Tuesday, May 15, 2012

At the Les Schwab in Ballard, there's probably always someone on an iPad. Up here in the valley, I'm the only one with technology more sophisticated than a pair of suspenders or a hearing aid. A couple of guys sit at a table chewing the fat, nothing but a coffee cup between them. I eavesdrop, of course, because they're talking about farming, who has standing water in their fields all winter and what that means. Who's trying to plant corn, but doesn't really grow corn that good. Another guy in the lobby is in the market for a new mower, needs the 500 series, something about the differential, so the guy at the counter introduces him to an old timer who turns out to be the owner of a shop. The owner cracks a joke about Oh well they got em down there to the Lowe's and all the guys in the lobby chuckle. There's something ok about going to the place where the farmers and farm equipment guys take their cars. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Four Months In

Things are a lot more green now than they were in January. The garden is different here than it was this time last year, too. This weekend something shifted and I started to feel like things are progressing more than they are decaying, or going wild or reverting back to some unmanageable state. 

I still have no idea what I'm doing. YouTube videos will tell you how important soil preparation is in putting together an asparagus bed, but I bought my crowns late in the season, planted them even later, and just scratched a little compost into the bottom of the bed by way of prep. We'll see. That's how everything is now, we'll just see. Horseradish is supposed to grow with the ferocity of dandelions, so I just dug a hole and dropped it in, pretty much. Putting in three rhubarb plants might be overkill. I don't care. What's the worst thing that happens? Dig one up, send it to someone else's yard. 

I'm counting on things being forgiving, to a certain extent, and trying not to get too attached to anything. In the garden, I don't have a problem falling in love with what's easy, or seems so - kale, raspberries, potatoes, nettles, sorrel. It's just too bad that I don't like the taste of dandelions, because we're awfully good at growing those here.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Things I'm Afraid To Tell You

Weeks and weeks ago, over a month now, Tami sent me a piece of writing. It's a good piece of writing, with lots to talk about, especially since it's in early stages and written sort of in chunks, all of which relate to each other in really interesting ways, while still leaving me with the feeling that the piece as a whole is not totally sure what exactly it wants to be yet, which is, in my opinion, exactly where a work at that stage should be. The alternative is for it to be smug and knowing, dictatorial rather than provocative. Even in this early stage it is a piece that lures me in, one that I've thought about a lot since I received it. 

I haven't written back to her yet. I haven't even written to apologize for not writing back, and I hate that, but it just seems too meager to write and say sorry, I've been really busy, and at heart, that excuse doesn't even feel true.

In the grab-bag of neglected things in my life right now, this is the one that bothers me most. Part of the reason my tire resigned from my wheel a few weeks ago was that it was tired of bearing up under the pressure of my misaligned car, a strip of it overburdened and neglected until it just gave up and let itself shred under the weight of all those trips back and forth, between Skagit and Seattle, Seattle and Skagit, Bothell, etc. All of the tires have been replaced now, a forced march down my neglected to-do list, but the car hasn't been realigned yet. This weekend, for real. Speaking of tires, there's at least one flat on the riding lawnmower, plus something else wrong with it that I can't fix, which means that the acre we live on is being maintained by a push mower bought at a yard sale for $15. I'm not afraid to tell you that, exactly, but there is some low level dread to my days as a result of it, which is similar to the way I feel about things I'm afraid to tell you. I'm not afraid to tell you how messy my car is, but that doesn't mean I would want you to ride in it. I think about who I park next to in the lot at work more than a grown woman with her act together should, if you ask me. 

I'm not really afraid to tell you that I'm a grown woman who doesn't exactly have her act together. I think I have an overdue water bill in a bag somewhere at home, and last month I had to pay two months of another bill at the same time. I'm not really afraid to tell you that while I think, in many ways, that I work for a great company, I couldn't say that this is the most successful I've ever been at a job. I have other failures that I am afraid enough to tell you about that I just won't. I think that's okay. Some of them are about other people, and not everyone needs their business shared here.

When I think about why I haven't written back about the piece of writing from Tami, the one thing I know is that it's not about her piece, or her. It is, of course, one hundred percent me and my own relation to writing. Not only to writing, but to the act of reflection, and creation. 

In therapy, we've talked a bit about how I feel these days when someone asks me what I've been up to. My life has changed a lot in the last two years, and sometimes it's hard for me to know how to talk about this. I feel like the answer to what I've been up to is "Nothing." Driving. Making dinner. Vacuuming. Going to acupuncture. The things that used to count as something were places I had traveled to, classes I had taken, stories I was working on, photos made. 

There is something much more introverted about my life now, but without the mental space for introspection. I haven't been writing because I can't imagine having that much space in a day - it would require pushing aside certain things that it just makes me too anxious to push aside at the moment.

That used to be one of my secrets- that in order to do what little writing I did, I pushed things aside. I would let the dishes rot in the sink, or shove everything into a box and close it up, or overspend or go without sleep or eat every meal out. When people ask what I've been up to these days, there must be some way to say that what I'm doing now is letting those things catch up to me, and working my way through them. I'm trying to develop the habit of housecleaning, of cooking my own meals, of opening boxes and going through them and saving or letting go, and catching up on sleep and trying to save money by spending time, and by the way there is this new animal to care for and maintain, this big, one-acre animal called the mini-farm. In Pam's new book, there's a point where Mackenzie (on the Boeing tour) says "It's like building a whale." That's what it feels like these days, building a whale. Something you can't quite get your arms around.

My life is a small whale, relatively. No kids. Enough of most things, except time. But all of these things are relative, and there's no getting around that. Even now, I'm stealing time that's not mine. I'm writing my own selfish things, but maybe sometimes that's the most helpful thing you can do for someone else. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway. 

This isn't South Dakota. In South Dakota, there were only four photos. One of Allison with the Thomas Jefferson statue in Rapid City, one of her with the Calvin Coolidge statue, and two of me with Jimmy Carter. Maybe a few more, but really, those four were it. I carried the big digital SLR, carried my running gear, a bathing suit, but none of that got used. we bought snacks at the health food store in Rapid City that we never got to, mugs at the thrift store so we could make tea in our hotel room, but we never made tea. We did get to the Corn Exchange, and ate butter burgers from Culvers and had sandwiches and lattes from the Green Bean in Belle Fourche, but those were the only luxuries. We had a day to prepare for the estate sale, organizing and sorting and squirreling things away that needed to be sent on later to one of the corners of the country where the four of us live now. Then there were two days of sale, and it was time for Allison and I to set out for the Rapid City airport again. 

At dinner the last night at Lyle and Shorty's, I noticed how tidy and organized everything seemed after the chaos of the last three days. I confess I also thought about everything as though it were in a yard sale - the cross stitch Velkommen sign that matched the one in the garage on that side table with the fake tiles, still unpriced. Putting the Velkommen sign out for sale, of course it hadn't occurred to me that Shorty had probably made it as a gift for Ellen. I wondered what else she saw at the sale, thought about how she had paid $20 for a walker thinking she might be able to convince Lyle to use it, how later I had run out to catch her before she drove away, stood there in the rain on the curb pressing a $20 bill into her hand. She tried to refuse but there was no way I was going to let her pay, and when I told her Ellen would have killed me if I let her pay for it, she couldn't do anything but take the money. 

The plates at the dinner table were the same cheap unbreakable ones Ellen had, Corelle I think, still for sale on the third day. I imagine Shorty had nicer china too, and found myself hoping that she let herself find excuses to use them, but then again, after dinner the cheap dishes just got tossed into the dishwasher. There was fruit salad with dinner and Shorty told us about how she keeps it in the fridge for Lyle, a little pineapple juice in there to keep the apples from going brown. She had a system.

Back home now, I'm thinking about systems too. We didn't eat dinner tonight until 9:30, just more evidence that I do not have the systems down around here. Workin on it.