Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are?

She's such a show-off, she said from the other room. She just wants attention.

I was making a doll in a sparkly red dress juke about in the doorway, to entertain my teenage babysitter and her friends. It didn't have the desired effect. I was about three or four years old. They were probably fifteen, and so didn't want to be bothered with dancing dolls. I knew by her tone that a show-off wasn't good. A show-off was a bad person. So I stopped.

I stopped and pulled on the knit hat of shyness. I kept my dancing dolls, circuses, radio programming, imaginary television shows (where I was the host, of course!), restaurants, and beauty parlors limited to the confines of my bedroom and to the audience of my family when I felt an audience was needed. My family was encouraging. No one ever said, "Who do you think you are ... Carol Burnett?" when I did my mudlizard impressions at the dinner table. We all joined the theatre together, right around when I was fourteen or fifteen, the same age my babysitter was when she called me a show-off. Being among other "show-offs," I took off the knit hat. It was stifling under there.

The question 'Who do you think you are?" is a really great one if asked without a tone of disapproval. When you erase the tone from it, and just allow the question to bring about a thoughtful answer, it is fun to consider. Who do you think you are? hints at Who do you want to be? What are you testing out, trying on, or discovering?

Friday, July 10, 2015

City Mice to Country Mice

It's difficult to ignore the stripe of blood running down the center of the butcher's hardhat. He's wearing a sheen of sweat and a polyester shirt with a print that reminds me of a starry night. It's been a starry night for some animal today. A cow perhaps. There are several in a barn a few hundred feet away from the little shop where we peruse shelves full of products I haven't seen since my childhood, plus a few I have never seen. Tubs of lard wait in the cooler. The freezer holds all the ice cream treats I remember from the 1970s and 80s - Drumsticks with their rubbery cones, and Strawberry Shortcake bars with their crunchy coatings. This guy is a sly businessman. We buy a pint of perfect raspberries, and are told that "Meat Days" are Fridays. Thursdays are end days, I think. I am reminded everyday of where my food comes from because I see it verbing in pastures: grazing, pecking, rolling and lolling.

We moved here last week from the city. In the week since we've been here, unpacking and getting to know the two goats across the street, we've also attended an auction with a neighbor and my mother (we got a Hoosier cabinet for $30!), and visited more produce stands and organic farms than I can count. Dan made cheese yesterday. We knew the names of our neighbors in less than a week. They introduced themselves to us and one even brought us a gift.

When I look up into the branches of the Black Ash tree in our backyard, or wake at five a.m. to see another human is awake at 5 a.m. in a barn near our house, I understand why E.B. White left New York to live on a small farm in Maine.  It's quieter here. There's a poetry that isn't inscribed on any surface for you to read, but it is inside of everything for you to discover. What I like best is that my neighbor's duck has no expectations for me to be an amazing, incredible, stupendous, and glittering imaginative anything. I can just be. And just being, for me, is allowing myself the luxury to putter.

During my childhood upbringing in the woods, I learned that puttering is exploration, which leads to creation. E.B. White wrote Charlotte's Web from his farm experience. I'm not saying I will be writing any great children's literature out here, but I do feel a lot more relaxed and able to explore ideas here than I did in the city, where I started to feel cramped and trapped, and I didn't realize it until we moved here. The city was loud, on a lot of levels. Too much noise and input that I couldn't shut off.  I always had to be moving and doing, because everyone and everything else was. I loved creating while I was there, but I didn't feel rooted. I was a seed in gale.

Here, with the stripe of blood on the hardhat of the butcher, things are visceral. There's no Febreezing the scent of manure, and it's everywhere. It's the shit that makes your food grow, a reminder of all the good things that come from the earth. It's a scent that says, "Pay attention (how can you not?!), think, play and work, and beautiful things will grow."