My Aunt Sheila says it takes two weeks in your new house not to feel like you’re just on a bad vacation. And she’s right.
I have moved a lot in my short life and I hate it so much that I wonder why I keep doing it. I am a person that loves to make is fluffy little nest to retreat to away from people and things. I am a person who is very good at doing nothing at all. I will make any excuse to “rest”, “recharge”, “take it easy”. In other generations that would have been called “lazy.” But I am lucky enough to live now in the era of “self-care, ” that most ego-centric of past times. I am a person who very unapologetically puts myself first. Always have been.
“No, I don’t want to.”
“No, don’t put capers on that.”
“Ugh, I hate this place, I’m leaving.”
“Yeah, that’s not going to work for me.”
“No, I brought my own wine.”
Are all things that you may have heard me say. Periodically, through out the day. Even to my kids! (GASP!) I am historically not great at transitions, although I seem to go through them, a lot, by choice (i.e. kids, marriage, moving constantly). But perhaps I keep returning to the things that cause me trauma because I am a sadist? Perhaps. Maybe I just love hard exhausting things because everyone else says “wow you must be so tired” and then I get to go rest a lot afterwards while being congratulated. That sounds right.
I hear my husband say things like “I could never just hang out, I need a project, I like hard work.” I think he has a mental illness. I hate hard work, and I think people who like it are weird. If I could, I would just sit around all day drinking coffee and reading every single page in The New Yorker, which is easily, my favorite thing to do.
Yesterday and the day before we chipped up what felt like an entire forest of branches that had to come down of the surrounding trees. I got the worst blister of my life. Rob even took down two massive old dead Hemlocks with a chainsaw. Which was, the highlight of the day, because I got to watch someone else work super hard. And watching a massive tree fall is nothing less, than thrilling. Especially, if you haven’t watched TV in a month.
There is an indescribable amount of hard work that this property and house require and I am so, not, prepared or looking forward to any of it. Also, it has occurred to me, that I am just about the least qualified person to buy and fix up a 100 year old farm house and try to build a working farm on it.
Rob is better suited to just about everything around here. It’s too bad, none of these weeds, dead trees, overgrown blackberries, or rat-infested sheds, would respond to critical analysis, or a deeply cutting remark, in which case, I would actually be useful as something other than a warm body, who makes sandwiches, and coffee, I DO make the best coffee of anyone in the family.
Rob absolutely excels at all things domestic. He is an amazing cook, carpenter, gardener, parent, wood chopper (the list could continue for three pages). I am excellent at things that are not useful in a survival situation, which, for us has always worked fantastic in an urban setting. But, here, it seems, my lack of domestic skill is exaggerated, in a way that feels unbalanced.
I analyze the weather. I change diapers and do dishes. I assist in raking, weeding, and trimming. I mitigate toddler misbehavior. I demand apologies from children, and bribe or cajole them into eating, washing, and sleeping.
I spend about an hour every afternoon on my knees, in the front yard, with my headphones in, listening to a podcast or an audio-book while I rip up decades of grass and weeds. Someone, more than 40 years ago, paved an intricate stone pathway connecting the side door to the original front door and covered porch. It is well built, shaped nicely, adds stairs around the steeper parts of the yard. They must have spent weeks on it.
Judy, the previous owner has no more information for me. It was like that when I bought it. She says, with a shrug, and she walks back to her truck with an armful of mail.
But I make up stories about this person. With at least two truck beds of stones, piling, sorting through each one. Digging out the holes, trying out different ones, like a massive nonsensical puzzle. What a delightful project it must have been. They must have really been trying to avoid something way harder than that.
My trowel clinks and scrapes as I peel back the mat of grass and dirt. Bugs, bags of spider eggs, worms, beetles slugs dive and scuttle to avoid my advance. Like the Russian front. Being discouraged only by nature in her power to dwarf human ambition.
Humans have always harnessed death and decay to advance life. When something dies it adds richness, sticky nutrition. Serving a purpose. Death is not senseless in the garden. It makes way and nourishes the new. Time’s up spiders. We will be using this pathway anew.
Composting, for instance. Rob is in the middle stage of building a 3 bay composting system where we will dump our cast offs from the kitchen and garden, and they will rot and become something rich and fantastic. Again, Rob is so, so good at this.
In the evenings I nurse my wounds in warm water, and pick dirt out of my nails. I slather all kinds of potions on my crackling skin. I make Rob dig out splinters while I whimper. My body stiffens and aches upon waking from the deadest sleep I’ve ever had. One day we will look back on the first year in this house and feel a rewarding sense of accomplishment and then we can go take a well deserved nap.