Friday, June 3, 2011

How Things Are Now

The morning before grocery day, scavenging frantically for a breakfast I have to pack and bring to work because I don't have time to make it, I spot a lone bottle of beer, standing tall at hearty hops and barley attention in the vegetable crisper (beer's not a vegetable?).

I actually paused, like maybe -just maybe- it was a good idea to bring a beer. To work. For breakfast.

In the end, I went with a whole grain dinner roll and a jar of natural peanut butter, thick with oil and gooey nutty goodness (no time to scoop a single serving into a tupperware container; the whole jar tossed in the lunchbag; quicker), the best I could do on the way out the door the day before we replenish our food supplies.

* * *

We left the sandbox open at some point. I don't know exactly when it happened, but we left the lid off the sandbox, and between the neighborhood cats and the falling tree debris, it's just not fit to use for another summer. So we need to empty it out, but where to put this big box full of sand?

The groundhogs who used to live in our yard seem to have abandoned their abode. The first year we lived here we shared the space with a groundhog bigger than my ten pound baby. He was pretty confident the property belonged to him. The house sat empty for over a year before we moved in, and he had gone ahead and made himself at home, digging burrows closer and dangerously closer to our foundation. Last year we found one of his babies dead on the sidewalk leading from our yard out toward the street, flies buzzing over his tiny body decomposing where we imagined our children might one day play with sidewalk chalk. His family ate all our next-door neighbor's garden vegetables. We aren't disappointed that they have gone. They weren't the most pleasant of squatters to share the property with.

We threw our Halloween pumpkins in his hole to rot, and covered that compost with a thick layer of yard waste in the fall, and then again in the spring. The hole was near-full, but still not quite level with the surrounding grass. I emptied the sandbox, shovel by shovel, into the rusting metal wheelbarrow we found when we moved in. I dragged it up the grassy hill to the groundhog's former hole, and -shovel by shovel- I buried the remaining evidence of their existence.

There's so much work! my husband despaired, looking out over our property.

We're filling the holes, baby, I said as I rubbed the space between his shoulder blades with my hand. We're finally filling the holes. Think about what this looked like almost three years ago, when we first moved in. And now? We're filling the holes!

Damn, he said, you're right. We're filling the holes!

* * *

I meet with my boss, and my collaborating partner, and her boss, around a rectangle of conference tables. We have stacks of paper hundreds of pages deep: requirements for reporting our progress, rubrics for measuring our success against the other programs competing for limited funds, budget spreadsheets, and various pieces of a report that will determine our future strewn across the tables.

We look good.

It's on me to make sure we look good. And we do. We look good.

Maybe June will just be an early-to-rise, nose-to-the-grindstone, Puritan-work-ethic type of month instead of a clusterfuck of epic proportions. I can handle early-to-rise. Inhale. I can do nose-to-the-grindstone. Exhale. My Puritan work ethic is all polished up and pretty; it's in fighting shape what with all the practice it's gotten over the last couple of months. I'd make a fine farmer's wife these days with my ability to work dawn to dusk and then on and off overnight tending to a baby in need of mother's milk.

I can survive another month as a farmer's wife. Especially as opposed to a clusterfuck of epic proportions, which is what I was expecting. Another month as a farmer's wife is doable.

And there's always beer for breakfast, if things should come to that.

* * *

I scrub out the kiddie pool, hose it down with a jet spray, unscrew the nozzle and slowly let it fill while my son hops foot to foot with excitement in the soon-to-be summer air. I pop my baby girl's backside into the Bumbo seat, placed strategically in the shade of the conifer tree where she can watch me work and listen to the birdsong and windchimes hover in the humid air.

We've been walking over patio stones for going-on-three years now, never knowing they were there, buried under the grass, until our feet wore a path deep enough into the ground to discover them. I dig them up, one by one, and place them in a pile by the back deck. They'll need to be reset in the soil, somewhere higher where the rain water won't flow over them, burying the rock in mud and allowing grass to grow over them again.

Sinking the blade into the dirt at the edge of the stone, I place my foot atop the hoe and heave my weight forward. Again and again, I dig down into the earth -this piece of earth that we own! just imagine that!- and reshape it.

My children laugh in the background. Their voices mix melodically with birdsong and windchimes. And I work, and I work, reshaping the very earth upon which we live.

* * *

I am so tired that days and nights blur together. I close my eyes in my office and wish for a pillow in place of a keyboard. I drift off on the couch with my children crowded close to my body, listening to late afternoon rain, and waiting for my husband to arrive home from work. I pause in the early morning, gathering my bearings, wondering if a single beer is a suitable breakfast for a workday lunchbag before coming to my senses. Sometimes in the middle of the night I lie awake and watch my daughter kick her little legs and laugh like a banshee before cuddling her in and nursing her back to sleep. My life resembles a rushed montage from a movie more than a linear sequence of events occurring in real time.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, fast approaching while I ride this wild wave to the end of June.

And I am reshaping the ground beneath my feet, building my future with my hands, digging through dirt and sheaths of paper to unearth whatever comes next. And it looks good.

It looks good, you guys.

Inhale. Exhale.

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