My grandma is 92, and just moved into a small apartment in a senior complex in Midland, MI with a dining hall and transportation (so she won’t need to drive). I am hoping to stop and visit her on my way back through Midland on Saturday, and have been thinking about this latest move: she went from the big farm where they raised three kids, to a cottage at Houghton Lake, to two trailer houses (one in Florida, one in Michigan.)
Grandma never seems to spend a lot of time looking backward, sighing over the old cherry trees or the place on the lake. She blooms where she’s planted, and seems pleased that with every move there’s less to keep track of.
This being the third day of living alone in my pop-up, I am beginning to understand how freeing that can be. Somewhere back in Ohio, somebody else is reminding the kids to do their chores, or brush teeth, and feeding them nutritious meals. Or not, which is OK too: it’s not me, this week. Someone is remembering to call and check the bank balance, water the hanging plant, feed the rabbit/fish/guinea pig/cats, sort the mail, chase the running list of projects that need to be finished and phone messages to answer. Or not.
For just this week, I am only in charge of myself, and it’s pretty uncomplicated so far. I can clean my entire kitchen with a single wet-wipe. “Doing laundry” means tossing mud crusted clothes into a hamper and digging clean ones from my bag. I have exactly one cup (an ash-drippy Mark Issenberg one), one plate, a spoon, fork and knife that I use for every meal, wash and put away.
I have one pair of shoes, outside my door. Life is simple.
So all my energy goes into working my butt off on this project. I have developed a relationship with the squatty old metal wheelbarrow I truck up and down the road, and then the trail. I greased its squeaky wheel and have learned to quiet its rattle and bang by putting the straw and backpack under the shovel, pruners, wire cutters and metal gear. When I am at the work site I have discovered that my butt will nest comfortably in the low end, and my fat sponge allows me to rest my head at the high end, and sit in it like a recliner, planning and looking over my progress.
I have developed a relationship with the blue plastic bucket I haul up and down the steep hill, thrashing through underbrush to the swampy edge of the lake to fill it with murky black water. I carry it back up and mix it with clay, sand, wood shavings and straw to make the cob for my structure. Today I was stirring clay with my hands and pulled up an inch-long, wiggling mud puppy baby! He’s in a bowl in my camper, now, in clean water. I am afraid he got a lot of clay in his gills before I pulled him out, but if he survives the night I’ll return him to Parsons Lake.
I can work all day for one day in a row, apparently… But the second day of full-speed-ahead leaves me at a point, by late afternoon, where if I sit down I will likely lose all momentum and not be able to get up again. How did that proverb go? “Go fast”, said the rabbit… “Go slow”, said the tortoise…”Pace yourself”, said the cheetah, “It’s a long run.”
In the time it takes for the dry clay to slake and the wet cob to dry, I have several “sub-projects” going. Last night I made shell-fossil-type forms and bisque fired them in Jean Parson’s studio. This morning I made ancient looking pot shard and, since Cyntha was working with ferns and birch bark in the studio and I didn’t want to wait for a kiln to cool, I stacked some firebricks in the campfire ring, pulled the propane tank off the pop-up and used the weed burner to fire those. I also went on a hunt for storm-downed trees to cut some roots.
At the end of the day I was so dirty (mixing cob with my feet and smearingit with my hands with no water to clean up in) and so hot, sweaty, buggy and tired that I could feel Ransom Lake pulling me toward home. Some of my new friends were already out there swimming, and I spent about an hour in the water, mostly floating on my back with my arms out to the side like flying.
Tonight’s cooking team made rosemary chicken, pasta with some winderful spicy dried-tomato sauce, spinach salad with feta and artichoke hearts and rosemaried veggies, including sweet potato fries. Blueberry tarts were dessert.
Now the night owls are gathered by the fire, and I am going to go join them for a bit before heading for bed. The stars are deep and glorious every night; the coyotes sing us to sleep and the loons sing us awake at dawn.
I need to hit the ground running, tomorrow…