Sunday, August 31, 2008
The only problem was that NAFTA happened. If you wonder why I am so pissed off at NAFTA and its evil twin, CAFTA, it is very personal. You see, once NAFTA came into play, my brother became what they call 'supernumerary' - he was unecessary, because quality electronic equipment was no longer made here, was no longer - could no longer - be repaired here. Built in, cheap obsolescence, made overseas and sold to the eagerly salivating consumers of America by Chinese and other third world countries. My brother was unemployed - and he had a wife and children to support. He didn't quit his knowledge, his history, his education, or his country - they quit on him. So what did he do?
Well, he was classified as "too old" by most employers (who BTW never said it, merely wouldn't hire him, or would hire him briefly and turn him loose). Now, Jim is a healthy old boy - still runs everywhere he goes, still is active in his church and his community - he snowplows his elderly neighbors' driveways in the winter - still cross-country skis, still is funny and open and friendly. Even after he started getting Social Security, he wanted to work. So what did he do?
Jim's an over the road truck driver. He delivers all over the country, in all weathers, in all traffic. He is 68 this year, still sharp as a tack, still incisive, still curious and still learning. Oh, his hearing's a little shot; can't hear out of his left ear even with a hearing aid. Bt his right ear works, his hands, legs, and mind still work, and he is still a tough bird who refuses to accept defeat.
Friday he called me to tell me he would be coming 'close by' our new home on Sunday - driving down the Interstate through North Platte, only 164 miles away, our route to North Platte spanning over 2-lane roads. So we went to meet him today for lunch. What fun it was to see him again! And to watch him show off his big rig, so proud that he could work and support his wife and their country lifestyle.
Want to know why I have very little sympathy for those who give up because they can't achieve their goals right away, can't get the job they want, can't have all they want, right now, and who just sit back, give up, and whine? Want to know why I am so rude to people who whimper with every excuse why they can't live the way they think that they deserve, and who demand that others 'should' work and provide the things that they should be doing for themselves? Want to know why I don't think it's right for my hard-earned cash to go to support the excusers, the whiners, those who look for every one to blame for their lives except themselves? Look at this balding, aging, laughing guy, who last year refused to let even cancer beat him, and tell me why I should feel sorry for those who insist that they "can't". Because I simply - don't.
Friday, August 29, 2008
A hunter who had a standing reservation at a motel in Denver was thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and dragged away from the motel where Nancy Pelosi was staying, because someone noticed he was checking in with guns. Duh. What do you hunt with in Colorado? Rocks? Spears? Everyone I know who hunts either goes to Colorado, Wyoming, or Montana for the hunting season - or wishes that they could. Democrats r stoopid. So are some Feebs.
The newscasters are breathlessly arguing about who McCain is going to announce for his Vice Presidency - in an hour. Shut up and wait for it.
The Republicans have cancelled their Convention because of Hurricane Gustav. OK, Republicans r stupid, too - you don't schedule a gun-paranoaic Convention at the start of hunting season in a capitol of wildlife hunts, and you don't schedule a Convention anywhere near a coastline during hurricane season.
Sorta makes you wonder who these people are that want to tell us they can lead a government, doesn't it?
I have horse poop to shovel - good, honest, horse poop, that doesn't pretend to be anything else but horse poop; doesn't try to smell like roses and certainly doesn't dress in expensive clothes and an insincere smile to fool me into thinking it is high-quality horse poop. It gives me the same quality fertilizer every year; slow-release, soil-nourishing, water retaining horse poop.
I have more cucumbers to pickle; they are long and green and crunchy, and I know exactly what to expect when I cut them, put them in the jars, cover them with brine. If I do everything right, the lids 'shnick' down and I have pickles. This is the joy of what I do - no frills, no alternatives, if you do something exactly right you get the exact outcome you hoped for. Only the insane do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.
So why is everyone glued to their TVs watching the same candidates over and over again, salivating over each new pile of poop that falls off the truck, believing that THIS time things will change?
Idiots. I have work to do. Have a lovely long weekend. Hope you are ready to be in your next pickle, because I can hear the lids 'schnicking' down from here, sealing us all tightly in... Because in spite of all of the breathless idiocy running rampant and the horse poop being flung, these morons are playing us exactly right to keep us in the same fix, while we stumble blindly about the barnyard, believing that things will change.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Well, I felt like the teacher was just fobbing us off. She and the seniors had a big art show coming up, and she wanted to work and spend time with them, not us new kids. So I was bored. So I did the still life, working on the shadow and light - and then I painted large pink snails, with curious faces looking out from around the plant and pot.
The teacher got pissed. She threw the canvas back at me and told me that I would never be an artist, that I had no talent whatsoever, that I should drop out of her class altogether. That hurt. That made me angry. Between that and a mother who drew cute little squirrels and never posted my pictures on the refrigerator because they weren't good enough, I had lots of reinforcement telling me that I was not, could never be, an artist. I could have taken it all to heart, but I didn't. I could have become emotionally scarred, meek, and helpless, or I could have gotten hurt, then angry and vindictive, and taken it out on other people. I did neither.
I started quilting, and started doing ceramics. I never cared what other people thought - I did these things because I wanted to make things, I wanted to use the colors I liked, wanted to stretch my horizons and see what I could do. The very first time I sold some of my ceramics, I said to myself, "Screw you, Mrs. Y!" As I continued to expand my talent and my horizons, both my mother's criticisms (that continued even after I bought the bigger kiln and set up my own shop, making things to order and selling things every weekend) and that nasty teacher's comment faded into white noise.
You see, it doesn't matter what cruel and vicious things people say about you, or your work, or what you want, or what you believe in. What matters is what you think that you can do, what you think that you want to do, and finding a way to do it no matter what. Sometimes you can use their cruelties, their insecurities, their attempts to take you down as a goad to drive yourself further, harder, and faster.
I was invited to the 12th grade graduation of a young girl who was homeschooled her whole life, this past June. We all wrote our advice in a book for her, to take with her and read when she went to college. I wrote, "Dearest Mars, there will always be people who will try to tell you what you can't do, because they are afraid and insecure. You should always listen to people and give them the respect due them; take everything they say and see if it fits what you need to know. If it does, use their advice - but if it doesn't, then smile and say thank you and go your own way. Only you and God know what you are truly capable of. " Last week Mars caught up with me and told me that that was the best advice she had ever gotten! Mars is different, considered odd, strange, because she doesn't go along with the crowd, doesn't aspire to or hope for the same things other 17 year olds do. She knows what she wants and is comfortable in her own self. But rarely do children hear from adults that feeling that way, being that way, is OK.
I still have that old canvas with the pink snails and still life. It has reminded me for almost 40 years to never let my hopes, my dreams, my desires be crushed or altered by people who have their own problems, their own agendas. To never allow their opinions, formed within their tightly boxed, tamped-down, and emotionally reactionary lives to influence mine, to draw me or to paint me as a reflection of themselves. "To thine own self be true..."
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
You see, her friend has been dating a local guy for four months. His wife had left him (for the FOURTH time) alone, and he had decided that she wasn't coming back, he was going to start a new life without her. For four months it was idyllic - and then the almost-ex-wife came back home. The guy dumped my friend's friend, and she is angry and hurt. My common sense and attitude about men is requested to help her recover her self-respect.
This happens all the time to me. We got this property on the cheap because after over 12 years of marriage, with loans and mortgages taken out in both their names, the male partner in the marriage came home one day and said he was bored and felt tied down, and was leaving - loaded up his motorcycle, and left. Two years later, the woman who was left to sell the house, pay the debts, and raise the kids told me sadly, "I still love him, and I'd take him back in a minute." WTF??
Sorry, I simply don't get it.
There's a reason some pathetic guy leaves a woman who would spoil him rotten and takes back a woman who leaves him for another man - four times. There's a reason some snickering airhead dumps his responsibilities in his wife's lap, abandons his kids, and lets everyone suffer for his own selfishness. And that reason is - we put up with it. Women put up with that crap. (Some men do, too.) In "love", most women are not rational, are not sensible - we revert to what they call 'the weaker sex' and let a man take advantage of us, abuse us, define the parameters of every relationship. We believe in the love songs and the chick flicks, we get all doe-eyed and cry at the slightest hint of warmth or affection. Women send each other sappy emails that they don't send their men friends, to remind each other that we are 'the weaker sex'. We live down to the Hollywood ideal of simple-mindedness and male supremacy. We buy into the 'separate but equal' crap that is used to limit us, handicap us, make us even feel proud of our 'weakness' and 'spiritual rib dependency'. We cheer a woman who stands out from the pack and makes a difference "for all women" - and by doing so, we lessen the effectiveness of all women to make a difference, by working in equal partnership with men. And it is there we fail each other, fail our relationships, fail ourselves. We hold no man accountable for his actions, because he simply can't help himself - and because we don't want to be thought of as a bitch. Men may draw the lines between male and female acceptable behavior, but women all too eagerly color them in.
Most women (and men) can't handle a rational, equal parnership. Men say what they "won't do" in the relationship - change a dirty diaper, cook, clean up after themselves - and women take up the slack. Men say what they won't accept in a woman - yet expect a woman to accept all of their faults anf foibles, simply for the joy of sharing their company. When a man meets a woman who is confident, sure of herself, and who makes her own decisions, they call her a ball-buster, and don't even try to work with her, have an equal partnership with her - or they try to minimize her, put her in her place, make her lesser than she is in her own eyes, or otherwise intimidate her - so that they can feel better about themselves. Many men are intimidated by women who know who they are and what they want to accomplish, or are afraid of what 'the guys might say' if they have a truly equal partnership with a woman. Some women, to avoid being thought of as a bitch, turn into manipulative, simpering whores, getting all that they want from men be being so dependent, so clingy, so artificially and disgustingly 'feminine', that the man feels bound to 'protect' her, 'help' her, 'care for' her so that he can feel good about himself and his (pathetically insecure) manhood. (There are even webpages now where such women can locate a "sugar daddy" to give them all that they want, as long as they play that role.) Other women think that if they lie, cheat, steal, and harm others enough, they can be 'just like a man' and gain their respect. Both are wrong, and both hurt women everywhere by buying into this manipulation and perpetuating the male faith in the myths.
It would be nice if we could throw out all those simpering love songs, whiny desperate country songs about 'mah mah-yun dun lef me agayun' and chick flicks, and slap each other around with some heavy doses of self-respect occasionally. Then women might realize their true worth - and men would either have to meet us on equal terms or be nullified as we pass them by, intent on our own goals and purposes. A simple dose of self-respect on both sides would not harelip us, and might even bring us to more real, more concrete, more believable and permanent relationships. But until women realize that they are their own worst enemies, not only enemies of themselves but enemies of women in general, by refusing to be individuals with individual goals, hopes, desires and dreams, they will never be "a success for women everywhere" - nor a success in their own personal lives. Once we come to the realization that we are all individual people, with individual rights as well as individual responsibilites, maybe we will stop excusing each other's behavior as "he's just a man' or 'she's just a woman' and start appreciating each other for our individuality (and kicking the irresponsible airheads, who use their own and other people's sexes as excuses for their behavior, to the curb where they belong).
I found a new bread recipe today, very simple, very eloquent, very large - makes five loaves at once. Yummers. It started out to be such a bad day I decided that I really needed to beat something up, and kneading bread dough gives me that rough-and-tumble, stretching and pounding, powdery and messy satisfaction of abusing something that will actually be better for it. Three were regular size loaves, one I braided, and one I rolled up into little balls to freeze for later. There is nothing like reaching into the freezer, grabbing a Ziploc out, watching some little balls of nothing much thaw and rise, and popping them into the oven while one makes breakfast (or lunch, or supper). Then wrapping them in a towel, putting the fresh yeast rolls onto the table in a charming basket right next to a bowl of real butter and a honey bear.
The loaves rose quickly, baked prettily, and came out light and fluffy and golden. I let them cool, sliced them, then slid them into Ziplocs and into the freezer.
The more I go into town the less I like going. It seems like such a waste to go into the grocery store and buy - loaves of bread. Flat and tasteless, insides that turn to glue when wrapped around cheese and mayo or peanut butter and jelly, crusts that have a dampish and decidedly tough bite to them. I like freezing and storing bread so I don't have to go get some every three days or so. But now I'm starting to make and freeze my own, in 'bulk''; and between the better flavor and the fewer additives, I really feel like I'm accomplishing something.
With bread, the day got better.
Monday, August 25, 2008
"Order Failed. Credit card address not verified."
Crap. It's an online account with a MAJOR bank; we switched to online banking. So of course the mailing address doesn't come up (even tho it should for orders).
Call the bank help line. Can't get in. They don't recognize my numbers.
Crap. Call again, get an associate named John. John signs me back in step by step. I often wonder about the "Johns" - do they have photographic memories, or can they just write my new codes down? I am not rich, but John might be broke. How will I know?
Crap. The "pending" order is still on my account - twice. Crap. This ties up my money.
Call the catalog company. Nope, it didn't go thru.
Bank - might take three days to clear the order off the account as not paid.
Crap. A company I do regular business with billed my other (now rarely used) account for something. The bank didn't send me an email to my current address, but the old one. Now I have to transfer money to keep my accounts evenly aligned, couplea dollars in the right places so I don't get OD charges later. Crap. Crap. CRAP.
A simple order has now taken 2 hours. But my bank info is straight again - I signed out, went away, and went back - but everything is fine - except that those two orders will be pending for another couple of days, nothing they can do about it.
All the stuff I had to do today, and I wasted two hours of my life dealing with banks. CRAP!
Computers - they make your life easier.
Just send me the freaking paper catalog, I don't care how many trees we kill, and I'll write a check. Dammit.
Why do Mondays ALWAYS suck?
Sunday, August 24, 2008
There are things to do as always, and it being Sunday makes little difference. There is the chicken buffet at the Hub to consider on Sundays; 11 til 2; those hours are the only change in their weekly service schedule. Will we be done with our morning tasks in time, or will we forget and work straight through? My schedule is work and work and work; all getting the house and the yard ready for winter. A gentle reminder yesterday morning was the 44 degree temperature; snow and cold are on their way. Must get the compost pile built, must get the painting finished, must get the wood stacked by size for the stove. Then must do all the regular housework; the cleaning, the laundry; fitting in the daily demands with the future ones. The sky now is dark at 8:30; just last month the sky was light until after 9 PM. It will be 92 here on Tuesday again, and in the 80s today and tomorrow. But life here depends on the weather. The sunflowers that no one thought would bloom in time are blooming. The board fence out front that I painted white with red roses on the fenceposts are causing cars to slow, and neighbors to stop us and congratulate us on our progression. But all it is to me is another task on the list completed. The list gets no shorter; as things are completed, others are added. I go to bed tired every night.
But it is a good tired. Abby, the beagle from next door came over and made friends at last. She had a massive stroke when she was a pup, and now her gait is awkward and her mind is still a puppy's. No one has time for Abby; she cannot be an inside dog because she cannot be house trained. But she is sweet and affectionate when you give her a chance. She has been trying to gather the courage for three months to come under the fence and see us. Yesterday she stood right behind me as I worked, barking quietly at me. So I laid down flat in the grass to show her I was not a threat. She and I became fast friends, her dancing around me as I worked, trailing me back and forth - and this morning she wandered onto the porch, looking for me.
Yes, even with all the things I have to do, I am doing them for myself now, no one else. No more people call looking to be saved from themselves and their blind, selfish, and stupid choices. No more sirens blaring. No more screaming people insisting that THEIR agenda is the most important, how dare I listen to anyone else? No more daily reports of this or that person doing this or that with some evil agenda. No more phony church gatherings where the agendas are evident in the cliques; where God is nowhere in evidence.
It feels good to wake up in the silence of pre-dawn every morning, and listen to the world around me begin its day. A few sleepy twitters and the birds are awake, the sun is up, and the dogs dance to be let out to chase and threaten the bunnies from the ends of their leashes.
Think I'll make some blueberry pancakes this morning.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Dance dance dance
I don't lie about my age, I lie about my height - I'm 5'9".
I am damned proud to have lived this long (especially the way I abused myself in my youth). Working three jobs with three hours sleep a day, leaping up in the middle of the night to go fight a fire or cut someone out of a wreck after a long 12 hour workday. Raising three kids who have yet to see the inside of a courtroom or jail cell, who have their heads screwed on tightly, and their courage screwed tightly to the sticking point. Working my ass off for 20 years for people who not only weren't appreciative, but were downright nasty, as they sat on their butts and held their hands out for more. When I started smoking, it was because it kept the hunger pangs down so I could make sure my kids had food. When I started drinking, it was free beer for the paid performers on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. Hard-drinkin', hard-smokin', and hard livin', and no apologies, no excuses.
I've learned a lot, and mostly I've learned that you can never stop learning. I've learned that the people I love the most will drift away, turn their backs, or screw me - but that hasn't stopped me from loving again and again. I've learned that you really can't fix stupid people, no matter how much you care. I've learned not to counsel men who think with the wrong heads or women who are ruled by emotion, but to just smile at them on their way to their own private Hell. I've learned not to deal with liars, cheats, or thieves, and to tell them what they are, no matter who is listening. I've learned that, for most people, having power is more important than doing something good with that power.
And I've learned that some how, some way, some day, the brass ring will come - the big dream, the ultimate goal, the culmination of all of my hopes and dreams and yes, fears - and I will grab it in both hands, wrap my mind and body and soul around it, "forsaking all others" to live the life I want without excuse or apology. As long as there is life in this abused and sore and aching body, as long as there is a goal to shoot for or a task to accomplish, the highest commitment one can make is to oneself. "To thine own self be true".
Yes, I am 51 today - a little more than half a century old, and looking forward to another half, with all the excitement, hills and valleys, challenges and struggles ahead to my ultimate goal - to stand at the Throne and say, "Did you SEE that? Wasn't that AWESOME?!? And I was THERE!" And He will chuckle indulgently and say, "Yes, yes, I was there. I saw. Now come this way - there is more to be done..."
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Yesterday Phil came up to hubby and told him that there were some teenagers who had horses that needed feed. He could not sell them hay yet - he is busy haying the fields this week, with all of the clear weather - and we might consider renting the pasture to them. So the kids came by to discuss business with us. They are juniors in the local high school. They have three horses they need to board til the winter - a pinto gelding, a chestnut mare, and a chestnut colt who is about to be made a gelding. So we made a financial deal for them to put them in the pasture. What the heck - we won't be using it, and Lake the current resident has been pretty lonely. Rather have it chomped down than a fire hazard come fall...
I had to knock off the sanding early yesterday because there was a Farmer's Union meeting on carbon credits and wind turbines. There were 50 people there in the middle of the day - quite a determined crowd. Turns out that, thanks to AlGore, there is a very cool way for farmers to make a profit.
You see, corporations that produce carbons in their manufacturing, or oil and gas companies, all have to meet certain Federal standards for emissions. Well, they can do this in part by purchasing carbon credits. When they do this, they not only don't get fined, but they get tax relief. So several independent companies have formed to negotiate tax credits for them. Here's how it works: the independents take the corporations' money. Then they deal with the Farmer's Unions to find farmers who are practicing sustainable farming and ranching - like no-till farming, wind turbine development, tree planting, or rotational grazing. They have figured it down to how much each practice per acre keeps carbons out of the atmosphere. The independent companies send out inspectors to the farms and ranches, verify how many acres are using responsible practices, and certify the farm or ranch. Depending on the practice, a farmer can make $800 - $5,000 a year for utilizing these practices; all non-government corporation cash. So they can get paid for doing what they do anyway to keep their farms and ranches productive!
There are also some government programs for large property owners to construct wind turbines on their leased properties. Not only can the turbines be erected at no cost to the property owner, but the KWH that are produced can garner a monthly profit for the landowner. A farmer with 6 wind turbines can get up to a $1000 KWH check per month, not including the leased property payment.
The back part of my property is the highest ridge around my little town, and has been determined by the USDOE maps as one of the windiest places in the country for producing sustainable winds of 17 mph, and hi-level winds for at least two-thirds of the year. Yes I knew that before I bought it.
Ahem. As much as I believe in sustainable energy, those little fillips of information could prove very useful. I still will do the greenhouse and the organic, heirloom-seeded produce; that is my main focus and my main drive for purchasing this property. But a little extra income never hurts... and something that won't bother my eventual milk cows in the pasture will be very comforting - a "cash cow" among the cows.
I still want to make a deal with the town so that they get the bulk of the profits, but according to the FU, towns and counties cannot build or be involved in these things for profit yet, by State law. Sigh. I need to see an attorney and see what kind of things can be done to change that, or to cut them in. It is the only socially responsible thing to do, after all. I came here to make a gentle profit, not to rip people off. T Boone, Warren Buffet, I am not...
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Another intricate pattern and much attention to detail. The main rule is - these quilts had to be made since the last fair, last August. There were over 50 quilts - in a county of only 6000 people.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Maybe you don't know it, but Bob Vila used to always heavily advertise his sponsors on his shows. Nothing was ever as good as what his sponsors gave him to use. If Craftsman or DeWalt gave him tools, they were the best. (Craftsman used to be the best but went downhill.) I used to get so disgruntled with Bob when he would push a product that I knew from experience wasn't worth a crap, or took more effort or preparation than he advertised.
When I was a kid, we had real oak floors (until Mother covered them up with a grotesque gold deep pile carpet). Every four months or so, we would put paste wax on old towels, sit on them, and rub our butts over the floor. Then we would get clean old towels, sit on those, and chase each other around the floor until it glowed.
Nowadays, of course, the 'wood' floors you get at Home Depot or Lowe's are rarely real wood planks, carefully varnished and protected from the elements. Mushed together ground up wood and paper products in glue, formed and made to look like wood, with a fake grain and veneer. Not meant to last; built-in obsolescence, destined to be ripped up in five years or covered.
But this poor old floor, in what had obviously been the kids' room, had been neglected for so long. I could have sanded it down and restained and polyu'ed it, I guess. But a polyurethaned floor just looks so - well, fake. And this wood was thirsty. Dried and sad. I knew that Murphy's Oil Soap would clean it, but then what?
I have always had a bad habit of wandering around hardware and supply stores, just looking. I can spend hours in them, thinking about what I want and need to do - and what they have on hand so that I can do it. Well, I found two quart bottles of this stuff... not brand name stuff, not famous name stuff. "Wood Wax". All it had in it was carnuba wax, beeswax, and orange oil. It looked like either crystallizing honey or hardening yellow mucous. It did have a nice smell, though - that orange oil. So I bought both bottles to test. Why both? Cause if it was what I needed, I wouldn't have to go back - and because I have a houseful of wood that just needs a little help, not the deep help the floor needed, so I'd probly find a use for it.
First dose - it sucked it in, literally drew every drop down into its woody little pores. I took an old towel, folded it, and rubbed it after it dried - a very dull sheen was the result. So I got down on my hands and knees and took a scrubber to the old paint spots. Why after I applied the oil, and not before? Because the wood absorbed that oil and made it easier to lift up the latex. I am all about easy... and I did NOT want to sand that floor!
After the second dose, and a second polishing, you could see the legs of the table and chair reflected in it. The ground-in rug imprint had vanished. So I gave it a third dose... tomorrow the buffer, but I can tell you right now that that oil and that wax seemed to be exactly what it needed. It is beautiful, shiny, and you can see the intricate and varied striations of the wood grain now. I don't have kids around to park their butts on towels, but I do have a hand-held buffer that will work just fine. Nothing prettier than 100 year old wood brought back to life.
All done without high-end, brand-new brand-name products, expensive tools, or layers of sawdust and male power-tool posturing. Bite me, Bob.
I loved this. The family is so proud of grandma - she still is "doing chores" at 103. Actually, she looked kinda pissed, like this whole silly parade idea was keeping her from them!
One of many horse-drawn conveyances in the parade. This one was especially cute; the ponies insisted on trotting, were anxious to pull.
Here it is all about pride in heritage - EVERYONE's heitage. They guy dressed as an Indian - is an Indian, and a member of the Sandhills Museum Board. There were Indians of all ages riding horses and floats, showing off their skills and waving and having a good time, right in there with everyone else; not separate at all. Apparently Russell Means is full of crap (which I've always known).
I really felt sorry for this guy; even though you could tell the costume was air-condtioned, it was awkward. But he was sure having a good time!
Everyone threw candy, even the cops. Apparently the eastern folk who can't keep their poor iggnurunt children from running under the wheels of cars and floats to get that last piece of candy don't live anywhere near here.
More pics from the fair later this week, as we attend all the different events. For a slideshow of the parade, go to http://s283.photobucket.com/albums/kk312/WileyCoyote_NE/Cherry%20County%20Parade%20081208/?action=view¤t=4151adc7.pbw
Saturday, August 9, 2008
And the night before.
Highly unusual, I don't dream about snakes. Horrible people whom I already know are going to do horrible things, or people I like turning into horrible people, or dying, or disappearing into the mist; that's what I dream about. At least twice a week, ever since I can remember, I have awakened gasping for breath, clawing at nothing, falling... Sometimes, not often, the nightmares come true; I have seen this blood before, I have grabbed my friend's arm like that before, in the nightmare I had...
But no snakes. Wide awake and in the daylight, I don't like the poisonous ones, kill them as soon as I see them; but I'll play with the pretty grass snakes when I find them. Or chase a black racer through the yard for fun. Or watch a bull snake swim through a ditch. But I don't dream about them.
Maybe it was the rattler I saw, in real life, the other evening. Curled up, dead, right in the middle of the road. Head crushed a little, like he'd been run over and twisted up to defend himself. About three feet long, he was; that triangular ( and flat) head very obvious, the buttons on his tail visible even between the coils. Didn't bother me to see him. But it did get me to thinking.
We keep our yard grass cut, of course, like everyone else, cut it close and keep it wet too, against fire dangers. Even keep the corral cut and the gardens too; trying to dissuade snakes (and bunnies and raccoons and gophers and skunks and all those little varmints) from coming too close to the house. But - we do have a garage, a big wooden one with big swing-out double doors - and lots of gaps in the old wood. We have a shop - it is metal sided, just as the barns are. We have the raised verandah, with the basement underneath, but there's some open space there. Lots of dark, cool nooks and crannies all around the place, where a snake just might wriggle into and feel at home.
Most importantly, there is the backyard, outside basement door - a BIG wooden behemoth that used to be the door to the cooling room in the basement for the dairy that used to be here. There's a dark little corridor with five cement steps that leads down to an even bigger door inside the basement.
And twice in a row that is where I dreamed the snakes came from.
In the basement, slithering on the shelves, their dry skin whispering in the dust. Slight clinking of the jars that hold all sorts of things as they slide by. The rattle of the boxes on the other shelves. The whisper of the paper wrapping I keep in the ceramics shop as the snakes (more than one) slide over it. The quivering light thump of the dryer vent as something crawls into it. I hear it all, as in my dream I go down the stairs. And then something dry, ropelike, brushes the back of my head; I swing my arm up to brush it away...
I wake up in a cold sweat and go downstairs, turning on all the lights at 2 AM, all the way down the second flight into the basement, looking for movement, listening, listening.
Granted I'm on my twice-yearly antibiotics run, which for some weird reason makes me have even more intense nightmares than usual. Granted it has been a long time since I've dealt with a house with so many apertures, entrances, exits, places to hide or be hidden. It has been a long time since I have been in a place so quiet, so remote, so unoccupied, so unbusy, so uncrowded. As much as I love the wide expanses, the peace and quiet, the billions of stars, the acreage around us, I have always been taught since childhood to be aware of sounds, of smells, of anything different or off-kilter.
And yet I know there's no snakes down there. I know it. The doors are closed, entrances sealed, even old holes are plugged with the foam and blocked with boards - they have to be, with the snow that comes. Everything is tight and cozy, well-lit and cheerful, once I flick the switch. So twice I have trudged back up the stairs, swearing at myself for my own stupidity. I mean, I HAD to check, so I could go back to sleep. But how stupid. I know it's safe. I didn't even take anything sharp or heavy with me down those stairs - I knew there were no snakes. But nightmares aren't reality, aren't brightly lit, aren't infused with common sense and rationale.
I hope I don't dream about snakes tonight.
What satisfies yours?
I spent many years of my life working to improve other peoples' lives, and that satisfied my soul. These folks needed my help, and sometimes it actually worked. I felt good about doing it, felt like I was making a difference. Maybe things could actually get better for them.
I was wrong.
I discovered that most people are the way they are, not because they need a little help or a little encouragement or a little push, but because they lived their lives expecting others to help them, save them, make them whole. They do not want to save themselves, they want other people to endlessly cater to their needs. They are determined to be ignorant, determined to be lazy, determined to be catered to. Case in point -
How many times, for how many years, did I beg local churches to come put on programs, to participate in Christmas or other public celebrations? That doesn't happen everywhere - most towns or cities don't WANT churches' participation. But even when I worked at the store at the red light, and the owner and I would try to get churches to come and sing or do things in the evening (which would have helped their churches fellowship and outreach programs) - they would promise but almost never show up. Even when the owner provided a piano and Santa Claus for free... An "all day singing and supper on the grounds'? Nice thought, most said - but no one would DO it. A potluck supper? Oh, no - the food had to be provided by someone else - and some people would fill four, even six plates to take home, and insult what was given to them for free. Would the locally-owned and operated fireworks stores put on fireworks displays in their own town, even if they were paid to do so? Uh-uh, forget it, no way... any fireworks displays and technicians had to be hired from out of town. Children were allowed to tear up whatever was provided, usually while parents watched. Basketball backboards were destroyed by rocks, graffiti sprayed on walls of public places - and the parents never took responsibility, never saw the reason nor the need to discipline their children - it was always someone else's fault. I once saw a grown-up man throw a can out of his pickup truck in front of my house. I walked to his house and asked him not to do it again. The trash on the roadways, thrown out by the bagsful, was no one's responsibility, though everyone complained about the mess it made, demanded that "someone" pick it up, insisted that it was "someone else's fault".
And last, but certainly not least, the woman who swore for years she was my best friend, whom I actually left my husband to in my will (back when he was young and strong and cute still), who begged me and another friend for protection from a (she said) "nasty wife abuser" who was "stalking" her and "harassing" her - turned around, four years later, and accused me of being prejudiced for NOT being friends with that same "abuser" whom she said was "harassing" her and "stalking" her! (To quote the prosecutor, "Were you lying then or are you lying now?")Emotional vampires, soulless, whining, complaining, demanding, sucking out the energy from other peoples' souls to justify their own pathetic, hapless, helpless, directionless, goalless, and useless existences. They didn't even have the grace or class to be ashamed of it - they were proud to behave that way.
Now, let me tell you about where I live now. There is a nice park in town - pretty old but well-kept. It has two basketball courts, two volleyball courts, a large swingset, concrete block bathrooms, and a 3-foot fence around it. The volleyball nets are not cut. The basketball backboards and nets remain whole. The fence is undamaged. There is never graffiti on any walls anywhere. There are no cops in town, except for the deputy sheriff who lives here - when he's working he's not here. There is no crime. None. Most people have guns but make no comment about them - other than to invite each other to go trap shooting. They don't allow their children to have cars with boom boxes. The streets and highways and parks are clean - no one throws trash out of their cars or on the ground. They would be ashamed to do so. This is their town and they are damned proud of it.
We had an Independence Day celebration here last month. Every family brought paper plates, napkins, and food. There was soooo much food! Everything you could imagine, from fried chicken to bratwurst in sauerkraut, salads and fruit, all kinds of pies, cakes, and cookies. Everyone lined up and got their plates and drinks filled. Afterward, the local ranchhands - who had taken pyrotechnic courses, and collected donations for fireworks - put on a display that lasted an hour and a half. Cost to the town = $0. Cost to the taxpayers = $0. We all sat in chairs or on blankets and watched the fireworks. During and afterward, everyone stood and talked - no shoving, everyone standing around and laughing. When people drove away, no one had to blow their horns or race their engines - people were polite, waving each other ahead of them. Not a single piece of paper, not a cup, was lying on the ground.
And that is the difference. Self-respect and respect for others. No one has more rights - or has more needs - than anyone else. Everyone participates in everything here - county fairs, church bazaars, even auctions and rodeos - and everyone keeps their own space clean, their own children disciplined and involved. No one says that the school or the church or the town owes them a thing - they all work for what they get, at whatever capacity they have(even the older folk bake and quilt and participate), and everyone helps and supports each other. When my neighbor saw that I had a gopher problem, he came over and poisoned them for me, without even telling me. When he needs help harnessing his 2-and-wagon show team, I go over and help without being asked. This is how it is.
When I volunteer my time here, I really AM making a difference - because people want to help each other, learn from each other, take care of each other - and succeed with each other. They WANT their children to achieve and be everything they can be. They don't whine about what they can't do, or demand that the world, the schools, the gubbermint, their neighbor, OWES them a living - they get together and figure out what they can do. These people have souls - and they satisfy each other's souls, without ever noticing or even knowing that there is a difference.
I actually have a whole, real life, with husband, kids, wants, needs, and desires - that I will fulfill, whether the greedy and selfish like it or not. You see, in spite of it all - I still have my soul. And now it is home, with other, like-minded, hardworking, and forward-looking souls. Growing, reaching out, and getting stronger, every day. Not sapped by ever-needy emotional vampires, ever again.
Gotta go. The Catholic Church bazaar is this weekend, the next town over, and everyone's going.... the Methodists are selling their pies again! Man I love those pies! Worh every penny they ask. And this week - the county fair, with 4H competitions, cookoffs, animal shows, arts and craft shows, 'biggest' and 'best' vegetables, more pies, and where even the tiniest children participate in a sheep rodeo - "Mutton busting". (All entry fees in all competitions - $4. That pays for the blue ribbons and 'bragging rights' for a year!) Not to mention the parade that kicks it all off, with people being proud of all of their heritage, showing it in their dress, their walk, their pride, their hard work, their refusal to throw one piece of trash on the ground or permit one child to step out of line. It doesn't "take a village to raise a child" - it takes responsible, decent, self-respecting parents. And these folks prove it every day, by living it.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Leap of faith, hunh? Well, maybe.
I still get the endless emails from my Conspiracy Theory friends. Some I forward just for laughs, others to give folks a perspective of what might happen, could happen. Love em all. I did cancel my subscriptions to some of the panic feeds when I moved - the ones that had gotten dreadfully miserable and terrified. Don't need their immediacy here.
I still watch my beloved friends getting torpedoed by people they trusted, people I warned them about. Some of their 'enemies' are still their 'trusted friends', mindlessly corrupting everything they touch, arrogantly refusing advice because they "know better" as they carry my dearest buddies to hapless perdition in a handbasket. Some of my beloveds simply refuse - as they did before I left - to see that their 'friends" had it in for them all along, were using them as stepladders, grinding them beneath their graveled feet while pretending to scratch their backs. It still breaks my heart - but, you know, they wouldn't listen to me before, and now as things come to pass, they still won't listen to me. So distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it doesn't make it grow any more believable. Shrug. This far away I can view the nuclear blasts with equanimity, ration, and reason, knowing that the fallout won't be on my plate. "I told you so" doesn't have to be said out loud from 1600 miles.
Oh, I still take an interest. Still lament about the stupidities, the smarmy and airheaded foolishnessses. Still love my handful of real friends. But here I have other things to do. No matter how miserable it makes me to see my friends get bent over, I can't stop it, can't warn against it, can't say any more than I've already said without repeating what I said when I was there. And -there's no point.
What's good is - no more meetings with the bright and progressive and the smiling smarmy knifing bastards any more. What's good is no more horribly overpriced, inedible food, served on lavishly underdone plates in ostentatiously overdone venues, impressing each other with the size of their - um- budgets. What's good is no more evenings in tight shoes and tighter rooms, where too many perfumes and "manly" mass-produced scents assail the nostrils, and the scent of their mendacity insults the spirit. It was starting to feel like I was in an endless production of "Masque of the Red Death", where the partygoers partied ever more and more vehemently, and where I started to become afraid of whose face I would see when the masque was finally lifted...
What is really good is nights with no lights, where billions of stars fling themselves across a deepening sky without glare or interruption. The coyotes howl, the locusts sing, and those are the only sounds - except for the occasional lowing of a complaining sleepless cow. What's really good is walking past a TV news flash and going, "Oh, really? HUNH!" and walking on, intent on purpose, intent on my direction, intent on my ultimate goal.
I can't say my usual - "I don't - oh what IS the word - um - oh yeah, CARE!" - anymore. It is implicit in my absence, and was never really true anyway. I do care. I DO. It's just that people are gonna do what they are gonna do, believe what they are gonna believe, follow blindly whomever dangles the bait that most lures them to their own downfall. I just don't have a front row seat anymore. You can't hear me booing or cheering anymore. I chose to leap into the desired, the unknown, the choice of my life over theirs. And as much as I really do care, I know (as I did while I was there) that people are gonna do what they are gonna do. Then as now, my input means as little as the deepening silence of the night. A silence that is comforting after a busy and productive day, a silence that is refreshing after the physical labors and the spiritually satisfying progression toward a real and fertile goal, a day and a life once again ripe with possiblities.
Leap of faith? No. Leap of surety, leap of confidence, leap of joy. Not a "Fuck you all!" but a quiet refusal to participate anymore in the pathetically multiple-orgiastic, blind, futile rushheadlong into the death of my soul - and yours. I can't watch you do it anymore, especially with that rictus of a smile on your face.
I have to go. The horse is hungry, whinnying and stomping at the corral gate.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
A thunderous boom woke me this morning. A bright light flashed under my eyelids, while another peal of thunder echoed. 4 AM, and it was suddenly pouring. I went to the spare bedroom, closed the windows against the rain. The cold wind was trying to force my window fan to turn faster, so I shut it off and went downstairs. Within minutes the house was cool and breezy. I took a shower and dressed; comfortable jeans with the black and white cowhide belt, a longsleeved light cotton shirt. No watering needed today, I thought, as I sipped the first cup of coffee on the verandah. It is 63 degrees and feels like fall. Damp leaves are blowing past, clinging to the wooden floor for just a moment, stumbling away again.
As the sun comes up and the coffee kicks in, I start to function. Know what would taste good on this cool damp morning? Banana bread. So I got out my ingredients and went to work. The butter, honey, eggs, walnuts this time instead of pecans. It is baking now...
The dogs, usually so anxious to go out, are still sleeping. Rainy weather does that to them. The DOT guy leaves for work; his white pickup with the yellow lights glowing eerily in the bluegray dawn. I start a load of laundry down in the basement; take out the dryerload and fold it. It is so quiet. No dogs barking, no birds twittering. Just the muted clicking of the raindrops in the maples, the wet sound of their leaves whispering together about the rain.
My brother lives in Idaho; oddly, we are almost on the same longitudinal line now. I check his weather... we usually run about even for summer temperatures. Today, however, we are at 63, he is at - 48 degrees. Ah. Mountains. We are both even further north than Chicago, IL. I watch the bubble of yellow rain on the satellite map swoop away from us and down toward poor Des Moines again. Down in SC it is already 80.
Soon I will stir up the dogs and walk them, get ready for my town trip.
I think about what it will mean, those long cold and snowy days ahead when, like today, the world seems very far removed, and my activities will be similar... watching the weather, doing the quiet tasks that accompany that quiet time. And I wonder why some people hate that, dread it, flee from it, toward bright lights and crowds and excitement. The neon crayons they use to light and color their lives hurt my eyes. I far prefer the greys and softer colors; the browns of baking bread, the ochre of the lights dimmed down to mere glows on the ceiling and walls. The gentle flicker of candles, the soft pop of the fire in the woodstove soon to come when the white snow falls. Why flee? Why run towards something that cannot satisfy?
Time to take the bread out and taste a warm and buttery slice.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Here in the grasslands it's different. A dry thunderstorm rolled thru last night. It was ominous and oppressive; the humidity went from 16% to 56% - but, no rain. The lightning slashing from sky to hill to hill, and thunder booming. Then the loud CRACK! of a nearby strike... and within 10 minutes the town's siren gave off one long piercing blast. FIRE! A fire, the east side of the Henderson's trailer washout.
The ranchhands bolted for their trucks - utility pickup trucks, parked at each ranch, with large neoprene tanks strapped in the beds - and went racing to the scene. A couple more fellows stopped by the station to pick up the two similar trucks parked at the fire station. They went over the hill past my house, and turned right down a cowpath, then over and around the next hill, throwing dust. Yes, dust - still no rain. No one brought the big diesel fire truck - it isn't built for these cowpaths, these summer brush fires down tiny lanes where a heavy unwieldy truck will wallow in the sand, helpless and directionless as a newborn calf. It's for more of an in-town, highway-dependent rescue operation. It does ok in snow, but is a helpless beast in sand.
They put it out, thank goodness, and only an acre of grassland was burned.
That's why all of our local houses have the sprinklers running, why our farmhouses are surrounded by lush green patches of damp growth. For one thing, water is cheap - it is pumped straight from the aquifer, no additives. When I open one of my field pumps, icy-cold, clear water comes bursting out, powerful enough to direct a sprinkler head fifty feet. For another, we are surrounded on all sides by the rolling hills of grasslands that feed the Angus beef - and in this hot and dry, no-humidity, sand-based environment, fire runs thru here like - well, wildfire. It runs thru the brush as if it were sniffing out a trail of kerosene. When it meets a patch of heavily-soaked, carefully-trimmed green growth, it is slowed. One hopes, slowed enough. And all it takes is for one errant lightning strike to set off a holocaust of blazing destruction, one high-rolling thunderous storm to deposit nary a drop of moisture, to sling a single bolt down to rape the grassland. Amazing, terrible, and full of portent; we watch those storms as if our lives depended on them. For, in fact, they may.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
When we got here last May, there was a lot to consider.
I brought many many daylilies with me, some roses, some butterfly bushes, lots of daffodils and narcissus, some crepe myrtles. Some things will grow here, some things folks didn't know - had never tried. But what the heck - bring as much as you can, and what fails, fails, I told myself. So I had a tarp stuffed full of my plants in the back of my pickup.
I had to find spots for everything of course. Where could the crepe myrtles go and be protected from the wind? Where could the star lilies go and spread? Could I get everything planted so that it would have time to get established by snowtime in October, or the first frost the end of September?
When we arrived, there was this little apple tree out front, in between the maples by the porch and the sycamore tree by the road. It was sad. It was only two feet high, but had lots of little branches, and a few healthy leaves. It was blooming, too... tiny and brave, shaded far too much for a good apple tree. The owner told me that it had taken three years to get that high!
So, well, I moved it. I knew better. I did. You don't move an apple tree in June unless you only want firewood. But bless its heart - it had produced two little tiny apples. It was making an effort. It needed sun. So I bought a cherry tree (another no-no) and put them both out by the gate into the corral. I incarcerated my thorncovered blackberries in a huge old flowerpot made from a tire nearby. My theory was that, when we build the greenhouse, the fruit producers will be right next to the gate to go into the garden and greenhouse - lovely shade and a flowery introduction to the greenhouse in the spring. Most importantly, there is lots of sun right there - and the north side, the dangerous-snow-and-wind side, is protected by a pole barn.
Lord, it has been hot and dry this July. But I put them in deep cozy holes, spread out their roots gently as far as they would go, with old horse manure from the corral, and my intensive organic fruit tree fertilizer - and then, just to be encouraging, found and pounded in a couple of fruit tree spikes buried in the fertilizer box (marked "poop" by a TIC packer). Watered them every other day. Mulched them heavily. And waited.
The leaves on the apple tree and half of the cherry tree dried up, fell off. The two apples on the apple tree withered. And still I watered. I thought about pruning but didn't have the heart. It has been in the high 90's most of the week; today it hit 100 with 16% humidity. And then tonight... tonight there are fresh leaves bursting out of the branches on both. And if the leaf buds are any indication, there will be more. Ta-Da! Those leaves should be hardened off by the end of August; pulling in the sunshine for the roots, giving them strength for the winter.
I put the crepe myrtles in the old spot the apple tree left behind; protected from the wind and snow by the porch and maples and in the shade of the sycamore, their microclimate should suit them if anything can. Around the repaired and now cheerfully bubbling pond, down the fence line in front by the sidewalk, and up by the front porch on both sides, are all the daylilies and amaryllis, roses and butterfly bushes, bulbs and corms. Everything is manured and mulched, greening up nicely, and some of it is even bodaciously blooming.
But that apple tree is a fulfilled promise of what I have audaciously planned, and what is to come. Anything cared for can root anywhere, given attention and fed properly, protected from the harsher elements, and allowed to reach up at last into the sun.