Many years ago, when I was blogging regularly, I used to share a monthly blog entitled “Seven Things”. It was largely just a list of seven quick, casual statements or stories from the month that kept me blogging somewhat regularly. Seeing as how I haven’t been able to do that for years, I thought I might pick it up again and see how it feels now.
Without further ado, here are seven things:
I deleted instagram for the month of August, and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I was spending way too much time scrolling. While I have spent time curating my feed so that I largely only see real life friends and family or internet people who make me happy or inspired, I was tapping out of the current moment far too often to see what my internet friends were up to. On the other hand, our entire family and the grand majority of our friends live at least a two hour drive away, and I miss the quick check ins and views of their everyday lives. But also, here I am actually writing a blog. A blog that probably no one will read because it has been defunct for so long.
Last Sunday morning I taught paddle board yoga in a light rain while loons dove for fish around us. Core memory.
Speaking of, I can feel myself shifting into a more yoga based movement season. I think I’ll be stepping back from the heavy weights for at least a month or so and leaning into the flow a bit more.
A little more than a week ago, a friend had us over for dinner and made a zucchini soup that was simply made of zucchini, a bit of ghee, and water. I haven’t stopped thinking of it, and now that I have a refrigerator drawer full of zucchini, I think I’ll be making it myself sometime this weekend.
I bought a chainsaw and signed up for a chainsaw safety class in mid-October, which is great because we have a maple tree down in our front yard that needs to get taken care of before winter.
Some local friends have re-started our old book club and we decided we’re not reading anything heavy or too thought provoking. Light stuff, beach reads, rom-coms, the occasional thriller. It’s a true joy. As with most book clubs, we chat about the book maybe 10% of the time and spend the rest of our meet-ups chatting about life and laughing. As it should be.
I’m going to attempt to make dolmas this week, using grape leaves from our grape vines. I have high hopes.
Cheers! And here’s to increased creative writing, which is to say, any at all.
Let me tell you a story. I’m not sure exactly what kind of story it is, but one might consider it a love story. A love story between a couple and the land. A story that will hopefully put many things into context.
When starting a story there is always a question of where exactly to begin. And while this one could start in June of 1984 at my birth, or Christmas of 1991, when I first learned about the Peace Corps, but I’m going to fast forward just a bit to fall of 2006.
Little baby 22-year-old Clare had just graduated from college and was about to move to Tanzania for a two-year stint with the Peace Corps. I had a duffle bag full of things I for sure thought I would need in the bush and a plan. I was going to teach secondary school in Tanzania for 2 years, come home, go to graduate school for aerospace engineering, and pursue work through NASA.
If I had to pinpoint a moment when that all changed, it would have probably been during a bus ride up a dirt road at six in the morning, out of the valley, into the mountains. I watched the sun rise as fog settled into all the low nooks and crannies. Even now, 15 years later, I can perfectly envision it, and it’s just crack-your-heart-open beautiful. I mean, hand on my heart, the north eastern mountains in Tanzania are just the most beautiful place on the planet, and that’s all there is to it. Anyway, about that time I had just finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and, all eye rolling aside, it changed my life. There, winding my way through the mountains at the beginning of the day, with a new and active interest in soil farms and overwhelmed by the way the hills poked their heads through the fog below me, I knew my plans were changing course to keep me much closer to the ground.
I lived in a community of subsistence farmers who were experiencing the changing climate right then and there. They had been taught to adopt the industrialized agricultural practices of monocrops along with heavy fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide use to grow corn and beans. Meanwhile the season of long and heavy rains was shifting. Rains were heavier and no longer as predictable as they had once been. At least where I was located, the farming was happening on the sides of mountains without tractors or other machinery. With each rainstorm the soil was washing down the mountain. With the use of more and more chemicals, the quality of the soil that remained was becoming poorer and poorer.
In the mountains of Tanzania, I planted my own garden and started a compost pile. I battled the neighbor’s chickens, who ate all my seedlings when I foolishly planted out of season. Coming from Minnesota, I expected seasons to be defined by temperature, leaves changing colors and falling from the trees, and daylight changes rather than rain patterns and when the chickens were no longer allowed to free range for planting time. I was finally able to grow my own broccolini and cilantro. I read my text book on permaculture cover to cover, and spent my free time daydreaming about working with the soil and the seasons to grow my own food. At the same time that I was beginning a relationship with my now husband, Neil, I was preparing to return to the U.S. and realizing that my decade long dream of being an astronaut was being pushed aside by a new and growing passion for creating healthy land and pursuing renewable energy sources.
I returned to Minnesota at the beginning of winter, but as soon as the weather permitted I built a large compost bin in my dad’s backyard. I planted rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes. And I started looking at graduate programs in mechanical engineering.
Hitching my wagon to a partner pursuing a medical degree with a rural family medicine specialty led to a lot of moving around in the early days of our relationship. Without a yard of our own, we planted seeds in community gardens. I took classes on rain gardens, home solar projects, and a beekeeping course, and we dreamed of eventually owning an old farm and transitioning the land back to native prairie and woodlands. By the time we settled in Baraboo we were ready to plant an ambitious kitchen garden. We tore the lawn out of the entire back yard, and replaced it with prairie grasses, wildflowers, all varieties of vegetables, and planted a native shade garden. On that little fifth of an acre, we grew towering sunflowers, and watched bunnies make their home in our grasses and hummingbirds and butterflies regularly flit through our flowers. We joined a local climate change action group and started learning about controlled burns and invasive plant management.
Isn’t it funny how looking back it seems like a perfectly logical build up to where we are now? And yet, on that late June day, when we closed on our property, after we finished unloading the moving truck and started poking around the land, we found ourselves completely overwhelmed by what we had gotten ourselves into. How had our friends and family members not stopped us from purchasing a 91-acre farmette? Who did they think we were? Who did we think we were? We had no idea what we were going to do with all this land.
Let us remember, in the wake of 45 pulling out of the Paris Agreement, that ultimately, it is on us to act.
Make the choices in your everyday life that use less fossil fuels, more sustainable materials and manufacturing practices, and conserve the beautiful Earth we have. Make the choice to support companies that are doing the same. Vote with your dollars, and when the time comes, vote with your vote.
I’ve been thinking about sitting down and writing again in this space for months now. I’ve been thinking about what I want this space to be. I’ve been thinking about what I want myself to be in our current world, current United States, current environment. And the answer is not clear yet.
But part of the answer seems to still be a voice. Maybe a voice shouting a bit louder than the rest of the din. A voice saying, “Hey, take care. Take care. Take care.”
In a few months we’ll be moving again. Our third move in as many years. With at least one more on the near horizon after this one. Just another 80 miles down the road. Slightly north, slightly west. We’ll say goodbye to our little town, our little garden, our little house. And make a new home. Just like we have in the past, numerous times. Bringing mostly the same stuff with us, and also a few new plants. And we’ll try to put down new roots. And we’ll try to build more earth. And we’ll try to take care. Because this is all we have.
I didn’t necessarily intend to take a 3 month break from this place. It just happened. Life moved along, and I didn’t have the words to put here for a time. But I hope to say hello a bit more often in the new year. I think it’ll be a good one.