(Continued from what? Read my previous post, here.)
I’m not sure I knew then how much of an impact those times with my great grandparents and their farm-dwelling siblings would have on me. I know now. What was intended to be a way for my grandmother to give my mother some personal time (or time away from my father) also served as a glimpse into an alternative to what I was accustomed to. I could have quiet, verdancy, family, love, and good food over chaos, anger, anxiety and noise. It was a choice I was being offered, one I would have to make as an adult. I stowed these experiences away as dear memories, but they would come back to me as a sort of guide, helping navigate through the rough patches in my life and directing me to places where I would be safe and could flourish.
I don’t think this type of experience is unique. I believe we all have these places and times in our lives that inform who we are to be or what we want but sometimes we fail to defer to them in moments of doubt. I don’t want to give myself too much credit, but I cannot recall a single time in my adult life where I’ve not fallen back on these times to gain some clarity. I find myself in a tough spot and I think to myself, “How can I get back to that place? What do I have to do to get to those blue mountains again…at least in my heart?” The way often presents itself in time. Sometimes the way makes you wait. It took a long time after I first moved to New York to feel like I was treading on the right path.
Before New York, I was back in Baltimore after a failed moved to Arizona. I had cruelly left one man to be with another that I had developed strong feelings for. I was in my early twenties and frankly, I was a complete shit. I would barrel through whatever and whoever to get my way and people got hurt sometimes. It was a terrible flaw but I feel I have tempered that part of myself in my more adult years. In any case, I fell in love with a person that I had always considered out of my league. His affection was returned, and I was done for. At first it was a like a dream. It had seemed as though we wanted all of the same things (we both had a reverence for nature and a desire to live the “good life”.) For the first time I saw myself with a real future with someone. We created a really wonderful home and dug up our first vegetable patch together. We took a beekeeping course and cooked meals from food we harvested. We had a routine of eating breakfast and drinking tea on the front porch every morning with the cats. I was in domestic bliss.
Except for when I wasn’t anymore.
I don’t know what happened. It’s been a long time and I’ve picked that relationship apart down to it’s atomic structure. I’m not even sure what parts are true and what I’ve allowed my imagination to embellish. But what I know for certain is this: I was immature and unfulfilled and he fell out of love with me, leaving me to contend with the ghost of our relationship. I had gotten my just deserts for all of the times I had done the same to other people, and it really sucked.
He went to NYC to start over, and I followed. It took me a long time to admit, though it was obvious to anyone with eyes, that I wanted to work things out with him. It was insane of me. I uprooted everything for a misguided attempt at salvaging a relationship that had absolutely run it’s course. To be fair to myself, I also just wanted to get out of Baltimore. I had loved that city once but there was nothing there for me anymore. I recognized a good opportunity to move on and I took it. I landed a good job with a small clothing company in the Lower East Side, a great apartment with cool landlords and was doing pretty well, on paper. Behind closed doors, however, I wasn’t even a person anymore. I was a pulsating, raw nerve prone to bouts of hysterical blubbering and insanity brought on by the fact that this man I was attached to had moved on and I was in a city I wasn’t sure I liked very much. My friends endured a lot during that time and I’m glad to have had them around.
I tried dating again and I proved pretty quickly that I was not ready for it. I made a mess of things right out of the gate. I just couldn’t do it. In some roundabout way it occurred to me that I should focus my attention on something that would make me feel like everything in the world was right where it was before. I recalled all of the times I’d lay in bed thinking about spring and tender green things and warm sunlight and the farm and I knew that instead of seeking a romance with a man, I’d do well to seek romance with the way of life I dabbled in back home in Baltimore.
I jumped in with zeal. That first Brooklyn spring, I started a garden with my neighbors. The next year, I set up a beehive (a total life changer) and got a small flock of laying hens. WIthin the year I quit my job to start teaching classes on the subjects I’ve learned so much about. I’ve documented much of it here. I continue to learn and I’ve remained hungry for even more knowledge and understanding.The most important thing I’ve gleaned from all of it is this:
No matter what hardship and drama is going on in your life, the world lives on as it ever has. You cannot let these things unravel you. None of the things that happened in my life had the capacity to ruin me unless I let them. The world beyond my own heart is still the same. There are relationships at play out there that are age old and far surpass the silly human need to chase romantic love. Our overly intense, cartoonish impression of what it should be is wrong. It’s out of balance. No one person should love any one thing to their own detriment. We would do well to direct some of that intensity inward towards ourselves and outwards to the rest of the world. The world is a cruel, forgiving, amazing, beautiful place and it pains me to see people take it for granted. It pains me to see people hurting themselves as I once did.
It’s 9 a.m. on a Wednesday. It’s raining and the chickens are in their enclosed run with dry hay. The garden is planted with tomatoes and herbs and beans and buckwheat and the linden trees are about to pop. This will be the biggest source of food for the bees this spring. I’ve been cobbling this blog post together for a few days now, and I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say with it. Maybe I just want my readers to understand where I come from so that they feel what they want is within their reach too. Perhaps what I want to say is that the choice to live this way is what saved me. Perhaps it’s given me a chance to gain some perspective, to see more clearly. It’s pulled me out of my own head, where I had trapped myself. It’s thrust me into the world to be part of it. Whatever it is that I am trying to say, I know one thing for sure. I feel so grateful. So eternally grateful to have loved, to have been hurt, to endure and to be alive.