RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: July 2006

Life Dissapointments

For all that my life is, in many ways, charmed, I struggle with disappointments too. Here are a few plaguing me today:


 


1.     Horrid news. Starbucks is coming to town. I have been using the fact that the nearest Starbucks is a 50-minute drive as proof of how remote and untouched by commercial enterprise my world is. But as can be expected, the monster of sophisticated civilization continues to sprawl and take over the universe. . . like mold infesting a perfect loaf of sweet bread. It begins with a few small dots of green, which you think you can ignore (you just rip that part off and still enjoy a bite, semi-guilty because you are trying to ignore the inevitable truth that what was once fresh and perfect is now on the downslide). Then before you know it, the entire loaf is hairy, scary and unpalatable.  


     Actually, our Starbucks, due to open by Christmas, is going to be in Ellijay, a twenty-minute drive (where my health club and Walmart is). But three more stores are scheduled to open in the area. I can only assume one will be in the heart of Blue Ridge where tourism is booming. I worry now about my favorite haunt, LL Beanery, a quaint, privately owned coffee shop. Funny, it took months to get over the habit of visiting Starbucks – I associated pleasure to the store because we went there to “get away” from work – a short break from teaching to get a steaming cup of coffee while we diffused. Now, having broken the “habit”, I don’t miss Starbucks at all. In fact, I associate bustle, an overtaxed lifestyle, and a clichéd, contrived atmosphere to this (and most) franchises.


     And the other Starbucks? Where will they land? Who knows. I doubt one will be in my beloved town of McCaysville where I want to open a coffee shop. But it is only a matter of time until the Starbucks mold takes over and eeks it’s way to my little town too. So much for my dream of opening an elite coffee shop sans all-powerful competition. Ah well, I will have to focus more on the innovative art gallery side of the enterprise.


 


2.      My building for said enterprise is going, going, gone. As I mentioned previously, I fell in love with a building at the other end of the Blue Ridge Train in McCaysville and was determined to purchase it. But someone had made an offer already –although they were having financing troubles and hadn’t left a deposit. We left our name in case things didn’t work out, but never got a call. Yesterday, we see a van clearing out what was left of the stock. Mark jumped out of the car to ask what was going on, and they said the building did sell and the closing is today. Drat. They still have our number “just in case”. I was bummed, because I’ve thought about that building and our next venture so much it really does feel like I’ve lost something personal.


   When I asked Mark what was going on, he said, “They are keeping the building for us.”  


    I said, “What does that mean?”


    He explained that we are in no position to begin a new business yet – we aren’t ready (which is true) because we are still in transition and working on the house, and therefore someone else has bought our building to “keep it” for us. Apparently, his theory is that these unknown people will open a business, find out it is really harder than it looks and run into financial trouble (or be so successful they will want to expand and move elsewhere) in a year, just when we will be ready to take over the building. We will then buy it and do what we do so well.


    You see, that is how we got our first FLEX building. The first time we saw it, we were not in a position to buy. We lusted for our own building, but someone else, far more established than us, bought it. Sad sigh. But then, a year later, that person went bankrupt and the bank took over the mortgage. They were so intent on getting the loss off their books that they sold it to us for less than we would have had to pay the year prior. It was the right time. For us. For the building. For fate.


   Mark says “It was meant to be.”


   That’s his primary life theory. If something is meant to be, things work out easily. If not, you must trust that it wasn’t your destiny, and you should be thankful things didn’t work out. You don’t know of the trouble and/or hardship you probably avoided because you didn’t force an opportunity whose time was not at hand. Something better will come along – something more right – when it is meant to.


   I used to laugh at his life theory, but more often than not, I’ve discovered he’s right. Faith. It comes easier to some of us than others. Remembering that, now I will drive by that building everyday, grateful someone is “keeping” it for me until I am ready. But, you can be damn sure I’ll never spend a dime in that enterprise, just to be sure I don’t tip the scales of fate against me. I still want the bugger.


 


3.    I found Silkie chick number two under my daughter’s bed. She was totally icked out that she slept in the room two nights with a headless chick under her.  We have put screen around the cage now so no more tragedies will occur. I haven’t kissed my cat for a week. Damn cat.



4. Kathy, my reading student, is still missing in action. Damn Kathy (just kidding). I am letting this go for the time being, because I am going to Boston next week to teach my dance seminar and I’d hate to find her only to say “I’m too busy to care today.” I have plans to hunt her down and act like the truant officer when I get back, forcing more words, paragraphs and life lessons down her throat. I don’t give up easily once I’ve set my mind on something, and I think she is someone who needs a determined friend to help her help herself. I worry about her though, and why she hasn’t called. I can’t presume to understand her life or what it must be like. I can only commit myself to trying to make a difference. She is my medium for world contribution at this time, and I trust we will get back to work when her son is back in school. But every time we take a break, I am dissapointed. I can’t say I don’t appreciate the extra time for myself- but, at the end of the day, it is how you spend your time that counts, not how much of your to-do list you complete, and working with Kathy makes me feel good on many levels.       



5. All other disappointments are typical of people my age. Loved ones dying. Wrinkles gaining momentum. A writing room that needs two coats of paint when I was hoping one would suffice. Homework stress and novel challenges. Missing certain friends.


 


I guess, all things considered, I shouldn’t complain.

Weekend surprises

My llama looks like a poodle. No, that isn’t true. It looks more we miss our schnauzer and thought we might create a tribute to him in our llama. This is not because we are bad llama shearers. More, that it takes a lot longer to sheer a llama than we anticipated so we only did half the job. Now, his body is all shaved, but his neck, legs and underbelly are still furry. We will tackle the llama leftovers today.


 


We expected the actually cutting of the hair to be easy, while getting the llama to behave, difficult. The exact opposite was true. Once Dahli was caught and tied up in the tight corner of the field (to keep him still) he more or less stood calmly. His stomach kept rumbling and he stomped a bit, but our llama is a polite one, (doesn’t’ spit) so, other than stepping on us a few times with his 350 pounds and squishing us into the fence, he was a doll. The problem was the actual cutting of the hair. Those damn llama shearers that are advertised as classic, used by professional sheep and llama shearers worldwide, in reality, don’t work. Would have done better with plain old scissors, I’m guessing.  Dahlia’s hair is so course and matted and LONG that it took hours to get through. Mark did most of the cutting because he has stronger hands, but both our hands were tired from the effort. Didn’t cut the animal once, nevertheless, after about two hours, Dahli’s patience was spent. He started stomping and moving and making some scary sounds, so we decided we’d done enough for one day. We were pretty tired. Imagine if we had an entire llama farm to sheer!


     Once free, Dahli didn’t run away. He just moved a few feet beyond our grasp, then followed us around, so I don’t think he was miserable being groomed, just nervous. There was this huge pile of hair at his feet, which Neva kept gathering and putting in a huge washtub so Mark can use it for making baskets. And the family has this romantic idea that I will spin wool from it. (Um, yea. I’ll get to that right after I finish my blockbuster novel, everybody. Sarcasm aside, it sounds fascinating and I hope to try one day, but another year, please.)


    I imagine Dahli actually liked the attention. I’ve worried that I have a lonely llama for awhile, because it is said llama’s need companionship and I think my horses and donkey are big snobs that don’t want to associate with him. In fact, I’ve been looking at the llama rescue website, thinking of getting Dahli a girlfriend. (You’d be amazed at how many homeless llama’s there are in the world.)


      Anyway, this weekend, we did the shearing deed. Just goes to show that so many of our fears and anxieties about trying something beyond our comfort zone are really just a waste of energy. Best to dive in and learn by doing. We took pictures, but I can’t post them until tomorrow. Still don’t know how to work that new camera, and Mark is gone for the day, off to the land of sanding.


 


     Shearing Dahli isn’t the only new thing I did this weekend. I MADE BLACKBERRY JAM! 


     I woke up Saturday, and told Neva it was time to do something with the two buckets of berries in the fridge – needed to make room for milk, and man cannot live on berries alone.(I was also afraid they wouldn’t last.) We’d already bought a big canning pot and a jar lifter, jars and pectin and all the other necessities for making jam. You’d think I was the president of the Smuckers Corp. if you saw my Walmart cart that day. (If you want to try something, might as well do it right, I always say.) Now, all we had to do was follow the directions and try our hand at jamm’in.


 


    So Neva squished the fruit and measured the sugar while I sterilized the jars and did the set up. I told her we certainly had enough berries for two batches, but once she squished the fruit, we found it took two cups of berries to make one cup of berry smush. We only had enough berries for one and ½ batches. I suggested we go to the grocery store and pick up some strawberries to make the second batch a mixed fruit jam. This was met with an outraged look and a speech about how our jam was supposed to be a natural effort – a start to finish project done with Hendry hands. No store bought fruit would sully our creation.


    What’s a gal to do? We got in the car and drove to the other side of the mountain to pick some more fruit. Did I mention it was raining? My demanding daughter stood by the car and forced me into the wet prickers to get another two cups of berries, claiming her job was to hold the bowl. Not only was I supposed to do all the picking, drenched and moody, but I was supposed to go about it quickly, because she was excited to start the cooking. (One of these days, Alice, bang – zoom, right to the moon.)  


    A half hour later, we returned home, dripping, but with enough berries to complete the second batch too.


    I thought cooking jam was going to be harder. I actually thought you used a pressure cooker and it took hours and . . . well, I had no idea that it was so easy. Mostly, it is just the preparation and mess that makes it an effort. Nowadays, you don’t need to seal jars with paraffin – they make these fancy gummed lids that preserve the fruit. And this magic pectin stuff has whatever special sauce makes the jam thicken and last, so all you need is three ingredients. Sugar, fruit and pectin. Anyway, it was fun boiling the finished jars to pressure seal and decontaminate them, etc…. It was a wonderful project for a mother and daughter who adores cooking together.  


    After finishing and pouring the jam mixture into the jars, you boil them, then set the jars on a towel to set. You can’t touch them for 24 hours or they won’t jell. Neva began making painstakingly beautiful labels, complete with delicate fruit drawings in full color with her new set of fine tip magic markers. I cleaned the kitchen.


   Then, we waited. Stared at those jars like they were going to explode, afraid to touch them for fear we would have made blackberry soup instead of jam. I speculated about the color, the seeds I could see from the outside, etc. I really was curious about what was inside those jars. Couldn’t wait to find out.


    The jams will continue to set for two weeks and the flavors will meld, but it is said you can eat it the next day. So Sunday, I woke and immediately made biscuits – part of my big Sunday breakfast tradition. I set the table with the blackberry jam glistening in the center, establishing it’s importance in this experimental feast. The family sat, staring at that jar of homemade blackberry jam as if it were a bottle of arsenic. We had to try it, because we were going to give some to my father-in-law that afternoon. He has mentioned he loves homemade blackberry jam (reminds him of his mother) and he doesn’t have two weeks to wait.


     I tried it first. It was good! Yum. So, the family followed suit. Mark kept smearing it on biscuits, exclaiming it was the best jam he ever had. At first, I thought he was being a supportive husband, giving duty praise, but when half a jar disappeared, I knew he truly liked it (despite his blackberry prejudice).


   Neva and I were so excited. We started talking about all the people we wanted to give it too (with some blueberry jam that we will make in two weeks when the blueberries are ready for picking.)


    Mark said, “Hold on. Don’t be so quick to give it all away. We have to have enough to last us a year, you know.”


   I assured him he’d have plenty. Besides, only those who labored at the jam get to decide who eats it. Little red hen taught me that.


    It was a joy to create something so simply – I marveled that I can go into my backyard to pick fruit and serve it with breakfast to raves. Gee, I’m a hunter-gatherer – minus the hunter part.


 


     That evening, after working on the llama, Mark and the kids went to get cold drinks before we tacked some staining at the house. I stayed behind because the horses were grazing free on the land, and I have to watch they don’t wander to our neighbor’s garden (they brilliantly covered the ground with fresh hay. Thanks for that one.)   


 And don’t ya know, not a minute after they were gone, I found myself picking berries and filling up my Subway big gulp cup. The idea of returning to my kitchen berryless was disturbing. Can’t quit a berry obsession cold turkey, ya know just because you had one successful berry cooking experience. 


    I went down one of our little overgrown side streets to pick. I find the best berries by crouching low and picking from the underneath where the hot sun doesn’t cook them into little raisin-like nubs. And while I was all couched down, I heard a noise. I look up and there is a huge buck standing only about eight feet from me, staring right at me. Amazing. Stupidly, I stand to get a better look. My movement makes him dart away into the woods like a super ball shot out of a slingshot, rick-a-shaying from tree to tree. Drat.


But my heart had such a rush – he was beautiful. . . and right in my backyard.


     I told my family when they returned (who glanced at my cupful of berries as if I were really beyond help.) Denver said, “I’m so glad he didn’t attack you.”


    This made me laugh. I explained that deer don’t attack people. She argued that male deer are aggressive, because she remembers the father buck in Bambi being king of the forest, standing proudly protecting his herd. Cracked me up. But what do expect when half the world gets their nature education from Disney movies?  I explained that deer are shy and steer clear of people, which makes a face-to-face encounter with one so special.


   Then, while Mark and Denver were staining (I was told I am sloppy (not true), so I was excused from duty) we heard howling. We all stopped and went onto the porch to listen. It was the coyotes! Cool. Suddenly we heard dogs barking too, then the sound of a dog yipping in pain. Then nothing. My son’s eyes grew round with disbelief. “That will be our dogs getting eaten before you know it.”


    I assured Kent what we heard was just a big baby of a dog crying for nothing, but I looked into Mark’s eyes over his head and read a look of “Our dogs are dust.” I feared he might be right.


   So, I went to explore. I walked towards the sound, and sure enough, I heard something in the trees. Hoped it was my deer again . . . or a coyote pup.  It was our neighbor’s dogs coming through the woods, wagging their tails as if they were pleased over a recent game of chase the coyote. I picked another gallon of blackberries (since I was there) and returned to tell everyone things were fine in the forest.


    All told it was a good weekend. Filled with laughter, adventure, a bit of sugar, and a bit of danger. That, my friend, is life on the wild side.


 


  

Ageless Aging

    Women can be really funny about their age. I don’t understand why, because the number has nothing at all to do with your physical, mental, or emotional state, other than fluctuating hormone levels. Yet, so many women feel as if admitting their age invites prejudice or makes them less appealing. Honestly, I know some older women who are shockingly beautiful (and definitely more interesting) while some younger ones can only be described as an embarrassment to the female race – how does defining the number of years we’ve been on the planet change that?


     I, for one, have never lied about my age – at least, not since I turned eighteen and could buy my own bottle of wine.


     Actually, I tend to round up when I refer to my age, something that drives Mark crazy. The other day someone made a comment on my agility and I said, “Not bad for a 50 year old, hun?”


    The woman said, “You’re not fifty!”


    Mark said, “No, she is NOT 50.”


   “Almost,” I quip.


    I figure 47 is pretty close and I was just making a point that I am up there in years. I’ve been 50 every since the day after I was 45. I’d been 45 for an entire 5 years – every since I passed the 40 mark, so it was time to head to the next round number.


    I think my rounding up annoys Mark because he is six or seven years younger than I am (depending on what month it is in the year- 6 ½ to be exact) and he feels the gap my falsehood creates makes it sound as if we are mismatched. But really, most people assume we are the same age. In fact, many people think I am younger than him, a fact that always makes him roll his eyes and sigh. (It is his gray, nothing more. I’d have it too if I didn’t help Mother Nature keep the red alive on occasion.) 


    I can’t imagine what would process a woman to lie about her age. I’d MUCH prefer to tell someone I’m 47 and have them think, “Wow, she looks great for her age. I’d never guess that.” I sure don’t want them thinking, “She’s only 40? I wouldn’t have guessed that. She sure didn’t preserve as well as that 47 year old redhead we met yesterday.”  The number you assign simply isn’t going to alter the impression people have of you. You will look as vivacious and pulled together as you look, the proof is in the pudding, not the number.


     My sister in law, Dianne, ALWAYS lies about her age. She will be 50 this Dec. She actually gets furious if we ever tell anyone the truth. (She doesn’t read my blog, so I don’t have to worry about her socking me for saying it here.) She believes she looks far better than the average 50 year old, so she wants to maintain this concept that she is a young 40 something. She doesn’t date much, but I think this is partially because she isn’t interested in any man over 42. Considering most men date younger woman as it is, that narrows her playing field. I myself hated that Mark was younger than I. Refused to date him for months because of it. It is all well and good to feel excited by someone younger and full of vitality – but if you are with them for the long term it creates pressure to “keep up”. I certainly don’t want my husband’s eyes to slip to the young 30 somethings then back to me and frown because his wife has wrinkles years before a girl his own age would’ve had them. True, women live longer than men, so marrying a younger guy may help us conveniently end this journey at roughly the same time, but other than that, it is a nuisance to be with a younger man.


     Personally, I think Dianne looks terrific for her age, but I think lots of 50 year olds look great nowadays. Our society supports middle-aged people dressing, behaving and pursuing younger interests, and that combined with technology such as skin and hair care, the focus on working out etc, means none of us look as ancient as our parents did at this age.  Some people let themselves go, true. But many, many don’t. Historically, that is no different than it always has been. Anyway, as such, even though she looks lovely, Dianne looks like most single 50-year-old woman today because I think the 42 year olds look more like they are 35 – saying you are 42 is inviting people to think you look old, all things being relative. After all, we all have the same advantages for preserving our façade nowadays – and this is not even taking into consideration all those 50 year olds that turn to cosmetic surgery for help. I won’t even discuss my feelings about that.(The big fat, egotistical cheaters.)


     I bring this all up for a purpose. My Mother in Law just had a birthday. She was supposed to be 79. As you know, Mark’s father is ill and he just celebrated what will be his final birthday, at 78. But in our discussions with his mother about where she should live when he is gone, and how much she will be capable of doing for herself, it was revealed that she is actually 84. She’s been lying about her age every since she was 18 and no one in her family ever knew! How strange is that? Long ago, she testified that she lied about her age making herself older so she could sign up for the war effort back when everyone wanted to do their part, When in fact, she was plenty mature when she left home – she was just creating an excuse for those awkward moments, like when her social security stated she was ready to collect years before she was supposed to qualify. She says now that she has always kept her true age a secret because she felt men (her husband) don’t like older woman. You’d think after 50 years of marriage you’d stop worrying about that. Guess not.


     I pointed out that her son married an older woman and he likes me plenty.


     She said that was a generational thing and that I was a rare case.


     Now, I can’t help but wonder if lying about your age is genetic, something the women of the Hendry family feel compelled to do. Or perhaps, Dianne sensed this shame about being mature from her upbringing, even if her mother never out and out said, “You must try to seem younger than you are or no one will like you.” Either way, lots of pieces of a puzzle have fallen into place this week regarding the Hendry woman and their egocentric attitudes regarding age. I just wish Dianne was happier with her age so she celebrates it. It is freeing to do so.


 


   I don’t mind growing old. I figure time has been good to me. It certainly has made me more well rounded and interesting. And I welcome all the perks that come with maturity – knowing yourself, having some degree of financial security from the accumulation of your years of work, and the release of pressure to be perfect. Our society puts an awful lot of focus on beauty and youth, and when you are young, you can’t help but knock yourself out to meet the bar. At 50, you are just happy to be healthy and you accept that you only have so much god-given resources to work with.


 


This month in Runner’s magazine, they featured dozens of Master’s winners, runners who are mature and have set impressive records. They have runners age 70-90 that have done things I couldn’t have done at 30 – and several of them didn’t even begin running until they were in their 50’s . It is so inspirational. They prove that age doesn’t have to stop you from leading an active, interesting life. It is all about mind-set and your willingness to work at staying healthy. I, for one, want to celebrate my age. I’m rather proud of what I have done in 47 years, and considering all that I have learned on route, I am excited about all I will do in the next 47 years – with far less self-doubt or flagging confidence to shadow the process.


      In my first 47 years, I was unclear of how much I could do – as if others had more talent or inner power than I. Now, I believe I have more talent and/or power than others, simply because “others” threw in the towel on dreaming long ago. “Wanting” made them uncomfortable and they stopped trusting their ability to create a certain sort of life because the effort to support themselves or raise a family or get a foothold on life simply wore them out. Sad, that.


    In the movie, Shawsank Redemption, they have this great line. It is about a man who lived in jail for many years. They called him “institutionalized.” He’d been contained so long that when he was given freedom, it made him so uncomfortable he killed himself. I never forgot that. More often than you know, I see people stuck in a life rut and think “Poor fool is institutionalized.” The powerful image stuck with me. 


     For my personal life philosophy, I’ve made a conscious decision not to compromise or accept limitations gracefully. I abhor ruts and I honestly believe that a person has a right – a need – to be excited to greet every day. We must each design a life that is filled with promise and adventure – whatever that may entail for the individual.         


       Not everyone believes in taking risks, but I do. You can’t hit a target if you don’t aim, and even if you miss, you gain practice in the trying. Throw enough darts, and you will eventually hit the bull’s-eye – and then, you not only have achieved a goal, but you’ve become such a good dart thrower that you can do it again and again and again.


   At least, this works for me.


 


  


OH MY GOD! *  $ # ! ## * . My cat just slipped into the screen while I was writing this blog and grabbed another baby chick from the cage. I chased him down the deck, but he got away down the mountain with it flapping in his mouth. I’m sure he’s crunching away at it now. I’m so furious. Gonna torture that cat when he comes back. Poor Silkie. I need to do something about this TODAY!  For all that I pretend life is perfect, as you can see, success is a constant trial and error thing. Damn, now I’ll feel badly all day. Damn cat.  Maybe if I wrap some small wire around the gage. Yea, that will do the trick. Damn cat.


  

For Jamie

A dear friend from afar (one of those special students from the time when FLEX was filled with true dancers . . . and true joy, has requested a few more pictures of our house in progress. It is hard to get a good picture inside when you have no electricity – but here are a few. Actually, this week the stone work has been done which is really exciting – makes me feel like we are creating something permanant – castle-like. Anyway, a few images to springboard one’s imagination.

This is the house from the forest (on a hill) out front. The midgets in front include my dad, brother, sister and nephew. Don’t let the classless troublemakers prejudice you against the architecture . . .At this point in time, the entire front and the base of the house is stoned with the round stone you see to the left. Slate covers the walkway. It is to die for. The arched doorway has key-stones and a rounded stone archway. Ah, nevermind. I’ll put a picture here one day soon rather than bother to describe it.


This is the outdoor fireplace on the huge porch. It also is awaiting a stone facade. The cubbies are for storing wood (very good thinking, Mark). You can see the logs overhead. They are 23 feet each and Mark did them himself. He also did this mantle, but the picture doesn’t do it justice. Like everything you see here today, it is all a work in progress. Building a house is like choreographing a dance. Takes clean-up to see what you’ve really done. 

This is the entryway. It leads from the front door to the main room. I added it to show off Mark’s logs. This will all be stoned and slated too, opening into a room with 25 foot ceilings. That fireplace has stone all the way to the top and will support another mantle made by yours truly. The doorway to the left is heaven. . . that is, my writing room. The logs in front are actually supports that will be attached to the stairway leading up to mark’s loft office (with the porch over the main entrance that you can see from the front). those stairs are made of half logs – very earthy and substantial. The stairway leads to the downstairs too, where we lock the children up tight. (evil grin)
A wonderful dining room is to the right, but I don’t have any pictures of that yet. Tough – you have to wait.

This is the area where our kitchen table will be. The kitchen sort of curves around this wall with a stoned sink and some see-through cabintry – the area is open so I can talk to others when cooking. The best part of this area is the view, but you can’t see it in a picture. Outside of these windows is the creek and beyond that, the pasture where our horses roam. It’s quite soothing.

That is it for now. I have taken more pictures, but I don’t know how to download them yet.
Anyway… enjoy, Jamie. Thank your lucky stars you are not still on scholarship. Imagine putting Christmas lights up on this roof? Eeek. But I must say, I miss having our favorite slave to keep me company while painting and/or picking up the worksite. Damn that growing up thing you all do…

Oh, and here is a picture from the back. It allows you to see how our bedroom opens onto a small private porch and the back porch too. Mark did all these logs that support the porch.  This is the view of the house that the ducks will have when we get around to making a pond where the springhead is. Actually, that is scheduled for a few weeks hence. The coyotes get this view too.

  
 

Coyotes in the woods

     We have coyotes on our land. People have told us this, but since I’ve never seen or heard them, it hasn’t bothered me (it’s just given me a great excuse to justify the purchase of a donkey and llama – the mortal enemies of the coyote.) But now, something has happened that makes the issue of coyotes something we must discuss. We can hear them in the evening when working late at the house. The boys working on the site mentioned that the mother coyote has dropped a litter of pups across the stream from the house. Mark heard them too. Now, everyone is talking about our new family of coyotes. They sound like a litter of little puppies only 200 feet away.


    I thought that rather sweet at first. But the problem with a litter of coyotes is that they grow up. Then they travel as a pack. Coyotes won’t go near our horses, thanks to Donkey, and they are very skitterish around people and will avoid them at any cost, so I don’t have to worry about my children either. (Relieved sigh). The problem is, our dogs. If the dogs chase them, they can be lured into a pack, attacked and killed. Happens often, I’m told.  I suspect they will be a interfere with a healthy long life for my rooster(s) too.    


     The workers all shrug and say, “Ya’ll will have to shoot those wild muts soon.”


     Now, my son and daughter, crazy with worry about their beloved dogs, keep saying, “They’re right, Mom .We gotta kill the coyotes.”


   I say nothing. It is disconcerting to hear my children talk about killing anything (but time.)


   
     Ronnie, our builder, is a terrific guy, funny, easy-going, but very, very country. Born and bred in Blue Ridge. Never been on a plane. Only finished 5th grade (and yet he is one of the smartest people I know) a God fear’in preacher on the weekends, works hard with his dutiful sons building quality houses . . . and full of the best country slang ya ever heard. He is a real live country character, the kind you gotta love. He has a subtle way about him- and he likes to make fun of me in such a subdued way, I can’t help but believe talking to a city girl like me is a highly amusing pass time for him. 


     He said, “Ya’ll gotta get rid of those Coyotes, ya know.”


    I said, “And how do you suppose we should do that? Shall I call the humane society?”


    He grins. “I don’t reckon they would be much help.” Then he lifts a finger and makes a subtle shooting motion.


    I shake my head and say, “But we don’t own a gun.”


     He looks at Mark. “Living here, you’re gonna need one. Mark knows.”


    Ah, so they’ve already had this conversation.


      I cross my arms and say, “And so we are supposed to sit on our porch and pick those little baby pups off like a shooting gallery?”


       Ronnie shakes his head and says, “Unfortunately, they’s sneaky. My boys and I have never actually clipped one, ’cause they hear ya, or see a motion, and they take off fast as can be. But maybe you can scare them away.”


     This, I can handle.


 


     So, the issue of our buying a gun is on the table again. Mark insists we can’t live out in the woods without one. He points out that we have black bears in the area (and now Coyotes) and even an intruder might be a real threat considering there are no neighbors within shouting distance. He feels it is more important to protect the family than stick by some no -violence (to nature or man) creed. I do understand his point.  He assures me the weapon will be kept locked and secure – and we are not talking about a handgun. Just a riffle. (Be still my heart). I insist we go to a shooting range, take a lesson or two and learn to use it properly. Mark says Ronnie can probably teach him out back in an hour. Yea – I like that idea, honey. Go shooting into the woods right by the house and see what you hit. Um. NO!  (Might damage a blackberry or two, and we can’t have that)


 


So, I will have to take a break from my internet research on blackberries and canning to look up guns. Shoot me (eek – I didn’t mean that literally.)


 


But in all honesty, safety is an issue that we must consider with this dramatic life change. As it is, yesterday I told Mark I thought it was really important that he teach me to drive the tractor.


    He narrowed his eyes and in a real suspicious voice said, “Why?”


     Ha. Does he think I’m gonna go play with his new toy when he isn’t looking? Hell, I don’t want to learn how to run the thing – God-forbid, he might expect me to go out and bush hog a few acres for him if I actually can.


     The fact is, I have horrible visions of a tree falling on him and me standing there, helpless, watching him be crushed while the tractor is two feet away. Meanwhile, I’m this incompetent gal who doesn’t know how to do anything but cook and dance, and as such, I’m no help at all in an emergency. I imagine Mark bleeding and groaning, trying to explain to me what all those levers are, as the life-force drains out of him. Then, I imagine myself frantically trying to guestimate what to do, pushing the wrong button and squashing him totally. (Ha, not that I have a dramatic imagination or anything.)


 


I figured he’d laugh at me if I filled him in on my gory concerns, so I just told him I thought I should learn how to run it in case the wind blows a tree down across the road while he is gone. I wouldn’t want to be trapped at the house. He said that made sense, so he would teach me the basics. 


 


    I have always said I wanted to retire in the mountains – live in a place where nature and solitude come together to enrich the soul. But if someone told me three years ago that I would be stretching my experience envelope to include tractor maneuvering, rifle handling and canning, well, I’d laugh myself off the chair. Not that I’m complaining. Actually, it just goes to show that life can be a great adventure if you are open to it.


 


I must get back to work. Who knows, after we move, I might be distracted by late night howling and that will no doubt interfere with my creative juices. . .  (Deep down, I hope there will be howling. The way I look at it, the coyotes were there first.)     

Neva with our grand protector . . .

Squashed by squash

I wish I had 40 people to invite to dinner tonight. I would NEED 40 people to get rid of the yellow squash heaped in a huge wood-turned bowl in my kitchen. Apparently, our builder has a garden that went wild. He’s been gives away brown paper bags of his overages. We received a full bag of yellow squash and one of cucumbers. What am I to do with all this?  Mark has this brilliant idea that I would have fun making homemade pickles. Ummm….. get real.  I am still wrestling with the blackberry jam concept. Don’t know if I’m up for pickling yet. (My Laura Wilder Ingles gene isn’t as strong as one might suspect.)


 


Our neighbor, Gary, has twelve acres next to us. He and his wife are wonderful. Been retired for years and their home is beautiful. There granddaughter stays the entire summer, and has become Neva’s best friend. Mine too, because every time she sees me feeding the horse, she comes to help. Cute kid.  Gary works on the land all day. He’s created gardens, waterfalls in the creek and charming places to sit or lay in a hammock. He collects old Oil company signs and they are on his workshop like an antique collection. He also has a second cabin home on the property that they rent on occasion for extra income. I hope we have that someday. It all goes to show what time and attention can do to a piece of land. Anyway, Gary thought he was planting cucumbers but they came up as squash too, so I already have received an armload of his gift produce. And Dianne planted a garden in her backyard and passed on three yellow squash with her tomatoes. Remind me NOT to plant yellow squash next year when I get a garden. It takes over the world, like the blob. Fact is, there aren’t that many creative things to do with it – or at least, not that I know of. I should do some research. Now, if it was zucchini, that would be another matter all together. I make marvelous zucchini bread and I could gift it right back at whoever forced the produce on me. Ha. That would be a way to get even.


 


Why am I blogging? I don’t have time for this today. I have to look up how to make blackberry jam on the internet, check recipes, and maybe, delve into yellow squash soufflés. (Cooking is number two on the “how to avoid your homework” chart.) Time is of the essence when buckets of hard earned berries are sitting in the fridge, threatening to mold.


I must go.  If I stumble upon something interesting, regarding foodstuffs, I’ll report it here. But don’t count on that being my next blog. I got my llama sheers in the mail this week, and I think today is the day Mark and I will tackle that one. One of the people working on our house raised llamas and they made big fun of us as newbies considering what we were going to encounter. Sounds scary. Ha. I’m not intimidated. Can’t be worse than a dance parent with vengeance in her eye because her kid didn’t move up a level.  I will let you know how it turns out – and take pictures. My llama may end up look like a three year old who cut her own bangs, but I will take pride in trying something new, if nothing else.


 


Gotta go. Thank Goodness yellow squash isn’t fattening.

Little nothings (and Somethings) about Life

    My eldest daughter tactfully commented that I’ve “written enough blogs about blackberries”. I guess my fascination with the berry is boring her. Of course, she will now say that I didn’t quote her accurately. She pointed out that she understands I can’t always quote the family verbatim (considering my lax memory) yet still, it bristles her that I summarize some conversations with a single prominent comment.


    I pointed out that I am very careful to be accurate and the family does actually say all the things I bother to quote in my blog. Heck, it’s not as if I can lie or embellish what is going on when my commentary is an open book (or computer screen) and those involved can take me to task for anything reported. But what she doesn’t realize is, sometimes a comment is spoken off-hand but it may be imprinted on the listener’s brain for reasons you may never know. People have selective hearing dependant upon their mood, emotional state or past experiences. And I tend to zero in on a single sentence when it amuses, annoys, or inspires me.


    Sometimes, it feels as if I am witnessing life through a high-powered lens, ultimately aware of what I think, feel and experience. It is rather new, this awareness, having started at about age 40. I think it was the catalyst for my discontent with an achievement driven life.  Anyway, my In the moment awareness makes details stick in my mind because I ponder them long after the moment has come and gone.  


     In regards to her feeling I embellish a conversation, or misquote, I think it’s more a case that when you see something you said in passing in print, your knee jerk reaction is not to recognize it as “yours”. Often the problem with interpretation is not what we say, but how we say it. Unfortunately, the way a comment is interpreted when read might be a far cry from the way it was intended by the author. For example, I tend to say things in humor – a touch of sarcasm my weapon against taking things too seriously when I sense things are escalating out of the comfort zone, but if those off-hand comments are taken literally, they can seem offensive or challenging. When I quote a family member, it may seem as if they are insensitive or foolish, when actually, they are just kidding. I know it, so I assume the reader will too. I guess if I was a better writer, that would always come across. Honestly, if I had the power to assure every word I’ve ever written was received with the perfect intent I had poured into it, my life would probably be very different now. Ah well . . .


 


I’m off track. I was intending to just do a quick update on life.


 


Let’s see – despite the fact that I have reached my quota on blackberry blogs, I will mention that I’m still picking blackberries. Today, Neva and I spent two hours diving through the prickles to fill an entire shoebox (we bought her new riding boots this morning, and the box was what was available in the car when the urge overtook us). Since my freezer is full and the family is getting sick of blackberries, we discussed what we could do with the windfall. She wanted me to let her sell them at the flea market for 3.00 a pint. (She is quite the entrepreneur – don’t know where she got that from). I told her I was willing to get all hot and sweaty and scratched up for family, but I draw the line at commerce. So we brainstormed and decided it was time to try our hand at making Blackberry Jam. She felt I should pay her for her contribution, considering how much effort she is putting into the task, because I’d get all the credit for the jam. I said, “No way”, but  promised I’d let her cook the jam with me. We can learn together.  We are now planning to make a gob of the stuff and put it in pretty jars with a nifty label that she can decorate. Then, she can give homemade blackberry jam to teachers and/or grandparents and friends at Christmas as gifts. She thought this a spectacular idea and instantly became a harsh taskmaster, demanding I force my way deeper into the pickers to get the biggest berries off the beaten path. I told her this aggressive blackberry picking was getting painful. It’s supposed to be fun.  She pointed out that all the best blackberries are in the places that take the most work to harvest. Then she said, “It’s just like life, Mom.”    Ha. She is only nine, and it appears, my work is done. I love her vibrant, little spirit.


 


I think picking blackberries will be in the top ten subjects of my new book 101 things you can do to distract yourself from doing homework while enrolled in an MFA program. Considering I’m not making much progress on my thesis novel (and I’m disgusted with myself over it, let me tell you), that is one book I feel qualified to write.


 


New subject:


My cat is a shithead.


    Yesterday, while reading something on the computer  Neva came in and said, “Mom, something weird is going on. There is blood on the porch and two of our chicks are missing.”


     I had just visited our baby chickens, giving them fresh food moments prior, so I knew she was mistaken. I went and looked into the cage. The door was tightly shut but two birds were gone. I couldn’t figure out how they could have gotten out. Then, while we stood there, my cat, Tom, comes in, walks right by us and sticks his paw into the cage, grabs a chick and starts pulling it out through the narrow bars. Of course, I socked him. Then I threw him over the porch railing about eight feet below (Neva said she has never seen me so mad at a pet. Ha, I guess it is no surprise to see me mad at people, but at pets . . . that is rare.)  Apparently, he ate my two silkies. Neva found one, headless, in the other porch. She buried it and made a very nice tombstone, a rock that states, (in permanent marker) “Here lies Silkie Little Chick.” I took a picture, but I can’t post it because I don’t know how this new camera works yet.


 


We never found the other chick. I have horror flashes of reaching under the couch one day and thinking I’ve found a wayward sock, but it will be Silkie number two. Damn cat. We went and bought three Silkie replacements the next day. They are cute, but I am watching them carefully, dreading another cat-astrophe. The problem is, we can’t keep the cat out because the dog lets her in. That is another issue.


 


Our 7-month-old dog, a plot hound named Maxine, knows how to open doors. Any door. She is large, so she just lifts herself up on her hind legs and gracefully puts her paw on the handle and lets herself in. She not only can push a door open, but she can pull from the other side. She can open the front door, the screen door, locked chests, you name it. She has the run of the cabin, much to my dismay, because she is generally untrained. For example, I made cupcakes for the 4th of July and Neva laboriously decorated them. An hour later while we were out, the cupcakes were drying on the table. Maxine let herself in,  jumped on the table and ate all 24 cupcakes. Then she proceeded to barf all over the carpet, which smelled so badly we had to throw it out.


     She lets the cat into the screened in area when she is headed into the bunkhouse to lie on the carpet in the air conditioning, something she has started since she knows we keep the main cabin locked. She doesn’t intend to provide Tom with a Silkie drumstick lunch, but her leaving the door ajar does just this. We now have keys in all the doors and lock everything each time we go in or out. The screen door too.  It’s quite a nuisance. And really, I fear it is only a matter of time till Maxine learns to turn that key. Damn dog. Shithead cat. My world is filled with antagonistic animals this week.


 


New subject:


Mark quit his real estate course after one class. He announced he is too busy to drive and attend a scheduled commitment one hour before the second class. Of course, I told him this would be the case before he began. (Another I told ya so moment that I didn’t voice out loud. Aren’t I admirably disciplined?)  He is going to take the course on-line instead, but he hasn’t started yet. He has a year to do so, so I suspect it will wait until after the house is complete. He is not very good at self-motivated tasks such as an on-line school. Ah well. So much for our doing homework together or my getting sudden pity and understanding about my own workload.  Drat..


 


A sad subject:


Mark’s father has been in steady decline and we suspect he will be with us only a few more weeks. He now has a cancerous tumor in his brain as well as in his lung and bone. This makes him very confused. He does not know what day it is and often speaks about erratic things. He is nostalgic, which is new for this former stoic Scotsman. We took him to a bagpipe concert (he is a first generation American, having been raised in Scotland), and he cried because it dredged up memories of his youth. I made him blackberry cobbler, and he cried because his mother used to make it in Scotland. His confusion and his sensitivity, along with a loss of dignity because he feels helpless and lost, is horribly sad. Dianne is a saint, caring for her parents in her home at this trying time.


    I don’t want to talk much about this chapter of our lives, simply because I tend to get philosophical about life issues, and I don’t want to boil this down to theory or springboard from this subject to my own thoughts on aging or my life. I don’t want to pretend I understand what the family is feeling or try to wrap death up in simplistic fatalistic terms either, so I think my thoughts should remain private. But I will admit that it all makes me ponder life a great deal as I consider what is most important during our finite time on earth.


    Life is short. Make every day, every moment, every relationship, count. Most importantly of all – be happy.


 


I have under two weeks to switch from mild mannered country bumpkin back into dance diva. I am scheduled to teach 300 fledgling teachers in Boston on August 7th. This dredges up a great deal of philosophical thought on dance and my place in it. But I don’t want to talk about it tonight. I am tired.


 


It used to be I never slept – maybe 5 hours a night at most. Now, I sleep quite well, staying in bed to the lazy hour of seven sometimes! Imagine. I guess my plan to slow down and take time to enjoy living has seeped into more facets than my career choice. Now, I actually like a full seven hours of sleep. But who knows, maybe when my chicks grow up and I discover I have a rooster, I’ll embrace waking at the crack of dawn once again. At least then,  I’d get some homework done. But for now, Blogging remains my number one pastime on the “What to do to avoid homework” list.


 


Yawn. Good night, friend.