Life Rolls On….

According to a notification I received yesterday morning, this is my 8th year on this site. Evidently, I’m as bad at blogging as I am at sending Christmas cards…or remembering to buy stamps…or wear shoes when I leave the house…yikes! I should think about stepping up my game.

It’s taking me an absurdly long time to get back into the swing of life since I moved house this year. You’d think being stuck at home without transportation, I’d be getting more done, but no.

My crowning achievement today was making [starting] a batch of mint extract from the plants I put in this Spring, and salvaging some onions that have obviously been badly impacted by this season’s extraordinarily beautiful rains. But really, once the onions are in the oven to dehydrate, it’s kind of out of my hands, and time takes over the workload.

Making onion powder is actually kind of fun. Two large onions is easily enough to give you enough powder to cook with for a year, and without fail, homemade onion powder always tastes better than the weird adulterated stuff you can get at the store. My hope is that when I get up in the morning, there with be a pan full of crispy-brittle little ribbons of fragrant shredded bulbs ready to meet with my mortar and pestle. But all I did was slice them up. Turned on the oven. Weeded the mint bed of a bumper crop of pink bindweed whilst I wondered if I should dry some rosemary today, too. That’s it. Oh, and I made sugar syrup for the hummingbirds’ feeders.

The truth is, I’ve been rather lazy. And I can’t seem to push myself harder to do more. I sit out on the porch with the dogs and watch the wind in the trees, drink endless mason jars of chilled brewed tea, and listen to the birds calling back and forth. I know that the furniture is in desperate need of dusting, and that the dustbunnies that need to be vacuumed up have grown into puppies. If I cared more, I’d move faster, I think.

I feel like my onions: giving way to the elements, and just melting into the earth. It’s like being on summer vacation, minus the cookies and trips to Grandma’s house. As guilty as I feel about not getting more done, I kind of like it. If only I had a bicycle. With a banana seat and sparkly tassles….

Dreamscaping: Creating the World I Love

dreamscape (noun): The landscape within a dream.”

This past autumn, I lost my very best friend and only sister. The week that Mavis died, when it was quiet and we were alone, I had asked her a question that I cannot now remember for the life of me, because her answer was so profound and lovely that everything else just fell away as the words reverberated in my mind like music far in the distance:

“I wanted to make myself happy.”

If you know me, you’re likely aware that the past few years of my life have been dominated by some experiences that were anything but happy. If you knew Mavis in the least little bit, then you are very well aware that she definitely succeeded in making herself happy in the years before she left this world. It’s a funny internal paradox that needs considerable attention. At least I think so. And whilst there’s a paradox in there, there’s no mystery in the riddle of it.

Making oneself happy is a much different thing than wanting to be happy; the former is active, purposeful, creative, whilst the latter is passive, accidental and usually consequential. As I spent most of this past Winter and Spring sorting through Mavis’ life and things, I kept thinking about those last words of hers, just hours before she became very still and started on her quiet journey Home.

I want to be like my sister, who made herself happy. And that means doing some crazy things…like being a little impractical. Or maybe a lot impractical. And endeavoring not to die in the process.

I’m pretty sure that Mavis has had a hand in helping me find the place where I live now. It’s perfect in every way that counts, sandwiched between two hills, surrounded by trees on a South-facing slope. The lady who orginally owned this farm cultivated plants all around the acreage that have drawn thousands of hummingbirds, dragonflies and butterflies (all favourite signs of mine and Mavis’) this summer and, though the weather has been hot and humid and the rains have let up, I still have a few hardy lighning bugs greeting me as the Fae are wont to as soon as the sun sets behind the hills on the other side of this valley.

When I first moved here at the end of February, I was disappointed to find that there is no bathtub in this house; just a plastic walk-in shower, with 70s-era frosted glass arcadia doors, stained orange from the mineral-heavy well water. That just would not do. And not being independently wealthy, I planned on buying a horse trough at the farm store to set out on the front porch, and just filling it from the garden spigot when I needed to. But before I had the chance to price troughs, something magical happened….

First, though, you’ve got to know that I never met a horse or cattle trough I didn’t love for summer soaks, and these were always an integral part of my childhood, especially when I started working for pay as a teenager with horses and cattle. There’s nothing better than a cold plunge after a few hours of hard work outside. But I have had a lifelong dream of having my very own cast iron clawfooted bathtub. There was a big, shiny one painted a pale, lemony yellow in my Aunt Karen’s big rambling Victorian house when I was growing up that I envied. Mavis had one that she painted forest green and built a special straddling desk-style caddy for in the oak-trimmed upstairs bathroom of the old arts-and-crafts house she lived in when I was in my twenties–that I was five shades of jealous over, and for which I showed up at all hours with bathbombs and sesame oil to camp out in every chance I got, just because she let me. For me, soaking in the tub (or the trough) is almost as fun as swimming in a big pool or lake and having it all to myself, so living in a house with no tub is just…sad. But I have made the decision to make myself happy, and in certain ways, Majesty’s Providence seems to be in agreement with this plan.

You know you’ve come across a really great yard sale when it’s being picked over by a large flock of shrewd Amish women in their starched white prayer caps and billowing aprons, and two months ago, that’s exactly the kind of situation I happened on at the edge of New Philadelphia when I drove to town to buy supplies for the foreseeable future. I stopped because I saw piles of wood boards scattered on the lawn under a big oak tree, but what caught my eye when I jumped out of the truck was overturned in the gravel path that went back to this grandma’s rose garden: a big ol’ lightly rusted clawfoot tub.

Did she want to sell it, I asked?

How much would you give me for it?

All I have is fifty dollars.

And I wasn’t kidding. It was all the money I had for groceries and gas till whenever comes, payment for a small batch of custom soap I had made for a friend. But where else was I going to find (and when would I ever again) a tub like this, just lying there in the gravel like a discarded dollhouse toy? And, to my amazement, the lady offered her hand, we shook on the deal, and her elderly bespectacled husband went digging in her garden shed to find the eagle’s feet and iron nails to pin them back on to the tub.

After getting my 81 year old landlord to come help me the next day to load it up (believe me, that was an adventure in itself), it took me a couple of weeks to get this thing up where I wanted it to be. First I had to roll it up the steep slope of the front yard without dying of a coronary, or being crushed as it slid back down to the driveway (that was fun…not), and then it sat, looking forelorn and legless, in the yard for a few days whilst I figured out how to roll it up onto the porch without scratching or chipping the porcelain. In the end, I used my furniture cloth and a dog blanket, and tipped it end over end up the steps, paranoid and a little sick about possibly crushing my toes. This thing easily weighs at least three hundred pounds, so I’m pretty freaking proud of myself, considering just how bad my back is. Then I used my garden pick to pin the feet in place before flipping the tub over, praying that I didn’t break anything, including myself.

…And you thought outdoor tubs were only found in ridiculously cheesy pharmaceutical ad campaigns….

When I was living in cities around about, I used to have vivid dreams about going home to the mountains, and taking long cool baths in the troughs, watching the sunset over the alpine forests, listening to the birds and the wind in the trees. And now I’ve killed two birds with one stone.

I think this dreamscaping thing is pretty awesome. Yes, it meant eating a lot of (okay…too many) dandelion salads for a while. But I now have the tub I have always wanted. And whilst it may not seem like a big deal, and it definitely isn’t going to be the key to my happiness, I think it’s a fantastic step in the right direction. I’m just going to make myself happy, one tiny dream fulfilled at a time.

…Look at my beautiful tub! I’m such a hillbilly.

The Grossness of Hollyweird: Why I Will Never Include Gratuitous Garbage in My Projects

I’m taking a class right now which has me on the ropes. In this class, I’m required to watch a long (*LONG*) series of film scenes and explain in detail how they were blocked and lit. It wouldn’t be a bad assignment but for the fact that well over half the scenes involve Hollywood’s version of kissing. You know what I’m talking about: two allegedly intelligent, grown people noshing on each other’s faces like a four-year-old fat kid with an ice cream cone. It’s just simply one of the most repulsive acts there is to witness, and completely unnecessary to any plot line. I’m not gonna lie…l hurled my cookies a few times trying to finish this assignment. Fortunately, I own lots of buckets, and I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning the past few months. I don’t know who the teaching assistant is who put this shitshow together, but I guarantee, he was not at all concerned about angles and lighting when he did it.

I’m not a prude. I’ve had my share of make out sessions in life. But there are only two people who ever tried this crap with me, and they’re both exes for a reason, the last of whom was, in fact, a wannabe filmmaker. Eeewwww….So, I can’t be the only one who watches these movies, and sees these scenes, and thinks about the slimy slugs factor…wonders how many actors have been treated over the years for bacterial meningitis…muses over the recovery times for spit rash, and natural ways to minimize itching and  scarring. It’s just not endearing. Or sexy. Actually, there’s a lot of second-hand embarrassment watching this kind of display and, personally, it drops me right out of the story. Nope. That’s not how the lovely Minerva does things, and Heathcliff has more sense than to treat the woman he loves like a deep fried barbequed steak-on-a-stick at the county fair. Those two are not in love! Those are cheap actors with no imagination and too big a pay cheque.

I finally finished my assignment last night. It meant fasting since the day before and keeping a gallon of cold water by my side, just to ensure it was dry heaves only for the duration. And then, when I was done, I went and looked up the gross earnings for some of the grossest “romance,” “romantic comedy” and “drama” films imaginable. Why was I not surprised to learn that the nastiest macking scenes made for the lowest profits in Hollywood’s major studio offerings?

Hollywood has been losing massive revenue with the advent of social media. Not only do moviegoers feel more confident to say what they honestly think about a story, but their brutality has the power to deter others from wasting their hard-earned moula and valuable time. This is a good thing. The democratization of film means that lowlife indie filmmakers like me can produce beautiful stories with sane characters who aren’t going overboard to give their love interests a chronic facial rash…or worse.

I think I need to develop my own set formula, just to ensure no one ever feels the need to purge when watching the fruits of my labours…..