Two months ago I had my third and final baby. Two days ago another white supremacist took the lives of 17 more of someone else’s babies.
I haven’t written since January, last year. I didn’t expect to write again anytime soon. But I’ve been getting an itch lately. Why, I couldn’t say, since I have no time to spare and on the surface it seems nothing has changed. Our lives are all encompassing when we are in them, even when they seem small against the enormity of the world. But it doesn’t seem right to neglect the small tales of daily life because there are such big stories that must be reckoned with. And, as I suspect those who dedicate themselves to cultivating life know well, the day to day is sometimes all that is left, and what all our striving and struggling is aimed at improving, anyway.
This winter we endured a cold spell the likes of which I’ve never experienced. My designed-for-the-South duck pen partly collapsed under the epic snow. My hens were so traumatized they stopped laying for 3 weeks. The land-lease proposal I spent six months working on to try and eke out an acre of farmable land in a nearby power cut failed and the dreams for expanded small scale homesteading that went with it are done. We are coming up on two weeks of the most serious crud our kids have ever had. No one is sleeping.
What holds me together when the daily struggles feel big is working outside in the fresh air, getting my hands dirty and sweating. I don’t care if it’s freezing or raining outside; I don’t care if it’s mundane. But this winter the newborn wasn’t into below-zero yard work excursions. Even on days when it was supposed to be mild I would watch the day rot away while I made iterative rounds of food for two growing boys, tried to keep myself fed, nursed every ten seconds…all while feeling the pull of the outdoors like an itch I just couldn’t scratch. If I was lucky I’d escape to feed the ducks and hens before it got dark at the ridiculously early hour of 5 o’clock, an hour and a half before my spouse got home and 3 minutes before the kids fell asleep or killed each other. Or both. Even now that it’s warming up, there is always so much laundry, so much chaos, so much to do.
And of course the planet is burning in every possible sense of the word. Our state and federal leaders are grinning from the sidelines after jumping out of the smoking wreck of our government that they just sent over a cliff.
A few weeks ago I was wearing the baby and pushing the 3 year old on the swing while he and the 7 year old screamed competitive awfulness at each other. I felt my mind winging away to the place it goes when I cannot take one more second of them and I know I’m about to say things I’ll regret…and I noticed that the stems of the elderberry bush beside the swings looked a bit swollen.
The days are getting longer. Sometimes, if a million stars align, I can sneak out when my husband gets home and pull two weeds in the garden or pick up a stick or two. The cold spell, which coincided with the new baby, forced my eldest children to figure out how to play together in a way they haven’t bothered to in the past. Our community is mostly folks of retirement age, but when we bundled everyone up to visit the sledding hill after the Big Snow (it literally took the entire morning), we ran into most of our neighbors–including folks in their seventies–heading out to sled. I watched the sun sparkle as my kids threw handfuls of snow into the air; watched my husband snuggle my 3 year old as he cackled with glee speeding down the sledding hill; laughed with my neighbors as they tried to get a peek at the new baby under eight layers of clothing and a baby carrier; and realized what an amazing place this is. My community.
Since decisions require consensus here, my land-lease proposal involved visiting with most of the households in our community. We’ve lived here for five years but I hadn’t made the time for that kind of visiting before. In between talking about my proposal I learned the history of my community and the stories of all these folks, most of whom have been here for nearly four decades. My proposal failed, but I have a bunch of friends I didn’t have before and my daily experience in the neighborhood has become richer and more substantive.
Just like government regulation can spur an industry to come up with creative solutions (cheap Japanese MRI, anyone?), scarce time has made me more efficient than I could have imagined. Somehow, I’ve been able to do more and more in my garden as my life gets wilder and fuller.
I can’t come up with anything good to say about the duck pen collapsing; that was just gut wrenching after everything I put into it. Some things are just that way.
But in the middle of the Plague of 2018, there was one day when the kids weren’t in such distress that I was needed every second…and I went out in the yard and planted my spring seeds. Because, believe it or not, it is planting time…and if you don’t plant, you can’t harvest, no matter what else might happen in between.
Everything may look dead. It’s not.
Even though it’s not spring yet, it’s close enough.