If summer was like a dress with no belt, my fall is hyper organized. Scheduled to the minute, I’m catching hours like water, in containers with no holes. For the curious, here’s the breakdown of a day.
I get up when the sun gets up. At least, that is, until the deep of winter, when the sun becomes quite so shockingly lazy. Mostly I get up when the sun is just brushing the dark with gray. There isn’t any alarm, except at the moment there’s a young rooster, who is extremely enthusiastic. And if I wait until full daybreak the goats will start to cry.
These are extremely effective alarms, actually, with no snooze button.
I do my outside chores first thing, the animals and the gardens. I throw hay down to the goats, open the duck house, water and feed the chickens. I like to be outside when the sun breaks over the hill. If I have it right, which I hardly ever do, I’ll be done with the chores and ready to watch the show.
If it isn’t raining (which it is, today) I set a packing blanket in the back garden, facing East. And I sit quietly while the sun climbs twenty minutes of degrees. If I don’t do this, I won’t write, later, when I have time to write. By now it’s getting near 8:00 and my kids are getting up.
My husband does breakfast. He always has. I sit with my journal and write in pen, raw material for big picture writing. I’m trying to capture a story in a form that will make a second book. But if I think too much about that I clam up and can’t write a word. So I just put down the thoughts as they come to me, ordinary and boring and amazing all wrapped up together, trusting that a faithful hand will sift them.
At 9:00 I start school with my kids. If they have their chores done and are sitting at the table ready for school at 9:00 they each get a quarter. Let’s just say that I’m not going broke.
We work until 12 noon on reading, writing and math. Their dad comes in for lunch and run as fast as I can to the world of work again, for a phone call, an interview, a Skype date, or just a bunch of aimless social networking. Some days are more badass than others. But that’s true of any life.
At 1:00, I get back into school. In the afternoon we do subjects and projects, which are sometimes ingenious, brilliant, creative things, and sometimes whatever I have thrown together between 1 and 12:55, when I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t made a plan. My kids can tell the difference, but it’s the way of these things that my favorite things are not their favorite things. The treasure hunt I sent them on to learn the cardinal directions was my dream school day, but they hated it. My son mostly wants to learn about snakes. My daughter wants to draw.
At 3:00 we break, with end of school hugs. The kids run away from me to outdoor games of pretend and I go on to homestead projects. Yesterday I stacked wood. Two days a week this time is mostly making bread. On Saturday the whole day is made of this, and I’ll probably do something to help Nick with the house. But I also have one more round of chickens to process, sheet mulching to do, trees to plant. As fall turns into winter the chores will become more tedious, more arduous. Drawing water, carrying wood. Repeat.
At 5:00, in theory, but really always late, I get back in and wash the dishes. I tell the kids to pick up their toys. I help with dinner, build a fire in the stove, do evening animal chores, help my kids with teeth and pajamas, read bedtime books and tuck them under their blankets at 8:30. When I’m old and I want to know where the hours of my life went, point me back to here. Always fast and slow, excruciating and over too quickly, this is when I fight with my kids and love them, tell silly jokes and play rounds and rounds and rounds of Who Am I?, model stress and peace and doing too much and singing while we work.
But the chaos does wind down. Always. The little one falls asleep, Milo sits up with his headlamp and reads, Nick drafts or costs things or moves words around on lists. I like to sit in my bed, where it’s warm, but that’s usually not the best idea. I work better at the table.
We’ll work often until midnight, and this is my hour to actually get things done. A video gets edited, an article gets sent off, a chapter is revised, I try to organize my thoughts so I can finish something every night — or feel like I’m finishing it — before I blow out the candle.
All lives have phase changes, and mine has shifted again and again toward outside things — the writing of books and sharing of stories. Even with my children we are all turning together towards outside things. But I feel ungrounded when I measure a day by those accomplishments: clicks and tweets and other absurdities.
May my days always be bound by simple work and simple pleasures.