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For The First Time in About Two Years…

I am sitting outside, in the pre-dawn haze, drinking my coffee.

I really debated whether or not to put this here or in my personal blog, but I think it’s fairly relevant to the topic at hand, especially given the influx of comments and requests for advice we’ve been getting across the homesteader blogging network.

I think while we often speak of things like seed saving, permaculture, canning, and other means of being self sufficient; we often speak of how we raise our kids, the things we teach them- the thing we do not often touch on is the core relationships that can either make or break our efforts, or how our efforts can either make or break those relationships. The value we place on those relationships, however, is a cornerstone of the things we do, and it’s also one of the most important things we could be teaching our children, respective of how to be functioning adults. This may seem a little disjointed- I apologize, it’s just the way I think, sometimes. I’m sure if you give it a little bit to sink in, it will. This is going to be a little long, but most of the things I write when my brain is going full tilt are.

I woke up this morning at about ten til four. I do that, often- my sleep patterns have never been a very solid thing. It was only once I realized all this crap that people feed us about what is normal, what is not was in fact, crap, that the sleep I got began to actually feel right. Funny how often it works that way. I would wake up around 3 am, go outside and sit in the dark for an hour or so. Then, I’d either go back to sleep for an hour or so, or I’d just stay up.  For the longest time, I hated it. All day long I’d feel groggy and weird, like I was missing something vital. Like that solid pack 8 hours of sleep everyone told me I needed was just the thing to cure it all.

It was frustrating until I realized the lovely things I’d catch doing this. The peace that comes with the creeping dawn. Having a silent little chat with a wild bird, sitting close by. Sometimes, I’d pray, sometimes, I’d meditate- and always, no matter what else I was doing, I was sitting there, soaking in nature. It was in those early pre-dawn hours I really began to find myself as the morning slowly tip toed in, the sun rose and the bird songs began.  In the winter months, my fingers would be warmed around my cup, my breath frosting on the open air, the dappled light through the trees hitting the frost and snow- I think you get the picture. I had always fought to find serenity, but in the end, it found me, while I sat frustrated on the back step, because I couldn’t sleep. In that place, I’d sit, too enchanted by the gift of experience I was being given to worry much about the sleep I lost. Ultimately, that lost sleep didn’t matter.

Kurt and I got together and it was a sort of insane thing. He’s a fairly nocturnal sort, so on occasion on the overlap, he’d get to sit out with me, watching the sun creep up- and even as I write this it kind of makes me laugh that I say he’d get to.  I don’t know if he ever realized what an honor that was, being invited into the solitude of my mornings, or if he just felt kind of along for the ride.

I tend to see things in a more sacred light- my little morning ritual had become this sacred communion with nature that I only shared with the dogs. Dogs that would normally be hyper tail wagging attention fiends would sit quietly near my feet, soaking in the sunrise with me, watching the birds. An occasional head on the knee, an ear scratch, a big happy dog sigh.

I sit here this morning, watching the hummingbirds play, I can hear a deer or two crashing through the woods somewhere down in the valley by the creek, its waters still yet rushing from the rains and all I can think is: my god, I missed this so much. 

There aren’t any dogs out here with me this morning, but it’s only because Katie is still waiting on the other side of the baby gate to our bedroom door and the others just don’t realize I’m out here. Katie follows me around with a furious devotion, though she’s got to be one of the most annoyingly vocal dogs I’ve ever met. It took a while to realize that she’s not in a constant state of pain or upset- she’s just very vocal, and her vocalizations sound like screams. At present, she’s quietly sleeping near that door, waiting for me to come get her, to pet her ear, to tell her it’s okay.

When I saw her this morning, half-awake and stumbling over the baby gate, I was still rambling thoughts around in my head that wouldn’t allow me to get back to sleep. She most definitely did not need me to tell her it was okay, that much was obvious in just her look when she saw me. It’s You, it’s You, it’s You. 

If you’ve ever worked with an abused or neglected dog, you know: it is one of the most heartbreaking, annoying, exhausting things you can do. It’s also one of the most rewarding, most heart filling, soul-boosting, enriching things, too. Dogs are not, by nature, suspicious and fearful. No, they are openly loving, openly living, with everything they have inside of them. To see them as broken by fear and hurt as Katie was when she first came feels almost dirty, it almost makes you ashamed to walk around on two legs. Katie was completely okay with me. She was completely okay with Casey, the lady who pulled her from the Maricopa County pound.

She was not, however, okay with men. Men with beards, in particular. To the point she would, to most people, seem like a hopeless cause. A lost cause. Even I wondered at perhaps placing her with women only, at one point. Lately, though, she’s been sleeping in Jim’s room- and Jim’s not only a man, he’s a man with a beard. Last night, as she was play bowing with Matthew, wiggling and squirming for pets and romping- she was doing so, with another man who…has a beard. From the beginning, I’ve said all she needed was time. Time, patience, and to see that hands weren’t going to strike her, feet weren’t going to kick her, and instead, realize they would pet her, scratch her ears and uplift her.

She’s getting it, now.

As far as I can tell, Miss Katie doesn’t speak the two legger tongue. She doesn’t know what I’m saying when I’m saying “It’s going to be okay.” She doesn’t know what I’m saying when I frustratedly tell her “No!” when she goes all crazy on another dog because she’s still not really okay with having her head messed with. She only really knows that I’m the lady that kept her leashed to me for a time, kept putting her in the crate-place she feared, but also kept up with the soft voice, the treats, the pets. The one who’d come back after a time, open the door, let her go running- and point of fact, she’d go running right around to the dog door, make her way down the stairs and I’d have to go to the door, “Katie. No.” She’d have to wait until I let her in, walked her through, pet her, fed her and put her back, until that crate became a safe den again.

It has been about two years since I have gotten to sit outside in the sunrise, watching the birds. Now, certainly, these are not the same birds flying around, eating, singing. These are not the same squirrels. It’s not the same water in the creek rushing by, it’s not the same leaves.

But the slow, steadily creeping dawn is the same. The way the birds are, is the same.

Nature is the same. A consistent, softly spiralling hum, the slight crunch of deer hooves through the trees, bringing in the dawn- not all that dissimilar to the ones as they settle in for the night. A balance of sharp sounds and light. A balance of the soft, humid morning air and the sharp peeping of the hummingbirds zipping by. A consistent, harmonious balance- giving, taking, healing.

Outside of my bedroom door is a being whose very nature is that of open life and love- betrayed, but coming to trust again.

Above me, in an oak tree, a squirrel drops an acorn, fusses a bit before noticing another on a branch just a little bit away. With a spectacular leap through the air, he lands on a wobbly branch, rights himself- and gets his acorn. (Sophomoric side note, I’m not just saying it’s a he. Watch squirrels up close, it’s really easy to determine gender. Sitting quietly near a deck rail with corn and bird seed- they honestly don’t mind flipping that right up in your face.)

A downy woodpecker is hopping up that same tree, which must seem miles long to both of them- neither one shows an ounce of fear. Nope. This is the home, this is the food, this is the work. And it’s good work.

Inside, sleeping dogs lie, sleeping men snore, kids have yet to be awake.

For the first time in about two years, I sit here- a velvet dapple of grey fog, envelopes us all- from the house up here, to the woods surrounding and the valley creek below. People ask me all the time: what do you believe in, really?

I couldn’t tell you what God is or is not. What I can tell you, is that whatever it, He, She, they may be: you’ll find it in that steady vibration, that soft hum that if you’re quiet, filters through all of this. Every bit. If you quiet your soul, if you quiet your mind, it’ll work through you. Listen to what it tells you, go with it, and you’ll do good things. You’ll feel good things. Things change, beings heal, beings are nourished, it happens that way. This pulse doesn’t care much what it’s running through, it’s just going with it: and so should you. The only difference between a funeral dirge and a redemption song’s tempo and lyrics- remove the lyrics, tweak your tempo and away you go. No such thing as a lost cause in nature- even the oak struck by lightening and burned to the ground feeds the soil.

Pretty much everything you or anyone else needs to know about relationships, life, and love is written in its paler shade of grey.


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