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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Falling into the Flow

I love it when I seem to be in sync with the energies of the universe. It doesn't happen all the time, and especially during the time of maximum change in day length at spring and autumn, I struggle. Finally, though, it seems I have once again fallen into the flow for winter.

I look forward to winter, more maybe than some of the other seasons. While I love the busy days of spring promise, seedlings and new birth, tolerate - more or less well - the summer heat for the abundance of produce and growing critters and enjoy the winding down of autumn, with its crunchy leaves and often awesome color displays, I need the rest that winter brings. I relish the short days that call me to sit by the fire, to study, to knit, to spin by lamplight or the light of the low, cold sun. The slower days, I think, makes it easier to find the flow. There is less daylight (and as you know if you have read my blog for any time at all, it is my nature to take my cues from the sun, not from human clocks and electric "man-light."

Being on the farm, our work is often guided by the weather and the short days, coupled with bouts of cold rain and hopefully eventually snow, have an impact. Dry days, when the mercury rises just a bit, call us to work quickly on outside projects and today we did just that. Tractor Guy spent the morning laying out extension cords to power two "heated dog bowls" of 6 quart capacity which will hopefully eliminate our need to break ice, and therefore allow watering of fowl with the hauling of less water. We may have to haul morning and afternoon, if they prove to be heavy drinkers, but if so, so be it.

6 foot long "tip"
I spent the afternoon gleaning more greenery and making our wreath. I had planned to "go tipping" on a friend's place earlier in the week, but missed them on my visit. On the way home, I realized that our past storm had felled sufficient trees that I would be able to gather sufficient branches from those down along the road, and that realization came as I passed what I thought was a small bit of tree in the roadside ditch. I stopped and loaded the bit of greenery, left, into my truck. LOL I dropped it in back, by the picnic table and the goats have been looking longingly at it ever since.

Since I prefer wreaths with different textures, I took a walk yesterday, to find other bits from our road to go with. I had learned my lesson, though, and walked down the road with just my small cart, not the pickup truck! I was only planning to make a few wreaths at best, not to go into production! As I walked, with eyes and mind open, I found three other types of evergreen and several other plants that wanted to be included: red dogwood twigs, bit of birch, with the catkins still attached, and bit of moss and lichen, some still attached to downed dead branches.

With the addition of the birch, a tree sacred to Frigga, I knew this wreath would be more than just decoration. Then I discovered that moss has a floral meaning of charity and maternal love, which fits nicely into a project for AllMother.
I have not yet got the bow on it, though I will do so. It is my first attempt at a two-sided wreath, as it hangs on our glass front door. I hung it immediately on account of the itty bitty destruction committee, kitty version.

And in further keeping with the flow of the season, I realized that, with the payment in hand from last month big design project, I could easily afford to haul my collected non-Icelandic wool to the mill for cleaning, carding and turning into roving. And furthermore, doing so would be in tune with the tradition of finishing fiber projects before the 12 days of Yule commence (or else risk displeasing the Goddess (Frau Holle by some traditions, Frigga in others), as this is the one project that I have been wanting to complete for some time. I have collected many bags of free fleece, which are being stored here, there and everywhere about, taking up space and as I have been organizing and sorting, I determined that it needs to be made into an effecient to use form. I do enjoy carding and working "in the grease" but will reserve that for my special wool... the fleeces from Elenor and her offspring, Rigby, who came to live with us this year.

So, skirting the wool will be a project for this next week, along with making more cookies (which will be fun, because I was planning to use the kitchen table for both projects... just not at once!)  Current plans are to take Tractor Guy on a day long explorationg and rambling drive, now starting with a visit to the mill, then on to visit Liberty Tool Company, whose stock I fell in love with at the last Common Ground Fair, where I hope to find a drawknife for a Yule present for TG, then on to Unity for a visit to the Amish Charcuterie and nearby Community Market and ending in Belfast, for a visit to The Green Store and an art gallery where a friend has a large work currently on display. It will be a long, tiring day on the road, but I am hoping it will be fun for both of us.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Stick Season"

"Stick season" trees in silhouette against the sunrise
I discovered the term "stick season," an appellation apparently borrowed from Vermont, in an article in the Bangor Daily News. It is so appropriate for our northern late autumn days, after most of the leaves have fallen from the trees and before snow appears and stays. It works well as a counterpoint to Maine's infamous "mud season" in the spring.

I was thinking about sticks, branches, and of trees silhouetted against the sky, the Standing People to our indigenous neighbors, as written of in Robin Kimmerer's book, Braiding Sweetgrass.

Standing bare against November sky
I seem to see the souls of trees,
With life force safely underground,
Their essence etched against the sky.
One stretches up and spreads
delicate branches in joy, an arched crown overhead.
One reaches out in all directions
calling "come, light on me." "Someday there will be shade again."
One gestures downward, towards the earth;
head upward bound, it seems to say
"Look, I can show the way."
And so he can, if we but watch and listen.
A row of youngsters, pruned this year
(power lines, you know, and planted by humans
who did not watch or listen)
show off a thicket of a adolescent enthusiasm.
"We're here to GROW! You see! We know!"

I need to learn them all, by shape, at least those left to natural growth. And so, as I was sent to Dr. Kimmerer's talk by the corn totem on the hex sign I was painting, I have been sent to a talk on Winter Twig ID by the Bangor Land Trust a week from today. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Back to 2017

 Where to start? Over Samhain/Halloween-tide we had a nor'easter. What a storm it was... winds up to 60 mph and an inch of rain... which doesn't seem like much water until you take into account the four inches that saturated the ground a week earlier! That much water is almost enough to cause unbalanced, shallow rooted trees to fall without other factors. But other factors were in play, including the clearing of a large lot down the road from us, which allowed many of the trees around the boundry of the clearing to topple. One, as seen to the left, laid suspended by our electric line for nearly a week. Just "up stream" from the tree, two transformers were also damaged. So for nearly a week, I got the opportunity to revisit -- more or less -- my off grid days.

It was nice, actually. I did miss having a reasonably close source for water, as our well pump is on-grid and during my off-grid days we had running water in the summer via pipes from a creek and in the winter from a cistern with a hand pump. Other than that, and my curiosity as to why most of my kerosene lamp wicks needed daily maintenance instead of being tended weekly, as back in the day, we were pretty much both content. I have added to my "to do" list, the task of repairing or replacing the burner noses on at least two of the lamps. They have not adjusted easily for some time and got worse this week. If you have not used a kerosene lamp, it is essential that the little knob on the side of the burner turn freely so you can quickly and easily adjust the height of the flame. The wicks need to be turned up to light, but then quickly start to smoke. Unless you get the flame turned down before you replace the glass chimney, it soots up as well and you loose much of what little illumination they provide.

Our freezers survived well; I lost the meat that was in the fridge-freezer and some ice cream melted and re-froze, but over all, our food is fine. I can cook just as well by lamp light as I ever could, and can spin also and did a bit of both after the sun set. I spent much time during the quiet beginning my reading of Braiding Sweetgrass, a book that I bought for my winter study after hearing the author, Dr. Robin Kimmerer speak at the local university back in May. I encourage everyone to read it, and I will be writing more with her discussions as a theme later on.

Much of what she writes about more than strikes a chord with me; many of the places she has come to through following her heritage are things I learned, long ago, in somewhat similar fashion. While I do not have blood that is native to this soil, many hours spent in contemplation, leaning on "the zen pine" while listening to the teachings of the land, the elements and the sky did their job and helped me to begin to be able to listen to the land and the plants and animals upon it.  They are easier to hear when it is quiet, which may explain why they are so little heard these days. In many places, the drone of canned music, radio, TV and now the constant summoning by mobile devices pretty much precludes hearing the quiet voices of nature. Trust me, even the best nature documentary is no match for the real thing.

While the somewhat distant sounds from neighbors' generators did, much of the time, break the natural background sounds, it seemed to me that, annoying as they were, the absence of even the quiet sounds of a still house (we don't run media unless one of us is actually paying attention to it, but the computers, refrigerator, freezers, and so on, are seldom all slient at once) made a big difference in ways that I cannot really communicate. It makes me wonder, if being surrounded by wires carrying electrons -- not just when I am in the house, but outside, with other homes nearby and the wires that feed them as well -- is something I sense at some level. This power outage again reminded me of the striking feeling of space that I felt when I first stepped into the canyon that was our off-grid home. I felt, psychically and psychologically like I could s-t-r-e-t-c-h for the first time in my life.

But now the power is back on, and while we aspire even a bit more strongly to work towards being less reliant on the power grid, the adjustment to the faster pace and longer duration of the day -- thanks to "man-lights" is taking a while. There was much left awry from projects in process and just completed, that I did not get to tend to during the outage and now... several weeks later... I am still catching up. Either I will or I won't, but winter will come and so our focus changes.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Magical, Mundane Ritual

Sun breaking through
clouds during October
nor'easter storm.
-- Started writing in October --
We are well into autumn, and the time of year when darkness no longer creeps slowly into our awareness, but rather arrives, early and unexpectedly, on the doorstep. On days like today, with hard rain, wind and overcast skies, it is even more obvious. The Winter Nights Tide is upon us. I appreciate the return of the dark season, even as I hurry to prepare next year's garden soil and worry about the final harvest of this year's crops. Leeks, beets, carrots and red cabbages are all that remain in the garden at present.

I am gearing up, as it were, to do something I have never done before. I have called on a group of friends, of various spiritual paths, to help me perform a "magical, mundane ritual." House, in whom we live, is unhappy. We have been unable to keep up with keeping her windows clean and last year at this time, though we did what we could, only the insides got washed before we applied the plastic to keep out the drafts. She is sad, because the dirt and cobwebs on her windows, like cataracts on human eyes, cloud her vision.

Most folks, I guess, think of washing windows "to let the sun shine in" but for in her awareness, the sun shines in regardless... but she sees the outer world through cloudy vision. She wants to see the beauty of the wider world, the trees as they drop their leaves and then after a time, regain them in varied hues of green. She wants to be on guard, as a house should be, to protect her occupants... but with clouded vision, she is worried.

So I am convening this ritual, with trusted friends, to clean the lenses of her vision and help put up the clear plastic that helps her block drafts and protect her family.

It has been ages since I have "had friends in" in any capacity. And even though these are all trusted friends, I am still concerned. I am far from a conventional person -- though I suspect that the depth and breadth of my differences often are not noticed, as it is not my habit to wave that flag. And therefore House is far from a conventional house, and even more so from a conventional trailer.

She does not see herself as a trailer, even though there are still wheels underneath her. She has roots. She lives, she is planted here, by her choice and ours. But her nods to her more conventional house sisters are few. Her small kitchen, designed -- if we can even use word-- more for simple recipes, heating up cans and frozen meals with a small place for a small family to eat, is home to more cooking and food-related activities than most houses have seen in many years. And it has to do triple duty a canning kitchen and an art studio too!

The "master" bath lost its tub years ago, to leaks and only one sink has full functionality. Her owners scratch their heads, though, at the idea that a house really needs more than one bathroom, and at that more than one sink for hand washing per bath, so this long-neglected room is bathroom to cats more than humans, and is also their dining hall and one of the humans' storage areas. Poor house was not blessed with much storage space, as she was designed -- there's that questionable word again -- for humans who don't spend much time with her and when home, mostly sleep and watch a small magic box.

Her humans, on the other hand, seem to have a myriad of pursuits... they bring in many raw foodstuffs to store, they make things from cloth and even make cloth from fibers that they collect and need to store somewhere. They make things from wood and paint, and during much of the year there is sawdust in her long-neglected carpets. Oh, how she longs for real wood floors that can be cleaned, like those of the workshop she says she is playing on TV!
-- Continuing mid-November --
I am pleased to report the ritual work day went well. The first to arrive, and workhorses of the window project, were my Christian friends, Bonnie and Galen. These folks truly live their faith and are always ready to "put their shoulder to the wheel" as one of my favorite hymns from the LDS church admonishes. While Tractor guy was cutting cardboard, Bonnie and Galen got quite the routine going, hitting the windows outside with the hose to wash away the worst of the grime and webs and attacking the inside with equal vigor. I had determined not to try to snug the plastic well, and to shrink it. Previous years this has proven not terribly necessary and on the most leaky windows, the need for a bit of "give" showed itself more than once, so the plastic went up quickly as well. We were surprised to find that the window that we thought had a broken or missing storm pane was, instead, simply open! Silly us! I had a plan in mind to apply a piece of plexiglas to the outside using silicon seal, but was glad not to have to do it, as my silicon gun was MIA.
The extra heavy vinyl from the fabric store, which I bought to use on the west facing windows -- which have no storms -- also seems to have worked well. The Force was with me when I bought it, as I had added extra length in case it was not possible to cut the three pieces needed for those windows from a single width. The added bit was exactly enough to go over the kitchen sink window, which actually did have a broken/missing storm pane.

Pagan friends showed up in the afternoon. I joked with the first young mom, Jessica, who dashed in after a frazzled morning...  typical in a family with 3 energetic, curious, busy youngsters, as we were just sitting down to have lunch. "Of course, it's lunch time! The kids are here!" Because they did not get to help much with the windows, which Bonnie and Galen had amost completed with their amazing efficiency, Jessica insisted on helping with something else. The only thing that came to mind was my next proejct: clearing storage totes out of the back (cat area) bathroom and doing a much needed clean and sanitize after the demise of our old kitties, who both had developed incontinence at the end of their lives. I had cleaned up their messes as they happened, but had not had the time to do a thorough, this is NOT happening any more, cleaning. It did not seem like a job anyone else would want to tackle, but when presented, Jessica jumped in with both feet for an amazing, top-down cleaning! Heck just the floor was more than I was willing to ask... but from mirrors to counter tops and fronts, places on the walls...and yes, that gross floor... looked like the "after" view from a cleaning product commercial when she and the kids were done!

Missy arrived shortly after Jessica. I knew she would be late, as she had been committed to officiate at a wedding in the morning. Apparently the wedding had half an hour of unexpected drama, so she was running later than expected and she jumped in to attack the kitchen and living room floors.

Tree down on the electric lines
4 properties up-stream from us.
Before I could complete writing this -- and before we had the chance to complete the sorting and rearranging that our need to move things around for the project had brought to light -- we got WEATHER!  A major nor'easter storm, with an inch of rain (on top of 4 inched the previous week!) and strong, sustained winds proved to be too much for many to many trees.

This one, in a nearby town, missed the wires
but nearby, two trees lay on the same section
of electric line.
We were without power for nearly a week, which was not that much of a big deal, but did prevent me from completing and uploading this post! I will write about that week soon! Stay tuned for the further adventures of the Hexeri and Tractor Guy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Money - the Most Impersonal Medium of Exchange

I have been thinking about energy exchange of late... of gifting, the concept of "a gift for a gift," and how money fits into this paradigm.

Those of you who know me at all IRL (in real life) probably are aware that the acquisition of money has never been high on my list. I have always had a strange relationship with it, and while I am pragmatic and in the world enough to understand that having some of it available is necessary, and even a good thing at times, it has never been a focus. I have always found it easier to make do with the supply of the stuff that finds its way to me, than to figure out how to acquire more.

You may even have heard me tell about my "ah-ha" moment, many years ago, when I heard a young reporter on NPR ask one of the Rockefellers, at the end of an interview, the pivotal question "how much is enough?" At that time, I was raising a family in poverty, well below the so-called poverty line, and my monthly challenges included budgetary triage of the sort that involved deciding between replacing the kids' underwear or socks and fretting over the winter coat hand-me-down ritual, should someone be between sizes and two "new" coats, instead of just one, be required for the winter.  My thoughts on money often ran along the "just a little bit more" track.

When the affluent, if not actually rich interviewee responded "just a little bit more," his response hit me like a ton of bricks and totally changed my outlook. After all, if he did not have "enough," how could I -- who had never been either focused on the acquisition of money, or much good at hunting it down, get there! I did, however, have lots of practice in "making do" and somehow that monthly budgetary triage always managed to work and with that realization, I stepped firmly on the path of "make it do," upon which I walk today.

Yes, occasionally there are wants,  but the needs always seem to be met and I am content on this path.

Other folks mileage does, obviously, differ, and as I interact with others, sharing of my skills and knowledge, I know that sharing does, of necessity, involve a two way exchange. I do, of course, also sell stuff -- mainly my art -- and yes, that does involve money. It's my one foot into that realm of commerce and I have come to terms with it. I will say, though, that the clients who contact me about their signs, beyond just clicking the "add to cart" button on the web site, sharing stories of their lives, farm and homes and reasons for picking that particular sign do give me much joy. The conversations and the exchange of energy really fuels me in a way that an anonymous order does not, though I attempt to fill them all with equal energy and respect.

On another thread, I have become more aware, of late, of weekend and even week-long events focused on various paths and aspects of paths of witchy tradition or fiber arts (and probably other things, as well, but these are the universes in which I dabble). It is not something I can do at this point in my life, would I want to. I am connected to "my" land and the life I live here on these four acres in ways that keep me close these days. This crone likes her own warm bed and cool pillow, the sounds of roosters learning to crow and the herd calling, and these old bones no longer take well to lying on the ground or even on unfamiliar bedding. But what sets me back even more than this is the monetary price that organizers put on these weekend or week-long retreats.

Yes, folks need a place to lay their heads at night, food for the belly, and so on but... hundreds of dollars? Brings to mind the (mis-) quote from the beginning of the digital era that naturally stuck in my mind: information wants to be free.

From my perspective these days, I guess I would say "information wants to be shared" with the emphasis on the exchange. And while money is a medium of exchange, it feels to me like the lowest common denominator It feels to me like the other party, offering money (regardless of the amount) is saying "yeah, I want you to think what you are sharing is important and valuable to me, but I am not going to really get involved, not sharing anything of myself, my soul, my energy... just this soulless paper and coin that we all need."

And on the flip side, for those allegedly sharing real knowledge and spiritual insights, as opposed to goods -- food, clothing, manufactured wares -- I can't help but think the message is "I want you to value what I am teaching, but really, we are not having an exchange. I am keeping my distance by only accepting "gifts" of the mundane and not from your center, your soul, your being.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How do YOU Define Affluence?

How do you, in your world, define affluence? I really do want to know.

For years now, I have been saying that I have the challenges of poverty down pat. That I have "used it up, worn it out, made it do and done without" long enough, and in enough circumstanced that I have become well qualified to do anything with nothing. And that I really would like a chance to have a go at the challenges of affluence for a change. And though I say, and write it, with a joking tone, there are many grains of truth there.

This year, though, I got one of those "whacks 'long side of the head" that I recognize and being administered by the celestial 2x4, wielded by a member of the Powers That Be, and I know I have been looking at it more that a little cockeyed. Because, you see, the abundance of abundance that I am dealing with right now (which I am deliberately not saying "I am plagued by" though I will admit that feeling is rather close to the surface) really does constitute affluence.

I have enough money to get by. Every month, I get to the end of the month before coming to the end of the money. Admittedly, sometimes it's as I come to the end of the money, but it always reaches. I have wheels to get me to town when needed, a flock and herd that give me joy, and food as a side product, and right at this moment, I have more abundance in the food department, almost, than I can cope with.

tomatoes being processed
into sauce
We had our first "killing frost" a couple of nights ago. Killing frost, for those of you who do not live in the northlands, is a phenomenon when the temperature drops below freezing for the first time in the autumn, killing the leaves of tender plants like beans, squash, basil, tomatoes and peppers. The summer crops are now through producing food for the season, though all of the fruit on these plants is still good to eat. The ripe, and mostly ripe tomatoes got harvested and made into juice to turn into sauce (it needs to be cooked down -- evaporated -- to the proper thickness) and I have close to 7 gallons of this liquid. That will make about 3 gallons of tomato sauce... eventually. I don't have enough burners to cook down sauce and make meals, so two smaller pots are waiting in the freezer while the 5 gallon pot is cooking.

But that is not even close to all.

sunflower, mid-August
The rodents were eating sunflower seeds and leaving us with nearly empty heads, so we cut most of them prior to the frost. That means I have 50+ sunflower heads, some very large, laying

around because I haven't yet found time or places to put them to dry so that the seeds can be removed.
Then there are those squash and pumpkins... a garden cart load of them are currently sitting on the front deck, waiting to be brought in. (Can't leave them there... remember those rodents?) They need someplace to be, until we eat them or I cook and freeze or can the flesh. But everywhere is covered in sunflowers.
And it is also potato harvest season (though not on account of frost). Also, even though they will stand quite a bit longer, the rest of the garden will need harvest soon, so it can be cultivated before winter. That means 100' of potato row (though some were dug this evening) and 50' each of carrots and beets. There are still sunflowers out there, as I did not get them all, and a few tomatoes that were left on the vines, to possibly ripen in the next few days. There is some chard, plenty of kale, a few Brussels sprouts (though they did not do well this year) and other odd ends. And I have 150' worth of pinto bean plants that I completed harvesting the day after the freeze that are hopefully drying their pods, to make for easier harvest, as they lay in the bed of one of our project trucks.

I have an abundance of abundance... and the challenge is to find the time, energy, space, containers, etc. to turn it into food. And all the while the hens and ducks have not yet stopped laying for the season, and I have hex sign orders to fill.

So, I must, I think, redefine affluence. It has nothing to do with wearing designer duds and driving a Mercedes Benz (wouldn't hold much hay anyway!) and everything to do with all this good, wholesome, organic food that seems to be covering every available surface.

Thank you, Powers That Be. I got this!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

To Maximize Happiness (and Productivity) Find Your Flow

Nothing could be more peaceful than
sitting on the back steps, listening to
the quiet sounds of our "lawn crew"
at work.
I'm pretty sure we have all had moments when we are hit with the realization that, right now, at this moment, everything just feels perfect. We may not remember them as long as some of those days, when it seems like we are channeling Murphy (the one with the law named after him/her). They are the counter point, but I have found that being aware of my feelings, the energy levels of my body and the world around me and looking at it all from a somewhat analytical mindset from time to time is helpful.  Over time, this process has enabled me to spend more time "in the flow" as I say: when things are going along as they should, with more ease and less interference, as it might be if one was floating down stream with the current.

Of course, like that current, the flow is ever changing. When I was a young woman, I enjoyed the abundant energy of a "type A" personality, could -- and often did -- go "at mach 3 with my hair on fire" for hours, and sometimes even days on end. And balanced this out, as all things must be, with days of essentially complete collapse/rest.

Then I became a mom, and everything changed! Even a breastfeeding, "baby-wearing" (though the term had not been invented yet) family-bedding mom of one really can't sustain that pace. Before I went crazy from "not being able to get anything done" I managed to analyze the situation and realized:
  •  prioritizing tasks, based on what was actually important to me and my family helped -- beds did not have to be made, for example 
  •  priority #1 was going to be the kiddo -- which should be a "d'uh" but one never really realizes the extet to which babies change things
  • breaking tasks into 10-15 minute bites was both possible and worked.
This routine worked through the mommy years until my husband and I divorced, he ended up with the kids (long, sad story) and moved far away. Gradually I fell back into the "mach 3" routine as I tried to find a balance between work and passion. Eventually I worked my way around to life and livelihood being congruent, as I worked in graphic design, a career path that just longs to suck one into the rhythm of 24/7 and total collapse. It is said, only partly in jest, that many take to drink, and the art directors drink whiskey. I did manage to avoid the whiskey, but not a trip to the ER with a devastating headache. What I thought was a migraine proved to be "only" a tension headache and produced the advise from a wise young doctor: quit the job or get used to it. I quit on the spot. This issues was not the work, but the boss, who would not let me DO what needed to be done.

My solution to that conundrum was to start my own company. From the frying pan to the fire? Not really. I have always been willing to take risks when I was betting on myself and have never lost one of those bets. I was still, during those years, willing and able to make a "no matter what" commitment, and having given that commitment to myself, I set about making it happen. At one point, early on, I found myself without transportation, having lent my truck to a boyfriend who proceeded to break and refuse to fix it. We were living in a small community, with no jobs and no alternative transportation to the nearby towns where I could have sold my services or applied for other work. I was lucky enough to have a friend with an extra car who was willing to loan it to me -- but it was several states away! I took the first payment for the first job my fledgling company completed, bought a bus ticket to pick up the car and prayed for enough left to buy gas to get it back "home."

"Home" in quotes, because the next thing that happened was I made myself homeless by moving out of the now-former boyfriends home and into a camp ground. I was only there a few days, when an acquaintence, who happened to have been that first client, caught wind of my situation and suggested I qualified to go to a woman's shelter, which I did. Before I even got there, while living in the camp ground, I grabbed a local paper (from out of a trash can... I was broke, yanno?) to look at the classifieds and began applying for anything that had a hint of possible. Before the first week in the shelter was up, I had employment in my field, riding herd on 6 web sites and doing advertising for a local realty company. With a job nailed down, and a paycheck just a couple of weeks away, my focus turned to housing. I needed something cheap where I could run my own business after hours and live as well. I found a former fish house -- cement building with electric, water, sewer, sink, toilet and shower -- that the owner was willing to rent under my conditions and moved in the day I had my first paycheck in hand. I was in the shelter less than a month. 

Things were hand to mouth from then on for years, but that is how "no matter what" commitments work. You do what it takes. But riding through cycles of working pretty much 24/7 (between a 9-5, M-F and my "off hours" contracts) and periods when I initially got really scared I would never get another contract -- and paying attention to the ebb and flow -- showed me that there WAS an ebb and flow. The lesson I needed to learn was to take the down time as the necessary R&R between the times of total immersion.

Once I learned that lesson, I was on a roll! For years I happily rode the roller coaster, and even added to the chaos by beginning to paint and sell the "Pennsylvania Dutch" hex signs of my family heritage and tradition.

Eventually the realty office closed when the principals retired, I took my unemployment check on the road, moved to Maine,
The "old homestead" the month we
moved in.
eventually found a homestead and "retired" to another life -- and another flow -- one which revolves around the planting, growing and harvest cycles, around season and weather and yet still must encompass the hex sign orders, which increase from year to year.

It is amazing how much things can change in 9 years. Now I am pushing 70, and although healthy and active, my energy level and stamina is not what it was when we arrived at our hilltop home.
Despite having two new knees (which I had needed for years but could not take the down time to have replaced until after retirement) I often joke that I need a new body to go with them. Arthritis is beginning to plague me, I run out of steam more quickly and do not have the strength I had even a few years ago, despite continuing to do all the same stuff. Once again, the flow changes and I must change with it. Is it easy? Heck no! But by staying aware, analytical and conscious, it is happening and I continue to continue. My y'all be able to do so, as well.