Near and Far

This moment feels very surreal. Fareed and Elihu sit at the kitchen island, small computer before them, skyping with Elihu’s sister in England. Her mother and I are friends, we’ve many times compared notes on the sometimes outrageous behavior of our childrens’ father, and I know her to read the blog. I have no bad feelings towards her or her daughter, but nonetheless, it is a strange feeling to be in the next room of this tiny house listening to Fareed, Elihu and his sister talk. I don’t need to pretend I’m not hearing them, nor do I need to tiptoe around and pretend I’m not here. To tell the truth, I’m not sure this girl even has any real concept of me existing at all. I wonder sometimes, does she wonder? Does she ever wonder about her brother’s own mom? She is a few months older than Elihu, it can’t be too long before she begins to ponder this. But I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter I guess. For me, I cannot imagine being in her shoes – or those of Fareed’s other sons’. Hmm – are they in turn her little baby brothers?? Man, I guess so. But I’m not even sure she knows about them at all! Strange. I know that in the real world there are many such twisted familial relationships throughout many cultures – and that there have been all through history, it’s just that I myself never in a million years could have envisioned being personally involved in such a tangle.

Elihu’s baby brothers can’t have understood yet – in any meaningful way – that their brother has a different mother. I often wonder at the years yet ahead and how these relationships will evolve. Elihu loves his siblings very much, and he’s said many times to me that he hopes I can meet them one day. Just how will that work? I can, in fact, imagine seeing his sister and her mom. That would actually be enjoyable, I think. But how will it be to see Fareed’s ‘other’ woman and their two sons? I did send her an email last summer, thanking her for taking care of Elihu; an olive branch of sorts. But she didn’t respond. I simply can’t know how she thinks of me. The spin Fareed might be putting on our story. Does he paint me to be a shrew? A selfish bitch? I don’t know. And I can’t do much about it. But I will, no doubt, one day come face-to-face with the lot of them, and I want to weather it with as much grace as possible. Even today I think I would cry if I should see them in person. I don’t even know what the boys look like – although Fareed does tell me stories about them. I try to smile, try to listen without taking it personally. And I think I’m doing better at that. I know these kids have nothing to do with what went on between their mother, their father and me. So that helps. But it’s still bittersweet.

Elihu comes over to me and whispers ‘do you hear that, Mommy? She’s got a British accent!’ I listen for a moment, and yes, I hear the sweet little voice of a girl who no longer sounds like she’s from Denver. I almost want to say hello, but there’s no reason. I hear her mother, and I might say hello to her too, but for what? This is their call, and really, it’s not my business. Again, this moment just feels strange.

They are so far away, yet they are so intimately a part of our own lives. They seem as unrelated as strangers, and yet they clearly aren’t. Life sure is unpredictable and full of contradictions…

House Guest

Elihu’s father is here. He arrived on Thursday, and he leaves early tomorrow. More accurately, we drive him to the airport bright and early tomorrow. Which will be a bit of a feat in that we’ve just had two Fareed-style nights ending way past midnight. I don’t try much to change it; Elihu is so happy to have both his parents in the same place that I let the evening grow later and later, knowing that soon enough it will be a tiny, quiet house again with just we two.

My back is not much better. Fareed says I look like a pregnant woman from the back when I walk. I can either hunch over forward supported by a cane, or lean way back, waddling side to side. Not much room for comfort. I’m almost out of the muscle relaxers my local doc kindly prescribed for me a couple months ago during the last back episode, but thankfully have only to wait one more day for the chiropractor. I admit, I’m putting all my hopes in him. I don’t know how I’ll manage to make our proposed trip if I don’t get better. But honestly, I don’t know how we’ll make it anyway. A few kind people have been more than generous in our travel campaign, but in spite of sending out an additional hundred emails to friends and students, we haven’t received any donations besides those first few, so I’m really wondering how this can work.

And besides, I’m beginning to feel a little sick about my open solicitation for money. Was I too honest? I am poor, but do I need to be so blatant about it? I thought if I likened the gift to the purchase of an ice cream cone it might lighten things up a bit. Now I just don’t know. Without the benefit of a live audience I have no idea how my show is going over. I see the stats and discover that people in Pakistan are reading my posts. Relatives? I think first. Might they help us out? But no – it couldn’t be. The Haques fairly swept me under the family rug when Fareed changed families. (Jill and the boys are welcomed at family gatherings, while my absence has neither been explained nor asked about.) Besides, Riaz has always been the one to send money back home – not the other way ’round. I need to just relax about this. But I can’t! Between my back and students’ summer vacation plans I’ve already lost so much income these past two months. It’s crazy. I made less than half my usual take. So now what?

I’ll ask Fareed before he leaves.  Maybe there’s a soft spot in him somewhere. And I know there’s a cushion of some sort; after all, no matter how broke he tells us that he is, he always manages to take us out to dinner, he seems to have enough for impromtu purchases, admission tickets and such, and he has enough to take a bus and a taxi if need be. Maybe he can set aside his feelings that I’m asking too much – maybe he can for a moment picture his son visiting the Mayflower, seeing a whale, visiting with kids with Achromatopsia, seeing New York City for himself. Maybe. Sometimes I feel a little pang inside when I hear that Elihu has just had another ‘first’ visit to some place significant – and that he was there without me. But I set it aside, knowing that’s not really what’s important, that such thinking is more about me than Elihu’s own benefit. But still. I realize as the parent who’s not a part of much of his son’s life, it’s gotta sting. And to help fund that kind of event – to help make it possible in the first place – that might even hurt a little. I don’t know. But just like I did with you, I gotta ask.

You know how when it rains, it pours? Been a good summer storm over here recently. Thursday night, with back out, Fareed here (oh, did I mention I got pulled over en route to the airport for speeding – then got an additional seat belt violation cuz lil man was out of his seat, having a post-dentist appointment tantrum about not wanting to get braces? Sheesh.) and heat now soaring, I discover that the pipes that evacuate my kitchen skins both ruptured at the same time, and greasy, soapy water came cascading all over my kitchen floor as I stood doing the dishes after supper. Really? Ok. I can take it. Clean it up. Call the plumber. Friday morning the plumbers came. Did a nice job. Didn’t even take long, plus they had positive anecdotal stories about chiropractors. But last night, with a profound sinking of heart, I noticed that my beautiful (remember, it’s all relative, but for me, it is beautiful) laminate ‘wood’ floor began to buckle. And not only that, but small bubbles have formed just under the laminate. Crap crap crap. I allowed myself some bitter complaints last night, but today I will try my damned best to pretend that it’s all ok, and that in fact nothing has changed. And next week I’ll figure out what to do about the $500 plumber’s bill. For now, it’s moment by moment.

I did manage to get out of bed last night to shut all the windows after the house had cooled off. That’s key. By early afternoon the heat will have caught up with the tiny house, and we may have to find a distraction someplace else, but for now it is very pleasant inside. By the time the midday heat gets a hold of the place, we’ll probably be on the way to visit the local aviation museum – which will be especially meaningful for the boys as they have been making a wooden model of a WWII plane (for the past half dozen visits!) and to see the real things will no doubt be inspiring. The air conditioning will be inspiring too, I imagine.

The roosters are crowing, and I am reminded of how hot it must be getting in the coop. I’m going to go and let them out for the day – and this time, rather than keeping them behind their newly installed fence (the original culprit behind this wave of back trouble), I will in fact let them have the run of the place. Much cooler shade to be had in the trees, more cool grass and tasty bugs as well. So off I go, hopefully finding distraction in this and other domestic tasks so that the bubbling kitchen floor doesn’t grab a hold of me as it did last night. I’ll put the rug back. That should help.

Just wish my other concerns were as easy to remedy as throwing down a rug or seeing a house guest off on the plane.


Travel Campaign link:

Travel Campaign

Elihu and I have not yet been on a trip in our own part of the country, and have hoped to do so for the past three summers now. I have relatives I haven’t seen in years, and I’m becoming keenly aware that time continues to pass…

I’m hoping to raise some money in order to make this trip, because as things are now, I’m not sure we’ll be able to manage it. I realize everyone has financial burdens – and truly your emotional support through this past year has been worth far more than money itself – but if anyone is able to donate just a few dollars towards our trip, I think it might be much easier for us to manifest.

To that end, I’ve set up an account at if friends would like to make a donation for our Big Trip East. Just visit our page at and hopefully it will be easy to contribute to our account if you choose.

All told, we will be traveling about 1000 miles. We need money for gas, tolls, additional insurance, motel, food, admission tickets and parking – as well as money to pay someone to watch over our flock in our absence.

Here then is our proposed Big Trip East, to be made in two separate tours:

Leg One:  Saratoga Springs, New York to Wareham, Massachusetts via Amherst

My mom’s brother is now 84 and I haven’t seen him, my Aunt nor my cousins in over twenty years. They live in Wareham, Massachusetts, and so our hope is to meet them, swim in the Atlantic and perhaps – if we can swing it – go on a whale watching boat while we’re in the neighborhood. I know they’re pricey, but Elihu really wants to go. (I caution him that he might not be able to see them for himself, but he is determined.) I also have an old and dear friend from Chicago (whom I’ve known since she herself was Elihu’s age – and now she’s a real grown up!) who lives in Amherst, and she and her boyfriend would like to go with us to a local raptor center there. Finally, an important part of this leg is visiting Plymouth. Our very own ancient ancestor, Roger Conant, (we guestimate him to be Elihu’s great grandfather x 16) arrived there on the Mayflower in 1620. There’s a historic village complete with a reconstructed replica of the ship that we can tour too. Given my personal love of sailing, I’m very excited to show this to Elihu. And my mom is from Fall River, so we’d also like to go and see the house where she grew up as we wind our way westward along the coast.

Leg Two: Fall River, Massachusetts to New Haven, Connecticut

On to New Haven, Connecticut, where I was born, and it’s there we’ll take a peek at Silliman College of Yale University, my father’s Alma mater, and hopefully we’ll be granted entry at the secretive Elihu Society. A quick jaunt north to the suburb of Hamden to see the house I remember living in as a young girl, then back to the main route west, on to New York City.

Leg Three: New Haven, Connecticut to New York City

New York City, baby! I can remember a time when hardly six months of my life went by without my visiting this grand place. I haven’t been there since Elihu was born. About time. Too much to do here for sure. Friends we really want to see, Achromat folks to meet, perhaps a visit to the Bronx Zoo Aviary. Plus we gotta see a landmark. Not sure which, statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. Chinatown is a must, gotta see those big barrels of live bullfrogs and those crazy ducks, hanging in the store windows. Might want to head to mid town – West 57th – to see the historic building in which my father lived at the beginning of his career as a harpsichordist in NYC. Lunch at Katz’s Delicatessen? Some Chinese-Cuban fare perhaps? We also have friends I know from my old life as a musician – they were regular hosts to us when we played in the city, and we must drop in and say hello. Too much to do! At the very least we need (make that I need) to break the paralysis I feel in visiting this city. We only live three hours north and in future can ride the Megabus if we like. There is truly a ‘next time’ to be had. That should take the urgency and stress out of the mix.

The First Half concludes…

We return to Saratoga for a wedding mid July – and the welcome company of house guests all the way from Paris… Then, after we get our breath and clean out the car, we hope to embark on the second half of our summer’s journeys:

The Second Half commences…

Leg Four: New York City to Bel Mar, New Jersey with West Orange in between

We have some friends, formerly of Saratoga, who now live in Jersey. Mom Marion has recently written a book on the accordion (Squeeze This!) and her kids and Elihu have a ball together. I’ll be sure to bring my melodica along for a little music making. And, as Elihu reminds me, there is an aviary not far from their home, too. Then it’s down the coast to Bel Mar. Fareed and I always used to joke that ‘one day’ we would have a home both in Bel Mar, New Jersey, and Del Mar, California. !

Leg Five: Central Coastal New Jersey to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly. I have nice memories of that town. Few, but nice. And for some reason, maybe it’s all the historical novels we read last year, Elihu is resonating with the idea of a trip to that town. Seeing the Liberty bell excites him, seeing the olden day streets and buildings… But the biggest plus of this town is meeting my own cousin face-to-face as an adult. I don’t believe I’ve seen him since I was Elihu’s age – or younger. How can this be? I don’t get it myself. When we were little we saw them on holidays, but I guess as you age life gets more complicated and family spreads out all over… I do know that my father loved his big brother so very dearly, and Uncle Dave’s death was very hard on him. I mean to right the situation. It’s about time I met my cousin again. Kinda like meeting family you didn’t know you had. This will be fun…

Leg Six: Going home

Should we meander? Find our way to Deposit, New York (just outside Binghamton) to see friend Martha Carver’s childhood home? Should we stop in the Catskills? Are there points in between we might not want to miss? Or will we high-tail it back? As I have been saying to my son since he was tiny: “You never know until you go”…

Not sure if it’ll go as planned, but I gotta try. I’ve been hoping to do this since we moved here and feel I must take action. I set up our gofundme account a few weeks ago but haven’t had the guts or conviction to make my appeal til now. Not sure what I’ve been waiting for. But I gotta ask. Just a couple of bucks each from a couple hundred friends and we can get on the road. I hope you’ll consider it. My deepest thanks ahead of time should you choose to help us out.

Back, Soon Forth

This current episode with my back going out hasn’t wrapped itself up as tidily as it always had in the past. Normally after about a week I’d be back to my old self. Not so this time; I am left with a constant, low grade pain which still makes getting in and out of chairs something of an event. Having been given so very many recommendations by folks to visit a chiropractor, I finally made an appointment to see one this week. Chiropractors have always been sort of a mystery to me – I see their signs all over; quaint little offices in small, once residential houses, practices tucked away in obscure strip malls, nestled in between insurance agencies and tax preparers’ offices in dingy, outdated buildings… seeming, in my eyes at any rate, to be perched on the perimeter of the ‘real’ medical community, doing who-knows-what in those out-of-the-way little offices, a laying on of hands, grotesque crackling sounds emanating from the patient at the final torturous alignment…

In this moment I still see a chiropractor’s office as a strange, mysterious nether world floating somewhere between Western and Eastern medicine and having something of a cult-ish quality to it. This interpretation is all of my own doing, I know, and I’m not even sure why I feel this way. It might stem from my mom. She is the queen of back problems. I asked her if she’d ever been to one. She told me that she hadn’t, and it was precisely because she was concerned it might be a painful and unpleasant experience. I seem to remember her nay-saying the profession a time or two in my growing up, so maybe that’s it… So I admit it, I don’t get it yet – but obviously many, many people do get it; they do know how important a good chiropractor is. In two days’ time I’ll have a new perspective on it. I’m hoping it will be the start of something good. At least I’m being proactive. Yeah, and I’ll also do some crunches once I’m able. This whole thing has me a little more concerned about keeping myself in shape, healthy and pain free. From here forward I’m going to have to be much more mindful of how I use my body.

My immediate goal is to recover my strength enough to make a 1000 mile car trip in July with Elihu. He’s yet to meet some relatives – and he and I have yet to ever take a vacation in fact. Vacations weren’t something my family ever did when I was growing up, nor did I ever do so with my husband (we traveled along with the concerts and festivals. Lovely as it was, it was never a true vacation. Early sound checks and late night jam sessions do not a vacation make). This summer, Elihu is nine and I believe a fine age in which to meet his relatives, take his first dip in the Atlantic, meet some other folks with Achromatopsia – and finally see that big city downstate that he’s heard so much about. ! (As a musician I played NYC fairly frequently – and that was when I was living in Chicago. Now I actually live in New York – but I still haven’t been there. In fact, I haven’t been to the city since Elihu was born. Having kids sure does change all that.)

I need to get myself well and strong, because, as you see, I have an important trip to make. One I do not intend to back out of. Lead on, to the chiropractor’s…


So, let’s say you’ve thrown out your back. And this time it’s really bad. You can hardly get out of bed, you can’t walk but instead must crawl across the room on all fours. You certainly can’t get in your car and drive. What do you do? Your kid can only eat nutella and toast so many times. At some point you’re going to have to feed him some real food. But you can’t. What do you do? I know – you call your doctor. Right?

Ok, you could do that. But see, your doc only sees you once a year for your annual pap, and what with her hundreds of other patients, she hardly even knows let alone remembers you. You think to yourself that you maybe should have left her your CD as a calling card last time. Might have helped you stand out. But you didn’t, and she doesn’t know who you are. Besides she’s completely booked up. And anyway, she can’t prescribe anything for you unless you come in. Plus it’s a half hour drive to her office. Aah! I can’t possibly do that! I can’t even imagine getting into the friggin car! But oh well. Can’t help ya, the nurse says in so many words. Then she tells me to take ibuprofen and try an ice pack. Ok. Thanks.

It occurs to me that if I could get into the car and make my way down the twisting hill road, I could visit the local emergency room. I don’t know the financial ramifications of that, and it makes me nervous. Don’t want to risk it (however, I’ve yet to file for bankruptcy and might be able to throw that bill in with the rest…?) so I think I’ll just see what the ice does. We’re not an ice-loving household, so I have none. I might have a pound of frozen raspberries…

This sucks. I’m trying to find the lesson here. Learn to delegate? Ask for help? Take on less? Argh. I don’t know. I give myself a couple of affirmations – I am supported, I have all I need – and while yes, I do trust in those things, it kinda seems irrelevant to me right now. I need to get Elihu’s tuition assistance form turned in for Waldorf. I need to get a hose down to the garden asap. I need to go food shopping. I need to pay a stupid parking ticket in person downtown – by today or else it goes up. But I can’t do any of it! I can’t even keep my kid company. Even creating this post and sending a couple of emails has become too much.

Maybe that’s it. I’m just doing too much. I don’t know. But hey – can’t we pretty much agree that if ‘Mama don’t do it it don’t get done’? Not much this mama can do for the moment. Guess I’ll throw in the towel and try and get myself back in bed with a pound of frozen fruit. What else can I do? Not much for now…

Back at It Again

Can’t say I’ve actually thrown my back out again; there was no one event which landed me on the ground in a lightening flash of pain, but rather this time it’s been gradual. Each day my back has been springing up in pain at a certain twisting or bending point culminating in a situation today which has me unable to sit in any one position for long or pick anything of substance off the ground.

I know, I know. Core muscles. Yes, got it. I spend so much time fixing things and doing chores and taking care of chickens and kids that it just hasn’t made it into the daily routine. But I know, I know. I should floss, meditate and do sit ups. Yeah. Not quite there. But with this being event number three in the back department in as many months, I’m seriously thinking about a couple of reps in the morning. Doesn’t sound so intimidating. Not when the alternative is walking around bent over like a humpback octogenarian.

I did get a fair amount of work done this week as I slowly worked my back into submission. After having driven eight fence posts into rocky soil (Greenfield is notorious for being very hard to dig in) and having put up some 120 linear feet of chicken wire – complete with working gate – my body was feeling it, but not so much my back specifically. So with no red flags, I continued my work. My new fence was not the success I’d thought it to be when I made my up-beat post about DIY pride. Yes, it was up, no it did not keep the hens in. Oh, initially it did. For about an hour or two. When they first realized their confinement they lined up at the perimeter, staring out at my with big ‘love me’ eyes, pleading to be released. As I would not help them, they helped themselves. Within a couple of hours everyone save Max (too big to squeeze under) was out and about, underfoot and leaving fresh poop all over my front steps once again. This required the big guns. Our neighbor and his dad have a homemade mill, and they were kind enough to not only cut some scraps for me, but to deliver them. Zac even placed the big ones neatly along the bottom of the fence where they were intended. I simply placed down the rest. Not much labor, but again enough to begin to tip the scales.

My hens were now contained – a huge advance for us and one step closer to getting out of here this summer – yet I had more before me. I’d made nesting boxes last fall but petered out of DIY steam and left them on the floor of the coop for the winter. Tired of waiting for some handyman to come to the rescue (this is a busy time and none will take my piddly little jobs. Very frustrating.) I decided I’d just do it myself. So I screwed on some L brackets, then hoisted the shelf up and above my waist – oh oh, it’s getting dicey, I can feel it…  Out-of-shape muscles shuddered to hold it in place while I leaned in with my drill and tried to get them secured to the wall. I did it, and it was something that had to be done. But I do think that was the moment when my back had had enough. I noticed I was unable to stand up straight after that project.

A few more chores later – several trips carrying two five-gallon buckets of water down the hill to the garden, beginning to shovel the year’s poop and litter out of the coop (heavy stuff), washing the grimy walls of my house that face the driveway, moving all the unused tools back to the garage – after these tasks and more, my back has finally had it. Slept last night on a heating pad despite the fact that it was 85 degrees in my bedroom. Felt better this morning, so I know I’m on the right track. And I’ve just about accomplished all that I can do myself. So in the end, it was worth it. I’m used to muscling through things, but what I’m not used to is a body that doesn’t follow my lead. I never thought aging would get in my way. Getting older is for other people, right? Reading glasses? Those are for wimpy mamby pambies… and me. Who can’t open a jar? Can you imagine arthritis so bad that you can’t even do that? Well, yes. I can.

Ah, mortality. I still don’t get it; that I too am being swept down the river. I too am aging. My body is simply not able to plow through life’s tasks without a bit more TLC. Damn. Really? Me too? There must be some mistake. Right? As I make the merest shift in my seat while sitting here, writing, a searing mass of pain stabs at me from out of nowhere, reminding me that it’s all true. Crap. Still so much to do, but alas, I just don’t think I can do it today. I have students coming later; I need to make sure I’m doing ok by the time they arrive. Elihu can amuse himself with his rc helicopters and books, so I suppose the best thing I can do right now is accept my mortality…

…and go back to bed.

One Night in June

These photos are from an evening last week. We were just beginning to enjoy our free-form days and nights…

Elihu changes the blades in his biggest RC helicopter

They’re on, now let’s see if they work…

They do!

Now we’re downstairs to the music room for a bit. Elihu starts off on my Wurlitzer.

My old Moog – how I loved playing that thing back in the day…

Elihu goes back to his drums and the two of us play for a bit.

We had a nice little jam session that evening. Kid’s got a natural feel. There were a couple moments when I forgot I was playing with my nine year old son. Before we quit I suggested we do a jazz ballad. “Oh – that’s my favorite kind of music” he says. ?? He pulled out his brushes and jumped in without a second thought. Fun day. Love that kid.

A Summer Free

It’s here. Summer vacation. In years past I’d approached summer with a certain apprehension, as I assume many parents do – those who have jobs which continue after school comes to an end must dread this change in schedule – but this year it is a refreshingly different situation for me. While folks with unrelenting day jobs may be faced with some daunting child-care related logistic challenges in the summertime, that had never been my particular problem. In the past my difficulty was that by this time of the year I was knee-deep in producing a summer music festival – and doing it all myself – with a young kid at my feet whining to me that he was bored. In ‘my’ day my mother had no room for my boredom. I was given a bicycle and complete freedom. That was my summer. At the time I really hated it, but looking back now it seems rather idyllic. Classic, timeless summer. (But I suppose I might have been a year or two older than Elihu is now at that point.) What we did or how we passed our summers as tiny children, while my own parents were themselves tending to the same Baroque Festival that I have been running since I moved back, of that I have little recollection. The past three years have been great feats for me; keep the show going while keeping the small kid happy. A juggling act I didn’t have to repeat this year, because last year we wrapped up dad’s 52 year run of the Festival of Baroque Music. Lots less stress this year for sure.

It just hit me the other day as I stood in the Studio, conjuring the memory of harpsichord and viola da gamba ringing out so vibrantly in the hall, that we wouldn’t hear such music in this room again this summer. The Festival, as we all know it, has concluded. The thought hits me in my gut, and I am more than sad. I feel decades of memories become fainter and fall farther away into the shared oblivion of past performances everywhere. Many who were here to witness those performances are themselves no longer with us. Fainter and dimmer the memories become. I remind myself that the spirit in which all of that was created will continue on. It will take different forms too. But I promise myself something important: I will find a way to make Baroque music a regular part of the Studio’s offerings one day. But just not this year. Taking a year off isn’t so bad I tell myself, but still, it makes me sad, nostalgic. This is the first year here without music. I think of how far my dad has slipped since just last year. He might not even be able to attend a concert by next year. I know it, but I just can’t fully embrace it yet. I take in a breath of air, and I let a concept linger until it doesn’t hurt quite so much: I realize that we have come, quite definitively, to the end of my father’s era. It sits heavy in my gut. Yet I know that also means it’s now the beginning of mine. I’m still feeling the sorrow in my stomach, but I can’t deny that I’m also beginning to get excited here… Once again, I’m beginning to see the Studio’s new future and I can just feel possibility growing…

For now I am not personally hosting any classes or performances, but Ceres, my partner is. I chose not to take part in this season because I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I had lots on my plate what with the new well and other infrastructure details – plus there’s been so much going on with us personally the past few months – a change of schools, family issues and such; I just couldn’t summon the extra oomph to do it all.

I’m letting my role in the Studio rest for a bit as I turn my attention instead to simply spending the summer with a nine year old boy. And I gotta say – it feels great to get up in the morning with the day wide open before us. While there are things we’d really like to do this year (like visit far-away family), we hope to keep things as under-scheduled and free-form as possible. Today we had a destination in mind, but knew little of what to expect once we got there. With the agreement that we might be disappointed – but that we’d go anyway – today we were happily surprised as we discovered some impressive waterfalls, visited an old-fashioned mill, got our feet wet in a lake and tried some homemade, spicy sauerkraut. Elihu ran after moths on a vast, shady lawn while I sat in an Adirondack chair under some tall maple trees and looked out at the Hudson making its way past huge outcroppings of rock. As we meandered through the small town Elihu found himself a couple of matchbox-sized airplanes. Then we came home and learned a bit more about the place we’d just been. Perfect.

Finally it’s summer. And finally… we’re free.

Sweat Equity

After waiting and waiting for some magical sum of money to find me in order to do some much-needed tasks around our homestead – and realizing that it simply wasn’t going to appear from nowhere, I set out, full of purpose and ambition to git her done with what I had or could glean from the land. As it were.

What seemed an incredibly daunting project came slowly to fruition as I plodded forward, one task at a time. Get the kid in the car. Get to Home Depot. Get fence posts (they cost what I made in lessons this week – so far, so good.) Get home (after feeding pigeons and taking an rc helicopter break – oh, and then lunch…) and finally set to work. The goal? Create a larger run for my expanding flock. One that will finally keep the goose and the roosters contained so that I don’t have to personally escort my piano students into the house for their own safety. A run that will keep my hens happy and healthy and prevent me from accidentally stepping in piles of poop every time I step out of my kitchen door. A much needed improvement. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I had a variety of handymen and fence guys over to give me bids. The highest was $3,800! Can you imagine? Sheesh. Guess I thought I’d present the project to my good old mom for underwriting. Couldn’t bring myself to. Glad I didn’t.

Yesterday was a long, hard day. But after a good eight hours of hard labor, I now have an expanded run, complete with gate and even flower boxes under the coop windows. Lovely and functional and a source of great DIY pride. I must credit my generous neighbors for donating the chicken wire, which relieved me of a good $200 purchase. As I’d loaded up the second-hand roll of wire into my car, I still didn’t believe I would transform it into anything useful. I truly doubted my abilities to deal with the mess of wire with any success. But aha! I have! Invigorated with what I accomplished, I have also now begun other little fixes. The door that won’t close. Done. The nesting boxes that are coming apart. Done. And after having used my chop saw once again I can feel my blood boiling with the possibilities of added improvements…

I was utterly exhausted last night, yet ironically find it hard to sleep in this morning for all the things I’ve yet to do. My goal is to simply “de-sketchify” my place. Make sure it’s in basic working order. And in the back of my mind one goal looms, still cloudy and unattainable as yet: to make my place easy to watch over should Elihu and I go out of town. We really hope to – and have for these past three years, but it has been our feathery charges which have blocked our escape. If I can make it easy to feed and water them, to get them in at night, then I can hire someone to do so. I need the girls to stay put for this to work! I am fueled by the vision of everything in perfect working order. There is no going back to bed for me.

One Up, Two Back

Today has been a classic ‘one step forward, two steps back’ sort of day.

First off, I did call the gal at the drilling company, and we had a good talk. Ended up getting a lower grade pump with the same warranty. As this pump isn’t for non-stop household use but rather for part-time hours (and at this point only seasonal as well) I figured I could go with the less expensive model. Plus she assured me that any other pumps I found on the internet by the same name weren’t the real thing; they were black market knockoffs. Really? Sounded kinda silly to me, but I didn’t know enough to counter. Plus these pumps were made in Denmark. That I liked. (Much more reassuring than had they been made in someplace like Texas.) I’m already a big fan of Danish design, so I’m going to trust that they make good pumps too.

I joined the crew at the site and watched as they dug the trench from the well to the building, moved some immense boulders and finessed a new line into the Studio. All went well. Satisfied, I left to go pickup Elihu at school.

Elihu’s classmates are each contributing a small drawing of a rainbow which will be used to fashion a larger, end-of-the-year thank you card for their teacher. I carry the pens and paper in my purse and plan to have him do a quick drawing before I pass it off to the mom who’s putting the card together. I linger at the school looking for her but can’t find her. I know she lives a bit further out in the country in our general direction, so I make a mental note to drop the art off at her place later on that afternoon.

By the time I got home and checked my messages, I found the workers had made several attempts to find me – there was a situation that needed some attention ASAP. Apparently a couple of pipes had burst over the winter, in spite of my having drained the system. Or at least I’d thought I had; some friends had come over in October and offered to help me drain the pipes for winter – only we may have been one freeze too late. I don’t know – it seems kinda crazy to me that there should be such damage done in so short a time – but it whenever, however, it doesn’t matter. It’s done. “We looked everywhere but couldn’t find a mop or anything” the kind fellow went on; he felt pretty bad, but there was nothing he could do. I called the shop right away and thanked them. They’d done their job, and they’d done what they could. Which was really just shutting off the main valve after realizing that the place was flooding fast. And we were so close to finishing this project and opening our doors for the summer. So close…

After hearing the messages, I pile a laundry basket full of old towels, drag the huge dehumidifier up the basement stairs, get it all in the car and head next door. When I first see the situation, it doesn’t look so bad – although the carpet in the bathroom hallway is dark with water, it still seems ok. But then I walk on it and feel the volume of water beneath my feet. Phooey. I sop up what I can, get the machine cranking and set up the tubing to drain into a sink. Now I too have done all I can, all there is to do now is wait. Ok. Time to turn my attention back to school business.

Back at home Elihu begins to work on the rainbow for his teacher’s card. He needs to finish his book report too – something he’s been dragging out for weeks now. His teacher has been more than kind granting him extra time for having joined them late in the year. As he adds lines to his arch I test out the markers on a sheet of paper first before handing them to him – as he of course cannot see the colors for himself. He finishes his rainbow then adds a soaring eagle. He signs “Love, Elihu” in the teensiest letters possible a the bottom. Perfect. Now back to the book report. Where is it? I can only find the paper on which I’ve tested the markers. Oh no. Oh no. No! I have been testing out the markers on his book report!!

It’s actually not so bad, because at Waldorf, kids do their assignments in a large lesson book. Elihu has been told that he can do his report on another piece of paper and then glue it into his lesson book. So this will be fine. We can easily cut it out. But this is not acceptable to Elihu, who has now become a raging, crying, frustrated little kid who is fully invested in using this as his ultimate reason not to continue. The next hour is spent with Elihu lamenting between sobs that he’s “been working on this for months“, and that “all his work has to count for something” and therefore he “shouldn’t have to do any more” and me countering that all the hard work in the world is for naught if the assignment is not completed. Crappy job or not, it must be finished. I even use his beloved Waldorf as a tool. I am ashamed of myself, but I am desperate that he finish this assignment. I stay committed to my act, I say that perhaps he should return to Greenfield Elementary if he can’t do the work at Waldorf. It is a veritable battle of wills, of egos. He nods his head yes, that maybe he should go back to Greenfield, because he will NOT do any more on this book report. Wow. He’s committed to his act, too.

I let him writhe on the couch for a bit, to let off some steam. After some time he comes to me as I sit in my chair writing, and he slides in next to me. He doesn’t need any more discussion, any more lecturing. He needs mommy now. So I say nothing, I just hold him. His tears are drying now, but he’s still a little sniffly. I give him the opportunity to ease up on his stance. “Want to just try one sentence at a time?” I ask in a much softer tone, to which he nods yes. I hug him again, and we sit for a moment. He gets up and walks into his room.

Just now Elihu returned with the entire book report finally completed. He threw it at me and said “don’t thank me. Don’t say anything at all or I will be really mad.” Then he left the room. A few seconds later I can hear the whirring of his helicopter moving about the living room. In a while we will have supper. By then things will have settled down. If he’s playing with a flying toy, I know he’s already feeling better.

I’m feeling better too. But I’m not looking forward to spending the money I’d saved on the cheaper pump by way of plumbing repairs (and then some. !). So much for the windfall of a bonus interior paint job! Sheesh.

One step forward, two steps back. Ever onward…

Digging the trench for the new water line

Getting closer…

Down to the nitty gritty…

Good news: we have water. Bad news? It’s in the wrong place. Sigh.

I can’t forget the goal… what a beautiful room, huh? This room has seen over forty years of music and theater and will continue to do so as soon as we’re over this little hump…

Post Script: The Studio used to get its water from a shallow, hand-dug well a hundred yards away (which belongs to the 200 year old farm house in which my brother now lives) but the line ruptured last year. We supplied the Studio with water using a hose from my parent’s house to get us through last season. This year we’re going to have our own water source, making the Studio a true stand-alone building. (We still need heat – but that’s another chapter for the future.)