Cabin meets Cottage

My mother-in-law calls our house “The Cabin.”  While it’s just a modified ranch, I suppose it’s as close as we can get.  The inside has tongue-and-groove pine ceilings, hardwood floors and earthy colors.  Deer heads and turkey fans line the walls while Budweiser mugs gather dust on high shelves.  Moose and deer antlers, found throughout the years, are placed artistically on a corner shelf, some large enough to touch the vaulted ceiling. My grandfather’s old fishing rod is displayed along with pictures of him in his youth.  Running on high, long shelves on opposite walls is my complete Yale collection of Shakespeare, sitting (mostly) idle.  Tins in the shape of Big Ben, a London phone booth and a London post box sit randomly among the kids’ art projects from years past.  Old world Santas, a Scottish bagpiper–my shelves have it all.  Even a picture of the bard himself.   Just like my marriage, I’d say my home is more like a mellowed blend of Hunting Cabin and English Cottage.

And it doesn’t end at the door. Sitting on the deck, I’m surrounded by culture.  Thai Basil, German Thyme, Italian Parsley and what promises to be a  beautiful eggplant.  Cherry tomatoes are ripening on the vine as bee balm dries (reluctantly) on the clothes line.  If I look off to my left past the small, Mexican pottery chimenea, I can see a plethora of green spilling over the edge of the raised beds and mixing with tall daisies; bright yellow squash blossoms bursting towards the sun and promising an abundant harvest.  The view to my right is blocked by a large, stainless steel grill.   Even as it sits idle, I can almost feel heat coming off it.

But it’s all good.  The mix of his and mine mingle together throughout our lives to make the perfect melody.  Our children, prime examples of our mixed personalities, are (of course!) the ideal mix of us.  They hunt and fish yet they study other languages, watch foreign films and even enjoy the theatre.  (Well, Bethany does anyway)  We’ve traveled to Ireland and can’t wait to return; the quintessential travel vacation for our family!  Next?  Tuscany or the countryside of France.  If money were no issue of course.

In this life you don’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, sometimes, you get what you need.  I may not have the ivy-covered cottage in the Cotswolds of England and my husband may not have that log cabin stuck out in the middle of the woods, but what we do have is the simple mix of a loving family in a modest house.  And that’s good enough for me.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (and understanding)

I’ve never been one to read a book the moment it hits the shelves.  JK Rowling had finished penciling book 4 before I jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon (and devoured, with great joy, all of them several times).  Other than JK, I usually prefer my authors dead and buried somewhere in the vicinity of London.  About a century or two ago.

Generally the books I’m reading are things no one else has ever heard of, never mind read. Perhaps that’s why, despite my interest, it’s taken me so long to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (AVM) by Barbara Kingsolver.  I recall seeing it on the shelf at my library and saying, hey, I need to read that!  But walking away with Drood instead.  But this weekend, for some unknown reason, I went to Borders specifically for that book.  Something told me it was time.

I believe there is a natural chain of events that happens in our lives and for me, things have to be just right for ideas to stick.  I am not a firm believer in anything, so reading one book on a subject will not make me a follower of anything.  I have never been good with diet books; the simple idea that eliminating certain foods is good for you when I know from nutritionists, doctors and general knowledge that it is not good for you, well, it doesn’t settle with me.  I don’t take anyone’s word for anything. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always had an issue with religion as well.    Call me a skeptic, but in reality I’m just a historian.

Just recently I’ve begun to see a pattern to my madness.  Whereas I once saw myself as unfocused and procrastinating, I’m beginning to see that my last few years were building layers.  A foundation to what is to come. Blasting away on the keyboards, in notebooks, in the margins of reference books, I spent one year completing a novel.  And then, like a switch pulled, that desire was gone, replaced with the driving need to be outside. I wanted to hike every waking moment and tackle every mountain in my path.  I focused on nothing else.  I couldn’t bear to spend a morning typing when the woods beckoned me.  I replaced my hour writing with two hours of hiking.   Not a day went by when I wasn’t outside in some pursuit.  Then, like all good things, it tapered off to a normal amount and now, this year, I chastise myself for not doing enough of either.  I write intermittently and hike when the feeling strikes. Not that I’m slacking by any means: Mt. Washington, Cardigan, the Greenway 10 mile trail, countless hikes after work.  I am even writing again.  But neither activity receives the focused drive I had in previous years.

But this, I’ve just recently realized, is not something I need to feel guilty about.  My years of single minded passions is melding perfectly into the right balance of both.  I’m reminded of why I hiked in the first place.  It gave me a sense of peace and made my words flow.  I write because it gives meaning and purpose to the life surrounding me.  Just like Jo in Little Women, I have cut my hair to buy presents when the rest of my family has sold their possessions to buy combs for that same beautiful hair.  I’m always going all in on something at the cost of something else.  Only now (perhaps due to age) am I seeing the passions in my life blending, playing off each other, and becoming the meld that makes who I am.  As I look around me, I see all the elements coming to fruition:  my love of the outdoors, my love of the local, and my love of writing.

The tag on the book was right.  This book has changed my life but not only in the way had it intended (if there really was any true intention).  Sure, I plan on seeking out local foods and being as sustainable as possible on my little one acre of Heaven.  But it goes much deeper than that.  Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me see the balance that is happening in my life.  While the focus was about local food and the difference even one family can make, it seems like a metaphor for so much else.  For the same reason I love reading Harry Potter over and over again, I enjoyed the layered messages in AVM.  Like all books ingested at the right time, I’ve taken from it things the author probably never even knew was there. To me, it really is about so much more than growing a garden, raising some chickens and getting to know your local farmer.  It’s more than learning moderation, curbing desires and caring enough about your fellow man to give up bananas.  The biggest lesson (for me) was about finding the middle road that is comfortable and natural for you; the simple fact that we don’t have to be purists to make a differenceYou don’t have to go all or nothing in life.  I don’t have to go all or nothing, I should say.  My happy place is a perfect merge of flavors, if you will: a little writing, a little nature and a lot of perseverance.