Wednesday, August 30, 2006

on the second day

It smells good here. That’s the thing I keep noticing—the aroma of crushed fern, living evergreens, and clean quiet air. Last night, K. and I slept in our soft sheets, under our flannel comforter, on a futon with featherbed, in the bed of our truck. We pulled it in under the giant tarp-ceiling, draped the track-rack with mosquito netting, and fell soundly asleep to the sounds of crickets and water falling from the leaves of the trees.

So far: the camp site is set up. And since we’re here for a month, the campsite includes food shelves, pots hanging from clothesline, a stone-rimmed firepit with coal-cooking area, many, many boxes of tools, a work bench, a card table with candles and stools, and lastly, a marble slab on stools with a vase and candles for me, with a mirror tacked to a tree above, acting as a very deluxe vanity. It’s beau-tiful.

That was yesterday. Today, many trees met their ends, and we now have two improved roads (the entrance road and the old logging road we’ll be dragging our cabin trees on), as well as a completely level building site. In case you’re in awe: Harry came over with a bulldozer. On our side of things, K. and I have erected half of an outhouse. The hole is dug, and the structure itself is about half-done. It is also beau-tiful, with a fab view into the green trees and to the blue mountains. Pictures will follow when completed.

Best incident: a mouse ran up my pants. Yep. I was carefully moving stones, and found two little field mice. I couldn’t leave them, as that area is now completely flatted by the dozer, and so I carefully picked up the last stone, their last hiding place. One headed for the wood pile, and one went up my pants. I shook my leg a few times, but nothing came out, so I went about my business until I felt little legs crawling up my lower thigh. And even though I knew what it was, I still hollered and danced around while whipping my pants off.

--- end of cabin building installation

On the interminable drive between DC and Vermont, I listened to an NPR interview with Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopalian priest. Her story was mainly about why she left her church and began teaching, but she said something that’s been playing on my mind ever since. Warning: it’s about God.

I’ve always conceived of God as a person, despite all the official gender-neutrality thing. The closest I’ve managed to achieving that is having God be female sometimes. Kind of like one of those weird frogs. But BBT said she conceived of God as this infinite web of conecctedness, omnipresent. Maybe I’ve perverted her words in my head, but that’s what I took away—and I really like it. It makes God more like this alternate reality that if you slow down, you can touch.

I think I’m a fan.

The bulldozer approaches. Until soon!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

how can i talk about ideas when I have so much NEWS?

My fingernails are chewed to the quick, I have a stress-induced spot on my face, and my toes are unpainted for once, but-- the house is empty. Packed. Done, pretty much, except the final cleaning we'll do before we leave.

And I better get my beauty act together because... K. got the job in Mississippi, where the girls take their looks very seriously. That's right-- our official unemployment period lasted a grand 15 days, though we still get September to build our cabin. We'll be driving to Oxford directly after VT, and K. begins work October 11th.

That's not very far away, but in that time period, I will spent a month in the woods, built a cabin, had a birthday, and moved up and down the east coast twice. It's a fast pace, these days, and I'm doing my best to stay kosher with all this tasty change...

But meanwhile, I'm going to shout out to my sweetie, who handles moving with excitement and unbelievable competence, my frequent standing-in-the-middle-of-the
-room-crying-and-mumbling-about-my-china-pattern breakdowns with grace, and negotiations with corporate bigwigs while in his underwear on a stool in our empty kitchen with aplomb. Throw in the fact he managed to take apart all the plumbing to unplug the sink, and I'd call him a winner. (man, did I luck out.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

alright, i know, we're still not in vermont.

here's the skinny: our house is in boxes. we're back from a 2-day family thing at the beach. we're walking through our house with the landlord on sunday to get our whopping security deposit back and we're heading north on monday. tuesday: set up a campsite, meaning find places for the tools, make a make-shift kitchen, and to k's disgust, set up a counter with mirror for me. wednesday: build the outhouse, go madly shopping for necessary supplies. thursday: start assembling the foundation.

we can do this. we can do this!

Friday, August 18, 2006

diatribe #416

Well, I have to say for all you people slogging through day jobs: not working is fabulous.

that being said, k. and i found telling people that we are unemployed so distressing that we've resorted to "we're retired." which is pretentious, but a lot more fun.(and no, we don't have enough money to retire. sabbatical's probaly the most accurate).

So, we've spent the last week driving around the East Coast, visting friends, family, and most notably, a now-9-day-old baby, Jilas Alistaire, born to our friends. We saw him on Monday, meaning that's he's practically doubled in age by now. Crazy, eh? He's a beautiful baby.

While I am as happy and confident about moving away from DC and taking September to build a cain, the people we've come into contact with in the past week (NOT our actual friends, but more the at-party-conversations) have not been as supportive as one might think. The "that's-not-possibles" have made me wonder how many people are settling in life. People are shocked to find out the K. and I have planned our departure from DC for as long as we've lived here; they're bitterly incredulous that we're not hiring construction crews to build a one-room cabin without electricity or plumbing; and strangely, they're resentful that we've saved enough to take a few months off without wiping ourselves out financially.

How have we come from a nation where people strode into the wilderness and created homes with handtools and old-fashioned labour to a society where unjamming a sink requires a plumber and knowing how to run a chainsaw makes one a woodsman? Now, granted, I still don't know how to use my $35 sewing machine. I've never canned in my life. But I've learned how to use woodtools, weedwhackers, and I can cook-- that puts me significantly ahead of most people, and I have big plans to keep aquiring more skills. My husband, blessed to come from a family where people know how to do things, regularily astonishes people with his ability to work on his car, do drywall, install water heaters, rebuild lawn mowers, and the like.

What's interesting is that domestic skills-- and yes, domestic skills involve screwdrivers and drills as well (domicile means house, not women's work)-- but anyway-- domestic skills have become vilified. Women are afraid to learn to cook and clean, and they don't replace those pretty necessary household tasks with the other duties, such as car maintenance, gardening, etc.

My beef isn't with people eating take-out, or getting their oil changed at Jiffy Lube. It's about the mentality that we are not capable of taking care of ourselves, and so we pay, pay, and pay for everything. For cooking. For food itself, because we're too lazy to grow it. For oil changes and fuse replacements. For someone to clean our toilets.

I don't know how to build a cabin, but my husband's read some books, done some things with his hands, and I'm a good follower. We're willing to learn.

There's a great how-to section at the library. Which, incidentally, is free to join.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Today is my last day of work.

I'm a nostalgic kind of person. I keep photo albums...and in a trunk, there is every picture I've ever taken that didn't make it into the photo albums. I have notes I passed in 5th grade, and they didn't survive by accident. I kept them. Because I'm a keep-and-cry-about-them-later person.

But I'm not feeling the least bit sad about leaving this job. Sure, it paid well enough, and I learned proofreading, BenchPress, and how pompous public health authors are, but the main lesson I learned here?

Don't waste time doing something you're not interested in. Sure, I was panicked, with about a three-week window to get a job (and more importantly a fix on my job's location), and the money was good and the hours decent. But really? There are so many places I wish I had worked while I was here. The National Preservation Society, the Land Trust Association, the Building Museum...

So next time, I'm not settling for something I know I can do with my eyes hut. Here's to being challenged.

And my novel selling for an unprecedented advance, so the whole issue becomes irrelevant anyway :)

-- NOT THAT IT HAS, MIND YOU. just that it should.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Great idea:

A bike tour in Tibet. It's going on my list of things to do before I die.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

very small nuts

I have this tendency to focus on very small things in times of stress. It's an obnoxious habit to the people around me, an irritating one to me, but nonetheless, in the face of a move, a job we STILL don't know about, and cabin-building, not to mention my undetermined career, I find myself obsessively coordinating an operation to move the furniture my grandmother left to my incapable father which currently resides in storage. The partners? A sulky teenage sister, a grumpy husband, a fugitive and mentally unpredictable father, and my least favorite aunt.

Everything is set up now. We'll see if it happens. But I finally realized that if it doesn't, it's ok. Because the only reason I'm worrying about it is because I'm a nutter with a burning need to focus on the very small nuts.

Nearly a year ago (ok, a month and nine days), I was slicing lemons and limes in my mother's kitchen at midnight. Because my wedding would NOT be complete if there were not PERFECTLY ROUND slices of lemons and lime to float in the water pitchers (despite the fact that I hadn't yet MADE the bouquets, boutineers, or table arrangements. That came later. With Mom and Nastasha, bless their hearts.) Before I climbed into the Packard for the church, I left a very detailed note for the caterers, telling them exactly where to find said lemon and lime circles.

At the reception, sitting finally married next to K., I saw the lemons and limes, thrown on a plate, shoved on the furthest corner of the beverage table, nowhere near a pitcher of any kind. And I didn't care.

Well, I cared a little. But relatively, not that much, especially compared to K., who kept jumping up from our table like a jack-in-the-box because his pet project, the wooden barrel of wine with a spigot, kept not being fully turned off by silly drunken people. The slight stream of wine was like a knife thrust to his heart. (Somehow, neither of us stressed out about the fact that the lights strung between the trees were going off and on as the fuses blew. The groomsmen, bless their hearts, handled that.)

Point being.... well, disasters may come, and crises may mount, but you'll find me in a corner, polishing the smallest nut on my shirt, worried that perhaps it's cracking or getting old or has nut disease.

I'm stretching here, I know, but lordy, it's FUN making these analogies work hard.

Friday, August 04, 2006


In the absence of a community of peers here in DC and with a plethora of sitting in front of a computer hours, I have found online people who inspire me. Like FarmGirl, who's got 240 acres in Missouri with sheep and a donkey. And Apifera Farm, where an artist and her husband are raising sheep and lavender. And now, Blue Poppy, who's got an off-the-grid house up in New England on 82 acres. (All bloggers, all fab-- check 'em out by googling).

Life happens out of urban areas! And by the end of this month, K. and I will be somewhere conducting a non-urban life! The fact that we do not yet know to what state we're moving our house scares me, but overall (today), I am SO EXCITED to be leaving the pavement, the crowds, the nothing-is-more-important-than-my-job and the overwhelming sense of guilt I have because we don't go to museums, or see bands, or even eat out. I think that wherever we settle I have a better shot of finding MY people-- the people who want to party in a field next to a bonfire and take hikes and just HANG OUT and eat stuff without all of this trekking across town and I'm-sorry-but-can-we-reschedule and I'm on Atkins/South Beach/Allergic-to-gluten BULLSHIT (p.s. you're not. You're just not. Because anyone who is actually allergic to gluten would have died a long, long time ago, when all anyone ever ate was gluten gluten GLUTEN. Oh, and ps-- being allergic does not mean you pass a bit of gas-- it means swelling up and HAVING TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL or else you WOULD DIE. So shut up already).

Anyway. We're moving, and today, I'm filled with wonder and excitement that I get to live in the country, after 5 years of exile, much earlier than expected.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Finally, I have a thought.

Historically, I have remained on the fence about Hillary Clinton. She's smart. She polarizes people. She married a willy-slinger. She has the DC helmet head thing.

Apparently, Hillary is being seriously considered as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008. This morning, while brushing my teeth, I listened to people talk on NPR about whether or not this was a good idea.

And you know what? I came out a convert.

EVERYONE thinks Hillary is a kickass senator who has done a great job. SOME people want her to run. And some people don't. You know why? Because they don't think she would win. Why? Because she's a woman. Over and over again: she's great, but America's not ready for a female president.

I understand that we need a good president next. I understand that the Democrats need a candidate who can win. But guys, come ON.

Let's look at the things Hillary Clinton has done right. Top student in high school-- no pot-smoking scandals there. Valedictorian with a political science major at Wellesley-- unlike Bush AND Kerry. She was the first student to deliver a commencement address and her peers gave her a standing ovation. Onto Yale Law, where she did well, did work for children, migrants, etc., and then became 1 of 2 female faculty members at the University of Arkansas's Law School. Throw in the pro bono work for poor migrant families, and I'd call her someone who has worked hard and used her power for good. She was named one of America's top 100 lawyers. (Incidentally, while she was First Lady, she continued working as a lawyer. Who knew?)

I'd like to be able to tell my daughters that if they really want to, they could become president.

But apparently, that's not true. Because here is a woman who HAS worked hard, who's undeniably more able than many of her peers and most the lame-ass Democrats we put up as candidates, and support is less than unanimous because she's a WOMAN?

Let's be logical here. She's past the childbearing age, so conservatives can't whip that one out. I'm sure she's post-menopause, so no need to worry about matters of state being interrupted by a period (although in my understanding, menstruation is considerably more easy to plan around than penises).

Also consider that Hillary has already been in the White House. She knows what this is about. Plus, she was married to a GOOD president, one whom people liked and the economy did well under, and he would be nothing but a political asset to her.

Lastly, what the hell could she do to worsen things? Increase the deficit? Jeopardize our foreign relations? Send the economy swirling down the tubes?

Give the woman a shot. She's certainly earned it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I'm a little stress-pot :)

I'm trying hard not to think about things these days, which is why I haven't been posting much. What with the accounting department breathing down my neck with unintelligible whispers (really, just one guy; I don't know where he's from, and I can't ask him, because I would not be able to understand his answer), and the poor trees in the Andes who have 100 years to move 2700 feet up the cloudy slops to escape global warming, and the mass profusion of dog hair that hangs in the air of my house, and the 100+ degrees heat, and the disasters in the Middle East, not to mention the fact that we've started packing and I don't know what state we're moving it all to, complicated by the fact that despite the house with walls and closed windows and a screened-in porch, mosquitos slip in and then do things like last night where one bit my FACE... well, throw all those things in a pot and let's just say I'm a bit crazier than usual, filled with whirling anxiety, which I am doing my very pitiful best to suppress by not thinking. And doing yoga. And avoiding coffee.

One strange side effect? I've started reading non-fiction books that have little to do with my current life. It's really relaxing to read about how the hip British set throw house parties (Domestic Bliss), or the perils awaiting upper-middle class women with children and husbands with high-powered careers (Perfect Madness), and now I'm into the Harvard study of aging, which tracked 3 different cohorts from 1910 on, and some guy wrote a book based off it called "Aging Well."

I'm 23, people. Despite my attachment to sunscreen and my growing predilection for flannel pajamas, I know I don't have to read that book yet. (I have been restraining myself from using a nightly retinol cream for probably 4 years, and I really can't wait until I hit 28, because then I can buy the Olay anti-aging reams without feeling quite so loony.)

So enjoy the summer, have a blessed Tuesday, and know I'll be in my cubicle, drinking tea, as mindless as I can possibly be.


and quietly thankful. Because you don't get to be stressed and whine about it on a blog when you have real and huge problems.