Monday, August 28, 2006

Not-so-wise wisdom teeth

It's time for bed but I'm not quite tired yet. As usual, I'm on my summer sleeping schedule of staying up late and getting up at 9 or 10. I don't have to go to work until 1, but I get mad at myself when I don't make my mornings more productive. Will I ever change? I have a friend here who runs on a nearby trail at 6 in the morning everyday. On one of her excursions, she picked blackberries on the way and brought some to me. My god, if I even had two ounces of her energy....but after she brought the blackberries we played a little guitar together. She's just learning, so I taught her the first few chords of Blackbird (which I learned by rote from Joan (the best music professor ever) way back in '96 (did I sound old just then?). It's the only song I know on the guitar by memory. I was amazed at how much I do know about the guitar. My friend kept asking me basic things about strumming and picking and tuning and I remembered things my teacher had told me. I really love playing the guitar, I think because you hug it when you play it, and it emits a soft sound like a perfume (Joan's words).

I've been avoiding writing about my summer so far because so much happened--good things and also lots of drama. The most lovely part of it was visiting O'Neill, NE, and driving around country roads past homes my ancestors lived in. It made me realize that I come from somewhere (as if I needed reminding, but when I'm here, my life in the midwest seems like a dream and that I was born in a cabbage patch--which is really what I believed in 2nd grade). It really is beautiful out there, very flat with scrubby trees and pastures and meadows full of haystacks and bales, seemingly arranged in some cosmic order like Stonehenge. We also saw lots of wildlife: my first owl, who was perched on a fence post; a family of raccoons crossing the gravel road; herons? or egrets? I'm not sure, but beautiful tall birds; and lots of other miscellaneous birds (I wish I knew their names). We drove into the yard of a farmette where my great aunt and uncle lived until just a few months ago. The two-story white stucco house was built by my great-grandfather for my great-grandmother, but I don't know how long they actually lived in that house. But the place had a great big yard, three barns, a basketball hoop, and nearby ruins of an old foundation. This was all surrounded by a grove of trees, and you get there by driving through an enchanted lane of low-hanging branches of trees (where the raccoons crossed the road). In other words, I loved this area, and fanticized briefly about moving there, but then realized I'd have to live in small town NE, and be there in the nighttime, which I am afraid of in the country. Anyway, I loved seeing it and other places my family had lived. The highlight was stopping by for an impromptu visit to my mom's cousin's farm about 10 miles from O'Neill. She didn't know we were coming, and we pulled into her yard to be greeted by a barking blue heeler and farm kitties, and the loud grumbling noise of a garden tiller. This late 50-something woman was pushing this noisy, heavy piece of farm equipment through dark soil, which was caking up on her blue plastic sandals. She wore a baseball hat, a big yellow tee-shirt with butterflies on it, and blue shorts. I was amazed. She was like a real Mary Jane farmgirl, working in her beautiful, huge vegetable garden, in which the rows of peas and beans were perfectly aligned. She was happy and surprised to see us (I don't know if she gets that many visitors) and invited us in for a chat and some beverages. Her house is typical NE farmgirl: kitchen covered in floral wallpaper, mauve/grey living room filled with a formal dining table, t.v. set, pictures and hanging figures of angels, china cabinet, fresh flowers on the table, and a small accordion propped up in the corner. Everyone in NE either played the accordion at one time or knows someone who did. In this case, it was her mother that had played it. It was nice to know I had some musicians in the family. On the fridge were 4-H pictures of her son and husband, standing by a cow (or was it a horse? I can't remember). A nearby bulletin board showed off satiny colored 4-H ribbons. It was a very inviting and cozy house, although sad because her only son was killed in a car crash a few years ago. I remember her saying something like, "You have to accept it--there is no other choice." I was amazed at her strength of spirit. She then asked us if we would like some fresh raspberries so we went out in her backyard and picked them ourselves. The blue heeler, Susie, was nipping at my ankles in a playful way. Cousin E then asked us if we'd like to see her roosters and baby chicks (boy would we!) and led us into a dimly lit barn (remember that, kelly?) to show us her sumatran roosters that lay blue eggs (she gave us one, and a brown one too), and her baby chicks that were now adolescents. The dogs had followed us in and wanted very badly to chase them around, but they obeyed and stayed back. E said she wanted to try raising chicks, so she just did it. I wish I had that option! Anyway, she then showed us the beautiful bird house she made to look like a church, which had won a purple ribbon (or was it blue? whatever first prize is) at the fair. This homemade birdhouse was perched above a galvanized tank filled with flowers. Again and again, I was amazed at her farmgirl savvy. It was a lovely day which in which I was immersed in my farmgirl fantasy, and one that I've been thinking of often since I got back. It was the highlight of my stay (along with sewing aprons and purses with mom, and painting an okay still life of flowers).

The downside of my stay was the drama surrounding my dad (most of you know what this entailed and I don't want to go into details) and worry over finding a house in Spokane. K and I decided while we were visiting K and H in early summer that we'd start looking for a house in Spokane, because K really likes his job, and cheap housing is to be had here, so why not start building up equity to buy a really cool house later on in another city. My anxiety began while I was at home, in my parents' house in NE. I'm not a flyer, and being this far away means I have to either fly or drive three days to get home. I don't know if I can keep this up for 3-5 more years--of spending a few weeks in NE once a year--and being bombarded with drama (the two-family situation of being from a divorced home). My family reads this blog but I'm sure it's no surprise to them that I get stressed about living far away and only coming home once a year. When we moved here I thought we'd be "home" (meaning Minneapolis) by 2007, and we'd finally "settle." But now, with buying a house on the horizon, it means being here longer. I'm both excited and scared about being here longer. I really like it here, and cheap housing is abundant (we'd never be able to afford a cool house in the cities). We're making great friends, and more and more I'm loving the mild weather and knowing that I could just drive to the ocean or Portland for the weekend. I feel torn between two worlds, and am not sure where home is and if one should go back to their roots (bloom where you are planted? a mini-quilt bearing this quote hangs in my grandma's kitchen). I feel tied to NE and MN, but would I like living there again? Would it ever be the same? Would I hate it if I moved back? Can one ever go home? Where is home? I don't know if I'll ever answer these questions. K told me the other day that he could stay in Spokane forever (after saying this summer that he could not stay in Spokane forever). I'm not sure where I stand on this issue.

Sorry if I've been waxing prosaic in this posting but there is a lot going on right now, on top of trying to graduate soon (the possibility of doing a recital seems ridiculous right now--I can't envision myself actually doing it, which is keeping me from writing music), preparing to teach a huge lecture class on music history this fall, and trying to figure out what I'll actually do after I graduate (hopefully not work retail). I've also been on a Madeleine L'Engle kick and reading the entire Austin family series (I love them! They sing rounds at the dinner table for grace), and revisiting my interest in marine biology, which first came in the seventh grade after reading "A Ring of Endless Light," in which the main character discovers that she can communicate psychically with dolphins. I found a first-edition copy of this book at a basement, hole-in-the-wall bookstore for 15 dollars and just re-read it. It was luminous, to say the least. I've started wearing the dolphin ring my dad gave me for my fifteenth? birthday, when I was still enthralled with dolphins and marine life.

Oh, it's time to go to bed!

I'm tired, finally.

P.S. I'm having my wisdom teeth out on friday, so think of me and send me letters!