Little Spaces in Big Places

2017-10-30 17.38.27I spent this week cleaning up after remodeling our bunkhouse. It’s a small one bedroom with a kitchen, bathroom, and a living room big enough for a sofa and chair. As I went about wiping down walls and scrubbing out the shower, I fantasized about moving in; how nice it would be to have a small house to clean. My animals would still have plenty of space to romp around outside. I would finally have a reason to get rid of the mountain of stuff I’ve collected over the years.

Across the orchard sits the house Ron and I live in. It’s a lovely log home set against the desert landscape where dust collects in every nook and cranny making cleaning a nightmare. The logs need Murphy’s Oil Soap and my nemeses, the stone fireplace, requires air blasting. My lower back screams for relief as I vacuum and sweep floors. My hands ache while wringing out rags. There are times I feel at war with this place. Papers, glasses, phone cords, napkins, coffee cups, etc. clutter counter tops and tables as though invisible hands are at work to disarm me. All this takes valuable time. Time I would rather spend reading or writing or visiting family and friends or hiking or bird-watching or napping.

The house feels heavy with all the stuff we have collected over the past year, and I’ve started filling trash bags headed for either the dump or Goodwill. But that’s only part of the problem. There is also the matter of our crazy schedule. Ron and I continually promise each other we are going to slow down, but to date, we haven’t done a thing to make that happen.

I don’t know how it has come to this: two trucks, three sets of dishes, plastic bins stuffed with extra pillows, blankets, table clothes, and a closet full of clothes I will never wear. My attire at the ranch consists of short skirts and t-shirts in the summer and yoga pants and sweatshirts in the winter. Sure I make an effort when I leave the house, but nowadays that happens so infrequently, I could get away with half the clothes I own.

There was a time in my life when I owned very little. I lived without electricity and an intermittent water supply among farmers in Honduras. Without a vehicle, I either hitch-hiked or took a bus and everything I owned fit into a hiker’s backpack. I didn’t worry about paying bills, making appointments, or juggling a hectic schedule. I got up with the chickens and went to bed when the sun went down. I had few worries and really didn’t appreciate my circumstances until years later, like now, when I reflect on the joys of a modest life.

Yesterday I got online and ordered a shower curtain, knobs for the kitchen cabinets, and curtains for the bunkhouse. I’m fully aware it adds more things to my already crowded life, but I want this new space to reflect what it is I aspire to—a small, comfortable home unencumbered by a never ending to-do list and the weighty feeling of being surrounded by an abundance of junk I don’t need or will never use.

I’m planning to invite Ron for date night over to the bunkhouse—the small simple space I yearn for. Maybe we’ll both be inspired to do things differently.

Border Talk 5

2017-10-08 08.44.10Ron missed the call from a Border Patrol agent while we were in town last week. We didn’t think much of it at the time, but when we came home the next day to find tire tracks leading up to our gate, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. We live at the end of a mile-long dead end dirt road. People generally don’t just drop by unless they are lost. I thought back to the call from the Border Patrol agent and wondered if there had been illegals crossing our property while we were gone. With much to do, I shook off the notion as I hauled in groceries, cleaned out the cat litter box, and fed the animals. At some point I realized Ron hadn’t helped carry in bags from the truck. I put the groceries away and threw in a load of laundry all the while wondering where he was. Soon my imagination got the best of me, and I worried he’d run into someone out in the shop or the airplane hangar. After I peeled potatoes for dinner, I grabbed the pistol I keep in our bedroom and went looking for him.

This was an odd predicament to find myself in. I have no doubt I would shoot someone who tried to hurt my husband, animals, or me. I’ve had my life threatened and know what I am capable of. But it’s a part of life down here I would rather not have to deal with-this underlying fear that I might look up from my garden or walk around the corner of an outbuilding to find someone standing there prepared to do me harm. After walking the property, which seemed an eternity, Ron appeared carrying a long stick. He’d been out looking for rattlesnakes that may have come in close while we were gone. He looked down at the pistol at my side. “You’ve been gone forty-five minutes,” I said. “I got worried.”

The next day two agents stopped by to inform us there had been activity at the ranch while we were gone. The men joined us for coffee and banana bread, then asked if they could take a look around. The illegals they had caught the day before had dropped bundles of dope somewhere nearby. Ron and a friend went to harvest honey while the agents combed the property on their ATVs. I went out to water trees, and by the time I came in, the agents had left and I was home alone. A twinge of vulnerability set in while I did chores, but I consciously dismissed it so that I could get on with my day. There was too much to do. I couldn’t just lock myself inside the house and pull the curtains.

Despite illegals on the border or criminals in our cities, most of us are resilient and are able to carry on with our lives. Trouble seems to happen when we give in to our fears. That’s when we begin to lock our doors, avoid eye contact with our neighbors, and withdraw from the people who care about us. I heard today that the FBI is setting up a billboard campaign in hopes people will come forward about the shooter’s motives in the Las Vegas mass killing spree. I’ve been asking myself if knowing Stephen Paddock’s motives is really all that important. The damage is done, isn’t it time to move on? To heal? But at the core of our humanity we need the question answered. If he was just a regular guy who opened fire, then what prevents any of us from doing the same? Until he is culled from the proverbial herd, we won’t rest. In the meantime, it’s important to our well-being to leave the curtains open to let in the sunshine.