradition.
Hawks and love, they can show up at any moment. Be ready.
After an hour of driving my regular trapping loop (no luck) and a tour of the most beautiful farmland and countryside I’ve ever experienced in my 41-years of life - I get to work. It’s around 9:30AM and I have four illustration clients, one logo client, and soap making scheduled. That's the morning list at least. There is more work schedlued for later, including updating the blog.
I schedule things now. I might need a cone around my neck to stop me from hurting myself dermatologically, but there's at least order to the work day. And for the next few hours I work on getting miscellaneous jobs and errands done. There’s supplies to pick up in town, orders to ship, emails to reply to, things to catch up on. I have a script to due to my part-time job this week and a magazine article to proofread yet. (Actually I am stopping this blog post right now to do that, one moment please....)
*I’m reading final edits on a magazine article and telling her it’s fine because I’m sure it is, the editor is brilliant*
Around 1PM I make lunch. I give myself time to fry a few pieces of bacon I raised from piglets. I slice up the tomato my neighbor grew. (Mine didn’t due well this year, but I was distracted this summer dating and not weeding, and it was a fruitless but still worth it) and pull the two pieces of fresh sourdough toast out of the oven and make a BLT that few humans will ever be lucky enough to appreciate. Money can't buy the experience of biting into a meal from pigs you raised, fresh bread baked by neighbors, perfectly-ripe garden tomatoes...heaven. I am of an age when (where?!) a good sandwich really matters. It can elevate a day, boost your entire being. Today, I celebrated that sandwich. Every bite a validation at the end of desire. Holy crow, I am still thinking about it.
When satisfied with my work, full of sandwich, and seeing the sunshine outside - I decided that instead of panic posting to social media about sales, I’ll focus more on healing this body and appreciating the life I'm worried about so much in the first place. And while that should involve a nice hypoallergenic cold shower, lotion, Benadryl and a nap - I decide to opt for the hard stuff instead.
I’m going fishing.
I grab my reel and sling pack and start walking down the road. It’s about 2PM and it feels like 8PM used to. It’s been a lot of day! There’s been kitten attacks and lawn mares and hawk trapping and a lot of pet portraits and kitchen chemistry with lye and milk.... but I have completed the blessed to-do list and my Catholic-infected, but anxiety-perfected high-octane guilt only lets me walk around my neighborhood catching trout when it feels earned. So I am going fishing. But today, I am doing something naughty. I’m bait fishing.
Usually I’m a true fly-fishing purist. Bait feels like cheating. And yes, that is an absurd thing to say to most anglers, but I say it the same way I felt people riding past me on bikes when I used to run 10ks felt like cheating. Some of us are sadly cursed to only feel true satisfaction when hard things are accomplished, and bikes and bait feel like cheating in a world with dry flies and running shoes.
But fuck, I've had a hard week.
The stress has been so bad my body revolted and exploded in stars and now I just want to catch some of these trout I have been flirting with for weeks. So I dig directly into the dark mountain soil right below my feet and pull a earthworm out and stick it on my bead-head nymph fly. I pull trout after trout out of the stream! Some from small pools! Some from rocky holes! Some from the culvert! I’m laughing and hooting and it’s 2PM on a weekday and I am free. I've already braided a gelding's hair next to a crowing rooster, and felt hope cresting a country road! I spent most of the day earning a living from my own artwork and words, and now here I am, when I should be SUPERVISED free in the wild totally enthralled at how yellow that brookie’s belly is! How it looks so gold in the afternoon's tired light!
And I walk home, sweat pouring off me, no concern about humidity because people that hate humidity don’t hate this lush deathgrip on September, no no, they hate how gross it feels to be proven an animal in sterile situations. When I had to perform being an acceptable woman, I hated humidity. I remember being embarrassed to show sweat on my brow in front of coworkers, to have mascara run, or hide pit stains… but I am free. There isn't a single person I need to see the rest of the day, or get the approval from. That will be disappointed in the fact that when the dew point rises my body wants to cool off. I feel the hair in my armpits tingle in delight. I do not have to be something palatable at all times. Sometimes, I get to be feral at 2PM on a weekday.
I am walking up a country road looking absolutley disgusting and already posting to instagram with pure joy about these trout because thank the gods for fishing. Thank the gods I can now walk over a mile without the pain making me cry every morning walking down the stairs. Thank the gods for time, and patience, and for eventually giving in and using bait on the dream because sometimes a woman just needs a little charge.
And I’m going to head outside now and lead my horses back into their pasture before it rains with good hay and grain for their dinner. And I’ll tend to the rest of the animals, goat to goose, and once that farm is sated I will get an armload of mint from my yard and line the shower with it. All over the floor, mint. And the hot water will turn it into an herbal-therapy soak and I’ll wash this tired, dirty, sweaty, hairy body that tended land and sought adventure and friendship and felt so many things from fish scales to hope to memories to sweet feed to regret. And after that shower I will change into yoga clothes and practice with peach honey tea over I brewed poured over ice into a tankard and feel this nourished body fucking heal. And choose, on purpose, to see those hive scabs not as flaws but instead as reminders that someday I’ll not always be so scared and stressed. That I can write my way out, or to her, or home.
But for tonight, I want you to know, that this is my life. That my choices have lead to a daily happiness I do not take for granted. That I am surrounded by nature and hope and true excitement to wake up the next morning. That tomorrow I might possibly be eye-to-eye with a hawk in my living room, or just really focused on painting a beagle for a reader in Ohio - but either way, it’s happening here. It’s at this farm I bought 13 years ago and still own. It’s at this place that is slowly healing me in so many ways, where my time is mine and my heart is light and I find this real joy, the rarest of human emotions, every single day.
Yeah, I get really scared. Yes, it is really hard. And no, I wouldn’t have made this decision had I not been so unhinged and miserable and desperate to become this woman I was so terrified to be - but I got here. And I made a life I truly love. And I get to still share it with a couple of people that check in here because they care. And that’s a hell of a lot more satisfaction and happiness than some get to experience.
I keep forgetting to share that most of the time I am happy with my life. I think everyone thinks it’s so miserable and hard here, and it is often both those things, but holy shit when it’s good, it’s so good. So good it poisons regret, dries it right out. And on days like today, I can see the scars all over my arms and look forward to the next time I’m in bed with a woman, and when she asks where all of my white freckles on my arms came from? I'll tell her the honest answer to everything: