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Archive for February 5th, 2015

Turkey Tracks and My Essays: Why I Love Winter In Maine

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Turkey Tracks and My Essays:  February 5, 2015

Why I Love Winter in Maine

 

It snowed all night again and is still snowing now.

The paths dug through the snow from four storms in ten days are now running like mazes through what is, in places, shoulder high snow banks.  The untouched snow is well over knee deep up here on Howe Hill, and in places where it has drifted, much deeper.

I just came in from a trip to the garage and down the driveway to the mailbox.  This new snow comes to the tops of my black boots–or about 10 inches or so.  The end of the driveway was knee-deep with plowed snow.  I waded through it gingerly, feeling for a solid bottom as I went.  (Falling over into snow is no fun:  it is very difficult to get back up as there is no way to get traction to get up again.  You can’t just push down on the snow bank to push yourself up as your arms go in too.)  My mailbox door was open, and it was, again, filled with mail and snow–which is why I knew I needed to get down there.  I cleaned it out and banged it shut again.  The mailbox is almost covered by the plow’s snowbanks–only the top sticks out now.  I put a reflective marker in front of it to alert the plow guys, and retraced my steps up the hill.  Last winter that mailbox got hit and was in pieces in the road.

My writers’ meeting cancelled for this afternoon.  It’s a moot point for me as there is no way I’m going anywhere with four feet of snow at the end of the driveway.  And, truth to tell, I’m enjoying this quiet, sweet day of falling snow and cancelled events.  After lunch (I made lamb liver pate, which I’ll have with toast, cherry tomatoes, and dilled lacto-fermented pickles), I’ll sew and listen to the P. D James mystery I’ve almost finished.

In the garage, I filled two buckets:  one with chicken feed (they eat so much in the cold, and temps will drop again to single digits and below tonight) and one with bounty from my freezers.  The food I put up all summer is being eaten now–orange pumpkin roasted and  frozen, red tomatoes frozen whole, greens of all kinds (beans, kale, parsley, zucchini)–all laced with grass fed beef and lamb and truly free-range chickens.  The garage refrigerator freezer is packed with fruit from my garden (strawberries and raspberries) and from Hope’s Edge CSA (which finds organic blueberries for members).  And every day now, I am getting three to five fresh, soy-free eggs.  I have all sorts of lacto-fermented foods that glow red, orange, and green in my kitchen refrigerator and provide crunch and a sense of freshness.  And I get fresh Milk House raw milk and yogurt from friend Rose each Wednesday.  I am so blessed, and it’s so great to enjoy the fruits of one’s summer labor.

So, when people from away ask me why I stay in Maine in the winter, or why I  keep chickens that have to be cared for–whatever the weather–first thing in the morning, sometimes at midday, and at night when they roost and need to be locked into their safe little coop, I’m never quite sure where to start with explanations.

You know, sometimes it’s hard to deal with all the snow, the cold, and the chickens.  In the blizzard, it was hard to keep the back door and the path over the deck to the steps clear.  It has to be kept clear so I could get out that door to go to the chickens.  And, the chickens are especially hard to get to in the deep snow I have to negotiate before my terrific guys who shovel me out come.  The chicken coop has been “snowed in” several times now in the past ten days, and it has to be cleared.

But, I never feel more alive than when I successfully solve a winter problem–like getting the mail and protecting the mailbox (hopefully) and getting to the chickens.

These trips “wake me up” in so many beautiful ways.

They get my blood flowing strong and true.

They put me squarely into nature–which can bite (snow in my boots, bitter cold, blowing wind), but which can also provide such incredible beauty.

Look at what I saw coming in from locking up the chickens at dusk the other day.  The soft blue of dusk and the rising moon were so beautiful.

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It’s hard to describe or even take a good picture of the sunsets–where, often, the real show is not in the west, but in the backlighting of the east:

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Today, everything outside is coated with snow–so the trees and shrubs look like they have been coated with spun sugar:

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The snow is so deep that the turkeys have to fly everywhere–which takes so much energy for them.

They came late morning looking for a handout of sunflower seeds.  One–at the top of this picture–got stuck in the snow, and I watched him struggle until he was able to get under the pine tree.

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A bunch of the turkeys are sheltering under that big pine now as I write.  They must be so hungry today.

The little turkey hens fly up to the upper porch and look for billed-out sunflower seeds on the porch.  They fly to nearby trees when I come out.

I’ve never seen so much snow at once.  Not even in my years in Bellevue, Nebraska (outside Omaha).  I guess that in itself is kind of exciting.

It’s unclear to me what the weather will be like on Saturday.  The weather folks seem to be waiting to see what two large storms headed our way are going to do when they collide and merge.  It could mean more snow.  A lot of more snow.  But there is no use worrying until things are clearer.

Meanwhile, I had a lovely day yesterday:  Linda was here in the morning and visited as well as cleaned, lunch and a Zoot’s coffee with friend Giovanna, and a lovely meeting of the monthly knitting club at Eleanor’s.

I am happy to stay mostly inside today.

I have to go feed the chickens now…

Written by louisaenright

February 5, 2015 at 1:13 pm

My Essays: Alone

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My Essays:  February 5, 2015

Note:  I am starting a new category on this blog:  “My Essays”

I am going to try to write at least one a month–maybe sometimes more if the writing muse strikes…

 

January 2015

Alone

The other day I drove up my steep drive in Maine and paused in front of the garage door.  I wanted to sit quietly for one brief moment to enjoy and reflect on the profound sense of pleasure I was feeling. 

Tom Jackson had solved the problem with the overflowing well that was pouring water over the driveway and making a death-trap sheet of slick ice between the garage and the house.  PDQ Doors had just fixed the problems with the automatic garage doors, problems friend Gina Caceci and I couldn’t sort out with her on a ladder with a Phillips Head screwdriver and with me holding the ladder, her leg, and a spare light bulb.  And Stephen Pennoyer had been at my house for nearly two weeks fixing EVERYTHING inside that needed repairing, painting, or upgrading. 

I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a house where everything inside was in tip-top order all at the same time.  I smiled to myself, reached for the garage door opener, and…nothing.  The gods of chance and mayhem had struck anew.

Since January of 2013, when my husband John died, I have been alone and have carried the responsibility for myself, for my home, and for all my actions and decisions.  I have spent these past two years either learning to do all the things that my husband John used to do, or, in finding who can help me do what I cannot.  At times this learning curve has been quite steep. 

Of course I am not totally alone.  I have a warm and loving family, though they live in Charleston, South Carolina.  I have a sister who calls frequently from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and fusses at me for not carrying my cell phone every time I go outside to take care of my chickens.  (Suppose you fall out there?)  I have a sister-in-law and Enright cousins who come to see me from Boston.  I have wonderful neighbors who help me with emergencies—like the time last winter when Chris Richmond and his son Carleton helped me bail out a flooding garage.  And I have a lot of local and faraway friends whom I enjoy and who spoil me to death.

At some level, I find myself wondering, are we not always “alone,” even if we are married?  Are we not all single souls who traverse our lives with differing amounts of connection along the way?  Being married does not always mean that all responsibilities get shared.  Most marriages, I think, divide up responsibilities.  I didn’t help John with repairs or keep our financial books once our sons entered college, and he did not help me shop, cook, garden, or organize the dailyness of our lives. 

Perhaps the relationships and responsibilities within a marriage and the subsequent loss of it all contains lessons for us to learn in this life.  Perhaps these lessons are part of our work here on earth.  It interests me that I am now learning the parts of what John knew, while he never got to learn what I know. 

I have never lived on my own until now.  I married at twenty-one, so went from my father’s house to marriage and our first apartment.  And though I worked for many years at various jobs outside the home, I have never been totally financially responsible for myself.  Predictably, my new situation has been scary, but also exhilarating. 

I have mostly faced and conquered my worst fears.  Our joint hard work of thirty-eight years produced savings that buttress my present life—so long as the stock market does not crash utterly and our banks don’t disappear into a dark night—fears about which I’ve accepted I cannot do anything whatsoever.  My health is good, and if it goes south, I can go there too to be with my family.  Or, not, for I do love where I live with all my heart and soul.  I no longer wake often in the night wondering if I have heard a strange noise or if I smell smoke or if I have left on the oven or iron.

I have set some safety rules.  After a bad fall a few days after John died, I determined that I would not get out of bed without turning on the light first.  I think it’s wise not to put any pot or pan on the stove unless I am inside the house.  (Suppose I fall outside or get distracted?)  I concentrate on the stairs or on the winter ice.  I am careful in restaurants as I have food allergies that can cause me to pass out.  And I am careful with the cord on the electric mower and with the propped-up lid of the chicken coop. 

I have learned who my real friends are.  Actually, some of these lessons have been surprising.  People have disappeared who cannot make the switch from wanting to be with “the Enrights” to wanting to spend some time with just me.  Some of these losses have been painful, but not overwhelmingly so as I have realized that this change is common to widowhood.  And I will confess that I have let go of some people, too.  I am finding that I deeply treasure the peace of my days and have less patience with the cruelty of others.  I am finding, too, that doors open even as others shut.            

There are many joys to being alone.  I can call an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, a painter, or a gardener whenever I want to without having a pitched marital battle about “doing it yourself” or “emasculating your husband.”  I can change anything I want to around the house without the need of coming to consensus.  I can read in the middle of the night in my own bed if I wake and want to do so.  I can cook and eat what I want when I want.  And I am learning to travel by myself and to plan treats for myself when others cannot join me. 

This winter, I have been thinking that I have spent much of my life nurturing others in my kinship network and in the greater community.  As wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, granddaughter, grandmother, friend, neighbor, and so forth, a chunk of my time has been spent thinking about or doing for others.  Suddenly, it seems ok to concentrate on being more nurturing to myself, to further learn who I am on my own outside the responsibilities of those relationships—especially as I never had the early learning of being alone and on my own. 

I am not discarding these kinship and communal relationships.  But in the stark clearness of both my aloneness and my age (seventy in March), I am deciding to examine where I think I have a relational responsibility a bit more closely.  Is help really needed, or do I need to be helpful to try to create meaning in my life?  The latter case is not always a healthy place to be.

I hoped, as I examined the garage door opener, that it just needed a new battery.  When John was alive, I would have taken it to him and waited for a solution to the problem.  Now, I hoped that Radio Shack in Rockland carried the tiny little battery that emerged from the opener.  And, a day later, when I got home from Rockland and the opener still did not work,   I took out the battery the young man had installed, turned it around, and put it back.  Voila!  The door shuddered open, the light came on, and once again, everything inside my house and garage was in tip-top shape.

As was I.

Written by louisaenright

February 5, 2015 at 12:14 pm