Today’s Gift

Eighty something degrees and sunshine. Today I walked. Living all alone on I-don’t-know how many acres of ranch, I can walk for a long time. I see no one. I see no cars. I can hear the traffic in the far off distance but only because I live on a hill. I am the only human being.

The only beings as domesticated as myself (and decidedly more domesticated, I might add) are the cattle.  I see the deer and the squirrels and the multitudes of birds daily. When I walk I see different kinds of droppings. I see the prints of animals in the dusty caliche road. I recognize some. I know a turkey print, deer, raccoons.  I see others too—perhaps porcupine, opossum, rabbits, coyote, maybe even mountain lions. I am surrounded by wildlife.  It is impossible to be unaware that they are here.

The birds especially force notice. They are so noisy! They make the funniest, most beautiful and interesting sounds. When I scatter stale bread in the yard the ground moves like water with every kind bird—quail, mockingbirds, cardinals, and doves.  Lots of them.  

Today I should be studying. I should be writing a paper for school. Instead I am living in my present. I am feeling the warm sunshine and fresh air. I’m listening to the birds and allowing butterflies to flutter by.  I prepared a beautiful meal only for myself and now I am playing with words.  The paper will get written. Work always gets done somehow. This moment, however, this day, will not repeat itself. Unless I take it now, embrace this life as it is at this very moment, I’ll miss it. I want to grab as much of it up as I possibly can.

I saw a mockingbird alight a cactus in a sunbeam.  That’s enough of a gift for one day.

Staying Warm

How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

While I certainly don’t pretend to have ever experienced the magnitude of cold that Solzhenitsyn did, I know I really hate being cold.  When I’m cold, I can’t do anything. I can only think about the cold. From my icy toes to my wet and runny nose, it’s an excuse to do nothing. It could be that I’m just too skinny. I have not an ounce of fat to insulate my bones! But it’s much more than that. Warmth is oh so psychological. Good things warm us—like laughing, and love, and snuggling, and soft wool, and sunshine, and chocolate chip cookies, and holding babies and good wine. When we are wanted we are warm.  When we aren’t lonely, we are warm.

My physical state affects me greatly and I will go to great lengths to maintain a just-right environment. That’s easy to achieve when you live with central air conditioning and heat which I’ve had most of my life. The brief periods that I went without were just that—brief, or so I thought.  I don’t pretend that I have not been spoiled and pampered in many ways.  I’ve never been able to help that, right? It’s what I was born into? Something like that? Whatever.

The first night in my little cabin didn’t feel cold. It was New Year’s Eve and I had been warmed by a bit of champagne and probably exhaustion. Vanessa and Rodger were asleep in the next room providing the emotional warmth we all need. Even though we slept on the floor that night, cold was not an issue.

The second night I froze half to death. Ok, Solzhenitsyn is rolling his eyes now. This is Texas not Siberia, but isn’t it relative? Ok, so I’m spoiled for not living in Siberia. I was cold that night and the little window unit made a lot of noise without making things the least bit toasty. I kept wondering how much electricity it was using to spit cool air into the room.

I had my bed now and began piling on the blankets. For Christmas my brother and his wife had given me silly bunny socks that were thick and soft. My toes felt like popsicles inside them.  I put on my flannel jammies and found my silk long underwear leftover from camping long ago.  I lay under the covers and didn’t even read a book. I lay there. I thought about what a long winter this would be, coming home every night and hurrying to get under the covers. Somehow I survived the night.

The next day, my daughter and her boyfriend came bearing gifts.  They brought me the cutest little portable radiator. It’s electric and has oil running through it. It makes no sound except for an occasional thick, oily drip.  I can pull it by its cord like a toy horse. I wheel it into the bathroom every morning before my shower.  It’s perfect! I’m learning other little tricks too.  I keep cookie dough in the fridge so I can bake on really cold nights—an excuse to turn on the oven.  I close off the extra room so I don’t have to heat it. I’ve learned that I don’t need that room anyway. Funny how I thought this place was so small and now I’m not even using all of it! Sacrifices I once thought to be huge have turned out to be no big deal at all.

Anyway, today reached 83 degrees. What will I do come spring without central air conditioning? Solzhenitsyn knows nothing about Texas heat!

Vanessa and Rodger: Moving Day

“And that’s the only thing I need is this.  I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray… And this paddle game. – The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need… And this remote control. – The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need… And these matches. – The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball… And this lamp. – The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one… I need this. – The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. “

The Jerk

 

Vanessa and her husband, Rodger, came to visit in the spring of 2011. It was so wonderful to spend time with them.  My boyfriend made margaritas and we had a good time. Actually, I drank far too much that day. Vanessa and Rodger knew something was not right but being the least judgmental people in the world ever, they didn’t say a word.  Their discreet actions led me to know that I had friends and that they would be there for me if I ever wanted to help myself.

Vanessa and I graduated from high school together. We were close. She came from Port Arthur and I was from Biloxi. We were both the youngest in our deeply southern families. We both grew up in yacht clubs around sailing. We shared a silly, goofy sense of humor. We have never agreed on politics but that never got in our way.  She is sensible and I, well, I am not.  We were in touch on and off through the years. Really more off than on.  But we were there. Somewhere.

When I talked to Vanessa, she never judged me or my boyfriend, or the living situation I was in. In fact, she embraced him and liked him. She saw, however, that it wasn’t the healthiest of relationships, that I was not making the best choices. She waited for me to realize that I had to make changes. She never said “this is what you must do,” but when I explained the situation and what I would try to do to solve my problem, she told me she was glad that I saw it that way. The name Vanessa is synonymous with the word supportive.

When I finally found my little cabin the logistics of moving became yet another obstacle in my attempt to fix my life. I was trying so hard not to spend much money. There was no one in the area who I felt comfortable asking for help. I didn’t want to hire movers when I was moving to a tiny place to save on rent. I couldn’t do it alone although me being me I actually thought about it!

So one day while sitting in Starbucks, Vanessa and Rodger gave me a call. It’s just one of those “just calling to see how you are” kinds of calls. No sooner had I told Vanessa that I was moving than Rodger asked if I needed help. I am embarrassed to say that I responded with a very quick “yes!” Probably too quick.  This was just before Christmas.

Vanessa and Rodger are so amazing. New Year’s weekend and their 28th wedding anniversary they drove up from Houston (excuse me, Perland) and helped me move. Rodger even brought a bag filled with good books and music cds for me.  After I spent a week giving away three full car loads of stuff to Goodwill, I packed what I needed and Vanessa and Rodger, and I loaded up a U-Haul truck. They waited patiently while I stood in the front yard of the house I had lived in with my soul mate and cried.

Together we lifted, pushed, pulled, rolled, dropped my large sectional, my awkward-shaped entry table with the large mirror I was sure would break on New Year’s Eve, and a bed made of mesquite and iron.  Together we took the door off the hinges in order to get the washer and dryer out. We drove the 25 miles to my little cabin and unloaded. For all the heavy lifting, packing, and maneuvering, the most important thing they did for me was be there. No hired movers could have understood the meaning behind the move I was making. This wasn’t just a move from one dwelling to another. This was a life changing event and it was intentional. I was taking a bold step in my life and Vanessa and Rodger were there to see me through.  Rodger never once lost his patience and Vanessa kept her sense of humor throughout. This is what friends do.

I am learning that I can’t live this life alone. No one can. We all need each other. Part of learning to take care of yourself is learning when to ask for help. As stubborn as I am, I could not have moved my furniture without help.  Without the help of a long list of friends and family, I would not be living independently and alone in my little cabin. 

We spent New Year’s Eve together, the three of us, sipping champagne under the big Texas sky on the porch of my little cabin. Well, actually Rodger hit the hay pretty early and Vanessa and I caught up on “girl talk.” But the stars were infinite in number and clear and perfect.

How I Came to be Here and Why it Matters

“Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one’s own.”
– Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

From the time I was a very young girl I had an ideal of living far away from any civilization where I could have solitude and think about things. I had other dreams too; I wanted lots of animals and lots of children. I wanted a man to love who loved me in return.  I wanted family and friends.  I wanted to live in the city and be anonymous. I wanted to live in a small town and be known and loved by everyone.  I wanted it all.

I read Thoreau and Emily Dickinson. I read everything and voraciously. I let the waves of life push me along the beach, sometimes gently, sometimes with more force until I was nearly drowning.

I have been so fortunate in my life to have many experiences. I have attended cocktail parties at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Chicago, I’ve traveled the locks in Amsterdam on my parents’ boat, I’ve hauled hay and mended fence line. I have inoculated pigs and cows.  I have given birth to a perfect child.  I’ve read the best books and speak several languages. I can sew and knit and can pickles.  I’ve danced the two-step (albeit not well); I’ve attended punk rock concerts in Austin and the symphony and opera in Chicago. I’ve walked the streets of Paris and I’ve walked the trails of the Texas Hill Country.

I’ve been beautiful and young. I’ve been ugly and I’ve said things I regretted. I’ve been happy to the point of elation and so sad that I had to be scraped from the very bottom of humanity and put back together. I have loved people and sometimes not loved them enough. I never loved myself enough.

I never stopped to take care of myself, to know myself. For a long time I have been busy trying to make other people happy.  I never really believed that I could have a “room of my own.” In the homes of my failed marriages, I tried to make a space for myself—a corner or room—but it never felt right. It was never truly mine. I realize now, it wasn’t about the physical space. The space in my heart was far too crowded to allow me the “room” to right down my words. I never imagined that it was really possible for me to have a little place all my own just to write, create, and think about things. I never imagined that I deserved it.

I came about having such a place quite by force. A big wave pushed me there and said, “there you are—you asked for it!” So now I am happy counting my pennies to make ends meet, using my little space heater when I must, going to the Laundromat, and heating my food on the stovetop (no microwave). I also watch the sun rise and set, observe the deer and quail, and listen to the funny birds. I am truly so incredibly happy.

I don’t worry so much about money but I am taking care of it.  I’ve given up the man who is my best friend, the love of my life and I miss him terribly but for the first time in my life I have myself.

When I am not at work or attending classes, I can write, I can heal my relationship with my daughter, I can heal myself, and I can make of this life what I was intended to make of it—something very good.

I have no apologies for sounding very selfish. I am being selfish. I also want other women to know that they don’t have to go through an entire life feeling insecure or insignificant. You can learn about yourself and take care of yourself. You can know that all the things you do hold tremendous value in this world.

This blog is intended to be the story of my time alone in my little cabin.