Autumn Has Finally Come

I’m sitting in the kitchen tending two big stockpots; one is filled with a batch of not-so-lovely peaches that I’ve hovered over since yesterday afternoon, and the other holds about twenty pounds of cut up pickling beets that I’ve got simmering, waiting for a spicy Harvard brine like my Grandmother taught me to make. The 28 remaining chicken babies are out on the porch in the bathtub, squawking discontentedly at me because they want desperately to be fed for the third time today, and Baby is smiling at me, pleased with himself, soaked from head-to-toe because he’s been out romping around in the woods for the past hour. The tomato paste that I had so carefully run through the food mill and had cooking down scorched on the bottom because I left the burner up when I drove down the road to buy a bag of sugar for the beets; the former will be skimmed from the top and frozen into cubes tonight when everything else is bottled and put away. I’ve got six or seven pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes baking in the oven to make hash out of tomorrow, the rest (about forty pounds of so) are curing with my sweet potatoes (not such a good crop) on the kitchen floor, which is strewn with newspaper until I can safely stash them all in a milk crate under the sink.

There are two big crocks of dill pickles fermenting on the drainboard next to the sink; I rescued the cucumbers from the “sharing” table in the vestibule after Mass last week; a notice pinned to the wall above the bags of sweating veggies said that the Diocese of Stupidville has turned their finance records over to a government prosecutor’s office because Judas has been messing with the purse again. This batch of peaches I’m working on came from a little old lady I met at the farm store a few months ago when I was buying canning jars to put up some jam; she runs a food pantry for her church group in the next county over, insists that everybody she meets calls her Grandma and hugs her when she sees them, and now she calls me when they have fruit they can’t get rid of because she knows that I’ll “be a good Ruth” and take care of it. This time it was nearly thirty pounds of very sad looking freestone peaches from North Carolina that I cleaned up and simmered overnight until they were reduced by half to make some almond peach butter. She also gave me three heads of perfectly good cabbage that I’ve packed into a gallon jar to make sauerkraut, and a big burlap bag of oversized carrots that I will likely be turning into relish because I don’t know what else to do with them.

The rain began to fall yesterday in soft constancy bringing with it cool air, the faint scent of spent grass and green light; I am hoping that this is Autumn come to stay.

I have begun to wonder how I ever lived in cities, and why I ever left home for a big city to begin with. Cities come with nothing but stress. I’ve spent my day in the quiet of a warm kitchen, the rhythm of harvest time starting to pick up around me, hands under the spigot washing sink after sink of messy pots and pans and spoons and ladles so that I can dirty them up again, the door open to the cool breeze, the chicks chirping, the occasional scolding hummingbird, the glistening green of my quiet little hillside, and I cannot fathom what I must have been thinking.

…The peach butter is done. The beets are next. I need to walk across the pasture below to deliver a couple of jars to my elderly landlord and his wife before it gets dark so they can have it warm with their nightly bowls of ice cream. The only decision I have to make now is whether or not to put on barn boots or go barefoot.

I must have been crazy to have ever thought that living in a city was a good idea….

The People Who Made Me…

Yesterday morning I woke to the distinct smell of clove cigarette smoke in my bedroom. I don’t smoke. When I opened my eyes, someone who was not one of my dogs was sitting in the gold velvet armchair in the corner, looking back at me; it was my old friend, David, with a big, cheesy smile on his face. “What are you doing here,” I asked aloud, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to wake up to the odd man sitting in my bedroom unannounced, and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I sat up. When I opened my eyes again, he was gone. But the smell of clove cigarette smoke lingered for hours.

I lost track of David a few years ago. The last time I saw him was in Florida, holding – of all things – a box of abandoned kittens he found, outside of the hospital where I had just had yet another surgery on my hand, that he was determined to raise himself so that they wouldn’t be killed at the shelter. After this surprise visit yesterday, I broke down and called his sister, only to learn that they buried David last Saturday, next to his mother. No one really knows what happened, she told me; she had seen him the week before, and he was fine. All anyone could say for certain is that a friend found him collapsed on the bathroom floor one morning, and the medical examiner will have a toxicology report in three month’s time. That’s going to turn up a bit fat nothing of useful information; David’s drug of choice was chocolate anything. Still, 50 is far too young to die. Whilst I’m not really surprised by this, I’m saddened and disappointed by the knowledge that I just missed him. I’m forever telling myself that I need to call this person, or that cousin, to tell them that I love them, only to learn that they’re gone forever. You always think that you have time, but you don’t. Time is an illusion, the stupid pet trick of a selfish, procrastinating mind; after that, all that is left are memories that will die with you, too. They fade, like the familiar spicy smoke coiling in silky gossamer tendrils out the open window of my room….

My friend David was tall, built like a tank, athletic, with dark curly hair that never behaved and eyes the very same colour as the Atlantic Ocean that he loved so well. Like me, he was an artist interested in too many things at once. Unlike me, David could draw perfectly proportioned animals and landscapes in fine detail with his eyes closed, and it was fascinating watching his long, elegant fingers trace coal across the page in lines as fine as sharp pencil without effort. He taught me how to snorkel and free dive (I was too much of a chicken to learn SCUBA, even though he offered many times to teach me) and, by necessity, how to treat a jellyfish sting without peeing on anything. We had fun collaborating on silkscreens we cut images for in layers with pen knives from emptied Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch boxes. My memory of him is his handsome face peering out over the Eastern horizon, dark hair tousled by the misty wind as he sat smoking cigarettes on the beach, whilst giving me minutely detailed, exacting instructions on how to take care of my sea aquarium so that my clown fish (kidnapped by me from the sea years before anyone had heard of Nemo) would live long, “happy, happy fish lives.” Girls, babies and animals loved him, men respected him and, whilst it was amusing to watch, he legitimately deserved their admiration and trust.

About twenty years ago we had lunch together at some forgotten food court; he said to me, “Write this down,” as he sat drawing a live skulking tiger from memory, and he dictated a long, beautiful poem. “Bleeding heart, filled with barbed wire…praying for peace,” it began. When he was finished, I considered the page, then asked him what it meant. “That’s you,” he said tersely with a furrowed expression, as if I had missed the obvious. I blinked, and read it again, only vaguely understanding then. To this day, it is one of my most cherished possessions; turned out that he knew me far better than I could have imagined, even when he was not quite in this world, with his head in the clouds of his own artist’s reason.

David is the fifth beloved friend and family member I’ve lost this year. Whilst I’m relieved to know where he’s at, I’m truly sick and tired of losing people. Especially people whom I consider solid touchstones in this world of swirling uncertainties and darkness. Last year I asked another such friend, “how many times can a heart break before it can’t be put together again?” I don’t think I’m ever going to find the answer.

Anyway….Thanks for the visit, David. I’m sorry I missed you. Very, truly sorry I neglected our friendship…I have no good excuse for it. But I am genuinely relieved, if not happy, that you are safe with your mom, and I hope that you have peace. I suppose it’s never really too late to say I love you. And I do, Good Man.

Scripture is pro-death penalty. Why does Pope Francis want to ignore the Bible?: My Letter to the Editor

It’s been a fews years since I’ve written one of these. A LttE published yesterday at the L.A. Times (which google thought I should like to read) annoyed me:

To the editor: The editorial on Pope Francis’ declaration that the death penalty is never OK in any circumstance fails to use the word “murderer.”

The Torah — the first five books of the Christian Bible and the law of Judaism — in numerous places states that God directed mankind to execute murderers. And Jesus, whose teachings and life form the foundation of Christianity, said, “Not the least point nor the smallest detail of the law will be done away with.”

I cannot understand why the pope does not address its need to ignore the scriptures upon which his church’s faith is based.

Mel Wolf, Burbank

…I have no doubt that if the L.A. Times ever does bother to post my response, it will be butchered into nonsensical tweet form, so I’m putting it here, as I wrote it, for safe keeping.

Dear Editor,

A letter addressed to you regarding Pope Francis and capital punishment popped up in my newsfeed today, and I would like to respond to it. It reads in part:

“The Torah — the first five books of the Christian Bible and the law of Judaism — in numerous places states that God directed mankind to execute murderers. And Jesus, whose teachings and life form the foundation of Christianity, said, ‘Not the least point nor the smallest detail of the law will be done away with.'”

Actually, in context, what Christ said was, “I have come not to abolish Torah, but to fulfill it.” In so doing, He releases us from it. Torah is not addressed to “mankind,” but to the Hebrew nation; Christ’s salvic mystery is for all, Jew and gentile. This is why you don’t find Catholics eating kosher, stoning televangelists to death in the streets as false prophets, absolving themselves from burying the dead lest they become “unclean,” taking ritual baths, cutting off the hands of women who grab men by the family jewels in anger, or stoning their children in public for being disrespectful little punks to their parents…though I can think of a few who might actually deserve it (I’m not kidding…my brother’s kids when they were younger immediately come to mind). On the contrary, Christians are only bound (according to Christ’s own words) to this law: “That you shall love the Lord you GOD with all your heart, mind and strength, and that you love your neighbour as yourself. This is the whole of the Law and the Prophets.” (which is why, I’m certain, my nephews are still breathing) And, according to Matthew 25 part 2, the price of admission to Heaven is mercy to “the least of these My brethren.” There is none so pitiable or “least” in society as the rapist and the murderer, for their souls know only pain and malice apart from conversion, and an executed corpse cannot repent, nor find forgiveness. The Gospel [Christ] also calls on us to forgive pefectly (70×7), to pray for our enemies, and to bless those who persecute us. Additionally, out of 613 mitzvot in Torah, Christians are only bound by ten of them, and those are the first that were given directly from YHWH to Moses (the other 603 were delivered by “angels of YHWH”), the 5th of which reads, “You shall not kill.” It doesn’t say anything beyond that. You. Shall. Not. Kill. Period. So simple. So direct. Straight from the anthropormorphized lips of GOD; I seriously doubt He changed His mind (Numbers 23 says He doesn’t, and can’t). And one has to remember where the Jews were when Torah was recorded: they weren’t exactly known for their superior privatized for-profit prison system, for crying out loud. Do you really think that a dinky tent and an old guy with a stick in the wilderness is going to be an effective deterrent against a criminal with a bloodlust after a month on a diet of quail and manna? Execution may have fit the crime 5,000 years ago, but we have no such excuse today.

It’s fine to disagree with the Pope when he’s actually wrong and spouting nonsense, which he has been known to do (I groan on these occasions; the secondhand embarrassment is strong with this one), but this is not one of those instances. Vengeance does not belong to us as disciples of Jesus Christ anymore than the Mosaic prohibitions on pork and lobster, and just as no one has any business telling a Catholic that bacon and delicious butter-swimmin’ sea seabugs are verboten, so no man can say that capital punishment is our Christian duty, doctrinally or secularly. You can never make a good out of answering evil with evil (Isaiah 5:2), and killing is always evil, regardless of who the victim is. Even a murderer is a child of GOD, made in His image, belonging to Him alone. We have no right, no divine directive, to destroy His creation. Unless it’s to make bacon. I’m sorry, but bacon is just the best proof we have that GOD loves us and wants us to be happy, and we could never have that ecstasy if Catholics were bound under Torah. Thanks be to GOD for the Gospel, which has freed us from kushrat and killing our brothers!

Sincerely,

Miki Shiverick
Three Graces Farm

Making Hay Whilst the Sun Shines

“The woman does not work because the man tells her to work and she obeys. On the contrary, the woman works because she has told the man to work and he hasn’t obeyed.”

~G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World

The last argument I had with the person I “married” before he left me (without admitting that that was what he was doing) began with him telling me late one night about all of the imaginary awards he was going to win for projects he hadn’t even begun to work on, whilst I (in a prickly hot sweat) was sitting on the bedroom floor adding up the new stack of bills in my lap and comparing the total to what I didn’t have in the bank to cover them. I lost my temper and cried.

“Tell me,” he said, “Tell me what I need to do to make you happy.”

“Get a job! My answer is the same now as it’s been for the past two years: stop sitting on your ass living in your computer’s Neverland and exchanging text messages with my best friend, and get a freaking job! I don’t care what it is, just help me pay the bills so that I can stop being stressed to the gills 24/7. You want me to be happy? Do your duty, and be a husband.”

He walked away without a word. A week later he flew out to stay with his parents in Atlanta under the guise of looking for work; a month after being camped out on her sofa in front of Fox News blaring on the television, his sick elderly mother finally took matters into her own hands and got him a job with a landscaper…and two days into this? He yelled at me over the phone, and told me how angry he was that I had “forced” him away from his “destiny” of being a filmmaker, and that working outside under the hot sun “with a bunch of wetback spics” was “demeaning” and “humiliating” and I was an “abusive bitch for emasculating” his manhood this way.

That was the day I learned that I’d not only “married” a closet racist, but a boy who did not understand the sacramental dignity of work. It was also the day I lost most of what respect I had remaining for the person I had yoked myself to.

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary, and it began in the front yard, transplanting feral St. John’s Wort from the unkempt lawn and weeding the front walkway before retreating to the breezy shade of the front porch to scrub pots and pans and season my dutch oven. It’s been three years plus a month since that nasty conversation, and I chuckled at the memory of it. Where would I be had he not left? I shudder to think.

Manual labour is one of those things that all too often gets mislabeled as boring drudgery, but there is a certain freedom in work. When your hands are occupied, your imagination is free to roam, and you are creating physical order whilst ideas emerge inbidden. That’s the secret of work: it’s not just one thing…it’s multifaceted, and has secret benefits that you cannot know until you land upon them.

I like this part of life. The sweet, clean breeze around me, the sunshine on my back whilst I yank out long self-braided tendrils of morning glory and set fat dandelion taproots aside to dry for Winter coffee, and my mind meanders down the winding road of possibilities for projects that I want to create for my own fun and frivolity. Tonight, after I’ve taken all the recycling to the dump, I’m going to be making a watercoloured box from a sheet of handmade paper I found in a long forgotten box the other day. I saw it already finished in my head whilst I was absently chewing on lambsquarters leaves as I ripped their feetsies from the earth.

I had an awesome anniversary yesterday. The first one, actually, since that whole mess began. Who would have thought that such a simple thing as pulling weeds could turn out to be the best gift I could have given me. 😉

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.

I’m Harvesting the Bread of Famine Today….

Spring Has Sprung at Three Graces Farm!

33025280_568124396887772_5347819197936173056_oI love spending my mornings on the front porch with the dogs. As the summer heats up, and humidity kicks in, I’m looking for new ways to make my daytime hours stretch even further, and garden tending easier. I’ll bring you all with me as soon as I can.

Mistakes As Inspiration

I have finally begun unpacking my long lost belongings at Three Graces Farm, and I’ve been finding things that I have not seen, but have been missing, for well over a decade.

I discovered this untrimmed bar of soap that I made a few years ago in a box that Mary Alice had packed away long ago just this morning.

It’s from an original batch of goat’s milk soap that I had accidently burnt (and thought was ruined) and then later rebatched in an attempt a salvage it (which I thought was hopeless). If you know me, you might remember this stuff. It smelled and looked like chocolate without any amendments. So, I did it again and again and again until I perfected the process for Sweet Chocolate Soap. MAC thought I was crazy and wasting materials, but this little misshapen block is proof of accidental genius.

This original bar *still* smells like chocolate, and it’s as hard as a rock; my thumbnail made no impression at all! I took it in the shower with me , and it has the best lather of any soap I’ve ever made. The corners didn’t wear away in the hot water, and I’m excited to see how long it lasts.

I’m not sure, but I think it’s about five years old. I wish I could afford to cure all of my soaps this long, because it truly is primo stuff! So, maybe, I’ll just stockpile half of them….After all, that’s tradition!

Three Graces Farm and the Crooked Path of Dreams

Three years ago on my birthday, just months after that person filed for divorce, I bought a piece of land a lone short mile from the Smokie Mountain National Forest. I loved that tract woods and century-old poison ivy, with its steep hilly inclines littered with remnants of old ‘shining stills, and the shaded creek in the crevasse that became my refrigerator, and hideyhole for the liquor given to me by the old mountain men who liked to court me, jar after jar carefully packed in milk crates and held down in the creek bed with flat rocks dug from the sides of the ravine.

I christened it Three Graces Farm, brought in some pigs to clean out the snakes and eat the underbrush, planted a large plot of garlic and onions, and spent a year gathering herbs and bark and mosses in the forest that, along with a favorite hidden creek up the road and the Little Pigeon River to play in with my dogs, became my home….Then the Chimney Stack fires swept up like a demon’s broom, and most of Cocke and Eastern Sevier Counties, Tennessee, were blanketed with choking smoke and acrid ash. Nearly a thousand private homes were destroyed, and many businesses were lost, including some that I sold soap to. With a new housing crisis, I lost my plot when the man I was buying it from sold it out from under me to a developer for a hotel…after I had already invested more than $20,000.000–far more than the land was actually worth. I lost everything that I had built there, as that conniving old man let strangers come in and take my belongings without notice.

When my sister died this past September just three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, I found myself with animals all over the country, and a business without a working studio, starting over completely from scratch yet again.

I’m too old for this shit. In my heart I am still 12-years-old. In my mind, I’m just a girl, barefoot, strong and fierce. But years of abuse and neglect and living on other people’s terms has laid waste to my health and my stamina. I can only handle one more do over. I mean, really! Just how many times can a heart be broken before it gives up and turns to dust?

My friend Scott told me he thought I was looking in the wrong places for a new piece of land–a search that had stretched from months into a full year. Following his advice, however, turned out to be a serendipitous stroke of fortune, as I found my new farmstead on the very first day of searching, quite literally an hour after I gave up on ever finding anything worthy of calling home again.

It’s everything I could possibly hope for: 40 acres of fallow pastures, a dense stand of healthy woods up behind my ramshackle house clad in pink asphalt siding fifty years ago long gone, and a creek down below near the main road. The landlord is 81 years old, a stubborn Polish man with a kind heart that has pooped out and nearly killed him three times already. It’s a serious gamble to “rent with an option to buy” from a man like this; a veritable crapshoot, and I’m not certain that my own heart can survive another disaster. But I want this land; I want to be a part of it, and for it to become a part of me…as familiar as the lines in the palm of my hands, and I want to be healed by it, too. So, I paid the rent 13 months in advance so that I can concentrate on film school and turning this place in to a productive, profitable farm, with staked goats mowing the grasses, and my pigs and donkey being rotated through the woods like happy little gremlins of necessary destruction. I haven’t figured out how to get my two Brown Swiss cross cows up here from Tennessee, yet, and I still have to fence the upper and lower pastures away from the central acreage, but I am hopeful for the first time in a very long while.

Miss Robin has kept a massive clutch of doves for me, and my faithful helper, Katie, is bringing my cats, Dominic and Butters back to me from college at the end of May. My black labs, Mazie and Lizzie, are still in California, but Cecil Leo (aka “Baby”) and Sissy Peaches are here to get me out of bed in the mornings and keep me honest to my tasks.

I still have not found another car that I can afford, and have been borrowing one from Scott’s mom, and making minor repairs on it to get it ready for her to sell in exchange for its use. I need a farm truck, and I bought a hay wagon at the farm store a few weeks ago so that I can haul hay and straw and chicken tractors here and there. I have been working on unpacking my things for the first time in many years since Mary Alice started being strangely paranoid and obsessed with boxes, making our last four years at Gilbert House feel like a never-ending move to madness. My little farm kitchen is almost put together, and the living room is mostly organized…but piles of boxes still clutter the soaping studio, and fill the garage to the rafters.

It’s a work in progress like most things in life. Still, I am hopeful. I’m not happy, but I am content and, as things fall into place, I am looking more and more towards whatever future I might have left on this Blue Jewel of GOD’s imaginative making.

According to the internet, I now live in one of the most polluted counties in the United States, but you’d never know it by being here. The air smells like new moss and sweet fresh-cut grass, and the hills around me are covered with a blanket of emerald green and the whooshing sound of the ocean in the trees. I am planning terraced herb gardens in my head, all up and down the property, dreaming of once again filling my apothecary cabinets with colorful harvests and making good medicines without needing to buy this or that from someone else. I am looking forward for the first time in three painful years, and I can envision the sunlight peeking through the clouds that have lost so much of their menacing blackness.

Tomorrow might actually happen. And Three Graces Farm rises with me from the ashes.

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