It was real deal cold this morning. Not joking cold. Like, put an extra blanket on the children cold. It makes me throw my eyes on to the wood shed, which is full right now of canning supplies and big bags of sawdust. But not much wood.
Meanwhile, Nick is sitting in the rocking chair, possibly on Pinterest, doing research for our paint colors. “The thing about decorating timber frame homes,” he says, “is that you seem to need a lot of dead animals.”
I did laugh a little. But not very much. We haven’t built the rocket mass heater for our mountain dream home. Or stocked up fuel. If the cold is coming, we’re not ready. And if it’s true that in the mountains we have two seasons — winter, and preparing for winter — then our little homestead is off the tracks.
We didn’t work on the house at all this weekend. I was doing page proofs for my book, which is arguably a huge vanity project, depending on what you think is the definition of necessary. And Nick was on standby for a fire. He’s working again today, but the project on deck is a metal spiral staircase, which is pretty much the definition of a vanity project. Depending, again, on what you think is the definition of necessary.
I said, “Can’t we just put up a ladder and do the staircase later?” But he said, “I’m not going to weld a metal staircase in a place where we all live.” If we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it. And, at some level, seizing the day to make all the cool and interesting and beautiful and meaningful stuff we’ve ever wanted to make is what we’re here for.
This is the weak point in our little family. This is the chink in our off-grid power couple armor. We are so darn attached to our creativity. Both of us. We are so engaged with making things we like to make. It’s the very definition of impractical.
A favorite book of ours — not one that I’m reading right at the moment, we’re still on Little House on the Prairie, but one the kids have already heard aloud — is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a bit scary for little ones, especially at the end, but we read it anyway. And one of my favorite moments is when Mrs. Whatsit gives Meg the gift of her faults. “My faults!” she cries. “But I’m always trying to get rid of my faults!” Mrs. Whatsit, though, is wise beyond wise. She knows those faults may come in handy in the scary places Meg is going. And she’s right.
I don’t know that I can justify that Nick and I keep on being completely impractical, even when we’re living a survival life. I don’t know that I can justify that we keep putting round windows in chicken coops and painting purple trim. But these are our faults, and the truth is they do come in handy, especially in scary places.
Everyone has their own way of judging the passage of the seasons, depending on where you live and what matters most to you. We measure the end of summer by our oldest son’s birthday, which is, he tells me several times a day, in just eight days. He was born the hottest weekend of the year in Southern California, nearly nine years ago. But it’s also the week that our part of the world goes back to school, and after his birthday each year we clean out the kids’ drawers and change out the shorts for long pants.
I crave the fall. I delight in it. For me it is the opposite of my least favorite season, the spring. The spring unravels everything, from quiet stillness to the wild vibrant life of summer. I know for some this is relief and awakening, and cute baby bunny rabbits, but for my high-strung personality it tends to bring a lot of stress. The fall, at its best, puts everything away. I work hard and I work quickly, but it’s all so much in the direction of turning chaos into cosmos: putting up the harvest, putting up the wood, putting up the insulation…readying our bodies and our hearts for a long winter’s nap.
It’s all a bit like spending all day putting your books in alphabetical order (which is also, for the record, something I would do if given my freedom) and I love it.
A few years ago I started doing #31days, a pattern of blogging every single day in the month of October. It has worked for me the way fall works for me. But last year I had a friend die in the middle of it, and it ruined everything. Death is much too complete a form of putting things away. Call me fickle, but I don’t like it one bit. I’m still not over it.
This year I’ll be keeping to my once a week schedule of blogging, and my once a week schedule of video chats, and putting up food preservation and homemaking tutorials when I can. It’s a plenty full life, not only full of work, but also full of the magic of impracticality, and the imperfections of a fickle human heart…which are sometimes the only shield we have to pass through scary places.
Nick and I have zero expertise on what it means to be practical. We often look like rock stars in my videos, but when our friends come over we confess that we have no idea what we are doing. We’re just following our hearts, doing the best we can, trying to own up when we make mistakes and never, ever, ever get caught quitting.
Sometimes we need our impulsiveness, and our greed for creativity. These are the faults that match our other faults, our tendencies toward cynicism, fear, and depression. We need round windows and purple trim sometimes to get us through internal winters. And I’m guessing that the current vanity projects — the pretty metal staircase, and a beautiful book — will be powerful in keeping us from walking away when things get hard.
Still. I should get cracking on a million things. Like, yesterday.
Wishing you all the joy of bringing things to order, even if it isn’t fall where you are. Even single days have this pattern, of chaos bursting out and then being contained. If you can find your favorite part of the cycle, and know that it’s coming, it might just get you through the rest.
Sending love from the yurt,