Tag Archives: transitions

The Last Farmlet

It’s 7am Monday morning, swimming day, and I’m still in bed. Fifteen minutes more. I don’t have to leave for an hour.

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Beside me the Bearded One snores and snorts as only a man with a sinus infection can.  It’s going around. The room is light, but not yet bright, and I stare at the cedar wall opposite the bed, the termite damage chiseled out, the puttying half done.

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We’ve been working on this old Hippy House for 18 months now. We moved to the wet east side of the Big Island of Hawaii in April, 2014, and into this off-grid 900 square foot cabin on an acre on June 2, 2014.

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Since then, with the help of our friend and contractor Tom, and a pile of money from the sale of the Olalla, WA farmlet, we’ve put in a new water catchment system, a solar electric system, five new windows and six refurbished, a back lanai and sliding door, a new entry staircase, kitchen counter, and painted the upstairs beams and posts brown (Dark Truffle) and the fir floor celadon (Pale Jade).

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We landscaped the already mature plantings that were here with five loads of gravel and cinder/soil mix. We’ve harvested jackfruit, lychee, and ginger, passionfruit (lilikoi), papayas, and mangos, coconuts, pineapples —

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— and now, after tons of the Bearded One’s careful months of composting, of creating a couple of feet of rot on the lava, we also have actual bananas.

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A big deal.  It’s easy to grow the plants, but hard to get the fruit.

The new composite storage shed out back stays clean, with no rust or rot. Hawaii is a place of minimal storage. In fact, storage is pretty much impossible with the wetness, direct tropical sunrays, rust, and mold. Paper wilts and mildews in days.

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There are no ancient writings in Hawaii. There was no written Hawaiian language until the white missionaries came in the 19th century with their paper and pencils.  It makes sense that ceremony, music, and dance are so important here.  They carry the stories and culture.

I hear our brown tabby cat Nala on the front lanai, jumping down from the railing with a thud, now waiting to come in and eat. She lives outdoors at night, and is a great companion to us during the day. She’s not a lap cat, but likes contact and vicinity.

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We have no dog, no chickens, no goats and no desire to get any. We are no longer farmers. Or even gardeners.

I listen to my beloved breathe.

Okay, it’s 7:15. Time to get up, get tea, check my email and Facebook and go pick up Rebecca and NeNe to swim.

A Facebook story floors me. The writing friend who first encouraged me to start Farmlet five years ago, in February, 2011, died peacefully in his sleep from an aneurysm on December 2, five days ago. He was my age, 59, a wonderful mentor and friend and writer.

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Things happen the way they happen. Somehow his passing makes it easier for me to end this blog. To say how grateful I am, to say how the planet-wide friendships I’ve made through Farmlet changed my life.

The Bearded One hears me sobbing and gets out of bed. He hugs me hard and then, bless him, he lets in the cat.

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Talk Story

Here I am at the doctor. A nurse practitioner named Linda in a bright mu’umu’u and a yellow plumeria in her graying hair follows up with me after an acclimation struggle that landed me in the Hilo ER with stomach pain from depression and anxiety on May 22.

The Bearded One is across the parking lot doing our laundry. Chatting with the Pahoa locals about dogs and moving and children. He is thriving.

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He has dealt with my depression for 20 years. It is not a Hawaii thing.  It moves in six year cycles. This one is right on time.

I’m back satisfactorily medicated, but the anxiety is new and that’s what has me back at the doctor again. My heart races and my stomach aches and roils and presses against my breath. I’ve lost 15 pounds from just eating less.  Brain stem stuff, pituitary, fight or flight stress that meds help, but as Linda says, “You also need to talk story.”  It’s a Hawaiian phrase.  Our neighbor used it when he came over to meet us.

“What do you want in your deepest heart?” she asks.

“To make our new house our home,” I say. This surprises me. It’s not to go back to Washington, which I thought about last month as we waited to get into our new home. “We’ve just been in the house a week. It’s off-grid. There’s a lot of work to do.”

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“Why did you come to Hawaii?”

I answer with the weather and the adventure of it, but later I regret not saying better that the big island of Hawaii is an amazing place — an active volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with virtually every ecosystem imaginable, rainforest, desert, alpine. I’m privileged to live here, and I know it when I wake at night and smell the gardenia and puakenikeni blossoms wafting across our inflatable mattress in the dining room of the house as I listen to the ocean pounding the shore less than a mile away.

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We have no electricity or hot water, but will by July. Since we got a land line – no cell phones work at our house – the Bearded One has been ordering solar components and Eccotemp propane flash hot water heaters and researching new water catchment tanks and completely engaging in the job at hand.

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I’m trying to engage with the kitchen. The propane stove is rusty and the propane fridge is old and small. Both are being replaced.  The tiny counter is a thick block of mango wood. I set up the Igloo 5-gallon drinking water cooler in a corner by the fridge. Hawaii is a huge porous lava rock and houses have cesspools and water catchment tanks for washing and flushing, but you have to bring potable water in.  It’s heavy.

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The Bearded One and I were both raised in Texas. We fell in love in the hot spring and summer of 1977 in Waco, and when we broke up a year later, I ran as far north as I could to Seattle, Washington. Where I fell in love with the cool gray wetness, and had 16 incredibly productive years with my first husband. Three children and seven published books.

When I started to write essays and even a poem about air conditioning and mimosa trees, I went for the first time to a doctor for depression. I divorced, married the Bearded One, and we stayed within 20 miles of my first husband and all raised the kids.

We told this tale to the WWOOFers at the community farm we stayed at April 14-June 2 down by Pahoa. They are the same age as our kids, and we treated them like ours. One was from Texas. We talked about big things, how 2/3 of the world doesn’t have electricity. I felt useful, and they were compassionate to me as I crashed in the heat wave we were having.

Thinking about our Texas-sized subdivision, the biggest in the entire USA. Hawaiian Paradise Park is immense, miles of roads, paved and unpaved, each lot an acre, some areas bleak as a Texas prairie, others shaded in towering albizia trees. Rooster lots supporting the cock fights,

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small churches of every imaginable sort, plant nurseries, and car repairs dot the big roads. Our termite guy lives on 29th – Mauka (toward the mountains) We live on 8th – Makai (toward the ocean). Tom lives on 16th. These are pretty far apart. We are car dependent as ever.

But we are living differently. Our systems are low tech. We are in the tropics. The aloha spirit of everyone being connected in ohana (family) and the deep respect for nature in the presence of molten earth are real and shared attitudes. Plus everyone tells me acclimation takes at least a year. I’ve been here two months.

I meet the Bearded One in front of the Laundromat, where he is reading.

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He waves good-bye to everyone there, and escorts me to the truck. The laundry is in the backseat, all beautifully folded.

“Island time,” he says. “We are juggling and getting stuff done without setting any personal best speed records in any category. It is happening. I think we’re here for a long haul.”

“Could be,” I say. “I’m getting there. Here.”

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The Place in Pixels

Right in the middle of our big transition to Hawaii, the old Canon point-and-shoot camera dies.  The last photo I take is of the goats in the back of a man named Anthony’s pickup truck on their way to their new 5-acre farmlet in Port Orchard, five miles away.

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Goats to Port Orchard

The photo is blurry and overexposed.  My mental image is sharp, though.

The men bring each goat down the trail from the barn separately, starting with Pearl, the smallest.

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All the goats look twice as big as they are because of their thick fleece — Anthony thought they were sheep.  “Sweet Pearl my Girl,” I say to the nervous, shivering goat.  She can hardly take the almonds I offer through the dog crate bars.  These goats haven’t left this place for two years.

Anthony and his brother love the farmlet and would like for one of their family members to buy it.  Which supercharges the Bearded One and me, even as Pearl calms down considerably when the rest of her herd arrives.  The three goats huddle together and listen as we describe the farmlet and neighborhood and give our first sales pitch.  It will be on the market in March, we say.  I promise to email information and pictures.

After the brothers and the goats leave, the Bearded One and I unanimously cancel our planned shopping trip.  He has captured each of the three goats, all wild with two strange men present, then shoved them downhill and helped lift them up into the back of the pickup and into a cage.  “We are so easily traumatized,” he jokes as we slump at the kitchen table.  “Best not to move around fast or talk too loudly.”

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I nod.  I want to cry, but cook instead. The goats are really gone!  AND Suddenly I am in the surreal land of selling our home.

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Will I make a flyer and have to resize old photos, which I barely did without having a nervous breakdown for the Craigslist ad??  The Bearded One cleans the roof.

Finally after dinner, we replay our images of the day for each other, I finally cry, and we recover.  But our camera does not.  I have to buy a new one.  And capture this place in pixels.

Wide-angle, panorama, fish-eye — these are not the same.  I research and grow weary and find myself spending hours watching a video of the first house we saw with our on-line Hawaii search, an off-the-grid hippie house in Puna less than a mile from the ocean.

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I work hard to orient myself through the video’s lens, just 45 degrees at a time. I watch it over and over.  I diagram the house.  I stop and study and imagine.  Then it’s time to focus back here on the painting and sorting.

The Bearded One is going through old boxes and we laugh at a picture of him in Alaska in the mid 1990s.

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There’s even a panorama of his 1974 high school graduating class, a very big picture.  I ordered a camera with the panorama feature.

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On Sunday night, it snows.  And in the morning, as I walk past the hoophouse and compost bin to let the chickens out, I notice a half of grapefruit rind, bright pink on top of the goat hay and potato straw and white snow.  A bright Hawaiian sun.

I let the chickens out, then walk the tractor trail back to the house, stopping to admire the absolute utter perfection of snow falling on cedars.  The silence.  Everything all around me, 360 degrees, is fresh and new and magical.  The surprising gift of snow, and of leaving.

The Sorting

The large cardboard box labeled BOOKS has been sealed tight with packing tape for seven years.  The Bearded One hauls it inside from the red storage shed along with dozens of other boxes, but this is the one I dread.  It’s big and heavy and ancient history.

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“Where do you want this?” he asks.

“I don’t,” I say.

I am setting up the house like a thrift store, taping signs to the wall — Le Cuisine, Le Toilette, Le Boutique (two of our kids are in France at the moment…) — to make it fun and easy for my sister, mother, daughter and her husband when they come tomorrow to take what they want.

Shipping to Hawaii is expensive.  We don’t want to take our life’s accumulation anyway, so we are sorting, distributing, recycling, dumping, and generally moving most all of our furniture and household possessions to their next level.  All, that is, except a single 4’x4’x4′ pallet of choice items which will cost $425 to ship, and our 1991 Toyota 4-Runner that we hope will last until we die.  Its postage is $2300.

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Family heirlooms like the sewing chair, Grandma’s card table, and the photo albums are priceless and easy and have already been claimed and tagged.  Gowns from both my weddings, the Bearded One’s bomber jacket, and the stained glass window he made may have some emotional value, maybe not.  Vases, casserole dishes, candlesticks, games, two library walls of books.  It all must go.

“It’s just shameful,” says the Bearded One as he makes another trip to the shed, “how much of my crap there is.  I guess I must have thought that the Smithsonian was eventually going to call and ask for all my childhood personal effects.”

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Me, too, I think.  I have my Santa letters from 1960.  Do I chunk them?  I’ve got the writer’s disease, I’ve kept it all.  My career has been about paper.  Our eldest daughter reports that one of her first big words was “Manuscript”.  The Bearded One says we could build a house of manuscripts in Hawaii.

Now I’m alone in the upstairs bedroom where I’m making piles for each of the three kids, plus Mom and my sister.  And the time has finally come. I weigh the storage costs, the box contents, the value of a life.  I slice the tape with scissors.  I lift the cardboard top and look down at a familiar children’s book cover published in the spring of 1986.  My first book.

What’s that smell?  Musty.

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The spine is slightly warped, the paper lush and fuzzy with mildew.  Whoa, I think, surprised.  Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.  Mold dots the pages.   They’re all this way.  “What luck!” I say, ecstatic that there is no decision to make.

Growth has occurred, they are all ruined, and I can return these decomposing books to the earth from whence they came.

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Falling Into My Lap

All weekend, Hansel reminds his dad about what will have to happen in order to actually get a puppy.  “If one falls into our lap, that’s what you said.  If it just falls right into our lap.”

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Hansel’s father is a fair man.  Their last dog, when they still lived next door to us, was a wild thing that got cancer at age 3 and had to be euthanized, so he is justifiably wary and put the issue — his three children’s deep and constant yearning for a puppy — into the realm of the Almighty.  “If one falls into our lap,” he had indeed told Hansel all autumn, and now it is January, and the Almighty has spoken.

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All week the Bearded One and I revel in the decision to move to Hawaii.  We take stock and clean out, things we might have done anyway after the New Year we tell ourselves, as if we haven’t really decided.

Never mind that we’ve talked to a realtor neighbor and have considered whether to include the goats to make it an already-stocked-farmlet, or to advertise the goats on Craigslist just like the ad we responded to two years ago.  Arly sniffs through the piles of files, boxes of art supplies, and bags of clothes, absorbing all the stories.  He shreds the Bearded One’s flop.

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“Are there Flop Trees in Hawaii?” the Bearded One asks me on Sunday night, and I laugh.

I’m on the couch and cuddling Arly’s solid little chesty 21-pound body, kissing his velvet ears.  He licks the lotion from my neck.

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Hawaii has a pet quarantine law of up to 120 days, which is four months, which is how long Arly has been alive on the planet.  Too long for a pup, so if we are really moving, finding a new home for him sooner rather than later seems the way to go.  Better for him.

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Garfield is seven, but since our idea is to rough it in Hawaii for a few months and explore, we need to re-home him as well.  On Friday I emailed Hansel, Gretel and Batman’s mom asking if they would like to adopt Arly.  And now, on Sunday, they’ve accepted.  This is our last night together, and I’m enjoying the best part of having raised this sweet puppy for two months.

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Hansel, Gretel and Batman pile out of their car.

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Arly races to meet them.  Hansel crouches to pet the wiggling puppy.  Gretel presents me with a gift, a drawing of a chicken —

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— which matches the button she gave me the last time they were here, and which I’m wearing at this moment.  Gretel notices and smiles, showing her emerging two front teeth.  Batman clings to his mom, since Arly scratched him on the chin last time.

We all go inside to talk and get Arly’s luggage.  His favorite pillow, his bag of food and treats, bowl, leash, basket with shampoo and nail clippers, and a couple of our favorite dog picture books…Good Dog, Carl and Hideaway Puppy.

There are boxes everywhere, including one with oodles of office supplies — paints and markers and construction paper and tablets — and I offer the whole pile to the kids.  Seven-year-old Gretel beams.  “I always wanted a clipboard!” she says.  There are two clipboards, and Batman seizes the other one.

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Batman, too, has had a dream come true.  He smiles and says that Arly, who perches on Hansel’s lap on the couch, is better than last time.  Calmer.

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Hansel is in charge of Arly, and he takes him out on the road on the leash while we load all the puppy and art supplies into the car.  Then we help buckle Batman into his car seat.  Gretel climbs into the middle of the backseat and immediately continues work on a new chicken series on her clipboard.

Finally Hansel walks back into the driveway and offers Arly up for us to say good-bye.  I’m so happy for Arly — he’s been rather bored this week since Roger left — that I can hardly be sad.  I’m full to overflowing.  This is a giant step into the rip current taking us to Hawaii.

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All of the theoretical obstacles to a big move are falling like dominoes. The Bearded One grins, and pulls me to him.

Hansel gets into the car next to Gretel, his long legs cramped, his smile lighting up the world as he pulls Arly into his lap and says, “YESSSSS!”

Where This Is Going

“He’s grown,” says our son-in-law, the Alaska fisherman, as he sits on the couch and the puppy nibbles his sunburned neck and ears.  He, along with our oldest daughter, who is at work in Seattle this morning, and his family were in Hawaii for a week.  Roger stayed with us, and now the Captain has come to get him.  “His legs are longer.”

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Arly, our own puppy, whimpers with jealously and excitement from the other end of the couch where he sits with the Bearded One.  I’m in my rocker.  We are talking about big, important stuff, and the dogs make the conversation difficult in their barking, wrestling, puppy way.

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“I know it’s selfish,” says the Captain, “but I don’t want you to move.  It blew me away when I first heard.”  He’s the only NO in an otherwise unanimous sea of support for our latest notion, which is just days old now, but growing more real with time.

“Well, I’m as surprised at the notion as you are,” I say.  “Maybe more so.  I imagined building this farmlet and having all you Seattle kids and future grandkids drive an hour south to come see Grandma and Granddaddy and the goats and chickens on the farm.”

The Captain knows all about altered dreams.  His father died last month in a motorcycle accident after suffering a massive heart attack while speeding through the backroads of the Baja Peninsula.  It was out of the blue and shocked us all.  He
was 58, the same age as the Bearded One and one year older than me. The clan had planned all year to go to Hawaii. They never imagined their hearts would be so broken. He will be missed.

Arly yelps and lunges at Roger who yelps and lunges back.

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“It’s been a year full of transition,” I say.  “And then your dad died.  Was it just three weeks ago?  Seems much longer — ”

“Three weeks?”  The Captain looks at me and is quiet.  Time is tripping with all of us.

Can it be just days since I asked the Bearded One, “Do you want to move to Hawaii?” and he instantly said, “Yes”.  He’s not one to travel or visit, and he’s never even been to Hawaii, but he loves the idea of living in a whole different place.  Living in Alaska for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, much of it in the bush, was one of the highlights of his life.  The other was an 8,000 mile motorcycle trip across the western USA in 1982.

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The idea of moving to Hawaii came to me after a cold, gray misty walk by myself just a week ago, on December 30, New Year’s Eve Eve.  I thought about our daughter helping to scatter some of her father-in-law’s ashes in the middle of the brilliant Pacific Ocean.  And then I thought of Tom Coolidge.

Tom Coolidge was the first person to live on this road.  There was no road ’til he got here.  Just bears.  He designed and built the 1400 square foot pole house that is now the Farmlet House in 1990.

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He lived here for sixteen years, watching the road grow longer and attract more farmlets.  Now we’ve lived here for exactly seven years —

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— and Tom lives in Hawaii.  His girlfriend, a lovely woman with a Ph.D. in Linguistics named Deborah, came to our door 3-1/2 years ago.  She was in nearby Port Townsend for a retreat, she said, but she was usually in Hawaii with Tom.  He had told her about this house and said he could do the same in Hawaii for them….and she wanted to see this place for herself, would we mind?  It was our 13th anniversary, May 2, 2010.  Come on in! we said.

So when I got home from my cold and wet but thoughtful walk, I found Deborah and her blog on Facebook. And, oh oh oh!  A photo of the “Sherbet Shed” — a smaller version of the Farmlet House painted glorious rainbow colors on an acre of tropical forest in Puna, Hawaii.  The wet side of the Big Island.

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Since that moment, we’ve stepped into a bit of a rip current, whisking us through the week of Roger and Arly, energized by the vision of that beautiful little sunny house.  I’m tickled by all the positive feedback we’ve gotten — neighbors, the UPS guy, and most especially, the kids.

All the kids except the Captain, that is.  Who before our eyes, as we talk, becomes so bone-tired that we send him into the den for a nap before he drives back to Seattle with Roger.  We put the dogs outside.  The Bearded One and I whisper in the kitchen.

Two hours later when he gets up, the Captain says, “You know, lots of Hawaiians and Samoans fish with us.  There are lots of flights between Hawaii and Anchorage.”

He tells us about how he grew up living the summers in Naknek, where his dad worked all year building the family fishing business.  He knew how to filet a salmon when he was 7.

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“There’s a small house and three shipping containers on the property,” he says, “sort of a family compound.  My brothers and I talked a lot this week about how the future grandkids will be there all summer, but we’ll all be out fishing.  It’d be great if you came up and helped out.”

The Bearded One sits forward in his chair.  “Oh my yes…,” he says, and the Captain grins.

And then it hits me, and I leap up.  “Holy Moly.  The way all these farm animals tie us to this place, we’ll see more of our grandkids from Hawaii than we would from here!”

I like where this is going.

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A TIMING NOTE:  After roughly 3 years of weekly blogs, I’m shifting for a time to “intermittent” – whenever-the-muse-hits-me.  Thanks for reading!

Staying Put

We are no longer the only pothole fillers on the road.  Travis the Dump Truck Driver, a new neighbor, used a machine with a heavy blade last weekend, even before the annual road scraping takes place, and fixed the potholes.

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And then this weekend, the Road Manager and his daughter Susan topped off a few smaller ones further up the road with gravel that Travis delivered.

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I watch Susan, backlit by the low winter sun.  It’s shining directly in our eyes and casting gigantic shadows behind us on the road.  I’m relieved, even elated.  It registers on my face as tears.

So much has changed here this year.  I started wearing glasses and I changed my last name.  Ruby our Golden Retriever is dead, 58 Cornish meat birds were eaten by weasels, and we lost 4 layers to raccoons.

Beloved neighbors have moved away, even though they still visit.  We see Momma Goose on the road, she who has flown to a new destination —

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— migrated — and is just picking up her mail.  She hops out of her truck.

“Let me hold that pup!” she says and scoops Arly into her loving arms.  She misses us, and we miss her.  We hug, she promises to stop by soon, and we say good-bye.  Each small change has some ripple effect on anyone nearby.  But we’re not moving.  How do you change in place? I wonder.  Apparently just by staying put. Fifteen-pound Arly yanks me across the road.

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Our daughter was married in August, and she and our son-in-law and their puppy Roger arrive on Saturday evening and stay the night. There is a fire in the woodstove, we eat leftovers, and the canine cousins, Arly and Roger, chase each other around the couch, wrestling and growling.

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Roger got into some poop earlier in the holiday weekend, so our son-in-law bathed him in the only thing available, Old Spice body wash. IMG_NEW

I hug Roger and breathe in deeply.  Arly wriggles at my feet.

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I think I’ll take a break from writing this blog for a few weeks.  Raise this pup.  More in the new year.  Love, Christi

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Love, Lover, Glover — What’s in a Name?

Garfield crouches on the finished part of the new deck where he can see into the living room.  He watches me on the couch as I practice my four lines for our daughter’s wedding.

“Rumi was a much beloved 13th century Persian poet,” I say.  “Here are his words from 700 years ago.”  Lines one and two flawlessly delivered.

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The cat gives me an eye squeeze.  He’s all about love these days, with his dog pal Ruby dead two weeks now.  I look out past the cat at the sweet pea teepee which is going to seed.

Its deep purple blossoms, the same color as my party skirt, catch my attention.

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I blank on the third line, which is the actual quote.  Dangit.

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My long purple hippie skirt sways as I walk our dirt road a quarter mile to a neighbor’s backyard party.  It rained the end of last week, so the dust is minimized. My feet stay nicely pebble-free in my sandals.  The Bearded One wears his Hawaiian shirt and clean picnic baseball cap.  He takes my hand.

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In my other hand I carry a gift bag for a 22-year-old headed to Marine boot camp in North Carolina tomorrow.  She can’t take anything with her except white underwear and a sports bra, so the jam and book (Transitions by William Bridges) are really for her parents.  Everyone on our road is in transition, it seems, so I ordered an extra book when I bought Momma Goose her copy.

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“I’m going to introduce myself today as Christi Glover,” I say to the Bearded One Glover, my husband since 1997, and smile big.  I made the decision to change my name this week, but no one but close family knows yet.

I kept Killien not only because the kids were young and we wanted them to have the same last name as their mom, but also for my children’s book writing career.  Now the kids are grown and getting married, and what I’m creating is different, so I’m marking it all with the third name of my life.  I was born Christi Marie Overturf, changed to Christi Overturf Killien in 1980, and now until the end, I think, I’m Christi Marie Glover.  I love the “lover” in the name.  It feels right.

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I’m nervous.  And excited.  And a bit giddy.  This feels like such a huge deal.  The Bearded One squeezes my hand again and again as we walk.  He kisses my palm.

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We stay at the party for an hour.  There are just a few people I don’t know, but I don’t get to use my new last name at all.  In fact, even though I’m still glowing, to the rest of humanity I can see that it’s really no big deal.  Which, I decide, is another good thing.

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Now I remember the quote part.  I get up from the couch and clear my throat.  The cat listens intently.

“Let yourself be silently drawn,

by the strange pull

of what you really love.

It will not lead you astray.”

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Ruby Slippers

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She lies in the woods just 100 feet from the house, under the crook of a young cedar which branches from an old nurse log. I can see her vertebrae she’s so thin.  The lumps on the side of her neck are thick and growing.  Her stomach rumbles very loudly, almost without end.  She woofs out air to clear her lungs.  Everything is going at once.  Besides that, she’s calm and serene and deeply tired.

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Two days ago Ruby entered this cave, after two weeks of not eating.  Yet still she breathes, and occasionally opens her brown eyes.  She’s an old dog and is dying and we are caring for her, but not trying to rescue her, and it’s hard. Planes rip across the dawn sky.  Coyotes scream in the night.  We visit often to stroke her bony head and rub her ears and paws.

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“Where’s Ruby?” the Bearded One and I began to say to each other last week in greeting.  In the high weeds under the plum tree?  Behind the hut in the salal?  Under the house?

The Bearded One knows dogs.  He used to train sled dogs in Alaska, and he has had to put dogs down with a gun.

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If Ruby shows signs of pain or distress, I’ve asked him — after he offered and after studying the euthanizing options — to take her into our woods just off the nature trail where we’ve already dug her grave next to her brother Jake and shoot her with his gun.  She adores the Bearded One.  He is her person.  This is her home, and there’s no place like it.  He has agreed to this.

But neither of us believes it will come to that.  She is too far gone.  “She’s trying to ride it out,” he tells me, and I get an image of her galloping into the sunset.  In fact, the one thing Ruby seemed to enjoy this last week, before instinct pulled her under the log, was lying in the sun.

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*   *   *

Our daughter the nurse knows about dying from up close and knows how long it can take.  “She’s dying, but not dying fast enough,” she says.  I laugh at this raw truth and take a breath.  Dying is a process as consuming as marriage or divorce or graduation or any of life’s big transitions.

*   *   *

Saturday we helped our neighbor Brooklyn Man harvest his 53 meat chickens.

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Weasels killed all of ours, 58 total, in just two hours in broad daylight on June 29, but Brooklyn Man escaped the weasels and he gave us 10 birds as a thank you for helping with the 6 hour harvest.

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Momma Goose wasn’t there.  She’s in her own empty-nest transition to some new life and, fingers-crossed, a job with her brand new license driving truck.  Maybe a crane.

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Their son, Jonah, was there, his new golden wedding band twinkling in the sun.  He got married two weeks ago.

Our oldest daughter gets married in two-and-a-half weeks and I have finished the 235 half-pint jars of 4-berry jam she’s giving all the guests.  The Bearded One has about 70 labels to go.

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He also made the sign holders for the reception out of plum and alder and cedar cross-sections.  Earlier he finished the 9-foot arch under which she’ll take her vows.

*   *   *

My reoccurring college nightmare forever, which thankfully I have just once or twice a year, is the Bearded One refusing to marry me.  I beg and beg and he won’t do it.  And of course I had it last week, on Thursday.  I woke up crying.  Weddings bring it back.

“Will you marry me?” the Bearded One whispers in my ear in the kitchen that afternoon.

Tears spurt from my eyes and drench my eyelashes, then my glasses, then drip down my cheeks onto my lips.  I click my heels together and say “Yes, yes, yes.”  So what if we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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*   *   *

Ruby died at about 6pm, August 6, 2013.

The Bearded One was with her at 5:30pm.  He held her close and sang her the Dogsology.  He put an ice cube to her parched lips.  We loved her and her litter mate Jake very very much.

 Born 2/23/2001 — Jake died November 17, 2009

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