Updated: Apr 26
It’s a true spring morning here, a gentle rain is falling outside and it’s just enough percussion to make the birdsong a melody. The phoebes are back, nesting right outside my kitchen window. The maple and birch’s first leaves just started to unfold. They're almost neon, how young they are. In a week I won’t be able to see the road from the house anymore. It will be hidden behind a wall of brush and buds, then become a jungle by mid May. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that. To this homestead becoming hidden again on the mountain, tucked around a corner where no one can see me until they happen around that turn. It’s been a year of hiding.
I’m going through it.
I don’t know if you can classify it as a midlife crisis. I don’t have this writhing desire for extreme change, travel, romance, or new horse. I feel like growing up Catholic in a conservative home and running away to abandon your parents’ dreams and become a lesbian forest pagan is extreme change enough.
I’ve lived a life. I've driven cross country, twice. I’ve sailed across sounds in British Columbia, hiked the Rockies and Appalachians, lived in cities in the South and forests in the North. I road space mountain and a mustang under the full moon. I followed my dream, lived alone on a mountain for a decade, came out, figured out who I was and owned it. I’ve never had a passport, but for a working-class person I feel lucky to have experienced what I have.
I’m going through it.
I’m not sure what a woman is supposed to want at 40? Or rather, what she’s supposed to have? I know I don't want anything I was supposed to want. A man, kids, a 401k, a career people respect. And women without a husband or kids, there isn't value placed on them, especially in small towns. You become something else, and carry yourself with a confidence you made up.
Yesterday, still recovering from the sickest I’ve been in three years, I saddled up Merlin to see if he would still let me ride him. He is not much longer for the world, now over 30 and thinner than ever before. But Merlin thin still looks like an absolute unit next to a regular horse. I knew there wouldn’t be anymore afternoon-long rides through the forest with him, feeling his weight below me as we ran full speed across meadow and trail. But I wanted to know if I could just sit on him, walk down the road. He obliged and I only rode a 1/4 of the time, walking the rest beside him, as we made the quick trip up the mountain to the view of the valley. I let him graze and I sat on the grass. All my clothes are too big now and worn thin. I keep losing weight because I never feel hungry. Merlin and I make a pair, thinner than ever but still too thick for anyone to notice or be concerned. Everyone thinks a draft pony is okay.
They say people can’t change, that we always are who we are. People change. My ex changed me, updated my hardware in a way I can’t shake. Living with someone else changed how I saw my entire farm, my life, everything. And what was accomplished with the work of two people had to continue after they left.
going. through. it.
Yesterday after I brushed Merlin and fed him some grain to try and gain back his weight from winter, I got back to work. I make some extra money with a part time job writing scripts. I worked on that, and made oatmeal soaps for a customer. I took breaks to plant some seed potatoes behind the barn, work on the kitchen garden. A few days easier, I spent money I shouldn’t have on flowers, an uncontrollable impulse, not the kind for vases - the kind you can plant from six packs. I just wanted something beautiful and alive to hold.
Yesterday I mended a pair of pants. I used a little sewing kit my friend Katie made me out of a lozenge tin. When I was really sick, earlier this week, she dropped off a little care package with fresh flowers and chicken soup. I had asked her if she had a spare sewing needle, as I couldn’t locate one anywhere and wanted to fix some pants and she made a little tin of pins and needles and embroidery thread. Everything she left in the care package had her thoughtful touch. The blueberry muffins wrapped individually in tissue paper. The notes explaining when to add the tortellini to the soup. The flowers, expertly arranged and fashioned with a bow. The kit looked like she could open a shop selling them on Etsy. She’s a water sign like me. All the ones that still put up with me on a regular basis are water signs.
I will say this about 40, there is harmony now. You don’t realize you don’t have it when it’s missing, trust me. You could have asked me at any time in my chaotic and terrified twenties and thirties, if I was living "in balance" and I would have spun off some confident bullshit about following my dream and living with the seasons and my passion for farming, and I believed it and so would you. There was always passion, always determination, always the knowledge that I only had myself to rely on. But there wasn’t harmony. Harmony is the hardest won thing I ever earned.
But now, hoo. After 13 years on this farm I finally feel like my life, the seasons, the animals... our relationships are in sync. There’s a communion and understanding between myself and the land and animals I never experienced before. It's hard to verbalize, but I suppose it has to do with with big picture. When I stand outside, next to my farmhouse, I can see the whole of my land now. I appreciate it like an IV drip. I know every corner of it, the swamps and pond, the lantern-lit path, the places clay can be harvested from the stream. The spots where someone I once loved took me in the early days of spring because if we were very quiet, we'd see a ruby crowned kinglet. I see what I have and it means so much to me, like a scrapbook of song lyrics and conversations I memorized as they were happening. Harmony isn't a practice, it's an acceptance.
I wrote back in March, in that gut-punch post, about how I don’t know what is going to happen to me? I still don’t.
I will spend this summer tending this place. I will garden, struggle with bills, and mow the lawn religiously. I will plant flowers. I will raise pigs. I will try my best to get the most dire situations repaired. I will barely make enough to cover living here, and watch my Instagram feed of peers seeing and doing wondrous things while I sew old pants and weed the potatoes. We all made our choices. At least mine comes with a pony and music by candlelight after dark.
Let me tell you something. You aren’t experiencing a single emotion or thought that hasn’t already been felt in the shadow of the Colossus of Rhodes or some Etruscan street party. There’s no heartache or sadness that hasn’t been shared by a thousand poets and songwriters. People that still feel holding their emotions in is strength, please. You're like a child holding a firefly in your fist thinking you control the dark.
Get your emotions out. Tell the whole world. Feel it all. Make music and journal, do stand up or rap. Paint and sing and write.... get it out. Your emotions can be everyone's business, just make sure your actions, how you actually carry out your life and decision, that’s where restraint is necessary.
Took me to 40 to figure that out.
It’s still raining. I can’t believe anyone still reads this.
I hope you're going though it, too.