There is so much going on in my life right now that at the end of the day I sit back and think about what stands out, and what stood out today was the death of the old collapsed barn in our field. Barns are not just made of wood, I know. There is glass,tools, hundreds of nails, old and rotten hay, manure, barrens and bins. All of these things will have to be collected and sorted before animals can move around. This old barn was filled with stuff and the people from Common Sense Farm are passionate recyclers who are using or re-using every scrap of wood and metal.
Still, there is so much stuff in there, it will take days to clear it out and remove it. The sight of the Common Sense workers hauling wood to the fire seemed emotional to me, dramatic and my big lens – the 400 mm Canon telephone – helped me capture what I felt. I felt the death of a barn, already dead, really, and long useless and forgotten. Still…
Mike and Red. Burning the barn. Red seems to pick up friends and admirers wherever he goes, and he goes everywhere. I’ve never seen a dog make so many friends, not even Lenore, who is the Hound of Love. I often contrast Red with Rose, and they both loved their work, but Red is very eager to attach to people and hang around with them. He seems to fit in just about everywhere I go. Even to a barn fire.
Tomiym from Common Sense Farm tosses some wood on the fire that is consuming the old and collapsed barn that first drew me to our new home. Common Sense – a religious community in Cambridge, N.Y. and other cities – took as much of the wood as could be re-used or re-cycled. They found a lot of old chestnut planks, long extinct here. I have hired them to burn and remove the rotten wood and debris. It started pouring today so they hauled the wood way out in the middle of the field and started burning it. Old barns die all the time. They burn, are collapsed by snow and wind, rotted by rain and neglect.
I felt bad burning this old barn, built in 1840. Tomiym thinks I should plant a garden there, I am thinking the foundation would be a great space to put a hay feeder. I took Red out and we said a few words of thanks and appreciation to the old barn. I’m going back tonight to sit with the fire after the Common Sense workers leave. Barns are cathedrals to me, monuments to other times and places. I’m putting up a photo album on Facebook later. It was a powerful and emotional thing to see.
I’ve written a good deal about fear and loss, depression and anxiety, but I think the most serious issue I have ever faced – and it is the first cousin of fear and anger – is dependence. When I was a child, I was scared to death by a number of things and I began looking for saviors. I also began to doubt my ability to cope with the world. All of my life, I turned things over to other people. The handling of money, the need for love. I even had someone close to me edit all of my books, and although she was competent and thorough, she had a different idea of writing and voice than I did, and I turned much of my voice over to her, my fault, not hers, but a terrible thing for a writer to do. When people tell me I am writing in a different voice recently, it sends a chill up and down my spine, and it is not pride.
When I ended up alone and exposed on my farm, divorced, alone and quite crazy, I did not believe I could handle any of the details of life – banks, money, insurance, bills, repairs, decisions. A therapist handed me a book called “Co-Dependent Now,” and I read it and went into shock. When the divorce, recession, and the implosion of publishing arrived at the same time, I was simply overwhelmed and went to pieces. I was very frightened, very angry, often quite depressed as many of you know. But the real issue for me – and I knew it the minute I had to try and arrange for my own health care and pay my own bills – was that I was frightened because I had become dependent. I had lost my self.
I was a dependent person, a five-year-old with a farm and a book contract and a bunch of animals I could not care for well. The building or re-building of a self is not simple. Or painless. Or short. Every day I ask myself how I can be an independent person, build an independent self. That is the key to so many other things I want – a life with love, with less fear and confusion, less anger. The new farm is bristling with opportunities for me to do things I didn’t do or know I could do – take wallpaper off, make good barn decisions, save money on restoration and repairs. Last night I took the wallpaper off of the hallway in Bedlam Farm, and Maria was astonished to see this when she came home. She says she never imagined me painting walls, taking wallpaper off, scraping and sanding.
This morning, sitting in the rain, I realized all of our firewood was in the barn, and I thought I should wait for Maria to come home. I did not. I grabbed a trolley and went across the street and hauled it back and got a trolley going. I do things every day I used to let other people do – I shop, cook, clean, pay bills, talk to banks. When I am pressed or pressured, as I am now with two homes and farms going, I often wake up and wonder who will save me, who will bring me money, who will come out of the mist and ride off with my farm. But now, I do something different. I ask myself what I can do, what I should change, how I can be my own savior. I see it as critical, as the building of an independent self. I gave myself away, and there are always people around to grab pieces of your soul, of your life, if you let them. If you are battered, frightened, worn down by fear and the small people around you, lining up to tell you that you can’t live your life.
Every time I do something for myself – shop, light a fire, pay a bill, make a decision – I grow a bit, feel safer, stronger, more at peace. Every day, money in the bank of the spirit. When Strut crows every morning, I puff myself up. He is making an announcement. Let’s get going with life. Red, too, and the animals around me.
And yes, I edit my own books now, myself. And my editors tell me I am writing better than ever. And I am taking my own photos in my own way, every day. So when I get anxious or worried about my life, or my future, I make it a point to cross the spaces and divides of time and life and reach out to the little boy and tell him, it’s okay, it’s all right. We can take care of each other. We can save ourselves.