Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our evening

Image #1:

As I walked up the driveway, Kali and Jason were coming down and met me there on the path. A hug and kiss from Kali greeted me. I joined them after changing into comfy work (outside work, not office work) clothes and we dove into the task of the evening - driveway widening. It gets us a step closer to a dream in the making - the building of Mom and Dad's quarters on our home. It was one of those picture perfect evenings - the air was cool but warm enough for short sleeves while working. Our neighbors were out working in the garden, in the blueberry patch, coming up the lane. We exchanged greetings and some conversation. The birds were singing. Kali played happily among the trees. Jason and I met for a kiss on the driveway. The light on the mountain was breathtaking as the sun sank. Kali and I went up to the house to use the bathroom and came back with a homemade grape juice popsicle for each of us. As light waned we walked up to our cozy home together and tucked ourselves in for the night.

Image #2:

I put in another long day at work today - over 9 hours straight in preparation for graduation, just days away. I wasn't home minutes before I was outside with work gloves donned to tackle the second portion of work for the day - tree felling and brush clearing on our driveway. Kali and I tugged on ropes as Jason cut down tree after tree. As each came crashing down, the knot in my stomach grew. I understood on one level why this was necessary - most of the trees were cherry and right along the fence of our neighbor's cow pasture - the leaves when wilted are toxic to cattle; so a good neighborly deed?! And in order to make enough space for construction vehicles and, hopefully unnecessary, emergency personnel, they needed to come down. One fell and I saw a robin fly out. The knot tightened and as Jason began working on the tree, he found the nest. Almost relieved he only saw eggs at first; then discovered a baby bird not more than a day old. Oh, it is hard to be that intimately connected to the consequences of our actions. The knot became closer to nausea. That mixed with the noise of the neighbor's bush hog, the mower in the blueberry patch, and the noisy chainsaw caused my brewing headache to burst forth. The gas smell of the chainsaw at times was overpowering. It didn't help when our neighbor asked us, "So what's the long term plan remove everything green?"

Both images represent my experience of the last 4 hours. Blending the two creates a good dose of cognitive dissonance for my day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sustained by Common Purpose

I can't speak for other cultures, nor can I speak for others from our culture, but I can speak for myself: nothing says friendship to me more than working together for a common goal. This past weekend it happened, as it has several times recently, that the common goal was the creative destruction of the "tower" addition on the rear of our home.

Janelle's mom is fond of repeating the following adage: "Your attitude writes the script of your life." This habit of hers has been on the receiving end of many a ribbing, but we all know it's true. It's easy to dismiss this wisdom, however, for less than it is. It's easy to think of the saying as indicating a one-to-one correlation, that it implies that if you will only have a good attitude, things will work out better for you. Sort of a Karma thing.

Not so, in my opinion. There is often no getting out of the way of circumstances, and some of them can be inescapably hard; most folks have at least one of that kind of story in their history. It's worth noting that the saying doesn't go: "Your attitude determines the plot line of your life." It's the script that is written by our attitudes.

Why this digression on the value of an old saying? Because its value crystallized again this weekend as we labored away at the tower's removal. It was remarkable how, when I was working alone or even when we were working at the job as a family, it could so easily slip into an irritating task, or a drudgery. Honestly, some of the work was pretty nasty, as we dealt with:

-more joist hangers and joining plates in useless places than I've ever seen in my life
-unnecessarily huge numbers of embedded nails in some locations and dangerously few in others
-bits of insulation fluff, foam, and paper scattering to the wind
-sorting huge mounds of nail-studded wood: pressure-treated from natural, useful from not
-oversized nails demanding excessive force; some wood splintered under the pressure
-a few nails holding so tight to their spots as to give up their heads rather than be extracted
-persistent drywall corner bead, etc. making board clean-up tedious

If this were the script, we would have done little better than endure the work and end the weekend with only the satisfaction of never having to do that again. But that's far from the whole story. As it turns out, these several demolition weekends have been the stuff of family/friend legend, as together with friends we tackled each convoluted situation, reveled in our commiseration on thorny tasks, chatted and laughed and even danced our way through it all. It's hard to overestimate the difference it made for us when the "reinforcements" arrived.

It's been a learning experience for me. I have a history of going it alone, and taking satisfaction in my accomplishments as an individual. While I'm sure I'm not through with that tendency and I will continue to enjoy my solitude, it's been eye opening just how much meaning can infuse the process when there is a synergistic set of relationships involved.

This project is certainly not the first on which we've had help at this place. By far. We already had a sense that while we ourselves had put in the major bulk of the work of developing this home and land, we had had excellent help at critical junctures, and that our community was part owner. So what was the difference this time; what got us to the "next level" of mutual aid synergy? I'm puzzling on that, and I'm not sure I know. But I think I've got a few clues I'm working with.

One is that this is, if memory serves, the first big project we've had help on since Nora's life and death. Her influence on our outlook, such that we feel more in touch with what is true and essential for us, has been such a life-enhancing force. She also, I think, stimulated growth in our abilities to reach out and touch the true and essential in many others.

Another is that we are probably getting better at this each time. We are beginning to understand our expression of our needs to others as a gift to them (and theirs to us the same). People want to get involved in helping each other, and as we emerge further from the individualistic cocoons our society seems to promote for us we can more fully enjoy the experiences of helping and being helped.

I will also give a nod to the Permaculture Design course I was enrolled in this spring. I believe I entered that situation with a primed pump, but it was a transformative time for me. Not only was the pedagogical method one that "did it" for me in a big way, and not only did the design process we learned seem to hold potential for major benefits to nearly all life situations, but I have never felt so comfortable and affirmed in any peer group of that size (indeed, I've met a few friends there that have quickly become an important part of my inner circle, some of whom have been our most steadfast and stalwart help throughout this demolition), and through the process of the course I gained a new level of comfort in my own skin...I learned to love myself a little more.

I have been eager to see what this will mean for my relationships; so far I can notice a blooming of authenticity and a withering of shame. I believe this bodes well, and I am grateful. My desire not to make too much of this notwithstanding, I will assert that I was better prepared to take notice of the opportunities for mutuality, synergy, the fostering of vibrancy, and the entry of meaning into events than I have ever been, and what a difference that made for me. In other words, my attitude wrote the script of that portion of my life.

And now the tower is down. We used it every day it was here, but it never had meant so much to us as it has in its demise. I find joy in knowing that at least six of our friends and neighbors, some new, some old, have carted off pieces of the structure and will, as time goes by, be incorporating those pieces into the careful crafting of their homes and lives. I also take comfort in the knowledge that when the dumpster truck came to pick up the twenty cubic yards of non-reclaimable construction debris we generated, it was headed straight to the recycler! We have, I am both humbled and proud to say, generated only three small trailer loads of landfill fodder in this whole process.

What is the upshot of all this? With credit to stalwart demolisher and great new friend Meghan for the following concept (found in parentheses), we and our friends have managed to take down (de-edify) the tower (the edifice) without getting depressed, and we have even been enriched (edified) by the process.

For photos - so long as they exist at our picasa site - see (complete with some captions.)

Friday, April 9, 2010


Some days I think I live in paradise - and after a week like this one just passed I just wish I could spend more time there! The comparison between walking up our front walk in the evening and walking into the database training room I've spent the last three days is a hard one to make. The combination of the light on the mountain, the colors bursting forth and the cool evening breeze was almost too much to take in!

Kali and I went down to see the recent garden plantings - peas, broccoli, onions, etc... We stopped by Nora's garden and I was shocked to see both the beautiful flowers and plants that had sprung up and the weeds. I wanted to get my hands in the dirt and around the tender plants that had been put in the ground with and for us by friends and family and free them from being shaded out by the weeds. Kali and I filled a wheelbarrow full before I needed to wait for Jason to be by my side to make sure I wasn't composting plants intended for the garden!