Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My packing anxiety is transforming from "how do I get all of this stuff into the boxes?" to "how will I get all of this stuff out of the boxes?"

I'm also having thoughts about shifting from forty years of No Dishwasher, to twelve years of Dishwasher, to a new life of No Dishwasher. I can already feel the use-the-fewest-dishes-possible approach influencing my kitchen behaviors. What I wonder is whether my dirty-dish stacking ability will return as quickly? Or my make-the-most-of-no-counter-space ability? I learned to cook osso buco in a kitchen with no sink. But young people can do anything.

When I was a little girl visiting my grandfather's farm out in western Pennsylvania, one of my favorite projects was to take the trash to the quarry. Grandpop would hitch the loaded wooden sled of trash to one of his big old Farmall tractors, my sister and I would climb up on the tractor frame behind him and stand clinging to either side of his seat (oh, the joys of being ignorantly unsafe), and he would drag the sled out to the rock quarry in the middle of his hayfield. Then the three of us would fling all the trash into the quarry. Smashing bottles was the best, but oil cans and other old metal also made satisfying noise, and even tossing bags of plastic trash was fun. The lure of this evil pleasure has revived in me, now that I live in a home with a giant dumpster parked outside the back door. After decades of responsible recycling, I am now reliving the joys of throwing all of the crap into the same maw. God may strike me down.

Monday, December 5, 2016

I know I will be posting only intermittently this week. Today I'm on the road for work, and then the rest of the week will be a downward slide toward departure . . . with the unpleasant but distinct possibility that I will also have to schedule in a 12-hour roundtrip to bring my son home from college. Of course we'll be glad to have his young man muscles home for the move, but the end-of-the-semester timing is not good.

In addition, we're still dealing with water problems, though a solution does seem at hand. One excellent side-effect of yesterday's Take Our Stuff party was a chance to talk with all of our jerry-rigging friends about how they solved their own water problems. When half of your closest friends in town don't even have wells but use complicated self-invented spring-water piping systems, there's sure to be plenty of useful talk about bacteria.

Another lovely moment yesterday involved clothespins. Now that we have to put so much of our stuff in storage, I have gritted my teeth and forced myself to shed some of my daily, much-loved yard items. In that spirit, I set my basket of clothespins out on the Take Our Stuff bench. But simultaneously, two of my friends converged on me and said in horrified tones, "Dawn! You're not giving away your clothespins? You can't do that. You need to put those into storage! Good clothespins are irreplaceable!" . . . at which point I fell into tears and clutched the basket to my chest. They were right. Some things are too important to lose.

It has been such a gift to live among people who understand the emotional power of clothespins.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I guess I'm glad I wrote that BDN piece. My novelist friend Tom thinks that Harmony is only now beginning its work as my muse, but I'm not so sure. It's already done an awful lot of muse-dancing in my life. Maybe its job is done. Maybe my newspaper essay was the footnote. But who knows? Art is a mysterious mistress.

Anyway, today, is a cutting-loose ceremony. The giant dumpster has arrived. The yard is arranged with "take me, friends, I'm free!" objects. The aforementioned friends will arrive with beer and chicken and pickup trucks. We will stand around a campfire in the cold and discuss "water problems I have had" and "did you get a deer yet?" and "I was so sorry hear about your brother" and "does anyone need a gallon of bar-and-chain oil?" and "does that lawnmower still work?" and "how many baked potatoes should I make?" and "I have no idea why we still own this" and all of the many other questions and comments that are likely to arise around a Sunday-morning campfire in December.

It will be lovely and I will cry.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My Bangor Daily News essay is out . . . yet another published piece with a title I didn't write. And I'm not sure that house in the photo is actually in Harmony. The rest is accurate, though.

I'm not too coherent this morning. I shouldn't even be awake, given that I didn't get home from the Sugarloaf gig till 2:30 a.m. But a bossy cat yowled in my face, and that was the end of sleeping. I'll try to be chattier tomorrow.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A couple of days ago, as you may remember, I told you that a reporter at the Bangor Daily News contacted me to ask permission to quote from my TLS essay and to encourage me to contribute a response piece to her forthcoming article. Yesterday I heard from her again, suggesting that loss as it relates to geographical place might be a good theme for a personal essay.

I didn't have any trouble writing that piece: it took me an hour to finish, from conception to final draft. Apparently I have some feelings about loss as it relates to geographical place.

Here's one small bit from it. I will share the whole piece with you once it comes out.

Although every human deals with loss, the pain of losing or leaving a geographical homeland is not a universal sadness. Many people thrive on change, on hopeful ventures into the unknown, and it’s been hard to explain to faraway acquaintances why I have clung to a place that can be so hard and lonely, that is so distant from the lives that they have built in cities and suburbs and university towns. Yet as my friend Angela points out, some of us thrive on hard and lonely. Some of us see hard and lonely as true life. 
Angela has lived in Wellington for longer than I’ve lived in Harmony. Her house is off the grid; so for her, every drop of water, every ray of sun matters—not romantically but practically. But even for country dwellers with electricity and a septic system, a rural homeland often doesn’t connote beauty or relaxation so much as a physical and emotional engagement with difficulty and duty. As I once wrote in a poem, “we don’t think / ski but shovel, don’t think flowers but floods.” Trouble sustains us, even as it breaks us down.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

As soon as I finished writing to you yesterday, I went downstairs into the basement and discovered that a hot water pipe had developed a pinhole leak and was spraying water everywhere.

This was the low point of my day. Things did get better. I cried. Then I called my friend Steve, who helped me figure out how to temporarily stop the spray. Then I called Tom and wailed about how much I hated everything involving home ownership. Then I called the plumber, who came over within an hour and charged me less than I thought he would. If nothing else, the incident proved that I'm still far too good at over-emoting. You'd think all these years up here would have taught me a more useful version of stoicism.

Anyway, the sour taste of plumbing was erased when my Chicago son called and said that he's coming home for Christmas . . . which means we'll be cramming two more people into our little apartment, but who cares about space when we can all be together: five adults squashed into three rooms, eating takeout Chinese food for a holiday meal because the kitchen's too small for a feast and taking a long walk by the sea afterward? The vision makes me so happy. I will give everyone wine and cannoli as gifts, and we will make the cat learn to love his leash, and I will buy one of those tiny Christmas shrubs carved out of a rosemary plant and decorate it with paper cut-outs and half a string of lights, and the cat will not tip it over.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Finally I have given up on my terrible faux-sleep and gotten out of bed. All night long it rained and snowed and sleeted and sleeted and rained and snowed, and now under lamplight a dense crust glints from the car, the driveway, the fence rails, the tarps weighted with old shingles, the garden hose we used to flush the well. In two weeks I will not be the person shoveling the stoop. Today I still am.

On Friday, my band Doughty Hill will be performing at the Rack on Sugarloaf Mountain in Kingfield, 9-12:30 p.m. I'll get home from that gig at just about the same time I got up this morning. It will be very confusing. But even without that monkey wrench, my sleep cycle is consistently strange. One night I sleep like the hibernating dead. The next night I wake for good at 2 a.m. The next night I dream and dream and dream. The next night I can't get to sleep till 2 a.m. The next night I'm too hot and keeping waking up and drowsing off, waking up and drowsing off. The next night the cat pushes a glass of water into the bed. The next night I sleep like the hibernating dead. Etcetera. You can't exactly call me an insomniac. It's more like being an improv sleeper who's lost control of her sketch.

Maybe, when I live in the city, I will get up in the black hours and look out at the streetlamps and the sea fog and watch headlights track patterns across the walls. Maybe I will listen to the garbage trucks bang before dawn. Maybe it will be comforting to realize that I am not awake alone.