The cold is here for real now. The days undeniably shorter. We wake up to the iPhone as much as to the sleepy rooster. The cat comes in from his night of adventuring and curls up against the back of my neck, while Nick gets up and washes the dishes in the dark with National Public Radio playing in his ear buds.
In the summertime I’m always the first one up. I’m not lazy, exactly, but my bones run cold. When the cold starts to creep in, Nick and I change places. I stay in bed as long as I can, hoping he will start a fire in the wood stove while I’m still safe under the quilts. I will drag myself out to do the chores, but not before the sunrise.
Our garden is near to done, like fall. The tomatoes are slowed down but it hasn’t frozen yet so never say never. We’ve eaten the six perfect peaches off of our young peach tree, and I’m picking wild plums.
I pick the wild plums like a mad woman. Because they are so small, it takes a lot to be satisfied, and then once you are satisfied…well, you can see how this goes. You just want to be satisfied again and again.
Now I’ve got orange ones and purple ones in boxes in the woodshed, waiting for me to get out of bed and pit them and cook them up. I’ve already made two flats of wild plum jam, but it’s the wild plum butter that I won’t even tell you about, because I’m not sharing.
My sister was here this weekend, pitting plums with me, and we talked about what an acquired taste it is, to love these jams made of wild fruits. Our husbands tend to reach first for maple syrup or honey — or my husband right to the peanut butter — passing right by the flavorful fruit concoctions of summer. We think they’re crazy. But they think we’re crazy. And if I look at myself picking tiny fruits and pitting them and stirring them over heat all afternoon I guess I can’t begrudge them these questions.
I’m a wild plum addict. A wild plum pusher. Vices come in worse flavors.
I love the poet/writer/farmer Wendell Berry, who says in his poem Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, “Every day do something that won’t compute.”
Who is so daring? Who dares to say, yes, I see all the wickedness, the lack of caring, the greed, the fear, the idiocy, the horrors of our time. And yet I will be joyful, not numb. Yet I will be human, not machine. Yet I will love the wild plums, and the cat who curls up at my neck, and put my hope in trees.
It is my job right now to be a writer, and a promoter of my writing. But I feel every now and then — almost like a flash of panic — that nothing is real and nothing around me is real, and it’s all a marketing machine. I worry that we build whole communities around what we call a simple life and then the greed and desire for fame and monetary success is still the organizing principle in those communities. I know that taste and it is not the taste of revolution. It’s just another industry. While, meanwhile, the need for resistance hasn’t lessened even a tiny bit.
I’m tired, too. This introvert is tired of guests and tired of expectations. I’m a bit tired of putting my life on camera, too, though you all know I swing back and forth with that and am not announcing that I’m quitting anything. I’m just a little tired.
I reset myself from all of it by running my hands over boxes of wild fruits. Sorting and washing and preparing. It’s like making meaning out of chaos. Taking wild things and taming them into little rows of colored jars. It sets my eyes where they need to be, and calms my hands. It’s cheaper than therapy.
Ask me how I’m doing after I’ve had this breakfast, of fresh bread and farm eggs and apple butter. I’ll probably be more cheerful, and less prone to telling you that the world is run by phonies, though it clearly is.
Wendell Berry says this, too, “Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.”
The house is close enough to done that I don’t want to breathe for fear of ruining things. It looks like a house, every day more and more like a house. When my sister was here Nick and I slept one short night on sleeping bags in a loft with no railing. We were warm enough, but just barely. It’s a house, but I still don’t want to breathe for fear of having too long a list of things that still need to be done, and Nick doesn’t need any more pressure on him than there already is.
I just have faith and try not to think too much about the details.
We’ve had all the kinds of visitors this week. Really there are just two kinds: the kind you clean up for and the kind you don’t. We’ve had both. But now we’re finally settling into a true home school routine. Sadie is learning her letters and learning how to write her name. Stella plugs along at second grade and is crocheting herself a warm scarf for the coming winter.
Milo and I have compromised and he’s doing his reading comprehension with the Percy Jackson books that he would be reading anyway. He got a Rubik’s cube for his birthday but he only likes it for pretending to be one of the Olympian gods. I tried to help him solve it and he burst into tears.
The best of our school schedule is that we spend time together. This is the most extravagant and nonsensical and valuable thing we can do each day. It’s our “thing that won’t compute.” We ignore the pressures and the expectations and the obligations to speed and accomplishment, and instead devote ourselves to climbing trees and gathering boxes of tiny, slightly sour fruits and playing with a Rubik’s cube we can’t solve.
You could say we don’t have time for any of this, but I know we don’t have time not to.
I wish you all some extravagant waste of time this week. I wish you some sliver of resistance to hold the line of humanity against the overtaking tide of greed and despair and exhaustion. A little nonsense is good for us. Like the low angled light of early fall, it gets into your soul and lights up dark places.
With love from the yurt,