Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Your Representative



I just finished reading the book "Love Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton. It's a thoughtful, sad, and funny memoir of her life, growing up (and then marrying) while being bulimic and alcoholic. Ultimately, it's a story of finding her voice and her strength through therapy and increased self-esteem, achieved through a variety of experiences. Even if you've never been bulimic, alcoholic or married, it's a great read.

What stuck with me the most was her assertion that at some point, while still quite young, her personality split in two. When put into stressful or socially difficult situations, she would summon forth a false self -- her "Representative" as she called it. 


Author John Bradshaw has another term for the persona we bring out when we don't feel safe enough to show who we really are. He called it "the false self," and maintained most of us create one by the time we're through primary school, through the process of learning and/or believing we are not desirable, wanted or appreciated for who we really are. We create a false self so that our sensitive, thoughtful and more vulnerable self can hide in the deep gardens of our soul when it needs to (or perceives it does), in what has to be the first and the original "safe space,"  that being the inside of our own skulls.

I believe this is how so many of us who rate higher on the "sensitivity scale" survive the the ups and downs of adolescence, the working world and especially relationships. We don't send our real selves into the trenches of interpersonal relationships and society when we don't feel safe. We send our Representative instead.

How I visualize "my Representative"

How many times do I send my Representative to deal with things instead of my authentic self? I've been thinking about that. At work, I do occasionally, of course. There are just some customers who aren't given the access code for The Real Me, and so I have a bright, cheery persona who deals with people while my inner self ponders deeper things. Ditto with certain coworkers, especially if they have beed hurtful or insensitive in the past. 


But she's probably more like this.

My Representative comes out to banter and smile whenever I need her to. And on thinking about it, I realized I even have a couple of friendships where it is not so much two people being friends but our Representatives who are there, having lunch and talking over current events.


I spent the day with a good friend today -- a real friend -- and part of the fun of our afternoon spent together was the complete and utter spontaneity we had just being ourselves. We laughed, we guffawed and we complained about the sheer absurdity and ridiculousness of life and buoyed each other up with our common thoughts and feelings on everything from work to husbands to where we live.


But in thinking about it, my mind shifted to yet another "friend" who I see once in awhile but who I don't think I've ever actually, really, met. Early on her Representative indicated she wished to meet with my Representative for lunch, and so they did.  There were a few laughs and polite conversation, but any attempt to go deeper on my part was met with a wall on her part, and so our relationship has remained shallow...and ultimately without meaning. Representatives are great at keeping things smooth but if it's meaning you seek you must first drop your facade and be known and seen.


How often do you send in your "Representative" to deal with things in your life? I suspect the measure of a person's happiness is how often they feel safe enough to hang their Representative up on a coat hanger behind the door, come sit down, and be their real selves. The more unhappy among us must don their Representative on a daily basis, keeping things pleasant but ultimately meaningless. 


Perhaps that's one of the draws of homesteading life...the chance to be oneself, all day, every day, no Representatives necessary.





Friday, August 25, 2017

Shakin' the dust off


Florence Oregon lighthouse (courtesy shutterstock)

The eclipse trip Big Ag and I took recently was good in many ways, but one of the biggest reasons is that it shook the dust off me. When you are comfortable and happy in your routines, it's easy for them to become a rut, and taking a trip of any length (farther than the grocery store, anyway) enlarges your perspective again to where you not only appreciate where you've traveled to, but you also appreciate home more, once you get back.

In short, sometimes you have to be someplace else in order to re-learn how to be here. "Here" as in the present, wherever that takes place.

When I was in my 20's, I was seized with a chronic restlessness that caused me to travel all the time. I backpacked through Europe for months. I traveled cross country for several weeks on an Amtrak pass, did 10 day back country trips up Mt. Whitney and the high Sierras. If bigger trips failed to materialize I got in my car, alone, and drove to Santa Barbara, Joshua Tree, or Palm Springs for the weekend. 

In truth, I was driven to travel because I lived in shitty places I usually could not wait to get away from, in that grand wasteland known as 1980's Los Angeles.

Of course I could not wait to get away from my dingy apartment, with the view of the parking lot and the neighbors with the loud television. When we're young we may not know much, but we recognize when we're in a place we need to escape from.

But the thing about growing up is that eventually, you hopefully become successful and end up living in a home and a place you love -- one the younger you would have loved to vacation in. Big soaking tub? Check. Marvelous view? Check. Pretty bathroom, sans mold and cockroaches? Double check. And so you stay put more. You put down roots because you're finally in good soil. But like any house plant, it's possible to get root bound and dusty and need to be freed from your pot and shaken up a bit once in awhile.

This trip to see the eclipse and the Oregon coast reminded me that yes, I do live in paradise compared to where I came from. But there are other paradises that need to be explored, too. The Oregon paradise we drove through had pine forests, lighthouses, wide open beaches and random beach towns with great breweries. And I remembered that paradise is found all over the planet, if we're willing to travel to meet it where it lives. 

And sure enough, I returned from our vacation calmer, more in the moment, and happier. Sometimes you just need to shake the dust loose and move around a bit to realize that deep roots are advantageous in some ways, yes, but not if they make you incapable of being anyplace else.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Epic

The eye of God looked at me....and I looked back.


That's the only word that can even begin to describe the total solar eclipse we saw on Monday from Corvallis, Oregon -- epic. Yes, we got off the homestead and took a road trip! We got a trusted friend to live-in house sit for us and took off on Saturday, despite hearing doom-and-gloom predictions of a "Carmageddon" type auto apocalypse in Oregon as a million people streamed north.

Carmageddon did not happen. If there were crowds, we didn't see them in our two day, 10 hour drive. But we did see a spectacle the likes of which I will never forget.  I have seen two annular eclipses before this, where over 99 percent of the sun was covered up, and while they were impressive, they were not anything like this. I repeat: If you have seen anything from a 10 percent partial up to a 99 percent-covered annular eclipse, you cannot compare it. So start making plans for 2024, and you WILL thank me for it then. Trust me on this one.

Here are some shots of the enormous crowds we had to contend with: 
All the cars on eclipse morning.

All the eclipse watchers.

Going partial.

Am I the only one who fancies some crescent rolls right now?

So what exactly happens during a total solar eclipse? What surprised me the most was how just one percent of sun makes for a fairly bright day, although it's a softer light than we are used to. But at the moment of totality....actual, sudden darkness. Too dark to see the controls on my camera, in fact. Stars came out. There was a 360 degrees late, late kind of sunset. And it got cold immediately. 


I didn't know quite how I'd react to it when it happened, but the darkness came so quickly my jaw literally dropped. We heard whoops and cheers from everyone in town who was out watching it, which made it almost a tribal experience. And I looked up and saw a black sun. 

It was one of those moments I will remember for the rest of my life, unless I get dementia, in which case I won't even remember what cereal is, but that's life for you. Next post will be extolling the fine state of Oregon, which as a native Californian, I must say kicks our ass in just so many ways, including their coastal highway.

Some moments in life literally take your breath away and make you stand in awe, and this was one of them. So glad I pressed forward to see it, and that's my advice to anyone considering seeing it. No matter what you go through, no matter the crowds, the prices or the traffic, it WILL be worth it. And you may not have problems with any of those things...some things, like those, are typically over-estimated. But the majesty of an event like this, you just cannot understate the magnificence of.



Monday, August 7, 2017

Mañana


I will can them...mañana.

Don't know if I've mentioned it, but when my family had our DNA analyzed, it revealed my mother's side of the family comes from Northern Europe and my father's side from the Mediterranean/Middle East. 

While it's kind of a cool combination, I also think it means I have a constant war going on inside me, between my Scots work ethic and my Mediterranean "mañana mentality." The latter phrase, while it has a Spanish-sounding name, is actually an attitude which occurs not just in sunny Spain, but throughout Southern Europe and the Middle East. (You can tell this because if you visit someplace in the region, like the Acropolis in Greece and they have scaffolds up and are working on restoring it, when your friends visit the same spot 30 years later, the same scaffolding is still up and the place looks exactly the same. True story. I'm sure they're getting to it soon. Really.)  

Who knows, maybe it took the Israelites 40 years to get to the Promised Land because they figured they could always "just go tomorrow." Makes sense to me.

To that slack-y end, I've decided my summers spent slaving over a hot water bath canner are over. This year I'm experimenting with freezing my tomatoes first, then canning them once autumn and cooler temperatures set in and it doesn't feel like my entire being is on fire if I stand in front of the canner.

I'm not sure why I didn't try this years ago. Probably because my Scots ancestors were nagging inside my head to be productive and task-oriented and hard-working. What do they know? The other half of my DNA decided this was, in fact, torture, and that while canning is all well and good, it should not be done if you have any hope of trying to keep the house cool. Which the inner Scots, not surprisingly,  agreed with, since it involved saving money and being thrifty with electricity and all that.

And so into the freezer goes the tomato bounty of summer. And onto the sofa goes me and my 46 chromosomes, with a cold beer and an authorized permission slip of sorts from both sides of my ancestry to put tomato canning off for now. 

It's nice when we can all agree on something.




Friday, August 4, 2017

24 years ago...


24 years ago, probably on a lark, God decided I could be entrusted with the raising of another soul. If you'd seen my yuppie, over-scheduled life, you would have asked, what were you thinking, Supreme Being?

 Thankfully, it worked out. My son not only turned into a wonderful, caring, intelligent adult, but made me a far better person than I might have otherwise have been.  

It turned out I was better at the care and feeding of small human beings than I (and maybe anyone else) had thought possible. Happy birthday, son!


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Midday In the Garden of Good and Evil



This year was a banner one for milkweed around the property. It's in the raised beds, cropping up through the bark, and growing in all the places you might and might not expect something to grow. Up until now I've let it stay everywhere it's started, because of my understanding that it is essential to Monarch butterflies, who use it for food and to lay their eggs on (although since we freeze hard in winter, the latter does not happen here, since our milkweed is not freeze tolerant).

So I've been going about my business in the garden, convinced of my virtual sainthood for allowing the milkweed to flourish for the beautiful Monarchs. Then a friend told me that while the Monarch butterflies use milkweed, so do Tarantula Hawks. Which is not good business at all, especially if you happen to be either a human or a tarantula.

I do this kind of thing all the time, to be honest, playing God in my personal garden kingdom of good and evil, and it probably does no good. I've judged Tarantula Hawks to be evil because they land on tarantulas, injecting a paralyzing venom into them, and then proceed to lay their eggs on the still very much alive tarantula. When the eggs hatch, their first meal is the paralyzed tarantula. 

I happen to like tarantulas. They are gentle creatures who will almost never attack people and can actually be kept as pets, unlike Tarantula Hawks, who are capable of inflicting one of the most painful bites in the world on humans who piss them off (probably right after capturing, restraining and torturing some poor tarantula, which will later be eaten alive by its offspring). Therefore in my universe, Monarch Butterfly: Good. Tarantula: Good. Tarantula Hawk: Evil. Evil like serial killer evil. My garden, my call.

But by attempting to encourage the endangered Monarchs by allowing plenty of their food source to survive, I also unintentionally created a garden of bounty for the tarantula hawks and thereby possibly upset a delicate balance of tarantulas versus tarantula hawks. 

Which basically means I suck at being God.

So often, in the garden as in life, we just need to leave things the fuck alone and let nature balance it all out. But we like to play God and cast creatures as angels and demons in our kingdom, and try and manage everything going on. But even God couldn't do that. Look what happened in the Garden of Eden. That too turned into something of a failure.

Humans do this all the time. We remove a predator we deem evil or a threat (such as wolves) only to find that with the predator gone, something else gets out of control, like deer and rodents. Then we try to step in and manage that, only to fail again. "Look, we poisoned all the rodents! But now the poison is killing all the owls. Shit." 

I am now going around and removing the milkweed that is growing in places supported by irrigation, and leaving the plants which are surviving on naturally dry ground, to try and restore some balance. A little less food for the Monarchs, but a little less for the Tarantula Hawks as well.

And I'll be thinking twice from now on about playing God in the Garden of Good and Evil. Because even God had a hard time with that.





Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Sad and Lonely Horse

So I occasionally browse a website comprised of people from our neighborhood who post inquiries, complaints and comments on a kind of message board, and someone posted this a few days ago.




The guy who coined the phrase "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," was not too far off. It turns out the person who wrote this post just moved here from the city, and knows nothing about horses. He admitted as much in the comments section a little further down the page, once people started questioning whether or not he should be urging people to stop and handle/feed someone else's animal, who clearly was not hungry or neglected in any way whatsoever.

For the record, I'm a big fan of kindness, especially towards animals. But ascribing human emotions to animals is not generally a good thing, unless you are an expert in that particular animal or species, enough to know how they emote their moods.

I drive past this horse myself several times a week and can tell you that this big gelding is not sad, but rather....zen. He's chilling in his favorite corner, lazing in the sun, and meditating on nothing in particular. Or who knows, perhaps he's planning final details regarding the destruction of western civilization/mankind in a very slow and methodical way.  We won't know until it's too late.

He's well fed, in great condition, and just doing what horses do in the heat of summer, which is stand in one place for several hours, pondering, studying...zoning out. All horses do this. But I'm guessing he's not sad.

What really gets me is the guy floating the idea that everyone start feeding the "sad and lonely horse" carrots. Can you imagine the amount of carrots this horse would be ingesting if 75 people stopped to feed him every day? It kind of boggles the mind and could actually be damaging to the horse, since carrots are pretty high in sugar and are supposed to be a treat, not a staple. 

Some people move here to our area for the option to keep livestock, and others move here for the wine. And as long as the livestock people don't start trying to tell the wine people what makes a good Cabernet and the wine people don't start trying to cheer up the livestock people's animals who are pastured near common roads, life can be good here. It's all about mutual respect.

What we all need to focus on is the passive aggressive and insecure goats on the next street over, anyway. Now they need some serious help, I'm telling you. Perhaps we can find them a good therapist.