One Way to Jumpstart a New Year

Yesterday began 2018. Some people hold the belief that, however you spend that first day of the year portends how the rest of the year will go. Which is only to say, mine was not an entirely auspicious beginning, given my hope for a calmer, more intentional time going forward.

5:15AM on January 1, 2018. Very cozy in bed with Carl asleep next to me, Nick and Nora, too,  at my feet and on my head, respectively. After a few minutes of convincing myself that it was a good idea, I got myself up. The first day of the rest of my life and I was going to write, to draw, to meditate in the dark of the calm of the slow lighting of the sun of the vast beauty of Darwin’s View. Glimmers and outlines of the environment around me. Schtude’s crows from the greenhouse . . ..

I should preface this by saying that it was cold out on New Year’s Eve. Very cold and, being me, I worried about the chickens becoming icicles. And so the wonderful Carl, ever tolerant of my obsessive worrying, had build a simple wall in the attached-to-the-house greenhouse, thereby creating a 4’ by 6’ space, directly next to the door that goes outside. I had put down newspaper and then hay and used two milk crates to serve as nesting boxes and a 2’ by 4’ for a roost. And then I, eventually joined by Carl, carried the girls and Schtude in, one by one, placing them into the house, directly from the outside, into the greenhouse new coop, as the sun had set, concluding the damned year of 2017.

Was it damned? Unspeakable things happened in 2017. Evil. Cruelty. Heralding the demise of democracy and human decency. Maybe of humanity. And yet! Look around and one can see a fomenting, the solidifying of a movement, of involvement and determination.

Who was it who said of the war to save nature “All our wins are temporary, all our losses are forever?”

The clock ticked. It ticks to midnight. And the chickens were, for all intents and purposes, inside the house. Though there is a door between the living room and greenhouse. And then one must walk the 8 or so feet over to Carl’s new wall and door into the 4’ by 6’ area where the ten chickens nestled and kerfuffled. Schtude fomented against the limited area he had to spread his mighty wings and flap. His crows were remarkably closer than when the birds are ensconced in the coop.

He began crowing at 4AM. I was up at 5:30AM. The wood stove fire had burned down to embers. I shuffled them around and filled the stove with wood and left the side and top vents open in hopes of creating a fire, a.k.a. warmth, thereby proving to myself that I am capable of maintaining the wood stove, even with one arm casted and without Carl’s help. And then up into my office. A deep breath. I settled down to my journal, assorted colored pencils, pastels and paint. Peace and quiet as I contemplated the difference of expression between words and forms. Six. Six-fifteen. Six twenty-five. Yes, it was around six twenty-five that all hell broke loss and the fire alarms began to sound. Every one of them.

I jumped up and ran downstairs. Carl was coming out of the bedroom. My mother’s caretaker (Did I mention that my mother is visiting us for three weeks? Advanced Parkinson’s and we have twenty-four hour caretakers which merits a whole other post, if not a book) Tammy joined us as we attempted to figure out where the smell of plastic or candles was coming from. A faint fog but no smoke, per se. No hot walls. The wood stove was blazing merrily but the fire was safely inside of it, not out. Carl shut down the flues. I ran outside. No flames coming out of the chimney.

“Do we call 911?” I asked. Carl hedged briefly. We decided to call. We could, at least, assure them that everything was okay, right? They didn’t need to come, did they?

They came. Long story short, five SUVs and a fire engine made it up our half mile driveway and we got to know our wonderful local firemen, who informed us that two houses have burned to the ground in the past week because the fire alarms had gone off and the people hadn’t called 911; thereby the Chief reassured me that I hadn’t been an alarmist by calling.  He said, please call.

In 2013, I declared war against climate change on my blog. The last month of 2013, I wrote five posts, building on what I had learned and where it had brought me. Years have passed. We, as a nation and as individuals, debate whether to call the professionals. And the alarm bells are ringing.

Schtude crowed. Having people in one’s house and realizing what it must look like, having one’s chickens . . . . I trusted that the firemen had other things to worry about. Once they left, however, I suggested to Carl that, though it was still damned cold, yet, maybe we should get the chickens out of the house because the greenhouse was heating up—a balmy 50 degrees by 8 am, and the change in temperature wouldn’t be good for the girls. It was only 0 degrees out. It would shock their little bodies.

I put on my boots and went into the 4’ by 6’ area with the chickens who complained that there was little enough room to walk about without a human in the mix. I tried to unlock the door. The door to the outside was frozen. An eighth of an inch of frost bedecked it. Not even Carl could open the door and so we had to take the chickens, one by one, out through the house to the coop. First Swallow. Then the Suffragettes, Susan B and Cady. Schtude. Ping. Chickadee. CooLots. Apricot. Brownie and Squeaky were the last two. I headed out of the greenhouse into the living room with Brownie, who is, by the way, the only one who seems more content inside than out, and Carl was in the greenhouse chasing Squeaky. An uh-oh and crash. A curse. Squeaky was free and squawking in the greenhouse. Carl lunged. She arrived into the living room. I stopped to assess the situation. Carl got onto his hands and knees to follow Squeaky under the dining room table. She darted beneath, betwixt and between the dining room chairs. I told Carl to hold on as I struggled to get my cell phone’s video camera up without losing hold of Brownie all with one arm in a cast; I ever have my priorities straight.

Finally, I suggested to Carl that he take Brownie as I might be a bit more able, even one armed, to chase the chicken. He stood up. He stared at me. No comment as he took Brownie and marched out of the house. I chased the chicken from the dining room into the kitchen where she skidded and shat, and into my arms, feathers flying. As I passed Carl coming back in, I warned him of the liquid bomb on the floor.

At last calm? Not quite. Nora was missing. I spent the next two hours wondering out loud, to little effect, where the cat might be. High and low I looked. Carl, as ever, kicked in. While looking in the crawl space in the attic, he fixed the broken lightbulb. In the basement, I hung the winter coats that had been on the floor since December 21. Trying to de-clutter and fix even as we sought the cat who Carl found, of course, in a box, purring and sleepy and safe.

The most part of the rest of the day was spent with a new friend who suggested, as has been suggested by others in the past but we haven’t made the time, that we write up a mission statement. Clarify what our passions are, what we want to do here.

I have been trying to write about our times here. A memoir of our life at Darwin’s View. The end keeps getting pushed back. I keep learning and the fact is, to conclude a book, one must know what one is aiming for, what one is trying to say, one’s mission.

The book will be the backstory to this blog which, in turn, is a step into the future. My point being, I know if I slow down, all the muck that gets raised in the hurly burly of our life will settle. The muck will become the soil in which we grow our selves, our hopes and intentions.

2017 exposed hate, fear and—for all the aspersions cast about fake news—truth. This nation is imperfect.  But it is a union. We are all connected and therefore we cannot stand on the sidelines anymore. We have only to determine, each of us individually, how we are going to act and thereby expose who we are, truly, as human beings.

Apparently, creosote forms much faster when there is an extreme difference between the heat of the stove pipe in the house and outside. We will need to maintain the heat of the stove in order to prevent the build up. Balance in extremes. How apt.

I believe 2018 will be a year for bravery. Daring. Uncomfortable places. Thus, this morning, I sat still. My drawings were full of zigs and zags, of bright reds, oranges, pinks, yellows. Surrounded by dark blues, blacks. And, in the center, because there she was this morning, so plump and shining, the moon setting over Mount Monadnock. Purity, hope, and balance in words and forms.

Happy New Year.