Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Questioning a life

Saturday we drive down to Portland to take the teen to a metalsmithing class he is taking at the Maine College of Art. We started going down last fall when he was taking a photography class. It has been a nice change of pace. We drive down early Saturday morning, drop the teen off at his class and then have several hours to wander around town. Sometimes I connect with old friends, sometimes Mark and Evan go on their own adventure while I go on my own adventures; usually involving thrift stores and yarn shops. Sometimes we pick up some things that are not so easy to get in our area like really nice, affordable art supplies at the ART MART. But mostly we spend time in many of my old haunts.

Before I got back to the land, I was a city girl. I was raised in the city, I worked in Cambridge, Ma, I moved to Portland in 1989. I never touched a chicken growing up, goats and sheep were critters I knew only from county fairs. And yet, here I am wakened by the sound of baa-ing sheep, saving carrot peelings for my chickens, marking the retreat of snow from the soil.

I wouldn't say that I just woke up one day and decided that this was the life I wanted to live. It was a matter of circumstances presenting themselves and providing lessons for me. I've shared before that I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 29. At the time I had to really think about what was most important to me as I realized that my health was not letting me live the fast paced life of a single mother, working a full time job and taking classes at the local university. As a result, life slowed down out of necessity and allowed time to explore what my body would allow me to do and in the process I discovered gardening, canning and knitting.

My lessons in self sufficiency were taught out of necessity. Portland has vibrant community gardens. I learned so much in my tiny little 5 by 15 plot. I grew enough veggies during the summer to never need to buy veggies through the summer. One summer, Tristan and I were really poor as my health impacted my ability to work at my fast paced hospital job. This was the summer that I realized that I could put a few extra quarts of green beans in the fridge. Friends and I gathered around a second -hand water bath canner to make strawberry jam. I shredded zucchini for the freezer. I canned tomatoes. It wasn't much food but some weeks that winter, when it was tough to get all the money I may have needed for the groceries, those few veggies filled the soup pot. I learned to knit and made Tristan's hats and mittens with yarn I found cheap at the Good Will. I patched the knees of his pants. I made very good use of my library card and read about simple living, Helen and Scot Nearing. Eventually, I moved north from Portland, met the man of my dreams and he shared the same dream of living a country life.

Here we are on our two acres, with our 7 sheep, one goat, 5 chickens and half acre garden. We heat with wood and each year that we live this life we find more we can do for ourselves. The recent upheaval in our lives has tested us. For me, holding the fort down during the week, I often wonder if this is a life one person could do on their own. For hubby who has to be away from his family and is living a town life right now, he muses on what it would be like for his whole family to be under one roof in town. For all of us who visit Portland, the lure of city life is exciting; there is so much music, art and progressive thinking. At this time, when we will be making some sort of change this coming year, it is easy to think that downscaling, giving up some of our self-sufficiency for the ease of a town life, would be a path we could take. It is one choice we could make.

But when it comes right down to it, I love this life. I may not like the struggles we have been through over the last year. It would be very easy to take the easy way out. But I love this life. I love living a life that follows the rhythm of the seasons. I love the quiet nights and star lit skies that I couldn't find in the city. I love those wooly faces that come up to me for a little grain from my hand. I love watching my boys , even though they are 13 years apart, get wild outside on a muddy spring day. I love the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing for myself, that full pantry in the fall, that sweater knit with love, those repurposed objects that saved us money.
I love this life so any doubts about what choices we may have made fall away....

Back to the sugaring....


Kathy said...

You are living the dream of many, and one of the things about dreams is that usually, the tough parts aren't in them. lol But oh, to live a dream, weather the storms and continue on ... knowing that more storms may come, but you will get through. That's really LIVING. Love you.

Wendy said...

I wasn't a city girl, but I have spent most of my life living in urban and suburban areas, and like you, I didn't have a lot of experience with things like chickens until I had my own. It's amazing how fully we've both embraced this "simple" life. Your epiphany came with reading Helen and Scott Nearing, and mine with reading Dolly Freed, and I realized that money does not equal happiness. How incredibly freeing that realization was for me!

Now, I couldn't be happier and more content with the way my life is going, and I feel like I'm in control, for the first time in my life, because I'm being proactive instead of just going with the flow ;).

gardenofsimple said...

wonderful post. I found myself walking city streets this week on my lunch break from work, in a wonderful section of a city neighborhood just outside the university. Gorgeous old houses, boutiques, local eateries. For a moment here and there I felt a pang of envy - or want I guess. But only for a moment. We're not quite as "rural" as you - yet. But I love the quiet. I love the land. I love being connected to the earth and to the seasons in a way that I don't think I could in a city.

It's interesting your kids are 13 years apart. My kids are 11 and 6 now - and my oldest will be 13 before we're ready for more (and I do want more!) It's nice to hear of other people with age gaps between kids!

Kristina said...

What a great post! I've lived in a rural area or farm my entire life and, like you, the city is so alluring with all that is available to do. But I just couldn't live in the city with all the people, traffic, etc. You are living deliberately and fully and I admire all you do! Take care!