Archive » April 15, 2010
By Christie Tarman, Contributing Writer
Sometimes there isnít time to hike. When life goes into overdrive, there might not be a moment free to spread out the map or plan the escape.
Wilderness convert though I am, I admit that certain circumstances thwart the chance of getting out and settling into natureís lovely habitat. Ironic as it is, the very thing a busy person needs the most is sometimes out of reach: A way to find a world away when the world sheís in is moving too fast.
That was my life this week. No matter how I tried to set some time aside for measured quietness, it did not happen. Despite the way I felt my stress level rising, I could not cross the bridge to meet my need for outside meditation.
I had too many inside obligations. Fortunately, my sister-in-law hung a hammock up between two trees on my new property, two weeks before I even came to stay here. I avoided it intentionally for two weeks more, saving it for the day I finished unpacking.
Talk about ridiculous! To save a hammock for a day Iíd finally not need it, because Iíd be content and able to relax. My choices this week re-routed me from that silly form of martyr thinking, as I smashed up against my feebleness and widespread limitations.
Like a sparrow flying into glass, I had to fall flat on my back before coming to my senses. Fortunately the hammock was there to catch me in my crash and swing me back to sanity. Rock me into rest.
Cloudy sky, threat of rain. Cold wind, creaking trees. Glossy leaves, flexible limbs. Fragrant air, freedom here. Come swing with me.
My hand presses against the fence for momentum. It was built by my husband and my dad, two weeks before my family moved in. The fence is part relic, from the posts and wire that were left by former tenants Ė not yet too rotten or rusty to be considered worthless.
The other part is newer, hauled from Idaho in a pickup bed, or purchased from local merchants. A beef cattle ďherdsmanĒ for more than 30 years before retirement, my dad is a man who knows his fences. He took the time to make this yard into a place that could contain my German Shepherd Lab, and any other dogs that come to visit. In addition, it makes a safe place to play for all the young children of our friends, like the ones who came to hunt eggs and hold rabbits on Easter.
I push my hand against the wooden beam again, and remember the way my mother packed and cleaned my childrenís bedrooms.
It seems like months have gone by since then, though itís only been weeks. Inside my house there is a mess of unpacked things that stress me out, but here in the breeze Iím remembering the lovely things, like the pictures she hung for me in the hallway. When Iím moving the couch this way and that, I donít have time to remember that.
So I stare into this cloudy, stormy sky and remind myself how the hallway looks to outsiders unattached to boxes left unpacked; they see the waving wheat fields near the area where I spent my childhood, and an Ecuadorian landscape. I ponder the way my college trips to other countries changed me and wonder if my children will have their own experience of finding home by running away to foreign places.
I watch the wild wind blow limbs of trees into each otherís arms and send small leaves to fly above the view of other properties nearby mine. There is a hillside where some recently born foals are galloping. I wonder when Iíll get to know the people who are raising them. They are my neighbors now, in this place where I will try to build community. I am impatient as the fillies and the colts, longing to explore my boundaries now and see where I belong.
I am restless as the stormy wind blowing through our giant walnut tree. When Iím indoors, I judge myself for this, demanding I should feel ďat homeĒ with every item placed upon a shelf. Out here there is no place to store ludicrous illusions such as this. I push against the solid fence and swing into acceptance.
How unreasonable I am, full of self-criticism and snooty expectations! Itís good to feel the grace set in. The past two weeks have held a multitude of significant events besides our piling in amidst our Rubbermaids. Weíve acquired three new pets (rabbits to show for 4H), hosted relatives from another state and entertained a group of more than 25 for an Easter celebration. Add to this a job a couple trips to LAX, a nasty cold, and a kitchen under construction Ė and itís easy to see why Iím worn thin.
The hammock strings are also thin but strong, and woven tightly. They are holding me as if I were a baby in need of swaddling. I swing into compassion for my new predicament of having security for where I get to live, but very little livability just yet.
The blessing of the fabulous space my mother-in-law has designed to meet our kitchen needs is only a couple of weeks away from actualization. I will have a kitchen sink again! I will not need to place the microwave against the fireplace, nor dine on cold cuts and the insides of soup cans! I will remember the careful way my brother-in-law put cabinets in, and other acts of generosity from friends and family.
The weather on this windy day shows that trees are made to bend so they wonít break against the sudden change of wind. I am made like them, adaptable in almost every way if I am willing to believe that. I can resist the rigidness from seeping in and telling me that I must be an island of homeostasis for my kids. I can let spontaneity be part of the settling.
Spontaneity makes good memories, like the three days we had with visiting Montana relatives. We watched dolphins at Refugio, where my toddling niece could touch the sand and California surf. We drove up Figueroa for the views of green and blue against the backdrop of orange poppies and new fragrant purple Lupine.
My sister and her husband packed a form of weariness that made them perfect house guests for a family just moved in: they were worn thin from snow and ice and a house under construction. So we left the boxes on the walls while they were here, and spent the time opening the Valleyís springtime gifts.
Remodeling during the long Missoula winter was not on the list of things my relatives had planned when they bought their house last autumn. Yet plans change, especially when a construction truck from across the street loses its brakes and slides down your funnel-shaped driveway. You can seal the space, but youíll certainly miss your double front doors and the bathroom sink, among other things. It pays to be grateful, as my sister is that they missed the excitement. Only the pet cat was home to hear and see the wood and tile splintering.
My sister and niece were singing toddler tunes at the local library, and my brother-in-law was seeing patients at the clinic where he works. It was a nurse who got to relay the strange and awful news: It was snowing inside their living room. They have told the story many ways, attempting all the time to preserve some sense of humor through the weeks of waiting for the fix. Remembering this, I am inspired to do the same with my small housing challenges. I am also warned away from clinging to a false belief that owning a house will free me from housing unpredictability. There will always be that project on the wings, and fear of this can haunt me, if I let it.
My gaze is dominated by the trees in wind, and I began to question why I get to be as fortunate as this, and live in a place dominated by natureís beauty. Part of me canít reconcile with the fact that I get to live on this large Ĺ acre of land while folks I know are losing homes. It is partly due to this bad economy that my husband and I could afford this property. We have been through many housing adventures, and know friends who canít even afford to rent and thus are homeless. Getting to live on this land has so little to do with what I deserve, and so much to do with what Iíve been handed.
One friend of mine spent the first 16 years of his childhood being abused by numerous foster caregivers. The fact that he can celebrate my homecoming with sacrifice of time and energy to move us in, and trim and lift and build and fix this place is no small gift. When I stay inside to organize and categorize, I am distracted from realities like this. Thank goodness for my limitations. Today my frenzied pace was enough to make me sick and push me outside into this wind. Out here I remember to ask for the wisdom to share this place in every way I can, so it can bless more people who need rest.
Our new neighbors have been an example of this type of generosity to me. Whether they are there on any given afternoon, my daughter accepts their standing invitation to make herself at home. She jogs next door, greets their dogs, and climbs unto their trampoline, sunk into their yard. I watch the way she balances the two extremes of jumping there: bracing for the lows by pulling in, then stretching out her limbs as she flies into free space. Down and up, pulling in, then letting loose.
I have to fight my instinct at those times, which wants to make her stay behind the line that marks our property from theirs. An odd sense of propriety wants to say itís wrong to be so bold as to accept their invitation. My daughter has no qualms in arguing with me, pointing out my stubborn isolation.
Thank goodness. In two short weeks, our neighbors, who have been a solid fence post we can lean against in this time of crazy unpredictability, have really and truly started to become our friends. When I take the time to swing outside my moving mess and admire the way theyíve honored and tamed the scenic, rural, wildness, I am grateful. I am able to take their advice and take my time unpacking.
Finding Paradise appears weekly in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal. Contact Christie at Christietarman@gmail.com with comments, ideas or questions.