We're vacationing in Long Island this week, which means ELECTRICITY COMPUTER HOT SHOWERS GIGANTIC TELEVISION FLUSHING TOILETS REFRIGERATOR FOR MIDNIGHT SNACKS...obscenely long blog post. It's exactly 11:11 at night, we leave tomorrow, and I'm sick of sitting in front of the computer. Lucky for you, I'm a gold-medal blogger. Blah!
Wild, ridiculous rumor aside (Laura!), I've an excellent excuse for not posting. Really! To those of you with whom I don't communicate outside of this electronic box, I owe a brief explanation.
But I'm never brief. If you want snapshots, skip this wordy post, and keep hitting "older posts" at the bottom of the page, 'cause I posted a million.
In my last post, I gave the heads-up about our impending move to the trailer. Originally, we were going to dig the well, prepare the septic, and hook up electricity fairly quickly while John began demolishing the burned down house in earnest to prepare the land for building next spring. Instead, the week before we moved, my aunt and uncle decided to move from their home of the last 15 years-- their large, lovely home just up the hill from where we intended to build OUR home--the house that has been beautifully renovated and that I gush over whenever I visit. More wonderful yet, it's the house in which my grandpa, great-uncle, and great-aunt were born and raised. It's the very house in which my grandpa played ping pong to keep warm (while wearing a winter coat) because even pea soup freezes on Mt. Hunger in mid-winter. Oh, yeah...brief!
So, we've been living without electric, septic, or running water for the last month and a half (no electricity=no computer=no blog checking or blog posting=a better Abigail). In that time, we've secured a house loan (don't contemplate it; it's terrifying), played the part of mature adults while talking to a legion of bureaucrats on the phone (which is even more terrifying), and have begun steps to buy the house on the hill. I hesitate to pluck a chicken before it's completely hatched, but the outlook for us buying this home seems promising.
Lots of flotsam swirls around the periphery of this whirlpool, but that's the center.
I'm trying to check the floodgates for now, but I am still very excited. God's hand is clearly evident in the many "coincidences" that led us to this point, and whether or not we are able to buy this house in the next few months, the door we stand in front of leads to something beyond our imagining. Without our knowledge, God had stored up provision for us, and now we see the fruits of His preparation. We also see God's honoring the countless prayers of friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, and even people we've never met.
Simply, I am thankful.
We'll probably continue our luxury camping until the end of summer, and I couldn't be happier. This time of hauling water, hauling compost, lighting candles, and chasing chickens has been nothing but good, even when it's annoying. Living seems less scattered and more rooted. It's hard to articulate, but it's easier to savor what is most savory. There is less flash and distraction, and the lack of electricity necessarily slows one's pace. In lieu of that journal-gift I haven't put ink in (argh!), I offer these memory-flashes, in the haphazard order in which they pop into my head...
Our first week in the trailer, Millie said that she wished I would turn on some music. When I reminded her that we had no electricity, she smoothly turned to me and said, "But, Mama, YOU are the electricity." At first, I laughed, but I've found its truth. I sing like I sang before marriage and children. I am the electricity, and songs again come unbidden and unnoticed throughout the day.
There is a great joy and an immense satisfaction in rediscovering the secret places of one's childhood with one's own children. The girls and I tromp the hills, hollows, fields, and woods. It's like meeting an old friend without awkwardness, the years between slipping unseen behind a veil.
Birds swoop and sing constantly, surrounding our days and our home. I sometimes feel like we live in one small nest among many. We especially seek the flash of oriole orange, an electric sizzle in the cool green trees.
Clatter and bang, we hear a graceless landing on the shed's tin roof that slopes too steep for grace. The girls and I run to the steps to see two turkey vultures staring back, taking our measure. We are too fresh for them, and they soon jump ship for sky, the six-foot-span of their wings making us jump and exclaim.
I don't welcome the eleven o'clock wake-up call from the coyote pack in the field right behind our trailer, but, once awake, I sit inside and listen to the high keening of howls and yips. A unified cacophony. Discord becoming song. When I open the door for a closer seat, they scatter into the woods.
A red-winged blackbird sits sentinel in the elm near the compost bin. When I take food scraps or other compost out to the field, he sends a "booker-cheeee*" my way. Without thinking, I usually converse back and count it as being neighborly; I'm disappointed when he's not there.
[* I know it's supposed to be "conk-a-reee" or "o-ka-leeee," but from the time I was little, it's always sounded like "booker-cheee" to me. Actually, as immature children, we said it was "boogar-cheese." Sincere apologies.]
An unexpected beauty waits in midnight trips to the toilet tent. Stars in the dark country are sharp and clear, and the foggy swath of the Milky Way curves across the sky, its path mirroring our steps toward the tent and back again. In the middle of the night, I point out constellations to bleary-eyed girls as we hold hands in the dark and while dew dampens our pajama bottoms. Men, women, fabulous creatures of myth-- they all hang suspended just above our upturned noses-- but we turn from them and stumble back to bed.
The only light competing with the stars are the lighting bugs, so numerous now that I wonder at the Lord's largesse. In daylight, they seem common, ordinary, but night transforms them, and they in turn transform the hayfields, some lighting the dark hollows of grass and others, audacious, floating upward to the narrow wedge of pine tops a hundred feet above. The girls gather them in Mason jars and use them for a nightlight, a twinkling jar that eclipses electricity.
I've never really enjoyed getting up in the middle of the night to help the girls use the bathroom, but, here, I do. And I've been seeing a lot more of that toilet tent in the middle of the night myself because, Laura, you just might be onto something with that
and who am I to deny her?
This is another anecdote that hasn't made it to my blank journal, only this one serves to balance the "life-is-all-sparkles-and-sugar-and-spice." Be thankful there are no pictures.
Title: The Three-Layer Tower of Misery
Setting: Our narrow car-home
Date: three days after we moved in
Time: 3:00 a.m.
Moral of the Tale: Vomit is Gross, Mama is Mean, and It's a Pain to Clean without Running Water
I was awakened from a deep sleep by Mildred's frantic calls, and immediately swiped around for the flashlight, knocking things over in the attempt to find it. Stumbling to the bedroom, I snarled as I tripped over unpacked boxes, and upon reaching Millie, I discovered that she had It-- the dreaded stomach bug-- in plentiful measure.
Mildred was pitiful, but her moans were drowned out by Susannah's shrieks below. "WHAAAT'S that SMEEEELL, Mama? What's that SMEEEELL?" she wailed over and over and over again. Simultaneously trying to comfort Mildred and shush Susannah, I finally lost patience and snapped, "Your sister Millie is SICK and SAD and YOU NEED TO BE QUIET!!!!!"
Mometarily quelled by my outburst, Susannah quieted, and I continued to murmur soft, meaningless comfort to Mildred. It wasn't until after I stripped Millie and her bed that I discovered the whimpering Susannah had good reason to whimper. Not only had Mildred emptied the contents of her belly on herself and her own bed, but she had also soaked the still-slumbering Annika's bed below, AND-- you guessed it-- Susannah's nightgown, bedding, hair, and face.
I felt like the cad I was and after stripping Susannah to her skivvies, I led them both outside in the cold night to pour gallon jugs of water over their heads.
It was a scene straight out of Little House in the Big Woods.
Charming, heartfelt, and idyllic.
One damp night, the girls took a detour from tooth-brushing to lose themselves in the thickness of fog. The camera automatically lightened the snapshots, but I couldn't see them once they were ten or so feet away.
Annika, an eery apparition from out of the mist, wielding her toothbrush.
We went on an impromptu picnic in the woods, and since Debbie showed up at the right moment, we kidnapped her to come along.
The picnic site was next to Millie's Fork Tree, a tree in which I found a piece of green glass when I was about ten years old. I kept it for the next decade, but lost it in one of my and John's moves.
A Pixie Gorilla.
I thought it'd be grand to get a picture of all the girls in the Fork Tree, so Deb took a picture while I stuffed Piper on the branch.
Deb also took this cool picture of Millie.
A few weeks ago, John took us to a bird-watching sanctuary. At each turn of the trail, these living signs pointed the way. Or didn't. The one on the right was consistently insecure.
Millie asked to take a picture of Piper. Please don't laugh at her bling-bling. She doesn't know it's a plastic money clip. She thinks it's Scrooge McDuck jewelry, and she loves it.
Picture of Piper.
Picture of Piper.
Inside the main building are bird-watching apparatuses. I was paranoid that we'd break one, but we left them unscathed.
Susannah looks like a fearless leader, but she was really lagging behind everyone else. We were on our way to the ravine to explore one of the cricks in the woods.
The initial test was positive.
And we didn't encounter any bear, except this baby one that clung to my back, which I also count as a positive.
This first picture is for you, Haven. Millie thumbs through our copy of this book, too. She's trying to identify this moss.
We found it growing on rotting log which stretched across the stream.
Ask your dad to take you there the next time you visit, and you can identify it firsthand.