Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Farmy of Me

So... here is is, a massive scale update on at least some fronts.

First off, it has been just over a month since my bunionectomy. Ever wonder what a bunion is and how in the heck they get rid of it? Yeah, probably not so much.

This is a simulation of the procedure they performed on me...

How was it? It sucked. Actually, at first it was fine, thanks to the wonders of modern pharmacology. Then the numbness subsided, and it was hell.

Suffice to say I have a new respect for pain, and for painkillers. A month on, I am a few pounds lighter and still a little bit limpy, but I can attest to the straightness of my toe, and the smoothness of my foot. Tragically, my foot is still a disgusting mess- horribly swollen, a bit discolored, and peeling everywhere (I guess this is what happens to surgical sites).

On the bright side, I'm healing much faster than many, and am expected to be back in running condition in 2 more months.

And everything else? Well, there is a lot going on. Michelle and I have toned things down, and are no longer living together. At first, it looked like the end of the relationship, but we have decided to continue, but not live together. We are, for lack of a more robust description, dating.

What that really means is that our time together is quality time, and we are re-asserting our separate lives a bit, and getting along famously.

I'm back to work here, and am out at the "farm" every morning, prepping the site for the electrician so that there can be functional electricity out there.

As the blistering Texas heat encroaches, work has to happen early in the morning, and the prospect of doing construction is daunting.

I am on the "on day at a time" plan right now.

More soon. Just wanted to update y'all. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Growing Power!

So, your humble scribe and cohorts (my brother Paul, and partner Michelle) returned early this week from a sweet little trip to Milwaukee to visit a glorious place known as Growing Power. This place is incredible, and wonderfully inspiring.
This is me with Will Allen, the founder, and Mark, my friend Suzi's husband who happened to be there all the way from Richmond, Virginia (they are farmers, too!). Will is a giant. A giant with a mission: to change the food system in America, which he believes is broken.

We learned so many things over the weekend: How to build greenhouses (Paul is a whiz), how to beekeep (Michelle can't wait), how to grow culinary mushrooms (this will be one of the first things we do!), how to use PV panels for solar energy, how to build aquaponic systems (where fish poop feeds your plants, all organic plus you get to harvest fresh fish!), and how to grow in a greenhouse year round.

Now, we just need to get on our land and do it.

There is so much to do, so much to learn, and everything costs so much. We've figured out that we must build a fence before we build our yurt home. Then comes all the rest of it. We are very behind our original (completely unrealistic) schedule. But then, that is really no surprise. What we are trying to do is hugely involved and will take a lot of time to mature.

We are up to our ears in work, which is wonderful, and Austin has now received more rain than we got all year in 2011. So, fingers crossed, mouth smiling, we sally forth...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Seasonal Exhaustion/Elation

Dear two remaining readers (who are undoubtedly blood relations), here I am again, putting off design work so that I can type out a cryptic little something or other on the ethers here...

Life has lavished me with all sorts of new and exciting things this year, no small thanks to my incredibly wise, generous family who have filled in the gap where traditional financing failed to meet my needs.

I've thought a lot about this- about the failure of the banking system to accommodate people like myself. People who work hard and eek out a reasonably decent living. After maintaining not one, but TWO corporate jobs for over a year, imagine my shock and disbelief at being denied a loan. A loan for less than my annual income, at that. All because I do not work "full time."

I wonder how many others out there, self-employed people, business owners and the like, who are also unable to receive the boost they would like to encourage the expansion of their businesses. Meanwhile, the government throws billions to alternative energy startups, who richly reward their top brass before declaring bankruptcy. Entire police forces of cities underreport crimes in order to manipulate the stats, so that some Chief can get an award, patted on the back by some mayor, while the victims of crimes suffer.

Our political system, like our banking system, does seem woefully misguided. Our policies make little sense to the working class who are, like it or not-- the backbone of this once-great nation.

I listened to a news report last night talking about the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest. It has grown and changed very little this past year- because the world's economy has been largely stagnant. This begs many questions for me, not the least of which pokes holes in the underlying premise of capitalism- that growth is the end goal, growth at any expense, growth for the sake of growth.

As a keen observer of landscapes, I notice the proliferation of plastic garbage in every corner of the city. The other day outside of town I delighted, from a distance, believing I was witnessing a field full of cowbirds. As I approached, I discovered that it was a verdant field punctuated by white plastic bags hung up on straggling plants. I was instantly saddened.

Why the digression? Because I am looking at a world increasingly clotted with plastic crap. Food coming in more elaborate, disposable containers; toys and tools in complex anti-theft packaging; and the toys and tools themselves- increasingly cheap, swaddled in plastic, plastic-bodied, obsolescent by design.

I think there is a peak to this bell curve of consumption. It cannot go on forever. We are being choked out, like lawns overtaken by weeds- by this cavalcade of "cheap shit." And I believe, against belief, that there is an end in sight.

That is why I am starting a farm. My deepest desire is to do good, to lead a simpler life than the one that has been shoved down our throats by society, and to be productive in a way that is tangible, real, and satisfying. We've been phasing out plastic from our lives, and in the same way I am attempting to phase out some of the superfluous static.

Instead of Facebook in the morning, I am reading a chapter of a book. Instead of watching some mindless entertainment online, I am trying to tend to plants, to educate myself on something, or to work on designs for the farm to come.

It is resulting in an increased mindfulness, a slightly sharpened awareness of my surroundings. A quieter mind that is better able to listen to the keening of my heart, to feel the invisible strings attaching me to my world, to anticipate the needs of others.

There is rain in the forecast, again, and the air is heavy with its anticipation. We are being blessed with an incredible, fertile spring. And I am being blessed with as much work as I can handle. So, over and out. Talk is cheap, it's time to work!

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year!

The new year crept up on me this time around, somehow more cunning and evasive than usual.

I have my suspicions that this has something to do with getting older, with the general acceleration of time. I expect by the time I am 90 that the world around me will look like a big, muffled blur of activity. It seems silly to expect anything else.

I'm filled with only one major goal for this year: I want to reach the end of it and feel bittersweet about passing the torch to 2013... You see, I am sick and tired of reaching the end of the year and feeling contempt for it. You know, the grandiose vitriol of "Hey 2011, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out!" and what have you.

Instead, I want to feel wistful about the passage of a wonderful year, about having to hand it over in exchange for a fresh, new one.

In fact, maybe it's the sweet afterglow of the holidays (goddamn, I have just about the best family ever!), or perhaps it is the recognition of my wonderful friends (seriously, just about the most wonderful people you could ever hope to know), or it could just be that I am about to purchase a piece of land and attempt to make my dreams come true, but I have been feeling all sappy and grateful about life an awful lot lately.

In fact, despite the fact that we are almost 2 weeks into the New Year, I would like to express my gratitude for the good fortune I have had this past year, and then some:

  • I am grateful for my work. I love doing massage, am constantly learning new techniques and growing more skilled at my trade, and I feel consistently amazed that I can get paid to make people feel wonderful and relieve their pain.
  • I am grateful for my other work- landscape architecture. It is such a joy to be able to transform people's spaces with my ideas and skills. I love coming back season after season and seeing how my designs are evolving, growing, and thriving. Designing with plants means every single work is a work in progress, always- and I am grateful for every last job that comes my way.
  • I am grateful for a life filled with interesting experiences, for the will to take risks, and for the modest returns (and setbacks) these risks yield.
  • More than anything, I am grateful for a life that I genuinely enjoy living and sharing with the people who make it great.
Shockingly- it's taken me almost 2 weeks to complete this, despite the fact that it is no work of art. I promise a more esoteric, thought provoking post in the near future.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home for the Holidays!

I know, I'm rotten, quite possibly the worst blogger in history. Oh, probably not.

I've just been busy. That sort of busy where you look back on other periods of your life when you thought you were busy and scoff. The stakes are so much higher now. Or at least they seem so.

I'm much more focused these days, despite the intricacies and complications that come with age and increased responsibility. But none of it terrible, nothing untenable.

There is a deep, resounding sense of joy and relief now that I am living in the open about my relationship with Michelle. Having spent a truly enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday with the family, I can only report that my respect and admiration for my grandparents increases annually. I am grateful to be a part of such a loving, supportive family.

Christmas is right around the corner, which I find exhilarating and exhausting all at once.

I have been embroiled in an attempt to buy a piece of land for the past month that has been absolutely frustrating to the extreme. Even my real estate agent said it was unreal. I'm shelving it until the new year, which has brought a great sense of relief.

All these dreams colliding with the hard wall of reality-- rather sobering. Rather typical, if I don't say so myself.

There is a steady stream of rain falling outside, and while I am relieved at this much-needed rain, we are hankering for a shard of sunshine here. Life with a 45 year old motorcycle leaves a bit to be desired in times of inclement weather.

Last night I completed a landscape design project that has taken roughly 5 months of frustration, annoyance, and poor communication to see through. Today, I am taking it easy, cleaning house and listening to cello songs. Contemplating how I cannot take on another project like that again. Not unless they pay me double. Everyone has their price, and I am no different.

Meanwhile, the battle drums are playing, and the season of buying is upon us. This is difficult, as I have been trying to get rid of things for some time. The only things I would like are appended to the fictional farm that I have not secured a purchase on yet. So there. I don't really care about the gifts, I just want to eat, drink, and be merry with people I love.

Come hither, holidays! We can take it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The way it goes...

When I flew to Rome this time for a holiday, by my best approximation, it was going to be 2 weeks of bliss: the first spent catching up with my brother's girlfriend, Lani, in Cinque Terre and perhaps beyond, and the rest of the time catching up with my best friend Jen, in Rome.

Of course, the actual experience has been an exercise in the unanticipated. There it goes again, life, running roughshod over all the best laid plans, made in vain, foolishly assuming we hold the reins of this thing.

The morning after I arrived, following a brisk run with Jen (more on that later), I hastily packed the smallest bag of my adventuring life, and hopped on a train bound for Cinque Terre. I should perhaps clarify that I am one of the lightest packers I know. I can pack a month of clothing in my carry on, and have on many occasions. I pride myself on my efficiency at travel. You know what they say..."Pride cometh before the fall." They speak the truth.

I ended up in Cinque Terre (literally, 5 Villages) with no map, no guidebook, no resource save for my iPhone--which worked, much to my surprise-- a camera, and a couple of changes of clothes, and hygiene essentials. Efficient, but not very wise.

The first night was a breeze, sort of. I wandered around in RioMaggiore, the first of the 5 Villages. I easily found an inexpensive hostel, packed with single lady travelers, and had a nice spicy seafood soup, as I was feeling a bit run down. That night, I discovered that this charming hamlet where "there are no cars" was actually one of the loudest places I have ever been in my life.

I tossed and turned for hours in an uncomfortable bed, sensing illness seeping into my bones. My head was filling with mucous, and my throat was raw and angry. Meanwhile, the streets, filled with obnoxious tourists, loud Italians, and dogs apparently being tortured. I did not sleep, and when 5 AM rolled around, the street, after several hours of relative quiet, was filled with the noise of garbage collectors and mopeds. I shut the windows and managed a couple hours of sleep.

Upon waking, My head was swimming in sickness, and my body intensely achy and sore-- most likely from the 45 minute run I'd subjected my unconditioned body to the morning prior. And then began the hiking. And the sweating. I'd forgotten to bring socks, so I went sockless. I hadn't brought a towel, so I dried myself with a long-sleeved shirt. I felt less adult than I have in years.

If lack of preparation and shoddy improvisation is the mark of youth, would someone please bring Grammaw her walker- because I am ready for the luxuries of old age!

Don't misunderstand me, this place was Gorgeous, Beautiful, and Magnificent. But I was feverish and aching. And hiking. Oh, the endless hiking. In village number 4, after asking everyone around, I realized that due to a glut of late-summer European tourism (owing to a long, cold spring), there were zero rooms available for a single lady for the night. I was sick, miserable, blistered, and seemingly stranded. I couldn't reach Lani, and I was running out of options.

I found a kind waitress who offered to let me sleep at her apartment. I found a nap in the shade of a fig tree on a hillside terrace. I met a handsome Italian who led me to the ocean and swam with me. Did I mention that I was hopped up on decongestants? These various mercies were all that kept me going.

AT&T sent me a text message to let me know that I'd used "an unusual amount" of international data. Yeah, like $300 worth! Oops! My phone was retired, after I determined I would take a train to greener pastures--namely a hotel room where I could sleep. I was becoming panicked with exhaustion.

So I took a train to Bologna. And slept like a baby in quiet comfort. Next, Modena, where I attended a Philosophy festival, sampled balsamic vinegar, and visited a botanical garden. Eventually I found my way back to Rome, after the danger of transmitting some horrific illness to Jen's two young children had passed.

Since then, there have been some side trips to Florence, and daily solo excursions to art museums, parks, monuments, restaurants, unusual attractions, and just a general sense of awe and introspection. Jen is a busy busy mother of two, and so I am on my own every day for the entirety of the day. This has been one of the most personally interesting and lonesome trips of my life.

It is difficult for an American to shun structure in lieu of spontaneity, but that has been the route this trip has thrusted upon me. There is no plan. I have no guidebook. Every day is an adventure, and I am having an un-curated experience. I am trying to enjoy every moment, without anxiety or expectation. The challenge is to see things well, to enjoy being, and to be satisfied with things exactly as they are, in this moment. It's harder than you might imagine.

Just know that as I wander through each day here, I am thinking of everyone I love. Every last one. And I am feeling gratitude for living such a wonderful life, being blessed with such good friends, fortunate enough to belong to a loving family. Not everyone has the opportunity to fly to another country and wander. To feel secure enough in themselves and their place in the universe to not mind being lost- a stranger in a strange land…To not recognize this and give it some thought would be criminal. I am in the cradle of Western Civilization, relishing her ruins, and swaddled in a sense of well-being, I give thanks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fickle Inspiration (and a vacation-borne confession)

Dear crickets who remain in my readership--- unless of course someone is actually reading (which I absolutely do not assume)--- I'm back. No, I'm really back, not just the pretend back where I post something every 3 months and pretend to be a blogger.

Because... I'm not really a blogger. I am a person who loves to write. And if a few select friends, family, and my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Pace are to to trusted, I have a nice talent for turns of phrase which has grown a bit rough, rusty and displaced over the past 13 months and could use a little exercise.

What happened? I could attribute my drop off in chronicling the minutiae of my life to so many things. Beginning with my "big girl job" working for the city wherein your trusty protagonist spent untold hours working as a public servant, paying into a retirement fund and enjoying the spoils of health and dental insurance. In short- I liked it, then I resented it, and ultimately I hated it.

It's not, of course, that I hate work, but rather that I hate the sort of senseless government sanctioned work I was doing- all the hours wasted in pointless meetings, all the restrictions imposed by federal funding, the pointless hoops I was required to jump through in order to grease the wheels of the little program I was running. But primarily the sense of loss of self that I began to experience on a daily basis, doling out my life in well-measured lumps of hours to little effect, and worse than that- little pay.

My job was in many ways pointless, and I performed it to the best of my abilities, but it made me feel smaller and less purposeful than I have made a habit of feeling in my life. When I quit last month, the sensation of lightness I experienced was startling. The sense of a yoke being lifted from my burdensome, beastly back.

And then there was the quiet end to my long term relationship with Chip; dear, wonderful Chip whom I love and adore and am so intensely grateful for. He is such a spectacular human being, and an extraordinary friend. Anyone who knows him must agree. I felt bashful for a long time, because while our demise was mutual, it was primarily my doing, and in retrospect I still feel ashamed that I let him work so hard for so long to make something work that I knew wasn't right for us both.

Shortly thereafter, I met someone who is kind and keen and generous and supportive, whom I eventually moved in with, and am still with today, almost 14 months after we first met. And this has been perhaps the larger reason for my long silence here.

It is very difficult to maintain close contact with all of the family I care for when I feel as though I am keeping a secret. And this relationship has been, in many ways, a secret. Not to my friends, or my coworkers or employers, but to some of my family. This is not the way I would have ever chosen for things to be.

You see, from the time that I was a teenager, I questioned my attractions & relationships, to their core. What I was drawn to and what I acted upon were two entirely separate worlds, and last year I forced myself, finally, to be honest about who I am. Chip and I parted on amicable, generously understanding terms, and when I met Michelle, I felt in many ways like a rudderless ship coming home to port, setting down an anchor, and making myself at home. Finally, my heart found a sort of peace I had not known before.

I cannot help the fact that I love and have sought the companionship of another woman. I find myself distressed by the notion that people like me have made a "choice" in this direction or the other.

Believe me, if there was ever a choice to be made, I'm pretty sure we would all choose the easy, simple route, where there is no need to make uncomfortable confessions to family, or to risk being judged by the outside world. Where one can simply marry and have a family of their own and enjoy the simple rights and privileges of the majority.

I sense that I could have done just that- chosen to deny my innermost feelings, married and had children and always swallowed the lingering sense of dissatisfaction that lived in my heart. But how would that be fair to anyone? I believe in honesty, and in happiness, and in the life-affirming paths that these virtues lead to.

Which is why I find myself here today, on a breezy afternoon in Rome- where I am vacationing by myself- suddenly inclined to set the record straight once and for all.

I'll not maintain my silence, and I hope not to be judged by those I love most in this world.

And I promise to write more about more interesting things than the complicated layers of a private life that have kept me from expressing myself freely in this absurdly public forum.

Dear family, I miss you all, and am thinking of you today from the cradle of Western Civilization.