Letting the Dust Settle

16 08 2016

Summer is coming to a close. Kaherdin started school this morning — his last year of elementary — and I want him back. The feeling of missing him is so strong that it physically hurts. Upstairs, Gwennie is still sleeping. It’ll be just six days before I shuttle her off to her first day of high school. The transitions are both exciting and terrifying.

Kaherdin has grown this summer from being around boob height to being chin height on both me and Danae. His legs are longer and his demeanor is getting edges. We still get cuddles and hold hands while he falls asleep, but there is a distinct masculinity growing beneath the surface — a strength, a tad of playful aggression that wasn’t quite there before. There is a part of me that likes it. My boy seems sturdy and self-assured, these are great qualities, but what happens next? I’m already mourning the loss of his sweet voice as soon it will begin to descend. I find myself going upstairs just to sit in his room while he plays with friends on the computer, just to be in his space. I don’t want to lose the boy I call “Food” because his sweet love has always felt like sustenance to my heart. I know that we will always be close, but he is growing from being “mine” into being very much his own little man.

And Gwennie, my Gween Bean, will soon be making friends with people who drive. Cars. On windy roads and freeways. She will be wanting to “hang out” after school with people I don’t know. These people will, at some point, ask her to make risky choices. Drinking, drugs, sex, these are all things that will soon become a part of her world — whether directly or indirectly. We are entering uncharted waters. And this, to be witnessing my baby’s high school experience — the four years that are supposed to define her generation in terms of influences. THIS will be the music she looks back on. THESE will be the movies and fashions of HER time. I find myself wondering how her memories are shaping up. What will her stories be about when she reflects on home and family?

This is it. This is the time, and I want nothing more than to be in there — in the memories of my children — as being a mom who was caring, involved, fun, capable.

We had an epic summer together. I needed nothing more than to get away from this house. My whole life for more than a solid year has been about nothing else. I had had enough. I packed the kids up and left for a little over a month driving around the country. We visited friends, spent the most deep and soulful ten days with my father in Connecticut, did Washington D.C., found fossilized shark teeth on a beach in Florida, walked in Dinosaur tracks in Texas, but, the best part of the entire trip was being together. Seamlessly. The entire month was relaxed, no fighting. Just lots of love and talking and shared experiences. I get tearful when I think back on it because I know that this trip was a heyday. This was the kind of trip that soon might not be possible when the kids have friends and activities and aren’t nearly so easily stolen away.

This, with my kids, is the time to dig deeper. This is truly the time in their lives to mine for gold. They have strongly enough developed senses of self that if I commit myself completely to them, to truly knowing them and listening to them and understanding who they are, a foundation will be laid for some beautiful relationships for when we are all older.

We came home from the road trip for two weeks, before we were to take off again for Hawaii, and I was happy to see that Danae had supervised the building of our new creek stairs, but was disappointed that she hadn’t done the one thing I requested — finish installing the baseboards. I was also disheartened to find the road in worse shape than it was when we moved in after a neighbor had done a huge logging operation. The road is washboarded and dusty. My bedroom skylight was so covered with dust that the first morning waking up at home, I literally could not make out any trees. My feelings of being overwhelmed by this house returned. Then the spring dried up again — even after getting over 6 feet of rain this winter.

I focused my anger on increased traffic on our road. On people selfishly driving too fast, throwing a huge dust cloud over our deck and house. I wanted to move. Maybe a year in the forest was showing us that we weren’t cut out for this. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a seemingly endless supply of water? Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about dust? Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a house that was completely painted and had baseboards, and didn’t need a second round of remodel? I began to ask Danae some hard questions. How much do we really want to put into this house? Even with the slated remodel of the laundry room and more repairs to supports under the house, we’re still not done. We have deck repairs — and even then that will only buy us another 5 years before we might have to replace the deck completely. The expenditures seem endless.

It took many days for the figurative road dust from our trip to settle. I had to get used to being just in one place again, for my focus to settle on *here* rather than on the next place, wherever that might be.

My first weekend back we had our workers come to continue working on the finishing touches of the creek stairs and on cutting wood from some small trees we took down down in the campsites. I love when the workers are here. Unlike us, they have zero emotional attachment to what they are doing, they just get shit done. The idea of hiring day workers came to me when we had an insurance assessment coming and needed to clear a lot of tree debris away from the house. I came down with the flu and couldn’t finish the work. It was far too much for Danae to do on her own after work, so I suggested she pick up some guys to help. We’ve never turned back. Every weekend we have a crew of two to three guys helping us with whatever we need to get done — chopping wood, clearing debris, repairing bridges, demolition. We now have enough firewood and kindling to last us at least two years, and the effects of getting the land in shape have been invaluable. We had our haulers come — they took a load of garbage (a year later we are still finding and getting rid of shelving from inside the house, garage, on the side of the garage), cut some small trees that were growing at an unsafe angle, ground a stump for us in the front driveway, etc. Things are shaping up. After a long day of work — either by us, the workers or, oftentimes, both, the vision I have for this place returns. The possibilities for improvement, care, expansion, are food for my dreamscape. Sometimes I drift off to sleep building a faerie cottage, a retaining wall, or putting in a home gym.

We took off for Hawaii where we had our first true vacation in 7 years. Road trips are trips, not vacations. There is no rest in a road trip unless you build in lengthy stays along the way. This was a vacation. We stayed put at Danae’s grandfather’s house in Kapoho. Danae and I woke every morning, made a pot of coffee, then sat by the ocean to watch the sunrise together. The kids slept as long as their bodies needed. We went for long walks, swam whenever we pleased and just allowed our minds and bodies to rest after a very crazy and stressful year. While there, I realized that swimming in a thermally heated hot pond was something I wanted more of in my life. The experience is so different than swimming laps in a pool. Having a snorkel on, watching fish, diving down to clear debris from the bottom. The experience is so meditative and fluid, much like water yoga. I did what I always do, I began to stalk real estate listings. This exhausts Danae. One thing I know though, I don’t want to live in Hawaii, but a vacation home with a pond sure would be nice.

When we came home, I settled more easily than after the road trip. The rest allowed me some background processing time. I returned home “awake” and full of solutions. I don’t like the light fixture we chose for the dining room. I ordered a new one. Same with the pendant light over the kitchen island. We needed a rug under the diningroom set — ordered. We needed a log holder for the hearth — ordered. Sick of the house smelling like dog, I ordered UV air purifiers and did a deep clean of the house. Finally, we needed a solution for the road dust so that I could let go of my anger toward anyone that drove by and so we could finally enjoy our deck again.

Months earlier — before winter — I had looked into solutions. There is always water, but installing a creek-fed sprinkler system would involve installing electrical on the other side of the road to power a pump — something I’m not willing to do right now. We could use well water and a hose, but that only lasts 1.5 days before drying up again and, with the spring dried up, we needed our well water for ourselves. I returned to a solution I’d read about that people use in farm country — vegetable oil.

Apparently, if you spray the road with oil, it penetrates the dust and lasts all season long. I’m not willing to rent a truck to spray the road, nor do I want to buy vegetable oil by the ton. I had thought about using a pesticide sprayer but wasn’t sure the nozzles would work for oil. It was this doubt that prevented me from trying this potential solution sooner.

Our first Saturday back, completely sick of the dust, Danae and I went down to the Ace to look at sprayers. I settled on an $89 professional grade backpack sprayer that can hold 4 gallons of fluid at a time. We then went over to the Ben Lomond Market and bought two gallons of vegetable oil. I spent about 15 minutes spraying a test area until I ran out of oil. Once out, I had Danae toss me the car keys so I could do a drive by. I brought dust from behind me and caused dust after the test strip, but no dust came from the coated area.  Danae said, “Go get more oil!” I went to Costco and got ten more gallons and was able to do the entire section in front of the house. Two days later, the oil has settled in — it is not slick or gummy and with all the cars going buy, it has not shifted away. The dust is a thing of the past. An inexpensive completely biodegradable solution. Total cost, including backpack: $200. If I need to do this once or twice a year, it would take 25 years for the cost to exceed the expense of paving.

I am reminded of one of the reasons I love living here. I am never short of problems that need solving and, when I come up with a solution — whether completely original or borrowed — the success of putting that solution into action has a direct positive influence on my quality of life. This is very different than coming up with a solution for your boss or your company, this solution is something that I can see and feel on a daily basis, something that I can give to my family to create a better quality of life for them.

Gwen and I walked down the new creek stairs the other day to look around and plan next steps. I want to build a little fairy cottage on one of the campsites — just big enough for a camp stove for making tea and for a sleeping loft. A tiny creekside escape. I jumped down into the creek and invited her to come along. The coaxing has gotten a little easier this summer, but the smart phone and internet are definitely still Gwen’s seductive mistresses.  I was so glad that Gwen had agreed to accompany me down to the creek, but knew she was feeling a pull back to the house. I needed to pull a rabbit out of my hat.

I haven’t seen my newts for a couple of months and had begun to get worried. A year ago I found my first newts down by the creek and in the water. It was breeding season. This weekend marked exactly a year since we brought the first load of our belongings to this new place. It would be another month before we would actually begin living here, but the kids and I were coming here every day to monitor the work that was starting on the house. Going down to the creek became a daily ritual. There was one newt in a deep pool that had a neon white outline from the sulphur coming from the sulphur spring. I would look for her everyday. Newts return to the same pools where they were born to breed and, newts that survive preditors (California rough skinned newts can live up to 20 years in captivity, which helps me to now understand why some of these guys seem squirrely while others seem sturdy and wise), return to those same pools as well, but the topography of the creek had changed drastically with the heavy winter rains. Islands have grown in the middle where deep pools used to be. Before Hawaii, I came down to look for my friend, but found no one.

Gwen and I hopped rocks and found that the neon pink bacterial mats were returning. Almost immediately Gwen shouted, “Newts!” Her voice sounded just like it did when she was a little tiny girl. Rabbits, newts, it didn’t matter. I loved the excitement. I loved it for her heart, but I also loved it because it made me realize that she had made a connection with this place. Perhaps she hadn’t realized that she, too, had bee missing these little friends that, along with Banana Slugs, we have come to call the true faeries of the forest.

“Where,” I asked.

She pointed to a new pool, formed this winter, where she spotted four of them hanging out. In among them was my neon girl. My heart sang.

“Hello, friend,” I said. Suddenly I realized my own depth of connection to this place. I realized that I still love where I am. That a year in the forest has taught me exactly the opposite of what I thought earlier in the summer. I can not only handle this place, problems and all, I was made for this place. At least for now.





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