Friday, October 3, 2008

Time Lapse

I am certainly not the first person to start a blog with good intention and then leave it for dust as life intervenes with good intentions.  But I admit, there is something surreal about talking about food preservation since what most people need, if they need anything at all, is hands-on skills.  So I was thinking about pumping up the website to add how-to videos.  I'll probably do that but for now I'll address something related to this movement that I am wondering about - loneliness. 

I'm not sure if is my "woman's time", my near fear and aversion to the modern world (going to a grocery store is often too fucking much for me), or just so much time in the garden that I ain't got time for small talk.  But put it all together and this homesteading commitment can get pretty lonely.  All the other members of my family go off to outside work or school or hide in the basement with their videos and mind altering substances (more on that if anyone cares), which leaves me 1) wandering around my house avoiding the dust and tasks that I need to do,  2) Going up to the coffee shop to bother someone who clearly does not want to be bothered (what's up with all the stinking laptops.  What happened to real conversations), 3) Posting a ridiculous rant on loneliness to no one at all, or maybe just someone who might be as lonely as me.

Which leads me to the opportunities of our efforts, like finding and fostering new forms of fellowship while we figure out what being home and house holding might mean.  Which is also why not to long ago I invited a whole bunch of folks over to the gardens for a "hoe down".  It was fun and there was music and about 30 or 40 folks came and we ate good food but then we went home to our very busy and private lives and other then this computer, we don't talk much.

But something else.  I had my mom spend the summer with me.  Now I'm 55 and she is 82 and given our history and most people's person experience you'd think 9 weeks would have been too much.  But I gotta tell wasn't.  But that is because we were joined in interest and effort.  Now she is an old school european woman who thinks you need to have dinner on the table for your husband when he gets home.  Now that did drive me crazy except for the fact that it meant I and my kids would have dinner to and they would be nice dinners and she would help.  And not just help a little but holy mother of god, she is german working machine.

There would be times I would haul in this or that from the garden - huge bowls of green beans or pickles or greens to be washed and prepared and I would return again to find them sitting nicely prepped in a bowl with a clean kitchen to boot.  It worked for us.  She didn't want to bend over in the garden or turn the compost or get out at 5:30am in the morning to water and preen over the baby seedlings and I didn't want to do shit after twelve o'clock.  That was when I expired and when she, after just finishing her breakfast and jumble, would jump into action.  

It was a ritual to be sure.  And if there was no harvest to be cared for, we would head out together to a farmer's market or lunch or something to break up the day.  Other mornings we would head out early (she would balk a little) to pick blueberries and peaches or corn and shelling beans.  We did that or something like that day in and day out and she, along with me, marveled at each new sprouting and turning in the garden.  She loved the grapes that turned from green specks on the vine to luscious purple clusters.  She marveled at the overloaded plum tomatoes and the massive count of sugar-pie pumpkins that were emerging.  One garden bed after another offered daily surprises and joys and we shared in them.  She watched and assisted me when I taught classes, she cleaned up the jam pots when I was done, she'd come to love the jam on her morning toast and raved about the old-world spicy crock pickles that were fermenting in the kitchen.  No doubt they reminded her of home - both in Germany and the Bronx.

And what I learned is that there was a shared interest and lineage that kept it all together.  That even though friends were fine,  they had their own lives.  And despite everyones interest in intentional communities I think about what failed with the communes of the past, with the-back-to-the land movements of the past and I think it was because they were exactly that, intentional.  Which is really quite different than survival. 

I thought, and think,  about how families used to be joined at the hip in an effort to care for the farm and food that would end up on the table.  And that every member had a purpose and that it was necessity not intention that greased the wheels of cooperation.  In the end I wonder if anything short of family can create a life of continued hard work and shared effort.  Will the effort always been upended by the call of that hard-earned degree and leisure living.  It was the hippies of yesterday (or many of them) that morphed into yuppies or baby boomers as we like to refer to them.  I know, I was/am there.  But that is another post. 

Now mom has gone back to Florida to be with the golden girls and we talk almost every other day and we tell each other how much fun we had and that we miss each other.  Her room smells like, well, her and I try to do the jumble in her absence but I have no patience for it.  I try to care as much as her about what my husband will have for dinner but I don't.  I leave it to the last moment and play something like iron chef, ferreting out this and that from the garden or fridge to stand in for a reasonable meal.  Certainly some days I am filled with the holy ghost and cook something even I am amazed by but not that often.  Most of the time it is entirely more practical believing, as I do, that we have all gotten spoiled once we were weaned from hardtack.

So who will I hang out with these days?   Who to sit quietly across the lunch table in fellowship? Who to watch the rain with and think about an outing? Who to just pass in the hall know another person is part of your life from birth until we part?  Not that it is always so much fun and I realize absence makes the heart go fonder but, there is something to be said for this intergenerational living.  It resonates in a way that coffee with the girls does not.

And for the one person who might read this....I understand there is a big world out there that needs a helping hand.  And I do as I am called on and as I call on myself.  But it is different in a way.  Not that I am complaining or incapable of counting my blessings (many to be sure) only this is moment to consider new ways of living; of being honest about some of the unintended consequences of all this urban home-bound existence.  And if there is another aging hippie, yuppie or baby boomer out there with an eye on urban homesteading, drop me a line.  It might be time to smoke a little dope, listen to The Cream and make granola together like the old days.  Mom was never down for that.


So today, if it stops raining and dries out at all, I will sow some crimson clover and fava beans.  The garlic and shallots are in, the pumpkins are cured.  I am waiting a little longer to gather my butternut squash.  I will see what remains of my tomatoes (have any more turned red) and think about green tomato chutney which, quite frankly, no one in my family likes.  I will wander around the house a bit and think about making yogurt.  It is almost time to start baking bread again and there is always, always the dust.  I will think, as I always do, about how it all got so funky and I will write and think and read.  I will nap and maybe make my way over to the grocery store to get whatever I need (though I hate doing it).  And maybe if I am lucky I will meet a friend who is home and we will visit but it will not be mom nor someone who will care what the husband, or family, or I will be having for dinner.

Thanks mom.  I miss you. 

1 comment:

DomaMama said...

Harriet, I hear what you're saying. I think the reason I fill my life with so much stuff--work, writing, play dates, dinners, lunches, coffee dates--is to avoid loneliness. Top it off with the fact that I'm always looking forward, past contentment toward something darker, I'm already dreading when my four-year-old leaves the house and feeling what I can only describe as preemptive loneliness for her and for the sounds of a full house. Already, I'm trying to plant the seed of intergenerational living in her young mind; now, I just have to work on not being so annoying and controlling that I drive her away forever.

I have a good friend with whom I could always count on for hours-long visits that went meal to meal, but that was before we both had kids. She recently spent a couple of years in England and told me that the culture of friendship there is markedly different from those in America, where people rush from appointment to appointment, squeezing as many friends into a day but really spending very little quality time with any of them. I'm guilty of this myself.

Anyway, I'm saddled with a job and a family, but would otherwise want to hang out with you all the time! Picking peaches with you, your mom, and my daughter was one of the best mornings of summer. I still dream of communal living in the city, so if I ever find that perfect piece of property, I'll let you know!