Back Steps

The house, it begins to look like a home.  And the man, he puts in the kind of effort that makes me stop and feel valued.  Every old hole is spackled.  Non functioning electric heat is taken from the walls, holes patched.  The roof being replaced, so it doesn’t leak on my paintings, just in case, though it only leaked once.  The floor being refinished, to match the rest of the house, a woodstove and backup heat being put in, so my paints won’t freeze.

I sit on the back steps as my dogs nose the grass, Marley breaking into a run and skidding to a stop.  Sancho moseying about slowly making his way back to me, a scare of being pretty sick for the past several days, those of which, for him are numbered at this point.

I sip my coffee as I watch a moth flutter down from the sky, note the dogs and flit off almost drunkenly in another direction.  The ground a plush carpet of catalpa flowers, dotted with anthills, and mole hills and dewy grass and white clover.

In front and now in back my medicinal herb garden growing, plans to make a giant daisy garden in the front next year.  He doesn’t know it yet, but I know he will do it, for me.  My new white clothesline stretched where the old one was.  Sheets and pillowcase smelling of country air, they do smell good when hung on the line in the city, but until you smell them hung on the line in the country, you have not smelled the most cherished perfume.

And here on the back steps with my coffee, I am heady with it, that smell, of country.

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Wild Strawberries

Night time by a wood fire, outside, in lawn chairs.  We talk and laugh.  And an offer is made for wild strawberries.  They are small she says.  She knows that he says.

Sancho and I amble up the sandy hill and there are wild strawberries everywhere.  And soon there will be black berries or black caps.  The field is filled with wild yarrow, mullein, cinquefoil, and as I pick each tiny berry on my hands and knees in the low grass, dog trying to steal berries out of my bowl, and me feeding him the small sweet juicy and maybe a little bit sandy morsels, there I see two leaves, I pluck one and pop it in my mouth, tasting the familiar tart sweet of sheep sorrel.  I pop the other in my mouth just as quick.  I find a lot more, enough to make a small salad.

In the heat of the sun, dew soaking my pants and that bitter smell of country.  It is like my soul has been waiting to come home.  He gives me free reign of his land, as long as I stay out in hunting season.

wild strawberries NY State

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Country

The morning is misty across the newly planted fields, the air cool and refreshing.  It may be an extra five minutes of driving but more than half of it is through these country roads.  I find new ways to go home some days, just to get more of it, home, delicious, home.

I love to walk out on the back step in the morning with the dogs and my coffee, the smells and the dew on the grass, the trees waving happily, healthy in the steady breeze of this place.  No wonder the neighbor has a windmill.  Often I smell horse, but I love that smell.

I am awake for a long time listening to the rain falling outside the windows.  I hear nothing else, no loud music, no arguing drunks, no sirens, just birds and rain and sometimes cars driving by.

We walk to the horse barn on the corner, and I smell this familiar smell from childhood, it is this bitter smell of ? Oats? That puffy headed grass that is not wheat, nor timothy, vetch, something, I don’t know.  But as it enters my nose, I feel warm and happy.  The cars are fast on the road, but the dog romps in the ditch, and barks at the horses.

And the horses, come over to the fence, it is electric so we all keep our distance.  I blow in their direction and the black horse flares its nostrils, and the piebald spotty brown Dalmatian looking one, shyly stands behind, and the pinto snuffles the black one, this is my friend here.  I wave good bye as we walk back home.

It feels good, finally, to leave the city.

It feels good, finally, to be home.

Building

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The chuck on the drill driver is broken, and I lose a bit down along the side of the house. Sorry sorry I say, sorry.  It’s okay babe, I have more, and the damn thing is broken.

We work together to reinforce the deck and replace two boards broken from falling ice.  We discuss using metal work to create the slats, I hand him boards, he asks if I am comfortable with the saw, no I say.  Right answer he says, not a mocking word about being an independent woman, not a derisive put down about being stupid.  Just okay, no problem.  No arguing.

We sit with our beers in the breezy warm afternoon, shade keeping the warm away, wind keeping the bugs away.  I like working with you, I say, we are a good team.

It is not just that we are actually working TOGETHER, we joke and laugh and tease and do well together.

I like this I tell him. this peace, he laughs and says we are getting too old to not have peace.  I put my legs up on his lap, self conscious because they are huge, bruised, covered with bug bites.  A massage therapist once told my ex husband that my calves to my ankles were not slender.  I am not sure why he felt he should say anything to my ex, but it was a criticism of not being feminine and delicate enough.  Sorry about my giant legs I say, if they are too heavy let me know.  I like your legs, he says, they are like a Polish peasant’s legs, the legs of a hard working woman, from a long line of hard working women.

I dream of my ex, insulting my mother,  in the dream I tell him he can say whatever he wants to me, but he better keep his damn mouth shut about my mom.  He runs away inside his house, and I taunt him telling him to come outside if he wants to start shit with me, he comes out and we start to fight, he kicks half heartedly and ineffectually swings his arms at me.  He walks away.  I ask him what is it like spending nearly 20 years of his life living off the financial support of single mothers.  I ask him if he is proud of using women and their little girls in this way?  He ignores me.  I wake in a cold sweat, shaking, angry and really sad.

I wrap my arms around Marley, and lay awake for a long time.  Why do I still dream about him, all I want to do is forget.

I roll over and wrap my arm around Tom and kiss his bare back.  He says MMM.  I fall asleep.

Rock

He calls me the rock of the family.  And I am deeply pleased.

Do we embrace the compliments we are given, or do we see them smile and then let them go.

I am so new to this family.  Am I a rock?

And one of the boys throws me compliments all weekend.  Little sentimental comments that make me know he thinks highly of me.  I hear him say, that is a mini-Meg.  I ask him who, and he points out a little baby with curly red hair, that baby is a mini you he says, look how cute she is.

And the one son, the one I worry about the most, given a choice he shops with me not his dad, becoming my sherpa.  And when I gently tell him to get up he does, though his brother usually has to kick him.

I tell them all, your dad needs help with this, he cannot carry the burden alone, and it needs to be done.  They all pitch in, most of all the one who worries me.

Worried about a medical exam.  I am quiet at breakfast.

Don’t worry until you have to, he says I have your back.