Starting somewhere

You have to start somewhere.

That’s the line that’s on repeat in my head today. I’ve been reading The Mists of Avalon for the last couple of months. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a cult classic re-telling of the Arthurian Legend from the perspective of the women. I just finished the last page (p. 892!!) yesterday and still feel under a spell that only a pagan, goddess, earth-based, woman-power-festival book can cast.

Reading it has stirred the longing I’ve had, since I moved away from the small, arid town of my youth, to have the dirt and sky and seasons figure prominently in my everyday life. Instead of smelling the rain coming, I sit here and type and scan websites as though the internet will save me. My tangible connection to the natural rhythms of life consists of two things lately: hanging the laundry out on the line that we strung across a tree and our back door and digging bare hands into my daily kale salad to work the oil and lemon juice and salt into the leaves. And sometimes it’s raining, so I put the laundry in the dryer. And there are days when I’m sick of kale. On those days, my ribs hurt from sitting at the computer for too long, and I try to remember to look up at the sky when I’m sitting at the park with J.

It’s not enough.

During this recent Mists of Avalon bender, I’ve been noticing the cycles of the moon again. And remembering this experiment my mom and I did in our garden, where we planted half of our plot by the moon and the other half a few days before that, just to see if the whole farmer’s almanac, by-the-moon thing had any merit. Our by-the-moon potatoes and green beans were head and shoulders above the others–I still remember the site of that lop-sided garden. One half bushing out on mysterious lunar steroids. If the moon has that kind of influence, what power is it exerting over me every wax and wane? And why does my life have so little to do with that?

So I’ve been criticizing our life here, and how I unknowingly traded the slow satisfaction of life in the San Juan mountains for the hip here-and-nowness of living in a thriving urban community. I’m stifled by the high density of people and concrete and traffic here. For better or for worse, I was raised in the high mountain desert of Colorado. I grew up roaming on our 5 acres which was surrounded by dozens upon dozens of open, roam-able sage brush acres. Solitude and open and the sounds and smells of dirt and bugs and life were freely given every day. There was no seeking required. And now I live in our little cottage that I love. And I sit on our back deck and hear airplanes, traffic and cackling crows. The deck looks out over our back yard, for which we once had grand plans and has now become a storage receptacle for our family’s bicycle fetish (cruiser, road bike, tandem, cargo…!) and various J toys. Our front yard is a shared driveway. A very beautiful, recently re-poured driveway for which I am very grateful, because J loves to roll trucks and balls and ride bikes in it, and we have a nice table and chairs there where we enjoy warm evenings . But it’s a concrete driveway.

You have to start somewhere.

I have known, very clearly since our ill-fated trip to Boulder last year, that I want chickens in our back yard. And I’ve been putting it off, because in the back of my head, I think we might move (in the next year or two) since the 650 sqft that we occupy is, for the first time, starting to feel too small. So I want to live in our wee cottage for another year or two without my dream backyard chickens just because I might have to move them? Upon conscious thought, I’ve deemed that not a good enough reason. And my earthy, Mists of Avalon, pagan self needs chickens now. So, we’ve gotten approval from all of the neighbors and have an email in to our landlords for our final stamp of approval. Here’s our future chicken sanctuary:

Goddess willing, they’ll live just below my favorite walnut tree in existence.

I love to watch the drama of it leafing out in the spring, the crunch-crunch-crackle of the squirrel walnut harvest in July and August (which inspired this video), how in one or two days in November, it drops every single rattly leaf and is naked like this again. Locals have been telling me that the soil surrounding walnut trees is often difficult to grow in, and we’ve certainly found that true over the last 4 years. So replacing the stunted ferns and lilies  s l o wly  growing there with chickens seems like just the ticket.

The one edible thing that we have successfully grown in our walnut-ed, shady backyard are strawberries. And here are some rogue spring bloomers getting ready to pop on this lovely March day. I have no idea what this plant is, so if you do, let me know. I intentionally left them here instead of weeding them out in the fall and I’m so glad I did.

And last weekend, I snapped myself out of the internet hypnosis that always calls when J is napping, and instead I potted some plants and dragged them out to the driveway.

I’m rooting more succulents in the kitchen that will occupy another pot or two once they’ve got some nice trailing roots to show. I also want to build or salvage a long narrow gardening bed for our only sunny, vegetable garden-able spot that we’ve got–also in the driveway. I’d thought of this years ago, but A was worried about the exhaust from cars on the driveway, and so I shelved the idea.

You’ve got to start somewhere. And if that’s eating exhaust-y vegetables from a concrete driveway garden that is planted by the moon, so be it.

10 thoughts on “Starting somewhere

  1. lovely post. Funny how our perspectives differ. Here seems so unbelievably quiet and peaceful and rural to me compared to home. Looking forward to catching up next week.

  2. I love this post! I encourage you wholeheartedly to get moving on the things that bring you joy. and it’s weird, just today I was thinking about how I needed to ask you about the chicken thing, and if you still want help???? I would love love love to help out, maybe even take responsibility for a share of the work on a regular basis in exchange for a few eggies??

    Either way, you go girl!

  3. Yay chickens! I want in on the help/exchange! And can you teach me about gardening by the moon. I’m completely clueless, but quite intrigued.

    I often find myself missing the arid, sage-brush scented scenes from my childhood too. At times I think I must be crazy to raise a child in the urban landscape instead of the natural one. But then I remind myself that I ran away from my childhood home as soon as I was able because I had no future there. I want my daughter to grow up someplace she won’t feel compelled to leave just to express herself as an individual. Hopefully the open-minded Bay will be that for her.

    Though visiting those sage-brush scented hills would be nice too…

  4. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have connected with your blog. Your writing is beautiful. This post resonated in my bones. I go through my days hardly at all connected to the earthy, woods-loving, rain-inhaling, waterfall-seeking part of me, but then I read a post like this and I ACHE for nature. It makes me want to go into my backyard, dig a hole, and stick both of my hands in the ground, just because. It’s 8:00 pm and I am in my pajamas, and if I left my husband’s side to go crouch in the backyard he would think I’d taken a dive off the deep end. So I won’t. I will sit here, responding to your blog :), keeping my fingernails clean. But I really wish I could go outside.
    I DID spend a good amount of time with Emmy out in our backyard today, and that was my version of starting “somewhere”, here in our Upstate New York suburbia. We just bought a house this past year, which is also pretty teeny, but has substantial space behind it. I’ve got huge plans for a raised garden, and building Emmy a sandbox, and planting flowers all around. My brain is knee-deep in topsoil, I just have to get my body to catch up. Maybe, having read your post, I will try planting by the moon.
    Many thanks for your writing.
    d

  5. I love this post! I was born and raised a city girl and yet I feel the very same thing. I would LOVE to have a few chickens myself but I really don’t have the room. I’m so happy for you that you’ve got your lovely walnut tree!

  6. What a beautiful essay, Steph. It has quite an atmosphere, and the story about planting by moonlight was remarkable. What a memory to have…if only we all could remember planting with our mothers by moonlight–there would be fewer wars, I’m sure.

    Also amazed with the synchronicity of the plant gift of last week.

    Your post makes me want to reread Mists of Avalon. I tried some of her other books, and wasn’t as taken. It’s quite special.
    See you soon…

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