family homestead story

Our dog Bella always has to sit facing West, where the edge of the forest is. She’s a good watch dog, the kind that knows what her job is without having to be told (though she does like to hide from work sometimes.) When I look at her out there on the porch, with her muscles tensing, the hair on her lower back starting to rise, I wonder whats really out there. She knows so much of that world I can barely see.

Our summer is tumbling quickly into the new school year. Terry told me a few days ago she could smell Autumn for the first time, I was thinking the same thing just a few minutes before walking down to the house.

She is working her healing amidst the chaos of our family. Her treatment path is not the one where you take your medicine, lay down and hope for the best. She works every day at food, exercise, the mental game, her spirit, and travel for treatments. Lots of travel. Facetime with Momma became part of our bedtime routine this year. Still there is time for laughter when she’s at home:

Terry points to the hall and blasts me with a roaring laugh:
“Papa!” True’s face is furrowed with worry and perfectly framed as she calls out to me through the toilet seat she’s taken with her out of the bathroom. She is gravely perplexed.
“Sorry sweetie, Papa is only partly through fixing the toilet seat. Just put it back and I’ll be right in there.” She looks pained as if scarred for life!

These moments pass between us, each one different, like tiny speckled quail eggs we’re sharing with each other. Trust becomes a tangible thing when you’re on a journey like this. Its become part of my daily mantra: trust & patience, trust & patience, trust & patience…

My work is small compared to hers. I stand by the road as she runs a marathon every day, handing out water, food, support, and comfort. Sometimes the finish line is a gate at the airport, sometimes its just the end of the day. Sometimes I get to hold her, sometimes not. She is determined and glorious to me, and likely very tired of hearing that from me.

My own spiritual work has taken me in some deeply nourishing places. I’ve been forced to have actual boundaries around caring for her and others. I’ve had to look at what it means to stand by someone as they face these many challenges. I’ve had to surrender to the fact that standing here, caring for a beloved like this, is actually a privilege. It can be hard, it can wear you down, and I’d sure-as-shit rather we weren’t here. But it is ultimately a privilege. We’ve just forgotten how to treat it that way. I’m trying to catch up on that lesson every day.

…tiny speckled quail eggs we pass between us.

True has been discovering her power as a finder, a talent she shares with her Mother. Its especially needed now as I’ve had little time to find where the hens new nest is out on the land. She chatters to herself as she churns up dust beating a path to the kitchen door. Stomping in she cups a hens egg in each hand, treasures she found ALL BY HERSELF!

“Look Papa – EGGS!”

We all wonder at the magnificence she has struck us with. Tadg of course only barely looks up from re-organizing his Pokemon cards. He gave up being Egg-Finder-In-Chief long ago. He is happy to be known as Fisherman-In-Chief, at least whenever his older cousin Jack stops by to drop a line off the Santa Cruz wharf with him.

“Really Papa, we pulled in at least 7 halibut!”

Though he is gifted at tall fish tales, this is one instance in which he told the truth. More than even reeling in fish I think he likes the bigness of Jack, his steady warmth. Tadg has always known so well how to receive the love from those around him, like taking a long deep drink of something sweet and nourishing. Terry and I have talked with him at length about this journey we’re all on together. He know’s Papa has been strained, but I’ve been getting better. Most nights we become a loving tangle of boney arms and legs before drifting off to sleep.

The one thing I don’t share with him, that I don’t talk about much, is how scared I get. Its much worse than being 4 years old and having the toilet seat suddenly dislodge beneath you. Its that big undeniable chasm of fear that lies at the heart of so many core human experiences. I’m afraid of everything I know being unthreaded and tossed up in the air, because thats really whats happening. I believe she will heal because that process is already well begun, but we are all being remade in the process. Thats what these kinds of healings look like, being remade from the ground up, and that is always at least partly about being totally terrified.

Breathe, spread out those swan wings, patience & trust, patience & trust…

Bella joins me as I work up in our large cob studio. We’ve got a new router and work from home has become possible again. She reminds me that an indispensable part of my self-care is just to sit, listen, open up and receive whats going on. The sunsets have been extraordinary, courtesy of the 30+ fires burning in California alone. Fog and smoke unfurl a rose carpet across the hills every night. I can feel these hills in a way I couldn’t before. This year I’ve been scrubbed out deeply. I notice the presence of people and places more than ever. It takes a minute for me to click into the right space, but once I do, I can really breathe this place in. It fills me like it never has before.

Passing quail eggs between us
sweating in the heat
or talking on the phone.
We always feel
like an ocean to me now,
a vast space
that supports us all.
I am fed best
when I feed you.

Being a caregiver is better than being a care-taker, its taken something this big to push me through a real understanding of the difference. This will be a good remaking, but it sure isn’t an easy one.

Much love to you and yours during this time of great change in our world.

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