I’ve been absent. Do I need a note from my mother to be excused?
There are several reasons why I have not been blogging, but I don’t feel like justifying my absence. Please trust that I have not forsaken my readers lightly. I will say that for ten days during the transition between homes, I had no internet. We went to Florida to teach in our former school for 5 days. There were other circumstances – I felt moody over a blog response someone sent me (not about me, but about a former friend and employee. It commented on issues regarding our former business.) I chose not to post this comment because it was pretty heated. I didn’t want to invite more negativity into my writing world, and I knew this post would undoubtedly stir up some angry rebuttals. This made me feel guilty because I believe everyone deserves a chance to voice their opinions, and I certainly gave other’s that opportunity. I believe the letter was sent in support of Mark and I and the former FLEX mission statement and management style. Not posting it made me feel as if I was being disrespectful to a friend, especially because, in all honesty, this person’s letter was not off the mark, but it did talk about serious issues that touch on legal argument etc. I just don’t want this blog to become a forum for FLEX debate. Yet, if the only people reading it are ex-FLEXers, waiting for the other shoe to drop, what is the point?
Anyway, like I said, I don’t want to explain my sabbatical. Let’s say, I needed time alone to think about what this blog is for and who is actually out there reading it. I’ve begun to think my blogging is a fruitless pursuit, wandering further and further from its original intention (being a fun method to keep in touch with friends and a vehicle of free-writing practice) But that doesn’t mean I won’t continue writing. All expended effort makes a difference in one way or another, even if isn’t revealed in obvious ways untill a later time. So, pardon me if I play censor at times and try to keep this blog targeted on “non-dance studio” issues. If (when) I blog, it will be to continue to write about our life transition and life perspective.
Enough disclaimers. For those of you who are friends and who miss the on-line Hendry’s-moving-to-the-country reality series, I will do a quick catch-up.
Gee, everyone has missed so much. Where do I start?
We have finally moved into the new house. It’s big.
Our last house was pretty, but it was intimate (in other words, “small”.) Our furniture was scaled down, and everything fit in a snug, neat way. This house is cavernous, with huge ceilings, massive fireplaces, and huge log stairs. As you can imagine, our former furniture doesn’t exactly look made to order.
The first night we slept here, no one could sleep. Mark was up all night. He said, “I feel like I am in some of resort lodge . . . one that is too expensive for me to afford!” Ha. You built it, baby. It is simply a huge leap in luxury for this family- especially after a year and a half in that little vacation cabin. We have always been down to earth people, and while this environment is warm, natural and casual, it is also very elegant and indulgent. Different for us, that is for sure.
Neva said she had a “funny feeling in her tummy” all night.
Kent said he felt as if he was in outer space, because he picked this massive room that has no windows, and it gets pitch black at night so you have no sense of time or place.
I kept hearing sounds in the house, which Mark explained was the logs cracking as they dried now that the heat was on. It was all just weird.
The second night, we all slept better.
The third night, we magically felt at home, and what a glorious home it suddenly turned out to be!
But, like I said. It’s big.
On moving day, I rolled open a rug, which once filled our entire dining room. I couldn’t help but laugh. It looked like a postage stamp. Two chairs that I always considered big and welcoming sat in the corner looking practically delicate now.
I said, “Honey, you shrunk the furniture.”
Ronnie, our builder, was standing by with his hands in his pockets. In his country drawl, he said “I guess he ain’t been water’in it ‘nough.” Then he grinned. He is mighty pleased to have created this lovely monster house with Mark.
We ended up moving that dining room rug to the entryway to serve as a welcome mat. Swear to God. We then had to go rug shopping to get something more appropriate. We chose something very different for us – a woven Indian import thing with vibrant colors that looks somewhat southeastern. With all the natural wood, we decided we needed a flash of bold color. This adds a wonderful feeling of energy to the room.
I can’t describe how happy I am to be living here in this house and on this land at last. We have finally come to the end of the difficult transition period of reinventing our life. In retrospect, I can say it’s amazing we lasted as long as we did during the frustrating shift. When my mother visited, she shook her head and said, “Why don’t you just buy a nice house and live in a more comfortable situation. You can afford it.”
That is something we asked ourselves everyday. However, we knew we wanted something very special in the long term, which meant sacrifice in the short term. By holding off and living in that small, unfinished cabin, with construction and grit all around us, we reserved more resources to pour into our vision for a certain type of creative lifestyle. Some days, I thought we were crazy, and we even fought about it – not blaming each other or losing faith, but just letting the frustration escape by way of bitching. But Mark and I are used to discomfort in the short term to accomplish something important in the long term, (That is how FLEX was built) so we stuck to the plan and kept bucking each other up on those “off” days . Now, as we step forth into the lovely and creative life we imagined, I am very grateful that we didn’t compromise or take an easier route.
This new life is work. My mother also said, “Not many people would take the money you and Mark earned, with a chance to reinvent your life, and chose a lifestyle that is so physically hard. You could just as soon have bought a cushy home on a beach somewhere or taken it easy for the rest of your life.”
I guess that is true, but leaving the dance empire wasn’t about wanting to escape work. I love work. So does Mark. We especially enjoy the sort of effort that is attached to this rustic world. He loves chopping down trees and zipping along in his tractor, (He’s shifted from the sporty dance guy in a baseball cap to a GQ Paul Bunnon sort with flannel shirts to match his dusty beard. Suits him, even though it is an adjustment for me to get used to.) Neither of us is inclined to become the spoiled type who is attracted to ease and luxury. I love wearing jeans and seatshirts (with glamorous earrings, of course. I’m practical, but I’m not dead) walking this land and taking care of my ever-growing ranch/farm/ whatever you want to call it. I don’t mind slipping along the mud or dragging tree branches out of the path to get to my horses. I love taking care of the animals and picking berries, building bonfires, hiking hills, and trying to figure out the complex puzzle of living in harmony with the natural world. It’s a great adventure, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always appreciated contrast as a vehicle to experience something fully. This world is a direct contrast to the suburban (or New York) existence I’ve experienced most of my life.
The day after Thanksgiving, my horses returned from their visit to the trail-riding ranch. We bought Dixie at 5 months pregnant, so I always thought she was just a sweet horse with a rather dumpy body. Now, I see she is lean and muscular. She’s in the best shape ever, as is Peppy, my white horse. They’ve been working daily with the tourists, which means their behavior is at its best, as is their health . I have a very powerful affinity for my horses. Everyday, I stop my work at around noon to visit and feed them. I love walking through the trees to bring the four horses, the donkey and llama treats and to groom them. I work with the baby, April, teaching her to lead. I tenderly pet the donkey. I have lively intellectual conversations with them all. They follow me about like dogs, (our real dogs at my heel), whinnying and snorting in response to my commentary. They stick their noses in my pockets looking for sugar or cookies. They even run towards me when they see my bright yellow jacket, making me feel loved in the most obvious way. The donkey has this loud, silly bray that he lets out whenever he sees me. I love it! I just absolutely adore these animals with a passion I can barely describe. Being with them soothes my soul and makes me feel connected to God or the earth or whatever it is that makes us feel centered.
I’ve always loved animals, and having no limits to keeping them, other than the self imposed boundries of how much work I want to take on, is a particular thrill. I still have fun with the chickens. In fact, we have done some serious scientific research in the area of chicken treating. Neva has concluded that our poultry’s favorite food is powdered donuts, followed closely by McDonalds French-fries. I thought the birds were just pecking away at anything you tossed into the cage, so one day, I brought them some bread to prove my point. No. They didn’t want that. Neva knows her chickens. They really want those sugary, white, powdered donuts. Preferably stale ones. Go figure. The chickens are Neva’s favorite pets now. She sits in the pen and pets them, plays games with them, and talks to them about their behavior. It’s cute. But still, we haven’t seen an egg. Chickens don’t lay much in the winter, so it will probably be spring ’till we have that thrill. I imagine there will be a major celebration upon an egg discovery when it comes to pass. We plan to add ducks this summer. Ye haw!
As the season changes, we are up to new challenges all the time. We just finished dealing with the endless mud, which made feeding the horses a perilous drag. I would sink ankle deep into the muck no mater what I tried to do to combat the ick, but I have my sexy muck boots, so I deal with it with my own sort of sad glamor attempt. Lately, the water in the chicken feeder has been frozen each day. Damn. Neva and I take a gallon of hot water out there every afternoon, chip away the frozen water, and fill it with hot water. Mark points out that hot water freezes faster than cold, but we find it blends with the ice in the jug to make it all tepid. This chore sounds like a drag, I know, but it’s actually fun. I spend an hour a day with my daughter caring for the animals, and this tends to set the tone for great conversation. We talk about school, life, and the natural world. We laugh as we share this mutual interest in animals learning together how to care for them well. We handle the animals, picking up chickens and comment on their changing feathers as they shift into winter dress, getting to know their individual personalities. This kind of easy time together is better than any of our former “quality” time, because in the past, ot was awkward working to create intimate experiences together. Planned time together always felt somewhat construed. Now, meaningful moments happen naturally.
Living in this house allows us to fully enjoy our 50 acres as we dreamed we would. Out of every window, I see trees and the creatures that dwell within. A deer came to my office window the other day. Suddenly, his ears pinned back and he took off. Mark was watching. He thought, “What got into him?” Then he saw our dogs shooting off behind, giving chase – not like they can catch anything, but they have fun trying. Everyday is a party for the family pets living here. The dogs bound along the land all day long, barking at the llama, eating horse turds, wrestling in the fallen leaves. I put a deer block out on the hillside outside my office window, hoping to attract some wildlife. About killed me carrying that heavy thing up the steep mountainside. Don’t’ ya know, my dogs discovered it ten minutes later and decided, “Hum, my master put this here and it looks like something one of those leggy creatures would like, so we better protect it.” Damn dogs lay right beside it half the day. Nary will a forest creature get to enjoy that block now.
Our cats think this house is just a huge playground built to amuse them. They walk along the beams fourteen feet up, jumping to the high window ledges and sleeping in nooks of log and rock. This house brings the wilderness inside, which feels good to them. They have never been so gleeful. In fact, everyone seems filled with spirit and joy as we sprawl out in this big personal space. There is such a sense of serenity and contentment here. Honestly, I’ve never felt that before in my life. Not living in New York, even though I was there pursuing my dreams. Not living in Sarasota, even though we prospered, had a comfortable life and did what we loved for a living. Only here have I learned true satisfaction of the soul. My personality is such that I’ve never slowed down, always felt driven, needed to accomplish more – be better. Here, I am relaxed. I feel more alive. Younger. The world is filled with humor and joy. It is remarkable.
Huge windows in the breakfast nook of our house look out on the pasture and creek. I’ve learned things about my ark, thanks to the view. For example, In the mornings, I stand at the window with my coffee and watch my animals greet the day. My llama lies in the center of the pasture in the exact position every single day. He raises his head in this majestic manner to greet the sun every morning. I marvel that he never moves or changes position. At first, I though, “Hey, llama’s are a middle-eastern animal. Perhaps he is a Muslim (they face east in part of their worship). Then I thought, “Naw, everyone knows the dalai llama is a Buddhist.” I guess Dalai just loves to watch the sun come up just as I do – because it is glorious. He’s my llama, after all.
By the way, he is taking cookies from our hand now, and he has gotten very natural around usl. Sweet.
I watch the donkey and our baby horse play in the mornings when they are feeling frisky. And our dogs wrestle and bound like the overgrown puppies they are along our hillside. I can even see the cats sneak through the grass as if they are lions on a hunt. Looking out my window is the best show on earth.
I cannot hear Joe, the rooster, from the house, at least not in the winter now that our windows are closed. That is a disappointment. But we have a few crows that have taken on the task of waking us up every morning. They caw in a God-awful loud way as the sun comes up. Their song is not nearly as joyful as a rooster’s crow. One of these big black birds keep walking to our glass door and tapping his beak on the glass as if he wants in. At first I worried that he was looking in at one of Mark’s logs and thinking, “Hey, there’s my missing house. Let me in, Buddy. . . I don’t know what this huge box is doing in my forest, but it consumed my tree!” But Mark assured me he didn’t steal any wildlife homes when he was selecting trees, at least to his knowledge. I guess the crow is simply seeing his reflection in the window. But his incessant tapping is kinda spooky.
My kitchen is finally set up and I have begun cooking again. It is fun to have the space and the tools to make whatever I am inspired to try. I have signed up for a wine making class in the spring. I imagine I might do some serious calorie damage with that hobby – I confess, I tend to cook things I don’t like, such as chocolate brownies (I’m a fruity person –um… no cracks). This way I combat potential weight damage because of what I bring into the house, but I still get to cook. But, wine? Forget it. I’ll be grinning in my kitchen, flirting every time my husband walks by if I start making sweet nectar at home. Nevertheless, homemade wine sounds too fascinating not to try. I even have the room to plant grape vines if I feel so inclined. Fun. Anyway, I’m experiences a cooking renaissance now with a real kitchen. Yippee!
Unpacking the kitchen was embarrassing. I had about fourteen boxes labeled “Kitchen appliances.” I kept saying, “This can’t be. What could possibly be left that I haven’t already unpacked?” Then I would see yet another batch of cooking paraphernalia. Now, I must admit, most of this was acquired as gifts. When people know you cook, gift giving is a snap. They just buy you the latest gadget on sale – the more obscure the better because then they assume you don’t have it. I have steamers and rice cookers and pannini grills – blenders and choppers and food processors and mixers – crock pots and ice cream makers and food sealers and fondue sets – electric skillets and electric roasters and smokers and chafing dishes – smoothie makers and juicers and blenders and electric tea makers. I unpacked my super duper coffee pot at last. Yippee. The only thing I imagine I don’t have is a deep fat fryer – but that is because I don’t fry food (health reasons), so thankfully, no one would presume give me one.
I wonder where I kept it this stuff. Fact is, it was all piled in the garage or in a deep storage cabinet. I never could find things or they were so hard to get to I rarely used them. Now, I have everything on a long shelf in sight. It is like dwelling in cooking heaven (if not a bit gross in regards to indulgence – but what ya gonna do -have a kitchen appliance garage sale, then give everybody a chance to start buying that stuff again next Christmas? No thanks.) I just have it on hand for occasional food-play now.
This week, they are building Mark’s new workshop, a big wooden two story work space to go with the metal building he put up months ago to store wood and finished furniture. Next week he will be setting it up, then I suppose I will become a wood widow. I doubt he will exit the building often once he finally gets his lathe and tools set up. Well, at least that means I’ll get a dining room table and a few coffee tables. We are sadly sans tables and chairs now. I only have the upholstered furniture to live with now. Yes, I live in a house with just a couch and my two delicate chairs from the last home. But I’ve learned the best stuff is the stuff you are willing to wait for. This means Mark and I are both excited about this workshop finally being built!
What else? Oh yea. Kathy is doing very well, and our lessons are continuing. She is such an earnest, great student. Working with her is rewarding on so many levels. And fascinating. She is speaking at the high school this week (to the problem students) about drugs and how they destroy a life (she is a success story and people are starting to notice) I am going to go to watch. It is fun being her mentor and friend. I feel good knowing my efforts are making a difference. But I am going crazy trying to decide what to give her for Christmas. More on that later. Kathy deserves a blog devoted just to her, I think.
We went to Florida to teach in our old school. It was a great experience – the kids still enrolled are the best of the best. So focused, respectful and filled with good attitude. Mark and I both thought that if the school was like that before, we probably could never have left. Dancing with those kids was a joy, and it was satisfying to step into our old roles again for a few nights. I’d forgotten what good dance teachers we are. Sounds conceited, but we both looked at each other and smiled knowingly during the class. The material we touched on was signifigant. Later, we talked about how easy it is to fall back into teaching mode – how much we wish we could pour all our knowledge into a kid’s head in a single moment. We could see the holes in their training, and for us, the problems would be so easy to fix. We have a gift for teaching dance in a solid way, and for creating earnst students without ego problems or bad attitudes. Sometimes it is very difficult to leave what you are good at. You feel guilty and out of sorts over it. Anyway, I think our visit deserves a full independent blog too, so I’ll wait to comment on that later. Or not. Just let me say that we appreciated the opportunity to dance in our old school again and our fondness for the students there is tenfold.
My own school has been trying this semester. I’ve actually had a very rough term. I am hot into preparing for my last residency and preparing my thesis now. I won’t go into it because I have to close this blog and get to work, but let me comment that I am progressing and feeling very glad that I chose to get my MFA. Nevertheless, I am ready to get it over with. All my teachers, those that were very hard on me and those that seemed to love working with me, have said I am a very good writer and my work is “publishable”. Humm. Now, I guess it is all up to me. It is never about talent, ya know. It is all about what you do with your gifts.
I have a new confidence now. My formal writing education is a bit like Dumbo’s feather – it was probably not really necessary, but very good for making me feel equipped. In other wards, it was necessary for me, considering my personality. But now, I am ready to stop doing homework and ready to attend to my writing as a professional. Two years is a long hiatus from my love of writing historical romance or sending out material. I inherently believe I will be successful when I return to the books I love to write and I try to get published. Noveling is a hard profession to break into, but I have confidence I will be recognized. Maybe more than anyone expects. Anyway, my writing, while I don’t talk about it too much, is progressing (painfully). My mind is swirling with characters and plots (historical) I am dying to get to.
In retrospect, I think writing a dance book was a big mistake during school because this was a period I was trying to break free of dance. Writing about that subject mater has been difficult, an element of the project which interfered with my heartfelt commitment ( I am usually very prolific and sticking with this project has been like pulling teeth) but it will all be over soon and I will return to romance and history and creating a world of my own making (rather than writing about a world I know too well personally, a world which distresses me). I’ll write now my flavorful historicals with more trained skill now. Can’t wait.
My writing room is a thrill to have too. I have a big oak desk and a black leather recliner to read in – a classy library environment – just as I dreamed. The rest of the room is just going to be lined with bark-edged shelves filled with the books I love (now sitting about me in boxes – sigh). My spinning wheel arrived from Australia and that is sitting in the corner too. All the things I love and cherish are around me, gifts from former students, handmade craft items from our adventures in Appalachian arts, mementos of trips or experiences. I have my dolls that I collect (I buy period dolls that look like characters in my historical novels – a tribute to my beloved characters, sort of, and in this room Mark can’t complain that they are “staring at him” now.) My Eckerd college BA degree, so painstakingly earned at age 39, is on the wall, with a spot for the soon to be had MFA. It is inspirational for a gal that moved to New York to dance so young, who was told she would “never be educated or have anything” if she dared choose dance over college and a practical career. Ha. My office is a grand “Told ya so” to the naysayers now. Not that that is why I love it, of course. I’ve never had my own personal space. It is splendid.
I must go. I have so much to do. Boxes to unpack. We are rooting through not just a household of moving boxes, but years of stuff that was stored at FLEX too. Everything happened so fast when we sold the school we just threw it all in boxes for later. Now, “later” has come. It is daunting, sludging through eighteen years of living. We really believed when we put the school up for sale, that it would take two or three years to find a buyer. It was a specialized business, after all. Then we believed we would be asked to stay on for a year to help the transition. We were sort of aiming for leaving when Kent graduated – that is when our most believed dancers would have graduated too. But the school sold in 5 days, for our full asking price. Not like we could have hemmed and hawed the decision then. And the new owners said they didn’t want us involved – they were ready and excited to take over without us. It was a stroke of luck, but at the same time, a shock. We were sort of forced to jump into the cold water of the new life before we acclimated to the idea. Not that I am complaining, only that it took a long time to get over the feeling it was all unreal . Now, we are facing the aftermath of the quick shift. It is emotionally trying and a load of hard work to go through all this dance stuff, life stuff and household stuff – all crammed into our garage in poorly labeled boxes.
Ah well, with the right attitude, this can be an adventure too, so I keep trying to view it as such.
I have more to say, but I am feeling guilty now for spending the morning blogging.
Balance. Must maintain balance.
Anyway, happy holidays to all.
It is nice to be back.