Napoleon, my Poulet de Bresse rooster, is busy heralding the day, his commanding errrrrr-errrr-errrrr-errrrrruuuuuuuuuh echoing strident ricochets across my farm. The sun peeks through the not-yet-turned leaves of early Fall, a cool white blazon casting long cobalt-purple shadows dappling the emerald green landscape. There are such magnificent clouds this morning, cottony schooners languidly sailing across a china blue bay, many backlit by the brilliant morning sun, celestial and grand in their scope.
This place is a living artist’s palette, loaded with eye candy to stir the imagination and soothe the weary spirit.
My dogs alternately scramble and hop, playing and frolicking, and then like myself, sit slit-eyed in the sun whose radiant glory is seasonally fading. Winter is coming soon and we’ll retreat to the homey warmth of my woodstove, mesmerized by the crackling love it radiates.
I have a farm now, a cherished lifelong dream fulfilled. Now and then I laugh to think how terribly wrong Eric was about me; Art made this place possible, the same Artwork he pronounced “useless” and “a waste of time”. The laugh, I think, is truly on him.
I shudder to consider that because of his caustic deprecatory comments I nearly burned all my canvases. Thank God I came to my senses in the nick of time: I had the lighter in hand, canvases piled atop a mound of kindling in the back yard, haplessly awaiting their fate like a two-dimensional Joan of Arc. The tsunami of tears that rushed from my aching chest, flooding to blind my eyes, stopped me. I love painting and I love my work; to believe I must burn it was an atrocity visited on me by someone who had a massive need to make himself bigger than me, who begrudged me the infinite joy and fulfillment I derived from my work. Art; painting, has not only saved my life a couple times, it has made possible the foudroyant joy I now revel in, the boundless Elysium whose many blessings I tick off on the short list I keep behind my eyelids as I sleep.
It is a great deal of back-cracking labor to have a farm by one’s self, especially when natural disasters come. Thus far my critters and I have weathered three blizzards ( trapped in here for nine days, my mile-long private dirt road completely impassable), several vicious Nor’Easters, two floods and an aggregate of about a hundred asswipe, arrogant and disrespectful ATV’ers who feel entitled to explore someone else’s property without the owner’s permission. I hand-painted KEEP OUT signs and posted them at the mouth of my private road saying “If you weren’t invited, turn around, PRIVATE ROAD”, in the hopes that they appeared non-commercial and therefore crazy enough to be deterrent. So far, so good. I don’t tolerate intruders well; this is my little piece of Heaven; I’ve waited my entire life to have it and I will not have it violated by cretins on machines that chew up the earth and wreck my only-way-in-and-out dirt road. There are few negatives about having this place, but that is one which has caused me much consternation and dismay. But, we deal. God knows I’ve endured far worse in the name of a home.
I relish sitting on the park bench I bought and closing my eyes, hearing the wind rustle and tickle the monolithic trees that ring my property; it is my favorite music. There is such a halcyon Zen to this place, every visitor here always comments on that, notes a serenity that makes it an “other” region, not so much like the rest of the world. My preferred mode of giving thanks for that is to plant myself on the bench and read my dear friend Rumi, the legendary Sufi poet; I find myself in practically every page he wrote. “The wound is the place where the Light enters you“, said Rumi.
I shine ; oh , how I shine with that particular light.
The Zen I describe would be the direct result of my hard work here. The solitude on my farm is medicinal, so much so that I must remind myself periodically to go out into the world and be with people. Any time I leave, the ride home is always the happiest part of the trip. I become more and more beatific with each passing mile. I am always smiling by the time I pull up to my wee maison in the woods.
Although a nondescript one-level dove grey ranch from the outside, it is European in it’s décor and attitude inside. My paintings hang here and there, judiciously placed for just the right effect. There are crystal chandeliers and landscape murals I’ve painted on the backs of doors and on walls; oriental rugs grace the floors and a cream elaborately-carved French dining set with a massive, warmly lit credenza greets my guests. it is a mini-palace of Art ; Beauty and I make conscious effort to craft it so.
There is almost always classical music playing, it soothes my very soul and I depend upon it. I burn incense continually; I need this space to be as nurturing and comforting as possible, a gift to all the senses inclusive. Before you point out that I’ve left out “taste”, I am always cooking something delectable, dear reader, so fear not. I so have my bases covered.
I rise when I please, I take my meals when I please, I go to bed in my elegant Art Nouveau bedroom when I please, often reading myself to sleep as I please . Frequently multi-tasking, I work as many hours at a time as my broken body will allow, stopping to watch “World News Tonight” at 6:30 p.m. to absorb the daily events and news. I often paraphrase Wordsworth in saying “the world is too much with me” and indeed live that truth, but I must watch, have to watch ‘World News Tonight’ every evening, a beloved and fixed ritual.
This place is my reward for having survived, my true reward. I’ve realized only I can give that to myself; you cannot expect nor ask the world nor any person other than yourself to provide that to you; it is a blissful Nirvana only you can be the cartographer for.
The time I spent with Eric is a dark memory now, a water-damaged old photo moldy around the edges; one I take pleasure not recalling. I go back and read all I wrote during that intimate Inquisition and I am astonished by the depth of rage and resentment I see there. I truly hated him and it was insidiously toxic to me.
I think I loathed him most for luring me into a situation I otherwise would never have ventured into but for the offer of a surreptitious pseudo-gift, which was not even his to give (actually belonged to his parents, a fact he carefully omitted when wooing me for the big move-in), the home-house I desperately craved my entire life, since early childhood. To pretend to give something of that magnitude and then take it away or cause it to be taken away, is a diabolically calculated cruelty most decent humans are incapable of. His own Karma will catch up to him eventually; that isn’t a loosey-goosey New Age sentiment but a hard truth I’ve seen unfailingly play out with frightening reliability over and over in Life.
I have come to understand over the years I put myself in that position with Eric, not to excuse his brutish truculence directed at me; putting that experience behind me required a determination and resolve I had to pull up out of the very earth beneath my feet; I think many women know that process too well.
There are times when I do feel a poignant measure of loneliness…when I realize it’s been 10 years since I’ve been with a man in any way, since I’ve been held or shown non-mercenary ( = with no strings attached) affection, or any affection for that matter. Aside from the customary familial greetings, I realize how long I go between being hugged or touched and it makes me quite melancholy…I must work on that. I would adore a companion to laugh with, to hold my hand and share the events of the day or week. I do not ever see myself giving my life over to a man again, however. “Once burned” and all that, only it was way more than once I was burned. (Eventually, the organism learns to avoid painful stimulus. )
I have learned the truest joy, the deepest clear, cool water of personal rapture is drunk from one’s own well. Expecting or depending upon anyone outside yourself to provide your joy is a fool’s errand, determines your eventual inexorable failure and misery.
I have to make a trip to the feed store for the chickens this afternoon; I love the feed store, it smells so grain-y good: I am quite the prissy Lady Farmer as I load up on scratch grain, layer crumbles and dried mealworm treats. ( –yes, like almost all other mammals, chickens love treats; who knew ?! )
Then I must can up some veggies and harvest the last of my culinary herbs for the season, hang them in the coolness of my pantry to dry so I have fresh spices to cook with during the long New England bitter cold. I love walking in there to the spicy scent curtain of my Rosemary and Basil hanging up in neat bundles.
A trip to stock up on firewood is on my agenda too. I love the journey around my acres to pick up felled branches and sticks to use for kindling in my wood stove; all tasks I have to do that provide the richest reward of ‘I-did-it-by-myself’. It gives me a bounteous self-sufficient sense of “Little House On The Prairie”-ness. I laugh to myself, thinking of all the TV shows and movies I put myself in while working on my farm; Scarlett O’Hara comes to mind often, that whole “As God is my witness I’ll never go hungry again!” thing, only I’m thinking about relationships, not radishes. Sally Field often visits in my head, too; last winter while trying to dig my firewood out of it’s frozen stack, slogging through 4 feet of heavy, wet snow and high-wind sleet stinging my face with icy needles, I imagined how Norma Rae might handle that; it definitely helped.
I’m always thinking of strong women archetypes and how they functioned, what alchemy they possessed which allowed them not just to strive but overcome; and not just overcome, but overcome with a measure of singular grace. I make a very conscious effort to overcome with singular grace; you might say it is my lodestar. Don’t get it twisted, I’m hardly a heroine; I do whine and cry now and then, but every morning when my eyes open, my awakening thoughts are a devout prayer of thanks for all I have here and the daily resolve to measure up to it. Despite my ever-growing rolodex of physical limits, I enjoy being my own hero and having a life that challenges me into being my very best and bravest.
I am serenely, crazily happy. I love this place like it’s a person and I am acutely aware of the blessings I am privileged to have in my life. My kids are grown and ridiculously awesome. I marvel at how purposefully they shape their lives and am astounded by their individual uncanny insights and talents. I endlessly fret over their life trials large and small. There’s no one in the world I’d rather be with than my kids; they’re the most remarkable humans I know. My grandchildren are beautiful, bright and promising; that feels so good, to know I am in many ways the first of my line, if only because I’m adopted. I always feel like my family, that “we” started with me, because my real family was unavailable to me until I was 28 years old; I am still connecting with them, a gift that keeps on giving the most extraordinary and precious of gifts. It has helped me write the definition of myself. I’ve met a lot of folks who wholesale take their families for granted. I always marvel at that; how is it the Millennials express it…? …”SMDH” ?? Yes, I’m smdh.
For many compelling reasons my entire life I searched for a home, my own high Holy Grail. My sister and I were talking recently; we realized that every house we ever lived in, from infancy forward, has been destroyed, razed, no longer there. Every. Single. House. Any wonder I have such home-hunger ?
I made desperate and terrible decisions in the quest of “own place” that put me and my children in harm’s way, so powerful was that drive. I wasted precious days/weeks/months of life being furious, resentful of being forced back into survival mode, but that sulphury Armageddon was destined to replicate itself, a vicious RNA, until I could begin to recognize predators, opportunists who uncannily sense a damaged heart and preyed on it toward their own perfidious ends. ( yes, there really are people like that in this world and not to acknowledge that is potentially lethal to a tender soul. )
I know the face of that Beast now, mind, and I know it well.
I also know my own name and I speak it often to the Universe, as unbelievably cliched and Oprah-ish as that sounds. ( Love Oprah, mind you, just a bit weary of the ubiquitous affirmations and automobile giveaways. )
The Buddhists have a sacred Eightfold Path which is a life prescription, a directive process to help you lead the fullest life possible. Number Four of The Eightfold Path speaks of Right Action, or doing all the steps necessary to become one with your goals, evolving into your highest self. Example: you can want to be an Astronaut with all your heart & soul; you can believe you can be an astronaut until the cows literally come languorously home; if you haven’t studied Physics, Algebra, Engineering, Chemistry etc etc and gotten appropriately degreed, you will never become an Astronaut no matter how fucking much you believe in yourself. That’s what ‘Right Doing’ addresses, taking the appropriate actions to manifest your goals and dreams.
This isn’t Peter Pan and TinkerBell won’t cease to exist if you don’t believe…this journey is righteously real and yours alone; if you really want it, guess what ?! You have to do your homework, Sugar-Britches, with or without the affirmation chestnuts. I was doing that long before it was a thing, trust me. ‘Nuff said.
I am in the “autumn of my years” as the saying goes. God, I hate that phrase but I have zero to aptly substitute for it. I’ve raised a basketball team of children alone, made a shitload of egregious mistakes doing that but how dearly and profoundly I love them, and what exceptional humans they are ! Looking at each of them I experience a humbling sense of awe & admiration for the people they have grown into. I forfeited a great deal in the quest for love/family/home, was always seeking a partner to help me rear my brood and stand by my side, be my life-partner and their Champion. Be their Father, a good Father. Accepting the reality that I will almost certainly be going it solo ad infinitum, I wish I could go back and speak to that wretchedly lonely, uncertain, needy, fearful young woman and tell her, as my pal Rumi said, “You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace which is already around your neck”.
I was my own Champion —and what a pity I didn’t realize that decades ago.
<br>I am the diamond necklace, I am the diamond. <br>
I shamelessly celebrate that about me now, finally I realize I’ve earned the right to.
You should be celebrating you, too.
Stop searching for that diamond, honey, and look in your mirror.
If you don’t like what you see there, then you are on your own arc and you’ve got some work to do.
I realize that in the age of ‘You Can Make Your Dreams Come True’ Twittersphere, this is hardly a pink-warm-and-fuzzy sentiment to end a book with, but if you’re waiting on some form of rescue you’re egregiously misled and destined to be bereft of your dreams.
Be about it…Life goes by far too fast ( recall that I’m in my autumn years and get to say this) and if you waste it being angry/resentful/bitter/miserable/despondent/helpless, then you’re the fool; no one else is going to step up and make it magically right for you.
That’s not a cynical philosophy but a truism.
In Psychology it is said exogenous change, change that comes from without, is always temporary; exogenous change, the change that comes from within you, has far, far better odds of being permanent.