“Did we get anything done this weekend?” I rolled over and felt his arm tighten around me. Monday mornings are bittersweet. It’s the last few moments of our time alone before the hectic schedules come knocking at our door. He began listing the tasks we accomplished and then the ones we didn’t get to. It didn’t really matter, Sundays are our time together to reconnect and spend time with one another. When we were dating we traveled New England, dining out, seeing shows, exploring new places along the coast; now since we purchased the farm it’s feels good to hunker in on our day off together and hang pictures, put ski equipment away, and watch a movie eating take out from Fogarty’s. It doesn’t matter so much what gets done on Sundays as long as we are doing it together, making each other laugh, driving each other crazy, and turning our house into a home.
“He moved through the rooms with his head down; eyes focused on the floor. He was determined to avoid eye contact with the images that still hung on the walls. They desperately cried out for him to save himself; they urged him to reach up and out of the filth and do something, say anything.” Medillia’s Lament, The Novel
Have you ever spiraled downwards? Lost your way in life, your footing, and no matter how hard you tried you couldn’t find your way back to a place that seemed familiar and right with the world? Some of us fall so deeply into a crevice we loose all sense of time and even the ability to reach for hope and desire. When we’ve finally reached bottom we often allow ourselves to curl up in a ball and fall into a deep, dark, state of existence. If you’ve found yourself in that dank, damp place then you know that life continues to swirl around you, vaguely aware of it continuing to play out its lines with those you used to surround yourself with, while you choose to wallow.
It’s hard to predict what will trigger someone to finally reach up and stand, whether it’s a stranger, loved one, or a happened set of circumstances out of one’s control. Yet, speaking from experience if one is allowed the time to heal themselves, to lick their wounds, an opportunity for a do over will arrive eventually and present itself. I’ve come to that place in the novel where an opportunity has presented itself and the main character, John having enough strength has chosen to reach up and grab it.
The rain continued to come down by the bucket load through the night; our barn has sprung leaks and the goats have been privy to a constant drip falling into the middle of the stall. Instead of the crisp pine scent of the shavings mixed with the aroma of hay, the air is filled with a dampness, a smell of wet fur. Kyle climbed the ladder to survey the situation of the second floor of the barn while I finished bottle feeding Rudolph and Dasher. Comet and Jingle busily munched on their morning serving of grain.
Ruby has quickly become our faithful barn dog. She has learned to wait at the door in sun room patiently as we adorn our muck boots and jackets. She no longer bolts towards the compost pile the minute she has been freed, instead she trots down the stone path to the barn door either slightly ahead of us or at our heals. The cold morning rain pushed us into the barn quickly to work through our morning chores. Ruby opted to stay inside the main barn instead of running free through the large pasture while we opened up the barn for the animals. She sat next to Hip and Hop our new lion headed rabbits and waited patiently as we tended the goats. I looked over my shoulder towards the rabbits. They had decided to come out of their shell; Hop stood tall on his back feet while Hip hunched over the round food dish.
I zipped up my hoodie and wrapped my arms around my torso, the freezing temperatures had been replaced with a raw dampness that chilled to the bone. I watched Kyle’s boots come down the ladder first then his tan khaki pants followed by his brown flannel shirt and Boston Red Sox cap. I have been transported to another time, reality, and I love it. SeaStar Farm has draped a quiet calm over my life and continues to bring new gifts everyday in the form of friends, animals, hobbies, and ways of looking at everyday life. It has also made a pathway for pieces of my old life to gently return for a visit or two and that perhaps is one of the greatest gifts of all.
John turned in his sleep, reached for a blanket at the end of the couch, but it had fallen off somewhere during the middle of the night. He wiped the moisture from the chills that had accumulated at his brow during his sleep and was vaguely aware that he was still dreaming. – Medillia’s Lament, The Novel
It’s back to Chicago I go to clean up some loose ends and rework the rewrite Jody placed in front of me last week in Portsmouth at Breaking New Grounds. There are new places we want to take some of the secondary characters, places they might not have time to go in the movie when it’s being filmed. I’m excited to be returning to visit John’s therapist, she is one of my favorite characters in the novel. I’ve taken loose liberties and modeled her after someone I got to know really well in my early thirties. Her character jumps off the page and wraps her being around you, making you want to either pull away or lean in against her.
Jody made me aware that we’ve been working on this project together for two years now. That seems crazy to me, not possible. It serves as a motivation to push forward even stronger towards the finish line. There are a finite number of pages in the script that he has been reworking for the past ten years, and even with the rewrites we are now more than halfway through the novel. I’m looking forward to being able hold the book in my hands and sit back against pillows and read it from the beginning to end. As I make my way through converting Jody’s script into a novel, I lose track of what has happened and become solely focused on the place I am writing.
Comet and Jingle broke through their stall door with Ruby chasing close behind. Jingle found his way into the closet where hens will eventually roost but for now its where we keep our rabbit food and supplies. Comet jumped up on the shelf next to him, and together they buried their heads into the bag of food. Ruby at my heels barked loud and forcefully, she demanded they return to their stall. The baby goats, Dasher and Rudolph bleated from their crib, hungry and aware their bottles had been stuffed into my parka and were just feet away. Libby and I tugged at the big goats and finally coaxed them out into the pasture. Anna stumbled down the pathway where Ruby ran out to meet her and tried to get her to play while she balanced two buckets filled with water.
Libby and I put Ruby out in the pasture with the two big goats and shut ourselves in the stall while Anna changed the rabbit bedding. I heard Libby let out a sigh as we scooched down the stall wall holding the baby goats on our laps, as we lifted the bottles to their small little heads. The wall felt good, a strong support as we both leaned back into it. I looked over at Libby, her wavy curls were messed and she had shavings on her leggings. I smiled and said, “I”m exhausted.” She nodded her head and looked down at Dasher as he hungrily sucked from the bottle she held high. “Mom, tilt your bottle you are letting air in.”
I lifted the bottle and realized I was turning her into a mini me. We heard Ruby chasing the goats in the pasture, I imagined them running up onto the manure pile trying to escape the dog. The barn door slammed behind Anna as she exclaimed she had so much homework to do and she would never get it done. The baby goats finished eating. We stood up and and put them back in their crib. I raised my hands to my hips and asked Lib how we should muck the stall with the crib and the baby goats in it. She looked around summing up the situation, her face went serious and then she tilted her head up at me and said, “I have no idea.” I fluffed her hair and moved out of the stall to grab the big blue wheelbarrow and poop shovel.
An hour later, we returned to the house. The cold air had painted our cheeks pink and mucking the stall and taking care of the animals had rendered us sore and tired. We quickly made the baby goats formula for the next two feedings, poured it into an oversize mason jar with glass lid and cleaned the kitchen. The girls were going to be picked up in less than an hour and I just wanted to soak them in before they left. Kyle wouldn’t be home for hours with Sophie, but I still needed to figure out dinner for me and the boys. The day was long and full, thankfully the blizzard that had been reported as being our last hurrah had missed us by a mile. I filled the tea kettle and turned on the burner. I reached for a tea bag and mug. The girls wrapped their arms around me and I squeezed back as hard as I could, I kissed the tops of their heads and sent them out the door to their dad. Exhausted and spent I collapsed on the couch with my mug of tea and my laptop, Ruby jumped up and placed her head in my lap. I had just a few minutes to myself until I needed to start dinner.
My life before before part of our new family is beginning to feel as distant as a dream. What once was the steepest climb of my life has now become a collection of treasured moments and deposit of forgotten times made somewhere in the darkest recesses of my mind. Time has given me the incredible ability to look back and realize the amazing moments that were born from a life I knew being uprooted and transformed into something I could never have predicted.
The experiences and people that pulled me up and forward from a place that stung and pricked me till I was raw have become a part of who I am today and lend a mountain for me to lean on when needed. Each step I took, climbed using every muscle in my body prepared me and transformed me into the person I need to be now for my new family, my children, and myself.
Our barn has been drawing people closer to our family. Last week when I was leaving work I heard my name called, I looked back over my shoulder and I saw Kate making her way towards me. I asked Libby to wait as Kate caught up to us. “My boy loves goats and I heard you have baby ones.” It brings such a great feeling knowing people want to share in the experience of being with the animals on our farm. I nodded my head excitedly and told her to bring him this weekend. Libby’s eyes lit up, she loves to share the animals with friends and neighbors.
Saturday morning was busy, our own five kids going off in different directions, the animals needing to be woken up and fed, and a barn screaming to be cleaned, all called for our attention. Kyle left for soccer and haircuts and I remained behind with the girls. I filled the goats black bucket with steaming water in the basement laundry sink and made my way out through the sun room. I placed the bucket down on the brick pavers and turned to close the door behind me. I heard a friendly hello, I had lost track of time. The weather had turned cold, everyone’s cheeks were bright pink, their jackets zipped and pulled up close to their faces. My eyes went straight to Kate’s little boy. I had forgotten how little he was. His face beamed with excitement and innocence. His feet were moving in place like the roadrunner’s, raring to go. I asked him if he wanted to go to the barn and see the baby goats. He replied in a shrill, “yes!”
I picked up the steaming bucket of water and said, “then, let’s go see some goats.” I can’t describe the feeling of sharing our family of animals with friends and neighbors. As they followed me into the barn I felt proud and also happy to be able to give this encounter to them, I watched their expressions as I opened the crib and let Rudolph and Dasher out to greet them. Their soft little bodies yearned to be picked up and held close and they were quickly obliged. Comet and Jingle, our three year old goats stood proud and eagerly joined in on the gathering. Dasher was almost half of the little boy’s size and immediately began to perform for him, hopping and jumping around the stall, making us all laugh. Then the little boy picked up Rudolph under his front legs and the stall went quiet for a moment, as a magical connection between boy and goat was instantly made.
The two became bonded, not only as the smallest of their kind, but also having a seemingly peaceful way about them as they made their way around the barn. The little boy exploring, the baby goat hanging in his arms. Kate snapped this incredible image of the two and our messy barn. I was inspired,wanting to share the connection between Rudolph and the little boy, so I messaged Kate and asked if I could write about him and use her image on A New Family. I was relieved when she replied back, “of course!” As we received many guests yesterday, visiting the new baby kids, I quickly realized that SeaStar Farm was not only a dream come true for our family, but also a glimpse for our family and friends to a way of life they may not encounter in their day to day lives. Our farm is quietly building a bond between our new family and the community surrounding us. It’s slowly unwrapping the many gifts it has in store for us over the upcoming years.
The farm is filling up with animals, the count is rising with each new day. With the addition of Rudolph and Dasher we now stand at four goats, two rabbits, a cat, and a dog named Ruby. It’s easy to get swept up in the arrival of each new pet, excitement swells as we welcome them with open arms and an eager heart. Our hearts are growing and allowing for more rooms to be built within their chambers as we modify our daily routines to accommodate each new addition. Still when asked today which animal is my favorite, my heart still belongs to Ruby. She has become the anchor of our farm, guiding and guarding the goats, keeping them in their stall and helping to round them up when they escape into the main part of the barn.
She is growing up, now six months old and following commands better each day. At her last vet appointment she weighed in at a hefty forty pounds and received high remarks on her behavior and disposition. Thankfully we are doing something right at the farm. We’re not the most conventional farmers on the block, some might even say a way bit green. In our state of utter novice, Ruby has somehow found her way into places in our home that she was never meant to be. My first experience as a dog owner came in the rambunctious, diva form of a beloved Jack Russell Terrier, we affectionately referred to as Meggy Moo Moo Minion James. She came into our lives just as our family was falling apart and I had moved myself and my three children out of our home and into a condo down by the river.
When she first arrived she could fit safely cupped in my two hands, she had been a gift from a best friend. Meg slept by my side in bed for almost three years, safely nuzzled next to my warm torso, keeping me company when I was just learning how to be alone in life. Her barking was annoying, her nipping a hindrance, and her demands unrelenting, but somehow she fell deeply into each of our hearts. Kyle arrived a couple years later, unexpectedly, and admittedly at first he took a back seat to Meg. Then as only she could, she wormed her way into Kyle’s heart and became a permanent member of our new family. It makes me smile remembering Kyle’s gentle coaxing to get Meg away from her constant sleeping spot against my torso. Eventually she gave, but remained in our bed for the rest of her days.
Meg was lost too soon after we had received her. She was hit by a car days after we moved to this farm, a door left open accidentally was all it took. The angel that had come to watch over me and my three children was gone from our lives, our hearts cracked and wept for weeks on end while we sat in disbelief, not knowing what life had just thrown at us. It took me two days to be able to find my breath again, I gasped between sobs, my head throbbed, and my mind couldn’t imagine our family without her. Each of us was hit differently, Anna couldn’t even look at other dogs for months on end, while Libby pined for a replacement as soon as possible. I simply sat in the quiet and hurt, I felt the ache of the hole that had pierced my heart with her passing and wasn’t sure if it would ever be able to be filled again.
Then something changed, months later a willingness to consider bringing a new dog into our family seamed to appear out of nowhere. Just like life often does, when we were least expecting to be able to get another dog, a friend in the right place at the right time stepped into the room and showed us where we could get the perfect dog for our family. Two days later, Kyle drove back from Arundel with a tiny brindle lab puppy who has affectionately become known as Ruby. While she is exponentially larger than Meg would have ever been, she too has found her way onto our bed. Her large soft body curls up faithfully at our feet each night and keeps watch over us as we sleep. Occasionally while Kyle is still brushing his teeth she will silently crawl up our bed and place her body against my torso like Meg always did, and somehow it feels as if Meg is letting me know that she is still watching over us all, taking care of us and our new family from above.
We’re slowly coming out of our deep winter comma. Activities and obligations are beginning to pile up as more and more people are wanting to venture outside in the warming temperatures of Maine. The snow is receding across our lawns and the roads have become landslides of moguls as we have become experts in maneuvering around them on Witchtrot Road. Occasionally, my judgement will be poor and the wagon slams into one, hitting us hard against our seats. The pot holes are reminiscent of my childhood, growing up in Western New Hampshire and visiting my Gram and Grampa just outside of White River Junction in Vermont.
Trees are being tapped, sap being drawn from deep inside by plastic tubing lining the sides of our roads, while their tappers are hoping the cold nights and warm days will continue long enough to make it worth their time. I watched as a new friend spoke about her large kettle of sap boiling off on her wood stove. The liquid was clear, it reminded me of corn syrup, amazed at how much it would take to actually make enough for Sunday morning breakfast. The kids are sitting down to pancakes this morning, some plain and some with chocolate chips, all sprinkled with confectionery sugar and drizzled with maple syrup. Then it’s off we rush to morning chores, changing out the water for the animals, and racing the kids to their activities and friends’ houses. The early morning sun brings with it a burst of renewed energy that seems to make it all possible after a long winter of lying in a comma.
We sat at our kitchen table. I poured us each a glass of wine and cut up some sharp cheddar cheese on a board and laid some crackers next to the slices. The house was quiet, it was just me and mom upstairs. Aaron was in his room and the girls were at their dads. Kyle wouldn’t be home with his kids for another hour or so. It felt good to sink back into my chair across from my mom. I used to love just sitting close to her when I was a child and even as an adult. It was the one place in my world I always felt safe, untouchable. She single handedly taught me how to be strong, resilient, and to seek the path of least resistance when life pounded down on us. Yet more than anything else she imparted on me the importance of having faith. Not believing in God specifically but knowing there is a purpose and journey for each one of us and with that journey comes a responsibility of never giving up especially when you feel as though you might be drowning.
I sent her a text from work letting her know that I would be leaving soon. She replied she would meet me at the farm. I was excited to share the new kids with her, Rudolph only five days old, and Dasher two and a half weeks old, would be ready for another bottle feeding. As I pulled into the driveway I felt happy to be spending the afternoon with my mom alone, sharing our animals with her, letting her see our new routines and being a part of them. She had brought her boots, a welcomed gesture, our farm has become a perpetual mud bowl. We made our way down the planks and through the barn door. I had heated up the bottles while I waited for my mom, the kids were bleating loudly as we entered.
My mom’s face lit up with love and sunshine as I lifted Rudolph from the crib and placed him in my mother’s arms. I handed her the bottle and just watched as she fed our youngest goat. It seemed so much like the times my mom held each of my own children in her arms for the first time. The barn was warm, filled with sunlight and such an incredible peace as we stood there together taking care of the new kids. After Rudolph was finished we fed Dasher and then placed them both back into their crib. We dished out some grain for Comet and Jingle, changed their water and threw down hay from above into the stall. She wanted to see the bunnies, Hip and Hop. She took turns holding each of them as I changed out their cage and filled their food dish.
Ruby remained by our sides as we made our way around the barn tending each of the animals’ needs. My mom adapted quickly to the sights and sounds and remarked that she never in a million years would have guessed that I would have become Farmer Brown’s wife. I nodded as I closed up the rabbit hutch and thought, neither did I. We closed up the barn and headed to the kitchen. The cold,spring Maine air had put color in our cheeks and filled our lungs with oxygen. It felt good to sit down next to her at the table and catch up over wine and cheese. It felt a little bit like being home with her again.