Tag Archives: country life

Frost On the Remnants Of Summer

100_2193That’s my outdoor solar lamp. (Frost is covering the little panel on top.) The citronella candle is hiding behind it.

The boy has taken himself off to work, packing Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner. The remaining leftovers are packaged and/or frozen for future meals. The turkey carcass is tucked in the freezer for future soup, and the dogs are mightily disappointed they weren’t allowed to take it outside for themselves. (Raw bones are okay, but cooked bones are not.)

Now I’m settling in with warm cranberry wine, goat cheese and sourdough. I’ve a little noveling to do today.

Making the 50K NaNo goal isn’t going to happen, but I did get 20K of first-draft fiction down.  This is a big deal, since my fiction projects since Viable Paradise have been all about revising previous works that were salvageable.  That 20K of this month is all brand-spanking-new and shiny.  Yes, I stumbled around, wrote and deleted at least as much as I kept, and wandered down some research roads when I should have been pounding out words.  But I am having fun, so screw the wordcount. 🙂

Besides, a bunch of other cool things happened this month, and I wouldn’t have wanted a miss a single one of them.

(Okay, maybe I’d have wanted to tinker with some of the events, but not miss them altogether.  Hee.)

Advice For the 16-Year-Old Blair

Choosing five things to tell my sixteen-year-old self is an odd exercise at the moment.  I have a sixteen-year-old son, so I can’t help but conflate this with what I want to impart to him.  Also, my late teen/early adult years have been much on my mind as I consider where I am in life now, and where I want to be in ten years.

So some of these are serious and some are more fun, but all are true.

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Blair,

You are not, at this time, deciding the course of your life.  Yes, I know everyone is telling you things about choosing colleges and majors, building foundations for the future, and thinking about financial stability.  Stop listening.  You’re not the type of person to walk one path from now until eternity.  Stop trying to make yourself into one.  Try all those things that make other people raise their eyebrows.  Be willing to fail because–and here’s the secret truth–beginning again isn’t such a bad deal.  You’ll be much, much happier if you cease trying to cast yourself into a preset mold.  Flow instead.

Along with that, I order you to travel more as soon as you turn eighteen.  Take that trip to Turkey rather than worry about “not knowing how” to travel to Turkey.  Go to all those places you want to see and experience.  Israel, Australia, Italy, Madagascar, Alaska, South Africa.  Just go.  It’ll be a long, long time before you can again make such trips without coordinating career and family schedules.  You’ll never again be able to travel at will.  The only thing standing in your way is fear.

Ask more questions of smart people.  You’ll recognize them by the fact they know more than you do, and are doing what they want to do.  A couple decades from now, you’ll be able to request information on just about anything by typing a string of words on a computer screen.  (Don’t ask me how this works.  Just trust me that is does.)  But right now, you have to ask questions of real people.  Most times you won’t even know you ought to ask.  So when you think you know everything about the topic, ask the knowledgeable person things like, “If you were me, what else would you want to know?” and “If you had a question about this, who would you ask?”  Bottom line: never assume that what you know is all there is to know.

Creativity is the main dish of life.  Too many people are trying to tell you it’s nothing but a side dish, or a dessert, or a garnish that adds a pop of color but no true substance.  They don’t intend their advice to be cruel.  They’re telling you this because they fear you’ll end up jobless, homeless and penniless in pursuit of your dream.  They might be right about that part.  (I wouldn’t know because I chose to believe them for too many years.)  But they are dead wrong about the role of creativity in your life.  At worst, if you fail at your creative dreams, you’ll have to take a job you hate in order to keep a roof over your head.  Guess what: that happens anyway, so you might as well have a fling with your creative dreams because those well-meaning people just might be wrong about the outcome.

Lastly, Don’t sell the Mustang.  That’s a 289 engine in that ’66, my dear.  You’ll never love another car more.  Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to keep in good running order, but you do know how it’s done.  So upgrade the tires, drop a 329 under the hood, and have a fucking blast.

Love, Forty-Two Year Old Blair

P.S.  Quit worrying about your hips.  They’ll stop hurting so much after a couple years in karate.  Yes, karate.  You’ll be teaching it one day.

P.P.S.  Pick your jaw up off the floor.  You know you’ll love karate.

P.P.P.S.  Wear a bikini more often.  It’s fun.

Country Light and Sound

In books, film, and general media, some aspects of country living are presented as “true” when those aspects are really “true when viewed through the experience of city dwellers.”  This does make me sigh, particularly when plot points turn on those aspects.

I was born and raised in Southern California, but lived in a more rural community during high school.  Then, after many more years of city living in two different states, I moved to rural Indiana.  The nearest streetlights of town (population 1,000) were over five miles away.  The nearest true city (population around 10,000) was ten miles away.  I lived in a very small house that was nearing 100 years old, but had been wired for electricity only two years before I moved in, on a riverside farm of about 130 acres that I shared with the landowners.  My closest neighbors were Amish.

I was far enough from town that now, living three miles from the city outskirts, I hardly consider myself living in the country.

Moving from city to country prompts folks to choose one of two paths–adapt to the experience, or adapt the experience itself.  The first step of the latter involves the instillation of outdoor lighting systems to banish the night.

I can’t tell you often I hear country nights, or nights before artificial lighting, described as pitch black.  As someone who used to walk around on 130 acres at night, I can assure you night walks are not akin to a blindfolded stroll.  Nights are not terrifyingly dark by default.  Darkness depends, of course, on available moonlight, but also atmospheric conditions and vegetation.  On a clear night, less than a half-moon provided light enough for comfort.  A full moon’s brightness made hikes up and down the ravines safely possible.

But the moment you look at anything brighter than the moonlight–in fact, in you look directly at a bright moon–everything else will look pitch black.  The rods in your eyes use certain pigments to see in low light, and those pigments break down in bright light to prevent the light from overloading sight.  It can take over half an hour for those pigments to build back up.  So if you’re turning a flashlight on and off, looking at a campfire, going in and out of the house, or–as in the case of reporters–spending most of the time staring into good lighting–the night will indeed look pitch black all the time.

Patience reveals another aspect.

Nighttime sound in the country can also be described very poorly by those who live with constant background sounds.  Such sounds become so pervasive, they cease to be noticed.  Air circulation fans and traffic are two common sources.  That noise covers smaller sounds of footsteps, conversations, breezes through leaves, and the passage of small animals.  You won’t hear the murmuring of a casual conversation taking place on a porch a quarter mile away.

In the country, sources of ambient noise might be moving water and/or wind.  That’s about it.  Being still reveals low sounds of small nocturnal creatures–their movements, their calls, their feeding.  The yip of a coyote carries a long, long distance, as does the whoo of an owl.  From my front porch on the farm, I could hear the clopping of hooves for long minutes before the buggy came into sight.  (Amish neighbors, remember? 🙂  From my back porch at my current home, I can hear most cars on a back country road when they’re still two miles away.  When I see a character be caught off-guard by the sudden appearance of a vehicle on a country road, I know the writer hasn’t spent much time outside his city limits.

All that quiet stillness will make one very aware of how much noise a clothed human body makes when it moves.  While it’s true feet cause noise on the ground, the sound of moving fabric can give away one’s position as well.  These days, humans would make easy prey for any stalking animal.

There are times that I deeply miss living on the farm.  Even the days, the ones filled with hard work in the July heat, were wonderful.  An interlude.  The in-between.  The time I needed to leave behind an old self and find the new.  But it’s the night–usually in spring and fall, usually when the moon is near full–that I miss most of all.