Monday, June 20, 2011


I am in a process of reassessment. I originally intended this space to be a place for tips, recipes, craft ideas and advice on what (not to do) when creating your backyard homestead.  But in the spirit of my spirit, I guess, I have added my thoughts and feelings on mothering, life, and all that mushy stuff that comes along with reflection glimpsed in between maddening moments of failed experiments and lovey little kid hugs.  I thought that with the start of the spring and summer, with all the projects already begun, failed, going well, and the yard coming together in a way that has yet to be seen, I would jump back in the this-is-how-we-do-it (and this is what you should probably do for yourself) swing of things.  But, alas, I've been thinking again.  I can't seem to help myself!

Wild Strawberries

And tame ones
I've been reassessing, again.  A few incredible things have happened to me over the past few months.  They have been both sad and miraculous, and I'm still not sure which was which.  Some of these "events" have been quiet eruptions of self and heart, some trips to the past and all that can bring, others have been family events and still others are brought on by the changing of the seasons and all the work and fun that come along.  I recently stayed with my brother through the night waiting to bring him to detox in the morning.  Witnessing the pain, relief and bravery that accompanies making a huge life-altering decision was so powerful.  I felt honored to be able to be the person to share this pivotal moment, and to be able to be support him without negative judgment.  In the morning, we got in the car and drove up to the hospital.
The one blackberry bush that survived the aphids, we'll have to wait until next year for jam and juice.
When we were nearly there, I recognized the route.  It slowly became clear to me that we were on the way to the same hospital I was involuntarily hospitalized in twice when I was a teen.  It was like watching a car accident happen.  I could feel the past sneak up behind me like that scary story about the knife wielding maniac in the back seat of the car.  Luckily, I have (apparently) healed enough to know what my priorities were in that moment, and I just told myself, "Not now, baby, we have more pressing work to do."  I was like a superhero of awesome zen love.
A table we found on the side of the road that promptly fell apart as soon as wee took it off the truck. It is now siting int he driveway as another piece of junk we'll have to dispose of somehow. 
When that was all over, I packed up the car, drove back over the Tapenzee and headed home.  I knew I was driving home to something.  I knew there was a lot waiting on me.  Waiting for me to let out.  I knew there was a reckoning coming.  I had told my heart to wait, and it wouldn't wait forever.   I got home and cried.  I cried for myself, I cried for my brother, I cried for the road ahead for my own children, I cried for my mother and for my father.  I cried so much with love, pain, loss, and hurt for three days that I decided to shut it off. I knew there was more waiting for me.  Deeper stuff, the stuff I piled new stuff on top of, and I wasn't ready.   It was all too close. I used a couple of old coping mechanisms, and some new ones.
Forty or so paste tomato plants.
The new ones were a bit less harmful than the days of old.  I gave myself about a week, maybe two.  I lost myself in audio books, keeping that earbud crammed in my ear for about two weeks, pausing only to have the interactions necessary to be a mother, a wife and a friend.  But when there was any chance of distraction, when there was any chance that I might slip into the present moment or the past, I had Harry potter in my ear.  Man that Lord Voldemort is a real jerk, and thank God Harry has Hermione Granger to keep him out of trouble, and oh, Dumbledore...  it is true what he says in The Prisoner of Azkaban: "If I thought I could help you by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it. But I know better. Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it." Man is he ever right, that guy. 
But I guess it's not too bad when your "weeds" are all lemon balm and cilantro.
Even for this attempt to escape I judged myself harshly.  I am now healed and conscious enough to know what I was doing.  But I guess that's the difference, I knew what I was doing.  I made a choice to leave my head, to run, temporarily, from what was coming for me. A coping mechanism is just that--a mechanism for coping with something to big and too scary for you.  There are healthy ones that hasten healing, like yoga, writing, praying, loving, meditating.  And there are unhealthy ones that bury the pain down so that it festers and poisons, like drug use, cutting, throwing up, starving, and compulsively eating.  I have done all of this and more in my past, so all things considered, briefly revising the least of my unhealthy techniques, or making a conscious choice to compulsively listen to Harry Potter on audio book are not the worst choices I could make.  I guess.
One mostly finished new chicken coop (more on the how-too of this later).
The past is breaking over me like waves crashing on the beach.  It is amazing to experience this, not in the hurricane everything-flying-all-over-the-place fashion of my youth, but in the slow steady wash of past on stone.  The wave comes in, covers me and recedes.  With its steady pull back out to sea it takes with it some of what I'd like to let go and maybe some of the calm and safety I'd like to keep with me. But it comes back with the next  wave, mostly. 
A new house for the girls, made form most of the wood I'd like to clear out of our basement. 
How does this relate to my homesteading adventure?  What does this have to do with the chickens, the gardening, the kids, and the food?  Well, nothing and everything.   All these thoughts, of course, are informing the way I look at my kids, the way I see myself as a parent, and a woman.  These experiences of pain and peace I have while I heal old wounds I thought had been healed has made me slow down a bit, and look at my life again with more conscious open eyes.  I am realizing that a lot of the things I am doing I didn't actually agree to.  Make no mistake, I haven't been pressured into doing something I didn't want.  No passing strangers have pulled up to the house, a box of squawking chickens under one arm and a cudgel in the other.  I haven't been given an "offer I couldn't refuse" to grow sugar snap peas and native flowers.  I just haven't thought to ask myself  what I want to be doing.
"Found" garden of motherwort and chickweed.
I suspect I do want to be doing what I am up to.  I like the reasons we live the way we do. I like the outcome from a life lived as close to the ground as we can.  It's comfortable, the rhythm is beautiful and the Spirit of Life is ever present. I am wondering, however, if I had consciously agreed to these tasks I take on how many of them I would still choose.  What if I looked at a new opportunity (or job) with full understanding of  the amount of energy it would take?  What if I weighed it against the other things I might like to do, or am already doing, would I still say yes?  How much more would I love what I'm doing if I had a memory of choosing with open eyes and an open heart?  How much more forgiving of myself would I be when I failed to complete/succeed/start said project if I didn't feel the weight of responsibility, not only for myself but for my husband and kids also?  What is my responsibility anyway?
Snow peas climbing on the old twisted frame that remained after we burned an old box spring.
I suppose I am re-choosing my life.  Seriously, I do like what I do, I'm just not sure I like why I do the things I do.  Or maybe I just feel uncomfortable not knowing if I actually chose them in the first place.  It's not pleasant for me to realize I've let life push me along, even if it's pushed me to a beautiful place. Maybe.  Perhaps the lesson is to be present for the pushing. To watch, enjoy, and live during the journey.  Maybe.

For now I'll just wait here while another wave comes washing over me.


  1. Thanks, Janelle....keep writing. Sometimes clarity comes when we least expect it. I always find some reading your posts. Love the pictures woven in. And I love the power of a kid's story for all of us....its like comfort food for that part of us that still loves everything about those stories.

  2. It's great how strong you were for your brother. If I ever need that kind of help, I hope my brothers could be there for me like that. And of course it took an emotional toll on you--good for you for coping through audio books (I do that too--though I didn't realize it til I read your post!)
    ~Christine (from Unity Church-- Also, I have some chicken questions, and would love to come by to visit/chat about chickens.I lost your phone number though. Can you email me? it's christinejunge AT hotmail DOT come.

    Hang in there!